iPad mini: It's a Productivity Tool, Too

With the launch of the iPad mini, the discussion of consumption versus creation has come back to the forefront of topics on blogs and podcasts. On episode #1215 of The MacJury, our very own John Martellaro discusses this very topic. The expert panel were all leaning towards the iPad mini being perfect for consumption, but less so for creation.

Whilst there is no doubt regarding the consumption capabilities, I did find myself disagreeing with the iPad mini not being suitable for creation. After all, this is now my portable device of choice to handle all my writing and podcasting commitments. Of course, there are some minor obstacles that need to be overcome but with a little planning, these obstacles will cease to be relevant.


iPad mini with virtual keyboard in landscape mode

iPad mini with virtual keyboard in landscape mode.

For the past year, I have been utilizing my iPad 2 as a creation device. This week I moved completely to the iPad mini and said goodbye to a device that I loved, but was simply too imposing for true portability. I was constantly concerned about damage, loss and theft in public places and therefore I would leave the full sized iPad at home. With the iPad mini, those concerns are gone.

You may wonder why I don’t simply purchase a MacBook Air. Surely that would allow me to be more productive, wouldn’t it? Of course, but all work and no play makes work, well, work. We all need our downtime and the iPad mini is the perfect compromise between productivity and entertainment.

Many online content creators spend their day coffee shop hopping and know just how small those tables can be. Put a full sized iPad, or MacBook Air, on one and there is little room left for the refreshment and slice of cake.

I should add I did consider purchasing a MacBook Air 11-inch, but was dissuade due to the fact that it allows for significantly less consumption than the iPad and has a significantly shorter battery life with real world usage.

In fact, despite the known limitations in iOS when compared to OS X, I have found myself to be more productive when using iOS. I believe this is due to being forced to use a single app at a time. When using the Mac, I find my mind wanders. Instead of writing that latest review or feature article, I end up watching YouTube. We all know where that leads, don't we?

After establishing that I was more productive with iOS, I set out to find apps that could help me create, edit and publish the content I was generating each and every week. Whilst, my workflow isn't completely covered via iOS, I find that a good 90% of my weekly requirements can be undertaken by the small and affordable iPad mini.

Writing With The iPad mini Virtual Keyboard

Anyone who writes a significant amount of content will have a very subjective opinion on how they like to type. Some people refuse to use the virtual keyboard, others purchase expensive Bluetooth keyboards and associated cases in order to better utilize their device. There is really no right or wrong approach.

Personally, I find that I can comfortably write using the onscreen keyboard of the iPad mini. Trust me, I also had my doubts. Although, I shouldn’t be so surprised, as I have written long form articles on my iPhone 4, when no other device was available.

As long as I have Pages for iOS, synced with iCloud, I can write anywhere at anytime. If I waited for the right time and situation, I would personally cease to be productive.

iPad mini with virtual keyboard in landscape mode.

In theory, I believe the iPad mini allows me to type up to 80 percent of the pace that I would normally type on the larger sized iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. In my opinion, that is worthy of being a creation device for writing. In fact, thanks to the iTextSpeed app for iOS, I can put that claim to the test.

In order to evaluate the results I will be using an iPad 2 and an iPad mini. Both will be setup in landscape mode using the virtual keyboard. I will also close all applications from the multitask bar besides iTextSpeed. I will then create a baseline of my typing speed by using the iPad 2 with Apple's Bluetooth keyboard.

I will undertake 30 seconds per session and attempt the process 12 times. Upon each attempt the words presented by iTextSpeed change, thereby giving a more accurate overview of real world usage.


iPad 2 (Apple Bluetooth keyboard): Best = 64wpm / Average = 56wpm

iPad 2 (Apple Bluetooth keyboard): Best = 64wpm / Average = 56wpm


iPad 2 (virtual keyboard): Best = 57wpm / Average = 45wpm

iPad 2 (virtual keyboard): Best = 57wpm / Average = 45wpm


iPad mini (virtual keyboard): Best = 51wpm / Average = 47wpm

iPad mini (virtual keyboard): Best = 51wpm / Average = 47wpm


Without passing judgement my typing speed, or lack there of, I consider the iPad 2 with Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard to be my personal typing pinnacle. It clearly fared much better than the iPad 2 with the virtual keyboard, but I was amazed at how closely behind the iPad mini with the virtual keyboard was to both previous results.

If my calculations are correct then the rate I can type on the iPad mini is 83.9% of the speed when compared with the iPad 2 and a physical keyboard. Not bad considering my initial impression without evidence was 80%. This number is calculated based on the average words per minute.

I can only reaffirm how usable the iPad mini is as a portable writing platform, even without a physical keyboard. I don’t think many people would be disappointed in a less than 20 percent performance drop when you consider the portability of the device, functionality and low purchase cost when compared to the larger iPad.

In fact, this article is being written on the iPad mini with only the virtual keyboard. I’m also not experiencing any cramping in the hands or fingers due to the smaller size of the virtual keyboard. Although, I do limit my writing sessions to 50 minutes at a time.

Editing with the iPad mini in portrait mode.

Editing with the iPad mini in portrait mode.

Whilst these results were based on using the iPad mini in landscape mode. I have also been writing in portrait mode on the device. If you have fast thumbs, then it is the perfect solution for writing in bed, or when landscape mode simply doesn’t suit. Due to the smaller size, and light weight, it is comfortable to hold within the hands and allows you to see significantly more of the article you are writing or editing.

Clearly, I am impressed and happy to use the virtual keyboard in both orientations. Understandably, this will not be to everyone’s liking, but never let it be said that productivity when using the onscreen keyboard can not be achieved.

