Beyond Angry Birds: How iOS Folders Can Help You Get More Creative Use From Your iPad

Waiting in line on iPad Launch Day

I love my iPad. I love telling people about how much I love my iPad. But when the Apple commercials for the iPad come on I often feel a sense of envy as though I’m not really using it to its fullest.

I began thinking about ways I could squeeze some more use out of this truly unique and (dare I say) magical device. I was really looking forward to the iOS 4.2 update to help usher in some of this change, in particular the ability to organize apps by folder. On my iPhone I arrange my apps in folders according to their category, which appears to be the default method judging by the way Apple automatically names my folders when I begin grouping them.

On the iPhone that’s OK because I’m usually not doing anything longer than a couple of minutes at a time. Mostly it’s checking my email while walking into work, checking my RSS feeds as I wait for a meeting to start, or catching up on the latest sports scores. These are all minor glancing activities that satisfy my desire for a quick does of input while I’m usually on my way to doing something else. The small screen size fits the mold for this perfectly too.

The iPad is different though. When you hold it you want to snuggle up with it and get to know it like a friend. I’ve got plenty of great material loaded, from books in the iBooks app to articles to read later in Instapaper to the beautifully designed NY Times app. I’ve got endless hours of educational content loaded in TED’s app and an endless array of engaging in-depth articles to read via the various news- and magazine-related apps. Yet when I pick up my iPad, I find that I go straight for Angry Birds, Yahtzee, and Reeder among others mindless activities. “There’s got to be a better way to do this” I thought.

Enter iOS 4.2 and more specifically Folders. I was really curious to see if I could organize my apps in a way to produce more creative and engaging use of the iPad during different times of the day. There are certainly times when all I crave in the mindless simplicity of Cut the Rope or Flight Control. But what about when I’m eating my breakfast and drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning or taking my afternoon renewal break at work or laying in bed right before I go to sleep?

The idea I came up with was to organize my apps not according to the default of similar category but rather by function. This way I’m mindful of what I’m really using my iPad for and can challenge myself to use it in all those other engaging ways everyone talks about. This is what I’ve come up with so far and it appears to be working.

Organize

Input

Learn

Entertain

Create

Search

Play

The action verbs help to frame the activity I’m about to engage in and prevent me from just scrolling around trying to find something interesting to do. I’m still tweaking the setup a bit (“Entertain” doesn’t quite feel right for that folder), but I feel a sense of clarity around the device in ways I never had with the previous arrangement. Something about having to scroll pages and pages to find something useful to do didn’t work for me. This way I have everything I need right in one page. The ability to organize up to 20 apps in each folder makes this really great too.

What other useful features have you found to squeeze more out of your iPad? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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3 Responses to Beyond Angry Birds: How iOS Folders Can Help You Get More Creative Use From Your iPad

  1. Mia Elizardi says:

    Your ability to create infrastructure and in this case succinct categories is amazing. Your “input” and “search” are particularly brilliant buckets. Thanks for the screen shots too! Now, I don’t have an iPad but I think I can tweek some of my folder categories in my iPhone to get more for my money there as well. Thanks!

  2. Brian A. Peagler says:

    I will definitely be stealing this fantastic idea for organizing my iPad as soon as I get one (hopefully in the next 10 days). I have a growing appreciation for efficient design and thoughtful organization and this layout succeeds at both. Thanks Brian, and I look forward to chatting more about all things iPad in the near future.

    • @BP: It’s an ongoing process for me, so I look forward to seeing how you use it. It’s still fantastic for consumption and while this organization process had made it a little easier to be productive, I still find myself heading to the desktop for every day tasks. Enjoy!

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