The iPad - Kitchen Companion
05/10/12 -12:52 Filed in: Apple | Computers | Food Photography
In a way this is a sequel to my earlier blog: the iPhone Barbecue Buddy. When the iPad came out little over two years ago, I immediately saw its potential. Granted at that time there weren't a lot of applications available for it, but you could see it was essentially a blank slate that creative people could design exciting new apps for. While I could see the potential for the iPad, what I couldn't see was the money to buy my own. So reluctantly I sat on the sidelines and watched with great interest as the iPad grew into a more & more sophisticated device. it grew both in terms of hardware and software. Where once it was a content consumption device, the iPad and now create content as well. This blog will talk about some of the uses I've found for my iPad in the kitchen where it is a truly useful device. The iPad truly is a new category of device. It fits somewhere between my iPhone and my laptop. I have to say it's closer to the laptop in terms of usage than it is the iPhone, but operating it is more like operating an iPhone. I recently got the New iPad by selling off all of my old 35mm camera equipment online. It was a worthwhile exchange since I no longer used my old camera equipment, but I use my iPad everyday. My laptop hardly gets used these days, except for certain applications where there is no equivalent software for the iPad. So the architectural CAD software I use, ArchiCAD, doesn't have a version for the iPad. Nor does the RapidWeaver software I use for my website. Other than that I pretty much use the iPad for everything where I used to use my laptop. It is easier to carry around the house than the laptop is, it is easier to find a place to safely stand it up in the kitchen and the screen is big enough that I can easily read the text. So the iPad has completely replaced my laptop in the kitchen. At the other end of the spectrum I still use the iPhone out at the grill for things such as the Clock App, the Camera, the Food Substitution app, and other such things where I need to refer to the item out at the grill and the size of the iPhone is more convenient. I also use the iPad for the shopping app Groceries that I use at the supermarket. The iPhone is just more convenient to carry around with me than the iPad.
Before I get into specific use cases for the iPad, I'm going to describe the case I bought for it because that has a great deal to do with how you are able to use it. Then I will get into some of the ways I use it both in the kitchen and for other food related tasks.
The Sena Folio case for the New iPad:
The case I bought for my iPad is a very handsome leather folio style case made by Sena. The iPad slips into the case which has a cover that folds over to protect the screen. For displaying pictures or video on the iPad you fold the leather cover over 180° and it snaps onto the back cover of the case. Once the front cover has been snapped into the back of the case two different feet are exposed. The first little foot unfolds and allows you to stand up the back of the iPad about 2 inches off the table for typing. The second foot is more like the fold out foot found on the back of a standard picture frame. The clever thing about this foot is the placement. It was placed in such a way that when you unfold it, the iPad can be placed in either horizontal or vertical orientation and the foot supports it. The case is extremely well built, and is handsome to boot. They make a model for the original iPad and another one for the iPad 2 which accommodates the camera and the slightly different size of the iPad 2. The case for the iPad 2 also fits the new iPad (iPad 3), which also has a camera and is slightly thicker than the iPad 2.
Recipe Software 1 - In the kitchen:
The YummySoup! software which I use to hold my recipes has a version for the iOS devices including the iPad and the iPhone. You can't enter recipes into the software but it shares the library from the desktop software. This allows you to bring the iPad into the kitchen and view the recipes on it. The iPads screen is big enough so that you can easily see the recipes from a safe distance. The iPads footprint is smaller than a laptop, which makes it easier to find a safe place for it. In fact I am looking into stands for the iPad which allow it to be mounted to the wall or the refrigerator. The counter I prep on is next to the refrigerator & mounting the iPad to the wall of the refrigerator would be an elegant solution/
Recipe Software 2 - Entering Recipes
Now I've already said that the version of yummy soup for iOS does not allow you to enter recipes. So why is this section titled Entering Recipes? That is because of the dictation feature found on the iPad. I found the dictation feature very usable and you're usually able to speak in a normal voice and the dictation generally gets it right. It is normally much faster than my typing. Once I discovered the dictation software was actually usable, it opened many doors including cases where I need to manually enter the text from recipes found in books. Yummy soup has great translators for bringing in web based recipes. But for recipes found in books, magazines or printed out on paper, you were stuck manually entering the entire recipe. The way I use it is I launch the Pages App for the iPad. This is Apple's word processing software. I then read the written description found at the beginning of the recipe as well as all of the written directions at the end of the recipe. The only thing I don't dictate are the ingredients. Once I am done I am able to open this document on my laptop and copy and paste the content into yummy soup. There are several ways to get the document from the iPad my laptop. If you are on the latest version of Mac OS you're able to directly share them with Apple's iCloud service. Otherwise it is easy enough to email the document to yourself or synch the iPad with your laptop. I have found it dictating the description and the directions into the iPad and then copying and pasting it into the recipe software on my laptop has cut the amount of time down in half. What normally took 45 minutes now takes about 20. I also find it makes it less "painful" because the part I liked the least about hand entering recipes was typing out all the directions. Entering the ingredients generally goes pretty fast due to the auto complete feature in the software.
