Monday, June 29, 2015

iPad for Woodworkers?

The other day I bought a new iPad. I was reluctant to buy an iPad at first because there are a few reasons I don't like them. On the other hand, there are plenty of really cool things that can be done with one.

Here is a review of the iPad which may be of some help.  Perhaps you might find you use yours similarly.

The machine I got was an iPad air 32 GB.
My new iPad.
The reason I got it, was because my old netbook from 2009 is on it's last leg. The fan stopped working after I dropped it three times in one day, and I think it's just a matter of time before it burns up losing all my info. Another reason I got it is because my new camera has a cool feature on it which allows it to transfer files from the camera via Wi-Fi. The problem with that is it needs to connect to a phone or a computer with an app to do it. My phone had no such app.  The last reason is that this iPad is a screaming good deal.

So first the bad:

  • Mac is worse with collecting your personal data than even Google.
  •  I can't figure out how to tab on this virtual keyboard. 
  •  Typing on an iPad with no keyboard is a PIA.
  •  It's just a little thing but the learning curve does take a bit of effort if you're not used to an iPad. 
By far the worst in this list is the first point. I unsuccessfully tried to quit Google a while back because I am not particularly crazy about allowing the company to mine my online habits in order to sell me something. Mac takes this concept to a whole new level. You need to enter in all kinds of personal information just to do basic things with an iPad.

Now the good, which in my opinion makes up for nearly all of the bad:
  • Apps.
  • The Cloud.
This seems kind of like a weird list but let me explain: there are some apps that excel with use by a woodworker. Here are some apps I found which make the world of difference:

Instagram has a fantastic woodworker's community. It seems to be a real comfortable place for woodworkers to post pictures of their work and comment, share, brag, etc. It is very active and works best with a smart phone or a tablet with an app.

My camera's app.
After all, this was one of the big reasons I bought the iPad. There are some other options, however it works fantastic with the iPad. It works  by turning itself into a router. You connect with the camera in your settings and download pictures directly from the camera in only seconds.

Google Photos.
Here's a great place to store all your unedited photos. If you don't mind a little loss in size, Google stores an unlimited number of photos. If you want the original files, you are limited to a dozen gigabytes or so. This means no need for a huge local hard drive any more.

E-book readers.

I installed the apps for both Kindle and Nook. This allows me to read all of my purchased e-books, no matter what file format. I also have a couple other apps that work hand-in-hand with these.

If you're not getting the books, audiobooks, videos, etc. from your local library online, you're missing out. Most libraries use the OverDrive software to facilitate borrowing books and checking them out from your library. I listen to audiobooks every day during my commute.

My library has a deal with Zinio.  Zinio is an app that allows you to buy electronic magazines, or if used with your library to check them out through your library for free. E-magazines look fantastic on an iPad. I've tried them before on my PC, but I couldn't get into it. Reading them on  an iPad is almost as good as the real thing. In fact, today I read the last four issues of Popular Woodworking. 

Although you can watch YouTube through Safari - iPad's browser, the app is far superior. Video on my iPad looks clear, is fast, and the sound is just fine for my purposes. Also, try it on your smart tv.

Like YouTube, eBay can also be viewed in the browser, but works better through the app. Not that I'm buying more tools, but it's fun to look. Okay, I am buying more tools. Don't tell the Frau.


Siri isn't really an app, it comes with the operating system in an iPad.  Siri is a text to voice and voice to text application.  It will read out loud, you can ask it questions and it will answer, and you can even avoid typing by speaking to it.  In fact, I entered most of this blog post using it.  I find that I can enter it about ten times faster with my old way of typing, but it sure beats the hell out of that virtual keyboard.  I will have to figure something out.  No wonder so many woodworkers are abandoning their blogs for Instagram.

That's it!  If you can deal with selling your soul to the collective, then an iPad is awesome for woodworkers.  :)

Do you have an app that helps your online wood life?  I'd love to hear about it and learn a thing or two.


  1. #1, Feedly, as a way to collect and read all the blogs you follow. (Though it does authenticate with Google ID) That's the one I use, but I'm sure there are other RSS feed reader apps. It's good though and they have good syncing from computer to mobile.

    I use Apple's "podcasts" (woodtalk, shop talk live 360 woodworking) and iBooks apps (well integrated).

    Learn to switch to reader mode (lines in upper left of url box) in safari to get a consistent font and clear away ads from pages you want to read

    What Oly camera did you get? They make some temptingly small ones.

    1. I got one that isn't too crazy small. In fact, it is bigger than my old one. It is the TG-3 Tough. I bought it because it is water and dust proof (handy for the shop), the wi-fi thing, and also it does these really cool close-ups with a microscope mode. It will even take decent enough pics of endgrain for identifying species!

      I definitly will check out feedly. I like using and NorseWoodSmith, but a feeder without opening a browser sounds better.

      I have found the reader mode, and I like it.

      Thanks for the tips!

  2. I'm with Jeremy on Feedly. It's what I use.

    I have a second generation iPad. I have it set up with a bluetooth keyboard for any time I'm saying more than a sentence or two. I assume you can do something similar with the iPad Air?

    I bought an iPad after I got so much enjoyment out of my first Apple product, an iPod Touch, about six years ago. One of the best electronic decisions I've made in a really long time. I use my iPad daily. Multiple times a day, for reading blogs, checking social media, reading digital books, looking at recipes when I cook...

    I'm not ever going to be a die-hard Mac user, but I do really enjoy my iPad.

    1. I'm like you, I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid. I would like to think of myself as "platform agnostic." I like Linux, but I'm willing to admit certain things are better on an Apple, and certain things are better on Windows. Use what works.

      I hadn't thought of a blue-tooth keyboard. That's a great idea. I'll definitely pick one up!

      Thanks, Ethan!

  3. Hi Brian. I have the 1st gen IPad Air and have a few apps I use in the shop. Go to the App Store and search "tools".
    I used the ruler (it simultanately calc in imperial and metric), level, sound pressure level, calculator etc. there are also board feet calc and etc. there is also a handy screw identifier it figures out the thread , length etc.

    1. Good idea, Robert! And with no fan or other moving parts, it should be (relatively) safe to be in the shop!

  4. We use facetime on our iphone or ipad for a virtual co-woodworking if there is a need to show something live while at the bench. Very useful IMHO

    1. Hey Wolfram! That is a good idea. And, it comes pre-installed.

      Too bad I don't have a connection in my shop.

  5. All you need is WIFI coverage in your shop...

  6. I don't get the whole Instagram thing. Maybe I am old. Is there something out there that explains how to use it or how to connect with other woodworkers?

    1. I'd say search for the weekly #handtoolthursday posts then find the folks in that group (most all are of a similar mindset) that post something of interest and follow them if you want, like a few photos etc. Leave comments and start conversations, share photos of your work too so people have a clue as to what you are about. While you can just consume on IG it's much better with engagement.