Should you Upgrade to Adobe CS5?

MacWorld puts that question to bed in this detailed report.

With CS5, Adobe shows once again that it keeps pace with, and even stays a step ahead, of our changing times. When thinking about upgrading to CS5, it’s reasonable to want to sprint, to take the shortest route to the fastest result at the lowest price. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that way. But if you can, train for a marathon instead. Consider that the investment you make now will pay off in the future…

New MacBook Pros make it hard to say no

This week Apple released new 13”, 15”, and 17” MacBook Pros. The new laptops are simply stunning, offering high performance, long battery life, and good value. Apple is making it harder and harder to say no.

I’d convinced myself to get an iPad. Here’s my situation: I need high performance and portability. I like to drag my laptop all over the house and bring it on vacation for surfing and e-mail, but I also do some podcasting, music creation, and video editing. I own the last, fastest PowerBook G4 model Apple made in 2004, a great machine that has become long in the tooth and unsupported. My solution was an iPad for portability and everyday use, and an iMac for use in my home office. This would offer me an amazing portable solution plus a high-performance machine with a large screen for more demanding work. I could buy both machines for the price of a high-end Apple laptop.

These new MacBook Pros have me reconsidering. The new 13” MacBook pro has a battery life (10 hrs) that rivals the iPad and only gives up .6GHz and 250GB storage to the low-end iMac, both priced at $1200. A high quality 24” LCD monitor will run another $600 putting the pre-tax price tag of the MacBook Pro solution at $1800. The iMac plus iPad comes in at $1930.

There are still some things to consider. The iPad includes 3G connectivity ($30 addition per month). Plus, it’s a friggin’ iPad! The low-end iMac is faster than the .6GHz difference with the MacBook Pro indicates, but its screen is only 21.5”. The MacBook Pro is heavier than an iPad but would allow me to do video or music editing anywhere I please, offering true mobility. They may not be as cool as iPads, but the new MacBook Pros are superb machines and a great value.

ePub support on the iPad

My post about publishing on the iPad left out a HUGE fourth avenue for small publishers, which is e-books and the ePub format.

ePub is a digital book format based on XHTML. It includes XML, text, and images similar to an HTML page. When you export in Indesign to a digital book, it is exporting into the ePub format. Books in the ePub format allow the user to search, look-up the definition of words, change the size of text, and leave digital bookmarks.

With the iPad, Apple is also releasing iBooks, an e-reader app and bookstore. Amazon has also created a Kindle app for reading their e-books. Books created with the ePub standard can be sold through either establishment. In addition, iBooks will read any ePub-based book on the iPad, including books copied to the device or delivered via e-mail.

ePub and e-books are another way small publishers can get their content into the hands of readers, and it may be the easiest. I’ll post more about how to convert your existing InDesign files into ePub files in future posts.

What the iPad means to Publishing

Much has been written about big book and magazine publishers flocking to the iPad, but what about the little guys? When we talk about publishing on the iPad, we can mean one of three things: delivering print content as documents, either as PDFs or something like a Word or Powerpoint file, delivering content to the iPad via the web, or delivering content via full-fledged iPad apps.

The iPad and Print Content
Like the iPhone, the iPad can read Word documents, PDFs, text files, Excel, and Powerpoint files. The iPad can also read documents created in the iWorks counter-parts to Microsoft Office: Pages, Keynote, & Numbers. The most common way to get these files on and off your device is via e-mail, but you can also use Apple services like and MobileMe, or web services like Google Docs. Beginning with the iPad, you can also use iTunes 9.1 to transfer files to and from your computer. Right now the process is somewhat cumbersome, as Apple does not give you free reign to the file system. For example, the iPad disk does not show up in the Finder like a USB drive, allowing you to copy files on and off at will.

Many have tabbed the iPad as a content consumption device, but with the native iWorks apps, the iPad can also be used as content creation device as well, although it is limited. The iPad does not support the addition of fonts, so you’re stuck with 44 that are included. The iPad also doesn’t support any kind of printing, which means you’ll have to save your Pages, Keynote, or Numbers document as a PDF, e-mail it to a Mac or PC, and then print it – a real pain.

While I don’t see system-wide font support in the near future, I think printing will be solved soon. Apple could work with printer manufacturers to create iPad apps for printing. For example, an “HP Print” app could, in theory, allow the iPad to print to any HP printers on the current wi-fi network or via bluetooth pairing. Apple could create a printing app themselves with many of the standard printer drivers included. With this week’s announcement of a 4.0 update to the underlying iPhone operating system, Apple could add OS-level printing support to shared printers on Mac and PCs, or some other solution.

Websites customized for the iPad
Most printed content is already re-purposed into a website. The iPad has a browser and can view normal websites, though it lacks Flash. Websites can be bookmarked to the home screen, where they grab the site’s favicon and resemble a normal app. Web apps can be created by making a site that behaves like an iPad app, but is written in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Your website can sense the iPad version of Safari, and switch to the iPad version of your site. John Gruber explains an Apple project called PastryKit here, that helps with this process.