Now the dictation software is not perfect. Recipes throw the dictation some curves with things like foreign words or words you need to cooking. For example a blog I wrote last week on paellas threw the dictation software quite a few curves do the Spanish terms used throughout. I never did get it to spell paella correctly, but I came up with a solution. When I run into a word that I see is going to consistently fool the dictation software, I come up with a substitute word that I use in its place. this word must be a word that does not naturally occur in the rest of the document. So for example the substitute word I used for Paiea was paid. Once I am done I then do a search and replace for the substitute word and replace it with the word I really wanted to use. This neatly solved the problem with odd words that dictation software didn't recognize.
I should also mention that I am dictating this blog entry. When I am done I will paste it into RapidWeaver and have it done in about half the time it used to take. You could say this is a quasi food related usage as well.
Web Based Recipe Software:
There are many apps for the iPad which basically put a front end on websites which are large collections of recipes. Websites such as epicurious.com and big oven.com are just two examples of this type of software. There are many more websites that have iPad-based apps. The large screen of the iPad makes viewing and using this software very easy. This type of software has a small disk footprint on your device since most of the data is stored in the cloud, and they can often look just as good as the custom apps which download all their content directly into your iPad.
Specialty Food Apps:
This software is a custom app which stores all the content for the app on your iPad. You do not need to be online to be able to use the software. Examples of this which I own are a Craft Beer app, an app called Fromage which is about the various types of cheeses around the world. These are more of a reference type app, which you would use outside of the kitchen to come up with good pairings for the recipes that you'd be making.
FaceTime is the name for Apple's built-in video chat software for iOS and Mac OS. Having a front and rear facing camera on the iPad has come in handy a couple times in the kitchen. It allows you to do a videoconference with someone else where you can show them a procedure or where they can show you one. It is much easier to actually see a process versus having it described to you verbally. The only disadvantage to FaceTime, is both parties must have iOS or Mac OS devices. But if you need to video conference with someone who's using an Android device or a Windows PC, you can use a video chat app like Skype.
Reminders, Timers & Alarms:
The iPad has the same Reminders feature built into it that the iPhone does. It also has the same Clock app built-in as well. This means you can set reminders for yourself so you don't forget to light the grill. You have to decide whether it's better to set the Reminder or Timer on the iPad or the iPhone. If you're going to be stuck in the kitchen, then the iPad is a logical place to put your Reminders or Timers. If there's a chance you'll be outside at the grill or somewhere else in your house when the alarm goes off, then you should use the iPhone and make sure to carry it with you at all times. When I am doing a multi-item cook where I'm going to be very busy with a lot of things going on at once, I use lots of Reminders, Alarms and Timers: When to light the grill, when to light the charcoal chimney, when to turn on the oven, time to remove something from the fridge. The more I can offload onto the the iPad, the less I have to remember and the less chances for screw ups. Since a lot of the Reminders are the same from week to week, I actually save them and reuse them. It's usually just a matter of adjusting the time slightly each week. Another reason that Reminders, Alarms and Timers are good, is people tend to congregate in my kitchen when they arrive. When I am at my busiest with the prep, I am also at my busiest answering questions about what I'm doing and what we're having. It makes it very easy to forget something important, so I always preset Reminders before people arrive.
These next few items take you outside of the kitchen, but they are still food related uses for your iPad.
The iPad version of the Weather Bug Elite software that I use is excellent. While the iPhone version is good, it is often hard to see some of the data without a lot of zooming and you're doing a lot of screen switching. With the larger screen of the iPad you are easily able to view most of the data. You are then able to go to additional detail screens where you're presented with even more information. The larger screen also comes in handy when you're viewing the radar plots to see what weather is approaching. Unlike my laptop, my iPad is often found in the same room as I am. This makes it really easy to grab the iPad and take a quick look at the weather to see what I want to start my cook.
With the iBooks app and the Kindle app together with the wonderful screen of the New iPad, reading books is a true pleasure. I've gotten a few cookbooks in the e-book version and I'm still making up my mind whether I like the e-book format for this or not. Depending on the format the books are released in, you may or may not have all of the illustrations that come with the printed version of the cookbook. But it is convenient to have these recipes on something that is easy to pick up and take with you. I will say in general I like reading books in the e-book format. I find I'm doing a lot more reading now on the iPad that I've been doing with printed books in recent years. For some reason picking up a printed book is the quickest way to put me to sleep. This is not the case with e-books and I'm able to get quite a bit of reading done before the urge to sleep overtakes me. I just have to decide if I can live with the lack of pictures that some of the e-book formats bring to the table.
