iPad: New "Guided Tour" videos from Apple are the next best thing to hands-on

iPad guided tour screenshot

Apple released 11 iPad "guided tour" videos on Monday, each of which provides a detailed overview of a single iPad app in action. The videos give needed relief to people who are in danger of spontaneous combustion in anticipation of getting the device in four days.

The videos, each about two minutes long, provide individual tours of the major iPad apps, including Safari, Mail, iBooks, Pages, Keynote, and more.

The Mail video is a good refutation to people who say the iPad is just a big iPhone. It's a different experience. With a screen as large as the iPad, you have room for a couple of different panels of information. In the case of the Mail app, you can show your whole inbox in one panel, and an individual message in another. That's not practical to do on a phone's small screen.

With other apps, such as Pages and Keynote, you can show your document as well as pop-up windows for controlling borders, fonts, colors, and other elements of how the content looks.

The Mail video gives a good look at the onscreen keyboard. In landscape mode, it's nearly full-size. The people in the videos type with two or three fingers and a thumb, reminiscent of old-time newspapermen and -women pounding on manual typewriters. Those old-time newspaperpeople were fast. I was previously skeptical that the onscreen keyboard would be very usable, but watching the video makes it look quite practical.

I'm still a little skeptical that you'll be able to sit and use the iPad for a long time. The iPad might turn out to be awkward to use in any position. The people in the video demos are using the device while leaning back in their chairs, with their legs propped up and the iPad resting on their knees. See an example in the photo above. One man even has his feet up on his desk. Those are simply not comfortable positions to work in, long-term; there's a reason why white-collar workers use desks and desk chairs.

Mail is obviously a cousin to the mail apps on the Mac and iPhone. In landscape mode, you see your inbox, with header information of individual messages, in a vertical column occupying the left-hand third of the screen, and the focused message on the right side.

One nice bit of eye candy: If you select multiple messages, you can drag them to the right pane and they appear in a stack, liked stacked letters. From there, you can move the messages or delete them. I didn't see what gesture you'd use to stack multiple messages.

The iPad's Web browser seems to combine the best features of desktop Safari and the iPhone's Mobile Safari. It seems to display full-sized Web pages, rather than scaled-down mobile versions of Web sites.

The iPad Safari has an interface extremely similar to Mobile Safari. You can turn the iPad to see pages in landscape or portrait, use gestures to pan and zoom pages, save URLs either as boookmarks or icons on the home screen. You can open multiple windows to multiple web pages, and get thumbnail views of every open page. The iPad Safari also lets you play embedded video or watch the videos fullscreen with a single tap. Of course, what the video doesn't say is that the iPad doesn't support Flash, which is common on many Web pages for video, games, and other interactive content.

I hope to talk about these videos more later this week.

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