Adding Video And Photographs To Your Publication With The iPad mini

The iPad has an overabundance of video and photographic editing apps. Whilst many are nothing more than shovelware, there are quite a few standouts that make creating content on the iPad mini, an enjoyable experience.

For video editing, I keep going back to Apple’s own iMovie for iOS. I find it offers the best blend of power, functionality and export opportunities. Anyone who has tinkered with movies will know just how demanding the content can be, especially when trying to perform editing functions on a small screen. In fact, Apple avoided this conflict in iOS by altering the iPhone version significantly. So how does iMovie perform on the smaller display of the iPad mini?

Editing video in iMovie on the iPad mini

Editing video in iMovie on the iPad mini

Exactly the same as the full size iPad. Even the precision editor works surprisingly well without the timeline feeling cramped or non responsive. You could quite easily edit your latest video with the iPad mini, export to YouTube or Vimeo, and embed the video directly into your publication.

Images and photographs compliment every article I write. With that in mind they also have to be of the highest quality, Retina graphics aside. To do this I rely on FX Photo Studio HD. It allows for basic image corrections, but more importantly it has the best cropping and resizing options I have seen in an iOS app to date. In both cases it allows you to manipulate the image down to the pixel. That kind of fine detail control ensures pinpoint accuracy throughout the graphics in the entire published article.

Editing graphics using FX Studio HD

Editing graphics using FX Photo Studio HD

One of the most useful features of FX Photo Studio HD is the user friendly approach to importing and exporting. This is achieved by using the clipboard, and simply undertaking a copy and paste procedure in and out of the app.

Whilst this is the best solution I have come across for working with graphics for publication on iOS, I do find myself needing some additional functionality that can only be delivered by my Mac. Predominantly, this involves screen captures from the Mac or sharpening of graphics that can’t be done within FX Photo Studio HD.

Although, if I spend a few minutes preparing graphics for an article before leaving the house, then I can have access to the images I need via DropBox.

Publishing Via The iPad Mini

All popular blogging platforms have specific apps that can be utilized on iOS. Although some, like the SquareSpace app, are so significantly limited that they approach an unusable status.

As someone who writes for a few different sites, all running on different platforms, I am happy to report that the Blogsy for iPad offers the most flexibility and power to writers who need to publish content remotely.

Having used it on both the full size iPad, and the iPad mini, I don’t find usability suffers at all with the smaller physical screen size. All buttons are conveniently placed and are more than large enough to be easily tapped when required.

The only limitation is in the inability to upload media files, such as video or audio files, to your server from within the app. Unfortunately, podcasters still need access to their Mac at this point in time to perform this function. Although, there are many FTP client applications available for iOS that may assist some content creators with this task.

Podcasting With The iPad mini

Any podcaster will tell you that the most time consuming part in the production process is the editing. As I produce two podcasts per week, this can mean an additional 2-3 hours in post production. This is time that is taken away from my family, so I like to do things a little differently.

Using a fantastic application called TwistedWave, I can literally edit my entire podcast using nothing more than the iPad mini.

Editing a podcast with TwistedWave on the iPad mini

Editing a podcast with TwistedWave on the iPad mini

If you are creating a solo recording then TwistedWave will be your complete portable studio. Utilizing iOS compatible microphones, some of which can be run through the USB adapter, you will be able to record, edit and export completely within the app.

I should add despite successfully using my Samson Meteor Mic with the iPad 2, I have yet to use it with the iPad mini.

You will notice earlier on in this section I referenced the fact that it is a perfect editing platform. That is because all my recording is done via Skype and Call Recorder on the Mac as I have other people podcasting with me.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no option within iOS to record directly from Skype. After speaking with a few developers it became clear that this imposition is Apple's alone. There is no news of when, or if, this limitation will be lifted. Hence, if you were hoping to capture collaborations over services such as Skype, you will need to continue using the Mac to at least capture the initial recording.

It is really a double edged sword, because I also like to run my shows through an application on the Mac called The Levellator. It simply helps to bring all recorded audio levels to a more average level. Therefore, you don’t have the constant high and lows throughout the conversation. TwistedWave has leveling built into the export process, but I have never been impressed enough to rely solely on it.

Once the levels have been appropriately adjusted by The Levellator, I then take the uncompressed file and import it via iTunes File Sharing to the iPad mini.

I can open TwistedWave and edit at anytime, from anywhere, on my iPad mini. I find the perfect time to edit is in the middle of a commute, whilst watching the kids at a sporting event, or even whilst relaxing in bed. I find being productive during these relatively uneventful times is a real time saver.

I also write up my show notes at the same time. TwistedWave will easily allow you to continue listening to the content as you write associated information into a Pages document for instance. If you need to return to TwistedWave to perform additional editing, clicking on the red iOS recording bar at the top of the display will instantly take you back to the app.

Once the editing is complete, I will move the exported file back to the Mac simply to add album artwork and of course backup. If I was happy to simply release a show with no album artwork, I could just upload directly to the FTP server from within TwistedWave.

This editing process is slower than I would like, but when you consider that 2-3 hours of editing can be undertaken on the move, rather than at your desk or on a MacBook, you will likely agree it is the perfect solution for content creators looking to consume every minute, of everyday.


As you can tell I am completely enamored by the iPad mini. It is the perfect size, with the perfect amount of power, and the perfect price point.

Is the lack of a Retina display, in the iPad mini, a problem with intense usage such as content creation? Not at all. I full endorse my receding hairline and grey hairs. Therefore, I am not willing to exclude the iPad mini because it doesn't have a Retina display, and to some people may look a little rough around the edges. Looks after all, are only screen deep.

In my mind, usability and flexibility are key to successfully using the iPad mini as a creation device. Whilst iOS is still limited for many tasks when directly compared with OS X, if you dare to think differently you will find work can be done at anytime, anywhere.