IN this recording, you can hear me editing audio using the Ferrite app on the iPad. this interface is very well thought out and quite efficient. Improvements would be great but in it’s current state, it’s very usable and accessible.
This also includes a demonstration of the Shure MV88+ microphone.
Vincent in the comments has asked me to go through some of the methods I use to stay productive and to take notes.
So, let’s go through a few high level points first.
- Firstly, productivity doesn’t come from a tool, it comes from a mineset. All the apps in the world won’t help your productivity if you don’t have that drive to get things done.
- Vincent wanted me to explain how I move notes between the iPad and my Windows PC. I’ll address this later.
- Taking notes is great of course, but keep track of to do items is really what is key here.
I have tried using OneNote, the Microsoft app that is probably one of the best out there for taking and organizing notes but I have found the accessibility of this app lacking on both IOS and Windows. The complexity of the features means that it is necessary to have a rather complex note taking area so this doesn’t seem to play well with screen readers. Jaws and Voiceover get into a spin when they see a file that can be opened and a drawing that can be modified in the same edit area as text. Not that I would be using the drawing functionality, but you get the idea.
So the app that I use for note taking is the native IOS app. This connects through Office365 so that I can read the notes in Outlook on my PC.
I also use the Microsoft To do app to keep track of my upcoming and in progress tasks. I have both apps opening side by side. When I hit the notes app icon that I’ve added to my dock, both apps open. Moving between apps is incredibly straight forward. There’s really nothing to it.
Sorry if this post seems a bit short but this is note taking and to do tracking at it’s best. It’s efficient, fast and simple. It requires no considerable thought and when I want it, the functionality is there and reliable.
A question I have been asked is the same question I would have asked a few years ago.
Why are you using an iPad when you don’t need the larger screen size?
This is a valid question. Or, it was until a short while ago.
IPad verses iPhone
IOS is still just IOS regardless of the device your using really isn’t it? That would be a no. IOS on the iPad has diverged and will probably continue to diverge in future versions. The widgets view on the home screen is the tip of the wedge in a raft of iPad specific features. Of course, picture in picture and snap view have been around for a while and the file browser has made leaps in advancement on both iPhone and iPad form factors in IOS 13 but overall, there have been more tablet related features released in IOS13 than any previous version. With the emergence of the iPad pro keyboard and that increased use of a traditional input method on modern devices has lead developers to add much more support for keyboard commands than has tipically been found in IOS. Also, the iPad that I am using has a fantastic 1tb of storage and the sound out of the four speakers is much stronger and cleaner than on the iPhone.
App layout differences
Apps have more screen space on the iPad and compared to just three years ago, the issue of seeking icons by sliding your finger around the screen has been massively reduced as app developers have become much better at more effectively using the additional screen realestate.
There are apps that are better on the iPad. Ferrite for audio editing has more space for controls and LumaFusion really takes advantage of the extra space. Luma fusion isn’t the easiest to use with Voiceover, but it’s possible with some work. Something more standard is Outlook. I like that the message list is shown on the left and the content of the message is on the right. It takes some getting used to but you can take advantage of that extra screen space on the iPad when using it with Voiceover.
I will come to the end of these posts soon. So here’s a quick run down of what I’ve explored so far:
I’ll shortly cover the topics of audio and video editing using the iPad.
Alex asked me a really good question in a comment earlier and when I had a minute I took a second to explore the possibilities.
The first search result hit the jackpot.
Alex’s question was did I have a way of connecting to SQL. He actually asked about MySQL or MongoDB however as I’m not using either of those database servers at the moment as my preference is currently Microsoft SQL, I decided to give this a shot.
The first App I found seems to be perfect for what I would need. My use case would be to navigate around databases and have a nice accessible SQL editor window and nice easy to read results. A bonus would be keyboard command support.
The app is called SQLPro SQL Client and it’s free to get started.
Features that I have checked within the first few minutes of using it are:
- Browse through databases. Although to get started, I had to tap and hold the database name at the bottom of the screen. This took trial and error.
- Keyboard command support.
- Inteilisense for auto complete of database and table names.
- Accessible results viewer.
- Must support windows and SQL authentication.
- Supports saving database connections.
This does everything I need and it’s very fast too. I would like face ID to log into the app but perhaps that is available and I just haven’t found it yet.
Over all, I’m happy with this find. I’m also happy that someone asked the question as now that is in my toolbox and I know that if ever I need to connect to SQL while on the road, I won’t have a problem.
