on my iPad

I’ve had my iPad for about 9 months now, and I love it, but I’ve mostly been using it for relatively simple things: checking e-mail and facebook, making phone calls when my old cellphone wouldn’t work, playing games, reading books for pleasure, etc. The most academic use it has gotten is taking notes in meetings with my advisors or at talks (being unable to lose handwritten notes is a huge plus). But my looming research trip has forced me to finally try to make my iPad useful for more of my scholarly work. Here are three things that have really made a difference for me:

  • A big part of my discomfort with the iPad when writing even things as simple as a facebook post was that I kept needing to click to a second screen to get an apostrophe or quotation mark. Turns out, there’s a very simple solution: when using the built-in keyboard, you can swipe up on the comma, and you’ll get an apostrophe. If you swipe up on the period, you get a quotation mark. This makes a lot of sense, and would have saved me much annoyance if I had figured it out earlier.
  • But for slightly heavier writing, the same problem exists for dashes, slashes, and parentheses. Solution: bluetooth keyboard! I got the Mac version, which is slightly more expensive than other models, but it’s TINY. It fits in my purse along with my iPad, and I can still zip the thing up. The other thing that I really like about the keyboard is that it has ARROW KEYS.  You do not know how much you rely on the arrow keys while writing until you try and write without them.  Trying to use your finger to get between just the right two letters is awkward and frustrating. My fingers just aren’t that small.
  • I also now use the iAnnotate PDF to read and annotate my scholarly reading.  It’s so much better than trying to read and annotate on my computer. I had tried using iAnnotate before, but the process of getting documents into the app was painful until I finally figured out how to sync my dropbox with the app. Now when I annotate a PDF, it automatically syncs back to my laptop and I can use the annotations when I’m doing writing on my laptop.
The only thing I don’t think I’m going to be able to do is actually write my dissertation or an article on the iPad.  I can take notes and write some draft material, but it just won’t cut it for full blown scholarly writing because I can’t integrate my full citation suite (Zotero) with any of the composition tools on it (Pages, Google Docs). I also can’t keep writing in one application while looking at a PDF (pretty essential for quoting accurately). So I’ll still be taking my laptop around with me, but I’ll be able to get a lot more done before I head to the big machine.  (I feel like my laptop has become the equivalent of a desktop, and my iPad has become the equivalent of a laptop…)

2 comments on “on my iPad

  1. W. T. says:

    I just tried marking up a PDF document with Preview. I highlighted a line and added a note. Then I added the PDF to the books collection in iTunes, and synchronized with iPad. Upon opening the PDF with iBooks in my iPad I found that the annotations were gone. Disappointing. I also found out that iBooks doesn’t do annotations on PDF’s, only on epub format books. Even more disappointing.

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