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iPad: iLaunch, therefore iAm
by Sam McMillan

One developer who has taken up the challenge of designing a productivity app for designers is 37 Signals, the people who bring you Basecamp, the beloved online project management tool. Their iPad product, called Draft, is a dead simple sketching tool, designed to do just one thing and do it well.

According to Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals, “The audience for Draft is people who work on Web site design, interface designers and Web developers, who need to draw out an idea quickly, with their finger.” As you’d expect from the developers of Basecamp, the focus was tight, pure and just on the basics.

Launch Draft and it works. You start drawing using your finger, and Draft saves everything you’ve done. Fried says, “Our goal was to create something that lets you draw with the same level of freedom, fluidity and accuracy as you would with a Sharpie.” Sharing the results is straightforward: sketch out an idea, tap the share button and enter an e-mail address.

Point, draw, save, send, share. Draft for iPad, from 37 Signals, makes is simple to sketch out interface diagrams, then share with the production team.

Priced at ten dollars, Draft is not for everyone, Fried admits. “We're not going to out-feature everybody,” he says. But for those in the business of sketching interface designs and wireframes on white boards and poster paper, Draft eliminates the process of copying the design, scanning it and then having to e-mail the scan to the rest of the production team. “Draft saves a bunch of steps. While the price is higher than a lot of apps, at ten bucks you recognize this is a huge bargain in terms of time saved,” Fried says.

So who’s actually using the iPad for work? Victor Zaud, founder of Zaudhaus, an interactive design agency based in Los Angeles and San Francisco, is quick to proclaim the iPad’s usefulness. Whether he’s in a meeting, or on a plane, the cobbled collection of tools he’s downloaded from the App store has turned his iPad from a gee-whiz gadget into the go-to device he reaches for first.

“The most expensive app I bought,” Zaud says, “which I would gladly buy again, has been the $50 OmniGraffle App. I use it every day to create user-workflows and wireframes for the Web applications and software we’re designing. I send iterations of the actual files or PDFs via e-mail to my designers.”

Workflows and wireframes. OmniGraffle’s iPad app is surprisingly sophisticated, packing powerful productivity tools into a touchscreen interface.

When he's not on a plane, Zaud uses Evernote to capture the work that takes place on white boards, both in-house and in client meetings. “The great thing about Evernote,” Zaud explains, “is not just that it can capture Web clippings and other various images but, with our premium account, those whiteboard snapshots are scanned on Evernote’s servers and the words are automatically translated into tags. So I can search my own database for words that were noted in the whiteboard meetings.”

For sketching ideas on-the-fly, Zaud turns to Penultimate. “It’s like napkin sketching,” he says. And the look and feel is so cleverly handled that the results make him feel good about his sketching ability. Zaud can copy these sketches into Evernote, or simply e-mail them directly to his staff or clients.

Suite Spot. Victor Zaud of Zaudhaus uses productivity tools from Soonr, Evernote and Penultimate to take notes, capture ideas from whiteboards, sketch diagrams and e-mail them to his production team and for on-the-go document management.

For Zaud, who spends a lot of time on planes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, “the size and mobility of the iPad is perfect for me.”

Whether the iPad will take its place in history with Guttenberg’s invention of moveable type remains to be seen. But once Apple’s ecosystem of software and hardware design, as well as e-commerce sales and delivery via the App store, is combined with cloud computing, the iPad will present an enormous opportunity to reach more people, with more media, in more places than ever before. It will do to the software industry what the iPod did to the recording industry. CA McMillan
Sam McMillan is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer, teacher and producer of interactive multimedia projects for a number of Bay Area production houses, and can be reached at