I’m still on an accessibility sub topic in all of this because it’s the accessibility of apps or work arounds that will ultimately make this useable or not. I have no doubt that if a sighted system administrator decided tomorrow to use an iPad for everything, she or he would find it much easier because there’s a larger array of apps to choose from. Hell, VNC would even be possible if the user was absolutely mad enough to go down that route. I have nothing against VNC. But I prefer the integration of RDP in the Windows world. So, tonight, I”m writing about another accessibility related thing. But this time, it’s really posative.
I’ve lost the lag! Screen readers in Windows have become so much better in recent years. They are better at memory management, they have much more efficient virtual buffers, scan mode, browse mode or what ever they call it, they are just generally more reliable, faster and more stable than ever before. But the reality that they need to contend with is they are bolt on. So in some situations, they are absolutely dependent on Windows applications working in a nice way. Take Outlook as an example. This is a very efficient and accessible application for a screen reader user. But there’s no getting around it. In the default layout, when you arrow around messages, that message opens up in the preview window and for just under a second while that message opens, the screen reader sits around picking it’s nose or something. It’s really frustrating. If you throw enough CPU and RAM at it, the process seems to be hugely improved but good luck asking your employer for a quod core processor and 16 to 32GB of ram just because your screen reader is a little more responsive with the extra resources. In SCCM the same thing happens. When you arrow around the tree view, the main view opens for each item. So if you go past the security compliance view or the Office365 management option you could be waiting for five to ten seconds before the next item in the list can be reached. It’s really annoying! But with IOS, voiceover is built in. As some would say, it’s baked in. Either way, it means the same thing. IOS is built with Voiceover in mind so the operating system allows for accessibility use cases that were not considered when the Windows interface was developed many moons ago. So in IOS, you can very quickly move between Email without opening each item. You can jump over to attachments with just a swipe and there’s no lag. You can alt tab to another application and there’s absolutely no lag. You can have split screen on the iPad and jump between notes and your to do window without even considering it. It’s weird. My entire method of taking notes and tracking my to do list in meetings has changed because I’m unlearning a habit that I’ve had for years where I would try to stay in the one window for as long as possible to save vital milliseconds that would be lost by the screen reader lagging slightly behind. Same too when browsing the web and filling in forms. I don’t need to wait for the fraction of a second when the page lodes and I know that I’m in the edit area of a form before I start typing. As soon as I know that Voiceover indicates that the edit field has focus, I know with certainty that I can just start typing and it will work flawlessly.
This seems like I”m putting Windows screen readers and / or Microsoft down. I’m not. Not at all. Windows screen readers and Microsoft Windows and associated applications are infinitly more powerful and versatile than this iPad. But because IOS has been designed with this hardware and app platform in mind, it can gain massive boosts in speed and efficiency.
If you aren’t a screen reader, you would be forgiven for being skeptical of my description of saving milliseconds. But consider that when you see something, you can act on that right away. You don’t give it a second thought. I don’t understand what goes on in our minds of course but I think it’s very much the same for people who can’t see when it comes to audible queues. When I hear a beep, a ding, or the screen reader say something, I don’t think about the next action, I just do it. I spend about 70 hours a week on various electronic devices for work and other things. So interacting with a screen reader is as natural to me as looking out the window is for you.
It’s important that I pepper some posativity into this series of articles because I’ve been quite harsh in many areas of my review over the past few days. I wanted you to be aware that actually, I’m really finding this to be a great replacement for my laptop..
Soon, I’ll write about audio and video editing. I’m effectively doing this now. Is it efficient, or as efficient as on Windows? You should come back soon to find out.
Thanks for sharing these posts on social media. Drop me a comment though. At minimum it looks really bad when these posts are getting lots of visitors and now comments but really, I just want to hear what you think about this series. Is there something you want to read about in particular?
My thinking was that what if I could get a USB C to USB A adapter then connect a Jaws authorization dongle into it and remotely authorize Jaws on a system that I was connecting to using remote desktop.
I also thought it could be handy to use my USB key that has NVDA and a few other useful utilities on it.
But unfortunately this was not to be. The remote desktop client made by Microsoft for the iPad doesn’t seem to send USB storage through to remote desktops.
This is another unfortunately a big blow to my use of the iPad. But I have other methods of getting around these limitations. So the exploration of this platform as my computer while on the go is continuing. Certainly for meetings and for reading / writing on the way to and from work has been great with this very small device.
I’m a system administrator. So regularly, I need to log on to servers. Primarily this is done through the remote desktop protocol (RDP) for short. When I first thought of using an iPad as my main computer when on the go, my main thought was, how am I going to connect into a server if it get’s into trouble when I’m on the road. Fortunately microsoft have a native remote desktop solution for the iPad called R D Client. This app is really well thought out. It supports saving credentials and connections. It even has workspaces to separate out the connections. This is great because I don’t just have remote desktop connections for work. I also have them for other companies.
