18 April 2014

Editorial: The iPad and Wargame Manuals

Scott Parrino breaks out the iPad for one of its useful features for those have digital wargame manuals but want the convenience of a physical one.

Published on 20 JUN 2011 10:50pm by Scott Parrino
  1. hardware

Like it or not the iPad has cemented itself in the tech world as a tablet that anyone can use without much instruction. While some may rub their nose at Apple products, those that have embraced it have certainly discovered there are seemingly millions of apps that they can use in their everyday life or work to make their experience better. It isnít uncommon to find such apps that cover business aspects like stocks and trade news, word processors and graph creators. Of course there is the other end of the spectrum with entertainment apps like Netflix, Youtube, iBooks and of course popular touch-screen games like Angry Birds or HISTORY Egypt HD. Of course there are going to be strategy games for the iPad but this isnít what the article is about. It is about the functionality of the iPad for your wargames and how to accomplish that.

(Please excuse the camera quality, technology can be a fickle mistress.)

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With the manual at your side on the iPad, a flick of the finger can get the info you need. 

The downside of purchasing games digitally is that 99.9% of the time the manual will only be available digitally as well. While this can be applauded as a way of saving money and paper, the user has a few choices to make in regards to their digital manual. They can use their printer to print out the entire document, which if the manual is a lengthy and detailed one (more than likely for more serious and in-depth wargames) they can look forward to a gracious amount of time and ink used. Another option is taking the file to be printed at places like Kinkoís, which of course can vary in cost if youíre going in black & white or in color. Color will generally be a lot more expensive than black & white, but from what Iíve discovered is that on average you might be spending around $20-40 for a simple plain black & white document.

Unfortunately sometimes having a standard black & white manual isnít enough. However, you donít want to spend the extra amount of money to get it in color (not to mention if you want it spiral-bound with a cover, break out your wallets!) nor do you want to spend the crazy amount of time using your home printer (which unless you have the fancy ones, only prints on one side). So what do you do? This is where the iPad steps in.

Since nearly all digital manuals are in PDF form, reading them just requires either a program like Adobe Acrobat Reader on their PCís or even a web browser that supports the file type. With either an iPad first-gen or iPad2, users can download a multitude of PDF reader apps to use, such as iBooks, some even being free. For my demonstration I was using the app called PDF-notes, which can either be used free with advertisements at the bottom or purchased to eliminate them. With the app installed, all I had to do was email myself the PDF and open it within the iPadís email app. From there all that was needed to be done was download the file and open it via the app through a simple touch screen option on the email app. It is actually more complicated to explain it as it truly is just 3 steps to view it in the PDF-notes app.

Within the app itself, all PDFs are viewed on a digital bookshelf. Users can either create their own category (I made one called Game ManualsÖoriginal, I know) to separate their PDFs or just have them all lumped together. From here all that is needed a touch on the manual, which uses the proper front covers, to view them. The first time you open your PDF manual, give it a few minutes to load itself fully. It is a one-time thing and the patience is paid off in extremely quick loading with no lag in changing pages. Simple swiping motions flip the pages or you can scroll a bar at the bottom to skip farther ahead. You can even draw on the manual to make notes or highlight important bits of information. There you have it, a full-color, crystal-clear manual at your fingertips without the need of alt+tabbing from your game to follow along or taking up space on a second monitor. The added benefit is also the portability and ease of use, which is a huge plus for those that are not so technically inclined.

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Full color detail with the ability to highlight or make notes.

Now this system of reading your digital manuals isnít entirely perfect. The first is the obvious: you must own an iPad. While first-gens are going to be cheaper than the iPad2ís, youíre still looking at a price generally above $300-400. The other issue is that a printed manual doesnít have to be recharged, unlike the iPad. Another can be viewing area. With the iPad youíre limited to the size of the screen of what you can see, where as you can have your manuals custom printed to your preference, without looking through the ďwindowĒ.

There are the upsides, however, which I believe outweigh the negatives greatly. The amount of money you would pay to get a color manual printed for all your games would be much, much more than buying an iPad. With having the PDF reader you are only limited by your iPadís hard drive space, which with the average PDF manual weighing in around 2-5mb, you can fit hundreds if not thousands in the basic 16 gig iPad. Another positive is the space-saving ability of the app. Instead of having a shelf for just your manuals, they are all conveniently stored on your iPad, which takes up as much space as a small netbook. The added convenience of portability is nice too, for those long drives or flights without the need to lug around a few manuals. With a proper case that doubles as an angled stand, you can have the complete manual experience easily.

There is no doubt about the usefulness of the iPads. This isnít an article to encourage everyone to buy an iPad, but to know what theyíre capable of in the wargame crowd. In fact as tablets prices go down, there can be a point where there isnít a reason not to own one, like a cell phone or a computer. Those that want to embrace it early are sure to reap the benefits associated with them.

Written by: Scott Parrino, Editor in Chief