Viewing Food Photos:
The iPad is a great place for storing your food photos. The screen is a nice size for sharing them with others. The New iPad, with its retina display, makes the photos look incredibly sharp. I keep all the food photos that I take for the Photo Galleries for this website on my iPad. I've got the photos arranged into Projects in Aperture, so it is easy enough to export the various Projects at a resolution suitable for the iPad screen. It is handy sometimes to be able look back at previous cooks. Friends or relatives will often be interested in something I've just made, and it's nice to be able to pull it up on the iPad and show them what it actually looked like. You can also zoom in and see the labels on the spice jars and other ingredients that were used, to help you with your shopping list. One piece of advice I can give you about buying the New iPad is to buy the largest capacity model you can afford. That's because the screen is so sharp you'll want to be putting lots of photos on it. You'll probably be viewing lots of HD movies or TV shows on at once you've had a look at that gorgeous screen. These take up a lot of space on the disk, so you'll want as much storage space as you can get.
Importing Food Photos From Your Digital Camera:
One of the nice things about digital photography is you can look at the cameras display screen to see whether or not your photos actually came out. With a 3" (7.5 cm) screen it is sometimes very hard to see if the photos are really in focus. Sometimes you can't see if there's some little problem that will become very evident when you view the photos at full size. By using the Apple Camera Connection Kit, you can import your photos onto the iPad. Here you can view them and see if you have something usable before you leave your shooting location. This is much more convenient than dragging your laptop around with you. When bringing a laptop, you need to think twice because in addition to the laptop you need to bring the laptop bag. This isn't always the most convenient thing to carry around when you're outside shooting. Bringing the iPad is a lot easier. You simply slip it into its case and go. The case adds very little volume to that of the iPad. The new iPhoto software for the iPad is also a very credible touch-based editing software. This allows you to experiment with some of the photos in iPhoto out in the field to see if you will have something usable when you get back home. I am amazed every time I use iPhoto for the iPad. It actually seems to be closer to the full-fledged Aperture software for the Mac than it does to iPhoto for the Mac. I still want to use Aperture on my laptop for most of my photographic work, but it is very nice being able to have an advanced preview of what you can expect. The ability to be able to manipulate the photos and to see out in the field whether the photo will work for your purposes is a huge bonus. One thing I should warn you about: Be sure to leave the photos on the card if you intend to bring them into your photo editing software on one of your home computers. When you have imported the photos onto the iPad, you are prompted whether you should keep the photos on the camera or erase them. Unless you are tight for disk space on your memory card I would suggest not erasing them. You'll find that the transfer time is much less when you were going from your camera to your home computer than it is going from the iPad to the home computer. Another feature that may come in handy is Apple’s Photostream feature that is available through their iCloud service. With Photostream the last 1,000 photos that you've taken on any device associated with your iCloud account are viewable on all other computer or iOS devices associated with that account. So if you have the photos on your iPad, you can also look at them on your iPhone or any Mac computers running OS 10.7. You can also view them through your second or third generation Apple TV if it's linked to that same iCloud account.
Sharing Food Photos:
Using Apple's Airplay feature, found in iOS 5, you can stream your photos or movies to any second or third generation Apple TV. This allows you to view this content on a large screen TV. You are also able to mirror the display of your iPad and view it through the Apple TV device as well. Both the built-in Photos software and iPhoto for iPad allow you to create slideshows with slick transitions and music. This makes it even more fun to view your photos on a large screen TV.
When Apple brought out the iPad, they said it was a third class of device. Something that fell in between a phone and a laptop. They were quite right and my usage of the iPad shows just how correct they were. The iPad has replaced the laptop for about 90% of the things I used to do on my laptop. It is far easier to tote around with you in a laptop in the screen is far easier to see than that on the phone. I still use the laptop when I need to do heavy lifting, where there's not software available for the task at hand. And I still use the iPhone for things where I'm out and about and it's not convenient to carry a tablet around with you. But the iPad also replaces some of the uses I had for the iPhone. The larger screen makes it much easier to read and you end up doing much less pinching and zooming and scrolling when using the iPad. The exciting thing about the iPad is it's basically a blank device that can be customized through the use of apps to bring all kinds of exciting uses to it. it has all kinds of uses applicable to cooking. It has completely replaced the laptop in the kitchen. I can't see my ever bringing my laptop into the kitchen again. The best part is: This isn't some sort of compromise, it's my preferred choice.
SOME RELATED LINKS:
The iPhone - BBQ Buddy - 2007 Blog Entry about cooking related uses for the iPhone.
The iPhone - BBQ Buddy - Pt. 2 - 2008 Blog Entry about additional cooking related uses for the iPhone.
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