The question you will have is how do I use assistive software such as Jaws on a remote machine? Well, it’s very simple. The sound is sent from the remote system to my iPad just like standard system sounds are. Latency seems exceptionally low. Even when connecting to machines on remote networks.
Remote networks brings me to a great point. I’m really glad that I’ve been able to find several VPN clients for the iPad to enable me to connect to the various networks that I need access to. So, yes. Even on the iPad, I can connect to everything I need. There’s one draw back though. I seem to have a problem connecting to some VPN’s when I’m using the iPhone as an access point for the iPad. I will investigate this further.
Remote desktop connections are quite efficient when on the iPad and with the iPad I can certainly log in and poke around. However, for any kind of serious work, I find that I need a keyboard with propper control, alt and F keys. I have some more research to do on this topic. I have ordered a USB C to USB A cable so that I can try different keyboard combinations. There are other major limitations that I’m hoping to get around.
The major limitation at the moment is the caps lock key is not sent to the remote machine. Therefore as Jaws uses this as a modifier, I am unable to issue Jaws specific commands. I’m hoping to get around this with a propper Windows keyboard. You can expect me to write more regarding this topic in the coming days.
Over all though, I’m happy with this solution. I haven’t had to do anything on a Windows server in an emergency and that’s when I”ll really tell if this is a viable solution for on the go.
I was going to write about remote desktop access today but I have more research to do before I can write on that topic with any authority. I’m instead going to give a brief note on using the iPad pro in place of a full size laptop while on the bus or train.
The surface book 2 and the XPS roughly occupy the same area on my lap. In terms of typing placement, they both promote similar hand placement. With the surface book 2 however the weight is distributed at the top. This to me led the laptop to feel shaky. The XPS is a 16 by 9 ratio screen so the top of the screen didn’t stick up as much meaningit could be used in more confined spaces where the seat in front jutted out near the top. The Surface book was never really that comfortable to use on a bus or a train.
The iPad pro with keyboard isn’t probably going to be a runner for indepth work when on the bus. Certainly when using the keyboard. For comfortable hand placement, I like to have the device sitting more toward my knees. The angle that the screen then sits at by default is therefore hampered by the seat in front of me. The angle of the seat pushes against the iPad causing the magnetised case away. This is really unfortunate. I tend to do a lot of reading on the bus. I find that dissuing navigational commands through the keyboard is way more efficient often than even using the touch screen so I’m disappointed that the form factor doesn’t work as I had hoped.
On the train though, there is more space. Depending on the seat you choose, you can either grab a table and place the iPad on it or if you have a seat without a table, the iPad is perfectly stable on your knee.
Mary Joe Foley, a journalist that covers all things Microsoft related talks about the concept of “Lapability”. It’s the idea that a laptop will sit on your knee without feeling off balance even when your hands are not on the keyboard. I’m really relieved that the Surface book is lapable. I’ve had the Surface book 1 then the version 2 of that laptop for a few years now. I’ve missed that idea that a laptop should be lapable. I don’t find my self keeping a firm grip of this all the time when traveling. It comfortably sits on my lap. Also, because there’s absolutely 0 heat out of this it’s very comfortable to use.
That’s a long post about traveling with these devices but traveling is something I do a lot of. Using it in these situations is very important to me.
I Wrote last night about using the iPad as my primary mobile device when on the go. So let’s continue that. I”m going to focus on productivity during a meeting in this post.
I had a meeting scheduled for first thing this morning. In meetings, I tend to use a few different applications. I write notes, I track to do items using the Microsoft To do app and I refer to Email regularly when tracking conversations that were held outside the meeting.
This is all really easily done using the iPad. I used split view to keep notes and To do on the same screen. Then I used the Outlook client to go through Email. The search tab makes this really in Outlook. And unlike in Windows, there’s no lag when searching and there are no weird keyboard commands and tab sequences to jump through. Overall, I foundthis to be a much more efficient way of managing data in and out during that verylong meeting.
It was necessary to pull from information that spans over a year since this particular project was started. I had files stored in Onedrive but again, finding them was easy with the search feature. The fact that One drive also surfaces recently used files to make it easier to find things quickly that you had been working on made it much faster to get what I needed and really gave me a nice sense of having prepared for this meeting because everything I needed was at my finger tips.
The iPad keyboard has also continued to impressed me. Not necessarily the keyboard although, yes, I like it quite a bit, but more that the iPad and app keyboard commands are great. When in Outlook for example, command n creates a new message. Command enter sends it. It really feels like I’m not loosing my desktop shortcuts.
SNext, I’ll write a little about my first attempts at using Remote desktop. But I have a few other things to try first.