Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

One Week With a Tablet

A few months ago, someone asked me what my all-time favourite mobile device is. When I told them the Atari Portfolio, they were puzzled. After I explained what the Portfolio was, the confusion turned to shock. Once again, what was new was old again. And, yes, I’ve been taking my computing mobile for that long!

For someone like me, the promise of mobile devices is that I can work on what I need to wherever and whenever. But I don’t use that as an excuse for falling into the assembly line mindset. Mobile devices give, and always have given, me flexibility.

A month or so ago, I took a page from the book The Mobile Writer and decided to undertake an experiment: to see if I could do my work exclusively with a tablet for a week. I’d done something like that before with a Chromebook (with good results), but this experiment would present a few interesting challenges.

Curious about how the experiment went? Keep reading to find out.

Going In With a Plan

As with my Chromebook experiment, I isolated:

  • What work I’d be doing
  • What apps I’d need to do that work

My focus was writing, blogging, working with social media, communicating with various people in my life (clients, editors, and family), and reading.

With that out of the way, it was time to look at the tools I’d be using.

Choosing the Tools

I used the following hardware:

  • A Nexus 7 tablet with a Freedom Pro keyboard
  • ZaReason ZaTab ZT2 10.1 inch tablet

In addition, I used a tablet stand to prop up the tablets while I used them.

You’re probably wondering why I used two tablets. It’s a long story. Suffice it to say that using two tablets fit into something I was working on at the time so it seemed a logical move. On top of that, I like to mix things up a bit. Moving between the tablets wasn’t a chore, thanks to the apps I used.

Since I’d be mostly writing and blogging, I used the apps that I’d installed on my tablets a while ago. The apps were:

  • Draft and Writebox, which I chose because they both support Markdown and sync with Dropbox
  • Dropbox, for syncing files between devices
  • Google Drive, which I needed for a couple of projects

I also played a bit with an editor called Denote (just because I hadn’t used it in a while). For anything else, I either used what came installed on the tablets or used web apps.

Getting to Work

As when I spent a month with my Chromebook, I found it hard to turn to the tablet first rather than a laptop or Chromebook. But with a little discipline, that quickly stopped being a problem.

What I was doing wasn’t anything new to me — I’ve been writing with a tablet for a long time, and with a mobile device even longer. But it did take me a while to get used to using the on-screen keyboard on my 10.1” tablet. Part of that involved finding the right angle at which to position the tablet. For me, that’s about 20 degrees. All I need now is to find a stand that lets me do that. If you can recommend one for a 10.1” tablet, please do so by leaving a comment.

To be honest, typing with the Freedom Pro keyboard was noticeably faster — about 85% of my speed on a regular keyboard. That said, I am getting faster with the on-screen keyboard of my larger tablet. I’m probably around 65% of my normal typing speed right now.

That said, it took less time than I expected to adapt to doing my work on a tablet. And since I could work offline and sync later, the whole experience was seamless. With a quick sync, all my work was available elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

During my experiment, I found that I could do about 65% to 70% of my work with tablet. That’s not bad. I still need a desktop application or three to get some work done.

For me, working with a tablet is a great way to get my ideas down and to hammer out a first draft. Or even a final draft. A tablet won’t replace my laptop or my Chromebook, but it’s an excellent supplement that lets me take my work a little more mobile and allows me to be a bit more productive.

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