What does the iPad 3 mean for Technical Authors? Part 4: Its application in a documentation setting

In this post, we’ll look at potential applications for the iPad in a documentation setting.

Portable documentation

The iPad is a portable device, so where people and documentation need to be portable, it’s likely there’ll be an interest in using the iPad.

For example, we’re currently looking at the iPad’s application within a hospital setting, where staff may need to refer to clinical and non-clinical procedures. Also, the Federal Aviation Authority has approved use of the iPad as a pilot’s Electronic Flight Bag.

So why not use a laptop to do this? The iPad’s advantage is its battery life, weight, ease of use and price. These factors, however are also true for ebook readers. Where graphical content is less of an issue, then an ebook reader, such as the Kindle, may offer a cheaper solution.

So Why not use a paper manual to do this? It’s harder to update the content and the pictures don’t move.

Visually rich content

Apple is promoting heavily the iPad’s ability to present textbooks that are visually rich, containing interactive graphics, 3D images and the ability to zoom and pan. Although a Technical Author can deliver most of these today, using a number of Adobe’s software applications for example, Apple has the knack of making the most of these capabilities.

Chargeable content

Organisations have the opportunity to deliver content in new formats, such as iBooks and as apps. Although these can be supplied free of charge, users will be used to paying for these media formats. By creating a more richer experience for users, there maybe scope to make money from documentation.

Ease of use

Apple has created a device that is easy and intuitive to use. In short, the iPad offers the promise to Technical Authors that more people may read the content, particularly the technophobic.


There will almost certainly more applications, and it’s possible that “first mover advantage” may come into play. The first entrants might gain market share that followers may not be able to regain.

3 Replies to “What does the iPad 3 mean for Technical Authors? Part 4: Its application in a documentation setting”

  1. I’m wondering how the iPad would fare in environments messier than airplane cockpits and hospitals. Say in heavy machinery where liquids and dirt are more prevalent, such as oil rigs, saw mills, construction sites, etc.

    One thing that concerns me is the “bottleneck effect of complete failure” of all electronic deliveries: Whether you can use electronic docs is also digital, i.e., yes or no.
    You tear a page or drop a book and it’s still (almost completely) usable. You drop the e-reader, run out of power, run into a network glitch and you have a problem.

  2. I understand pilots are required to have a backup device with them on the plane. Unless it’s laminated, paper will suffer badly in a dirty environment. It’s likely you’ll need clean-ish hands to use an iPad.

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