Some further thoughts on the Galaxy Tab as a tool

>> Sunday, March 06, 2011

So it was raining today, which led to a lot of dithering on my part. Did I want to brave the wind and chill and falling water, our just stay at home like a sensible fellow? In the end, the decision boiled down to a desire for brunch.

Normally on a Sunday like this, I'd take the netbook with me. But then I thought to myself that what I really needed to do was take the Galaxy Tab with me and see if it really was going to be useful as a tool and not a toy.

A few hours later, some things read and even a few words written, the jury is still out, but I'd say things are still looking promising.

As an e-reader and Internet client, this thing fucking rocks. I read a couple of old online articles from a writer I recently discovered while I are my eggs benedict, went over to Smelly Cat and read a pretty good SF short by Algis Burdys ("The Barbarians") and part of an old comic book I'd downloaded. The tablet has a nice form factor, easy GUI: it fits comfortably in the hand while your hot chocolate is in the other. The coffeeshop WiFi is down, but the 3G connection has worked perfectly.

As a writing tool, things are... interesting.

It's not wholly fair to judge based on today's efforts, I think: the short story I'm trying to write is just turning out to be a bitch in ending itself; the good parts all-but-wrote themselves, but now I need to wrap it up, and it doesn't want to; hell, I think I even have sort of a punchline or stinger for the end, even, if I can just get there.

Using Documents To Go and Swype to write a couple hundred words wasn't unpleasant, though. It's not as good as using a netbook our a machine with a real keyboard, but that isn't really the idea. I don't think a tablet can replace a machine for that purpose, unless maybe you find one with stylus input and decent handwriting recognition, and even that may depend on how quickly you write (I think I possibly type faster than I can write legibly, with the emphasis on "legibly").

But the thing is that Swype may ultimately be something that requires a bit of practice to use effectively. (This was part of the reason for bringing the tablet out and trying to write on it, actually.) The thing with Swype is that it tries to learn how you swipe out words and then guess what you're trying to spell as you continue to use the program. When Swype guesses correctly, it's kind of amazing. When it guesses incorrectly, out creates all sorts of "Damn You, Autocorrect"-style problems in the text. Worse, Swype begins to build a dictionary out of words you use, which means that your typographical mistakes can become part of Swype's vocabulary. Eliminating spurious words from the user dictionary turns out to be difficult because it's been made too simple: you type the word you want removed, select it, press a "Swype Key" on the interface and confirm the deletion; what you can't do, that would frankly be very useful, is open up the user dictionary separately and see what garbage you've inadvertently added to it. To amplify why this would be a nice feature, one of the perverse but not-really-surprising things about Swype is that it has an easier time deciphering longer words than it does shorter ones.

I really don't think you could write a novel this way, and writing a novel is certainly something you could do on a paper tablet. But it's actually not terrible at all for getting in an hour or so of jotting while you sit in a comfy chair somewhere that isn't your home. There's potential here, anyway, or that's how it seems after a couple of weeks. I'll follow up as I build experience on the thing.


4 comments:

Jim Wright Friday, September 2, 2011 at 11:49:00 AM EDT  

I realize I'm way late on this one, Eric, but up until now I didn't have anything to compare the Galaxy to.

My wife and I have been looking at Tabs, with the Galaxy being on the top of our respective lists. But since we both just bought HTC Android Merge smart phones and really like them, we started looking at the HTC Flyer.

The wife finally broke down and bough the 7" model and loves it. I've played around with it extensively and decided that I love it too. Sometime in the near future I'm going to go buy me one. With my Merge in Mobile Hotspot mode, the Flyer can get access anywhere. With a bluetooth keyboard attached I can actually write on the thing much more comfortably than on the netbook. And as you said, reading and surfing the net fucking rocks on a tab. So does watching movies and video.

Eric Friday, September 2, 2011 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  

Yep, these things pay for themselves in weeks, don't they?

Jim Wright Friday, September 2, 2011 at 8:57:00 PM EDT  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Wright Friday, September 2, 2011 at 8:58:00 PM EDT  

I think so. So much more convenient than lugging around a laptop, though I admit my HTC Merge smartphone is almost as useful - if it had a larger screen it would be.

Becky just today went and bought a dry-bag for her Tab, so she can play Sudoku on it while sitting in the Jacuzzi tub. I am not kidding.

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