Thursday, November 21, 2013

Preaching from the iPad

Tim Challies posted a good article today called 10 steps to Preach from your iPad.  

My approach is a little different. Since I have been preaching with an iPad for about three years, I thought I would throw in my two cents.  

"Transfer" the Sermon to the iPad

I compose my sermons on a PC in Word and save them in my Dropbox folder on my hard drive.  This folder contains my complete folder and file structure.  Every file saved on my hard drive is automatically backed up every time I hit save and is automatically available to all other internet accessible devices. There is no need to do any actual transferring from device to device. 

When I am ready to preach from the iPad, I open my Dropbox app and navigate to my latest sermon file. A complete preview of that document will show up in the right panel. 

Choose a Display App.

Every once in a while I will preach directly from Dropbox.  There is a small toggle arrow at the top that allows you to fill the entire screen with your document.  The file opens into one continuous document that generally keeps the same formatting as the original Word document.  

But most of the time I open the document in a word processor.  I use Office2 HD.  I do not have Apple Pages, but I would guess most decent word processors have most of the same functions.

Challies recommends using a PDF reader, such as Goodreader.  I do not find this convenient because I preach from landscape view. Here is why: 

Preach from Landscape View.  

Portrait View. Boo!
I get the impression that most who preach with an iPad prefer to see entire pages at once in portrait view.  That way the only thing they have to be concerned with in the pulpit is the simple touch-action of turning the page. 

Landscape View. Yea!
The reason I preach in Landscape is that I have bizarre eyesight.  I am so nearsighted (-10.5’s anyone?) that my contacts actually make me farsighted.  That means that I cannot see my notes well (especially in low light) and must use reading glasses. Light levels, BTW, are another valuable reason for someone like me to preach from an iPad.  I never have low-light reading problems when using my iPad.

It is true that landscape view cuts off half a page at a time, but it is more important to me to have large text on the screen—larger than what portrait view will allow without creating an original document with huge fonts and strange formatting.  So while I need to scroll constantly while preaching, I will explain why this is not a problem a couple of points from now.

Choose a Display View in the Word Processor Itself.

My word processor has two views.  I would expect most WP's would have the same or more. The "page layout" view keeps the document exactly like the original, just as a PDF reader would.  You can pinch your document to change the size and move it around on screen, but it will never change from the original layout you designed on your PC. Use this when you need to retain the original formatting and aspect ratio of your document.
Page Layout View
Screen Layout View
But I prefer the "screen layout" view.  It allows me to pinch-zoom the text, with the result that the lines of the document dynamically adjust to the width of my screen as the text increases in size.  This, of course, changes the format of the document.  But that is a benefit for me as I explain next.

Adjust Text Size on your iPad, not on PC.

The screen layout view allows me to change the text size on my screen without having to worry about 1) sizing it correctly on my PC in the original document, or 2) having to constantly push my document to the left or right while I am preaching to see complete lines (you know--like when you have to read a poorly designed web page with fine print on an iPhone).   

When I pinch-zoom my document to make the text larger, the text will reach a maximum size and then rejustify itself on the screen.  None of my text ever leaves the left or right side of the screen.  

Because I adjust the text size on my iPad, and not on my PC, I can make size adjustments on the fly without being limited by the original formatting of my document.  I can put less text on the screen with larger fonts, or more on the screen with smaller fonts.   I do not have to worry about picking an optimal reading size in the original document.  In fact, I keep all my original documents in 12 point.

This has three benefits:  

  1. My original documents remain formatted for the PC, which means I can easily use it for other purposes or edit it later. 
  2. My original documents retain normal fonts, like 12 point. Twelve point is the universal preferred editing font size, right? 
  3. I ultimately only need one copy of my sermon. Other methods may require an original word document in 12 point font, plus a word document saved with a “for-use-on-the-iPad-only” font, plus a PDF of that iPad-only document. When changes need to be made to sermon notes at some point in the future, this compounds the work with three sets of changes.

Preach from Outlines, Not Manuscripts. 

Manuscripts are too much text all at once.  I cannot find my place easily when I use them on the iPad.  So I use bullet points, which means that maintaining original formatting is not important to me. I can change the size of the text and the bullets will always stays the same, even though the size of text and number of words on each line may change.  

This is only a problem for preachers who familiarize themselves with their outlines using the “picture-the-page-in-your mind-while-you-preach” method.  That is, they know how to find the point they want on the page with their eyes because they have practiced with a specifically formatted document enough to have a mental picture of where what they want is on the page.  If the format changes, they lose their place on the outline, because their mental picture does not match what is in front of them.   I think we all do this to some degree, which is why, when using my method, it is important not to over-tie the content of my outline to my mental-picture of my outline. How?  See the following point:

Train Yourself to Scroll  Inconspicuously While Preaching.

I do not rely upon finding my place on the page when I look down at my notes.  Instead, I always move my place on the page into the exact center of my screen by scrolling.  That way I do not need to find my place in my notes—I only need to find the center of my screen, where my next point will be waiting for me. 

That means I have gotten good at scrolling while I preach. Some people may not like to be tied down to touching their iPad while they preach. But I think I have learned to maintain eye contact, appear natural, leave the pulpit when I need to and still constantly scroll without being distracting. Either that or my congregation is just used to it. I hope it is the former.  BTW, I use my thumb to scroll like in this upside-down picture:
For the life of me, I cannot get this picture right-side-up. 
 Note that my fingers stay on the podium to stabilize my scroll. To scroll with an unstabilized finger, like my pointer finger, does not allow me to place text in the center as precisely as I need it.   It also runs the risk of tapping instead of scrolling, which leads to this problem:

Activating Keyboard Accidentally. GRRR!

So if you scroll like I do, you will occasionally activate the keyboard while preaching.  That means you must quickly find the button to deactivate it, relocate your place, and recenter the point on. I have done it enough that this is no longer a problem for me. 

I understand that most will probably prefer to just preach from a portrait-displayed PDF that only requires touching the screen briefly when the page needs turned.  I understand that.   But the iPad would not work for me like that.  So these adaptations have made the iPad ideal for my preaching notes. 

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