Content delivered as an iPad app
This has been the most talked about publishing consequence of the iPad. Creating an iPad app amounts to repurposing your printed content or website into a self-contained program that can be downloaded to the iPad, exactly like an iPhone app. Your app can be completely free; it can be free but charge for “issues or episodes;” or you can create a separate app for each issue or episode. With an iPad app, you can make full use of the iPad hardware and user interface. Like CD-ROMs of the past, you must create a unique interface, but you can also take advantage of the fact that this is a mobile platform. If your content is a food guide, it could sort nearby reviews to the top based on the user’s current location. If your content is a text book, it can include 3D models that spin as the iPad is tilted. This is truly an opportunity to have fun with how your readers will interface with your content.

Creating a full-fledged iPad app, however, requires skills you probably do not already have in-house. You’ll need a Mac for development and a programmer with knowledge of the iPhone software development kit and the Objective-C programming language. You can get started here, or hire one of the many software developers already helping companies convert their content into iPhone and iPad apps.

The iPad will be a boon to communication and create new opportunities in publishing, but what it means to your pre-existing content is up to you.

iTunes Web Previews have SEO Mojo

In November 2009, Apple added webpage versions of every listing in the iTunes catalog, what Apple calls iTunes Web Previews. Before, links to items in the iTunes called a redirect that launched iTunes. Now, the pages can be viewed in your browser without a trip to iTunes. This excellent article talks about the effect of these web previews, namely, that iTunes pages now rank near the top of Google Searches for artists, songs, and iPhone apps.

iPad details emerge

Apple took 50,000 pre-orders for their new iPad tablet computer today. They also revealed several new details. First, the mute/vibrate button borrowed from the iPhone will serve a different purpose on the iPad: it will lock the screen orientation. As one of the main uses of the iPad will be reading, users laying on their sides need not be inconvenienced by the built-in accelerometer switching the orientation from portrait to landscape as they shuffle around.

The iPad will also feature several accessibility options, borrowed from Mac OS X. Users can zoom into any area of the screen up to 5X, reverse the display for greater readability, or have books and other text read to them aloud. Apple also revealed screenshots of a la carte 3G ordering, along with alerts that warn the user when they are approaching the lower plan’s 250MB cap.

Apple’s new product is shaping up to be more more than a “big iPod touch.” It’s eReader app, iBooks, looks like a winner. Plus, with full-sized apps like Keynote, Page, and Numbers (think Powerpoint, Indesign, and Excel) already available, the iPad could truly replace the laptop for many more users than people expect.

Sleep Cycle

To use Sleep Cycle, you place an iPhone on your mattress while you sleep. This $0.99 app is able to monitor your body movements with the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer, thereby tracking your sleep cycles. It charts how much deep sleep you are receiving, when you are going in and out of R.E.M. sleep, and a true average of the sleep you’re achieving. By monitoring your cycle, this clever app can attempt to wake you up at your most natural wake state within 30 minutes of your alarm time.

When I first heard of Sleep Cycle, I got excited and immediately downloaded it before realizing that the app probably wouldn’t work in the bed I share with my wife. Wouldn’t it pick up her movements, rendering all collected data unusable? The app sat on my iPhone, never used, until I finally decided to try it this week. Sleep Cycle calibrates itself the first two nights, adjusting for the variables in your bed, mattress, and pillow. So far the results are good. After placing the iPhone on my side of the bed, the app seems to accurately track my specific cycles. If you have a king-sized bed or a tempurpedic mattress, Sleep Cycle’s results should be nearly perfect. Worried about overnight cellphone signals close to your head? Simply put your iPhone in airplane mode. Sleep Cycle’s biggest inconvenience is that because the app runs all night, you’ll have to plug your iPhone into the wall. If you can convince your wife to put up with a power cord coming out of your pillow, you can start enjoying a good night’s sleep.

New Apple Tablet could be named iBook

I want to go on record about the name of Apple’s new tablet computer, which will reportedly be introduced on January 26. Rumors have said it will be called the iSlate, or iGuide, but I still think the name that makes the most sense is iBook.

Consider: Apple owns the rights to the name and has not used it almost 4 years. Tell me a name that fits into Apple’s offerings and makes more sense for a small, book-sized tablet that will act, in part, as an eBook reader? I don’t think the fact that Apple’s former low-end notebook line shared the name will stop Steve Jobs from going back to the well.

The only reason I think Apple may not choose to call their new tablet the iBook is if they want to further highlight the fact that this is not just an eBook reader, but a multi-function computing device. The thing is, everyone knows that, just like they know a MacBook is a laptop. I guess we’ll see in two weeks.

I Dig It

idigitpromo-300x256My big time-waster right now is an iPhone game called “I Dig It.” You play Farmer Lewis who’s down on his luck and has gotten a few months late on his mortgage. He has, however, constructed a jet-powered digging machine which you must pilot. If you can dig beneath his farm and discover $100,000 in 4 hours, you’ll save the day. And when I say 4 hours, I mean you have 4 actual hours of game-time, though you can start, pause, and stop as often as you like. Do yourself a favor and spend the $1 on the full version. You’ll get more than your money’s worth, or less if you figure in all the lost production.