iPad power user tips for writers

Become a better content creator on your iPad.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

I do a lot of writing on my iPad, and find it to be an amazing tool for content creation (this post was written on my iPad). However, some people seem to find it less than ideal, but I think that the reason for this is that they're not making smart use of their iPad, rather than the iPad not being suited to content creation.

Knowledge is power!

With that in mind, here are my top power user tips for writers wanting to get the most from their iPad.

Note: Some of these tips apply to the iPhone, but unless you have compound eyes, I find the screen too small when it comes to typing for any extended periods. Its fine for a quick email or tweet or Facebook status update, but too clumsy for anything longer. Depending on your eyes, your mileage may vary!

  1. Invest in a keyboard If you're going to be doing a lot of typing on your iPad then ideally you need to augment the on-screen soft keyboard with a physical Bluetooth keyboard. I've got an Apple Bluetooth keyboard and I think that it's an awesome bit of kit, but there are cheaper options out there, as well as keyboards that are integrated into cases and such. Choose what works for you.
  2. The right software Another key part of using the iPad smartly is to have the right software. You wouldn't expect to write for extended periods using Notepad in Windows, and it 's equally crazy to think that the Notes program on the iPad is good enough. There are a lot of good word processing apps for the iPad out there, but two of my favorites are: - Evernote: Probably the best way to organize and store your work. The beauty of this app is that it's cross platform (whatever platform you use, chances are there's a client for it), and it's also free. - iAWriter: This tool is like the exact opposite of something like Microsoft Word. It offers a clean, clear writing space with the minimal of distractions and things to fiddle with. It's not free (usually it's $4.99, but for a limited period you can pick it up for $1.99, which in my opinion is an absolute steal) but I've written tens of thousands of words in this app.
  3. Document signing Here's an easy way to do away with the hassle of having to print out documents (such as contracts) to sign, and you can do it all from your iPad. Download and install the free DocuSign Ink app which will allow you to quickly and securely add your signature and other data to documents and then send the signed docs to anyone via email address. A massive timesaver, not to mention kinder on the trees!
  4. Cloud storage If you're going to make the best use of your iPad, I suggest that you store (or at least mirror) your documents in the cloud. I suggest something like Dropbox or Box.
  5. Automatically add a period at the end of a sentence Easily done ... just double tap the spacebar (works in many apps). This is a massive timesaver!
  6. Quick quotes Accessing quotes (both single and double) using the on-screen soft keyboard seems to be a problem for people, but it's quite easy in fact. For a quick single quote, press your finger on the !/, key and flick it upwards, and for a double quote do the same action on the ?/. key.
  7. Turn on CAPS LOCK You might have noticed that there isn't a CAPS LOCK key on the on-screen soft keyboard. Fear not, the feature is still there, just double-tap on either of the SHIFT keys.
  8. Select an entire paragraph Don't try drag selecting (too tedious), just tap on the paragraph four times.
  9. Replacing a word First, press on the word and choose Select, then retype the word. Alternatively, after choosing Select you'll see a new set of options appear, including Replace..., choose this for a selection of possible replacements for the typo.
  10. Easy screenshots You can easily take a screenshot on the iPad (or iPhone) without needing any special software or apps ... just simultaneously press and hold the sleep/wake button on the top and the Home button. When you hear a click and see a flash, the screenshot has been taken.
  11. Handling Zip files People sending you compressed files that you need to handle? No problems! There are no shortage of tools that allow you to work with compressed files. My favorite is iZip, which is not only an excellent app, but it's also free.
  12. Open PDFs You don't need any special software to handle PDFs ... you can either drag them into iTunes and have them sync into iBooks or email them to yourself and then open them from the email client in iBooks (make sure you have the free iBooks app installed).
  13. Easier URLs Writers do a lot of research, and that means hitting the web a lot. You might have noticed a .com on the keyboard appear when in the Safari browser, but if you know how to work it, you can make it do much more. Press and hold it and you'll get a whole raft of other options (they vary based on language/regional settings).
  14. Switch on multitasking gestures If you're still using a first-gen iPad (like I am) and you have iOS 5 installed, you can switch on some really useful multitasking gestures that will allow you to switch between apps easier.  To turn on the multitasking gestures click Settings > General and scroll down to Multitasking Gestures and flick the switch.
  15. Printing with the iPad If you're going to want to print something direct from your iPad then before you start you need to make sure that you have an AirPrint compatible printer (details here). If you don't then you're out of luck right from the start. The printer also needs to be connected to the same WiFi network as the iOS device. If you have both of those in place, print is usually available from wherever you see this icon:

Feel free to share your favorite tips in the Talkback section below. Alternatively, if you have a question, fire away and I'll see if I can answer it!


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