I discovered one of Apple's secrets as I touched and retouched, trying to get the knack.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Turning an iPad into a laptop, Part 2

June 19, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

When my new laptop died from a coffee overdose, I was on vacation, a long way from any chance of getting it fixed. So I decided to do all my computing tasks on my iPad until the laptop could be repaired.

(You can read my account in last week's column at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec061211.html.)

Without a way to connect a mouse to my stock iPad, I thought I'd have a lot of trouble doing my normal tasks -- writing, website updates, photo editing and more. Computer mice have become extensions of our fingers. How could I work without a mouse?

But I soon realized that the very idea of "extensions to our fingers" was the basis of the iPad interface. So every time I used my iPad, I washed the peanut butter off my fingers -- iPad screens do not like anything sticky -- and learned how to do everything the finger-touching way instead of the mouse-clicking way.

It was hard at first. My fingers aren't dainty, so I despaired of touching just the right point on the screen when I was trying to fix misspellings, for example. But I discovered one of Apple's secrets as I touched and retouched, trying to get the knack.

The secret? The iPad doesn't register where your fingertip touches its screen. It records only the center of where your fingertip touches. Your fingers could be as fat as wieners, but the iPad wouldn't care. It feels the touch of the center of your fingertip, nothing more.

That's what makes touching tiny points on the screen easy -- along with Apple's magic zoom, which makes items under your fingertip much bigger. As soon as I learned to use these two features, I became a "baader" iPadder. Knowing I could easily touch any item on the screen, no matter how small or how close to another object, made a huge difference.

Moving my fingers from my external Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad screen to touch something wasn't a problem. I'd have been doing the same kind of thing with a mouse, after all. And the way I used my iPad-keyboard combination, with the bottom edge of iPad touching the top edge of the keyboard, meant I only had a few inches to travel to touch the screen.

Of course, no real work could get done without appropriate software, called apps in the iPad world. I worried needlessly for a few days while I searched Apple's App Store, discovering to my delight that every app I needed was available for download with a touch on my screen.

Next: Software that can turn the iPad into a real laptop.