Monday, May 23, 2011

A bleg about tools and toys and software

Hello, all --

So, like many people, I'm thinking about eventually getting an iPad. I have been at a couple of conferences lately and just think it would be so much easier not to lug a full-sized computer around when I travel. I'd really like it to be usable even for extended trips -- for example, is it enough computer to take to the UK for six weeks? Or would I need to take my macbook, but still only carry the iPad to the BL to work? (and of course I now need to check and find out if the stories of abused iPad manufacturing workers in China are true...

No, I can't really afford one, but we can use our research allotment towards it, which I think would be better than trying to justify one on my taxes. Far easier to explain why I need professional memberships and journals.

Anyway, so the first questions are:

Is it really a good tool?
How much memory is the minimum I need?
How much can it replace my heavier computer?


But also... and these are more important questions:

Can I use it to duplicate my current workflow?

Can I use it to re-create the workflow I want?


Because here is the thing -- I like to take notes by hand, but I like the organization of programs like zotero. Zotero only runs with Firefox, which I can use on a mac, but not on an iPad. Sente seems to do much of the same, so that's a possibility on the organizational end.

But what I would love to do, and what would absolutely sell me on an iPad, is to be able to take notes on the iPad with a stylus (no problems with bringing pens into the BL!!) and then drag them into the note management software. It's clear that scrivener will not be available, but Apple has at least made a version of Pages for the iPad, so writing can be done -- but the research still has to be somewhere.

So people, what do you think? Is it possible to do what I want? What software do you recommend?

12 comments:

meg said...

I've only had my iPad for a week and some change now, but I'm not sure it will do what you want it to do. My perspective, anyway, is that if you end up buying a whole bunch of peripherals (keyboard etc.) to optimize it, perhaps you wanted an Air (or other netbook) all along.

I'll know more about handwriting in a couple of days; I'm making a final decision about which h/w app to get. In any case, UYH is lame -- that I can tell you.

Karl Steel said...

A fully useful handwritten notes app might require that you buy a fullblown tablet computer running Microsoft onenote.

Here's what I did though: just yesterday, I bought an Asus Transformer. Rationale:
* somewhat cheaper than iPad
* I won't miss the lack of 3G (I get that for free on Kindle AND Kindle's 3G will work internationally)
* while Android tablet marketplace isn't that great currently, it will improve, and I expect to the point where we'll get a word processor capable of creating footnotes; I'm less confident that such a program will appear for the iPad, bc I imagine Apple won't want the iPad directly competing with their laptops;
* transformer gets name from $150 optional keyboard/charging station/usb port that, in essence, turns the machine into a netbook

This likely won't replace my laptop, but it will mean I never need to bring the laptop with me again.

My guess is that for a 6-week trip where you're not writing articles, the iPad + stylus will be sufficient.

Debbie G said...

For me the biggest question is whether, if I get a keyboard - and there's a nice one you can get that is built right into a case for the iPad - I'm not just replicating a small netbook and might get more brain and more functionality with the latter, despite the cool and beautiful aspect of the iPad. I'm tempted, though, and certainly would like something I can carry around more easily. Bear in mind, too, that the battery use will probably drop by half in about a year and die entirely in two or three (this makes me cross, but that's the way of it).

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Hmmm -- can you use the iPad while it's plugged in? That would make a difference.

I've seen plenty of people touch-typing on the ipad screen with no trouble. Don't think I'd want to do that every day, but the external keyboard might still be lighter to carry than the macbook for days that I am going to camp for a couple of hours and work.

Karl, that sounds good, although I don't use Evernote -- is it worth using? Also, one of the advantages of the iPad is that I don't have a Kindle -- the iPad would take on that function, too. I don't really want a smaller computer, but I do want something that will have the most important aspects of one when I need it to...

Meg -- This is a review of Writepad, , which looks more like what I wanted.

If Livescribe made a smartpen that wasn't ink, that would be perfect. But you can't take a livescribe pen into the BL...

Belle said...

I've had mine for about 3 months. Love. It. Yes, you can use it while plugged in. You can also get 3G off your iPhone, although I haven't' used the capability yet. I've tried a couple of note-taking apps - which are fine for me, but I generally want hard copies of whatever for real notes (easier for me to organize). Works well with Dropbox & iAnnotate PDF. The new iPad Pages won't do footnotes (apparently it even strips them out of imported documents outside of PDF). I love my iPad for the Kindle stuff too - much more than I liked my Kindle. I got the 32G memory, no 3G (iPhone access if I need that), and so far I've used very little of the memory. I did take mine for a conference vs the laptop (MacBook Pro) and loved its portability. The only time I missed the MBP was when the hotel's in-room internet was wired only.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Ooh -- Belle, that is something to think about! I hadn't thought about the 'no wireless available' option. Re footnotes, that's lame. Of course one could also just use google docs...

Susan said...

I just got mine, and am working out the details, but it will be my BL machine this summer. I bought a brookstone keyboard/case thing. I'm going to get one of the word processing apps and take notes into that, then copy them to my larger laptop at night.

With the keyboard, I have no trouble managing emails. Even with the on-screen keyboard, typing is a lot easier than on my iPhone!

I've started on evernote, but have not found it intuitive. I'm sure that will improve....

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Susan, I've just downloaded Sente, which is really slick -- like zotero, but better. I've got friends who use it with Scrivener, but I'm not sure about scrivener yet...

Hope we see each other in the BL!

WIP said...

I got my IPad a month ago and honestly wish I hadn't bought it. Most of the people I talk to seem to love it, but I have an iPhone and Mac computer and find I don't end up using the iPad at all. For portability, the phone is easier. If I need to type anything, I prefer my computer. I have small fingers and I find typing on an ipad for emailing even more awkward than using my phone because the keypad has too much spacing. For reading, it doesn't feel right in my hands and I can't highlight it. Total, I've probably pulled the machine out of the box 10 times since I bought it and will probably sell it on Ebay very soon.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I find it so interesting how there's such a range of responses - some people love it, some hate it. It suggests you might need to get hold of one somehow and try it out before buying?

Not really iPad helpful, but I. love. Scrivener. I never got anywhere with Evernote (maybe because I don't take enough snippet-y notes?) and never got to try Onenote (PC only), but I find Scrivener amazingly helpful for research/writing. Caveat: I only really started using it after switching to law, so medieval history mileage might vary. But it works really well for the way I write.

Karl Steel said...

I've never really got into Evernote, but I may once my tablet arrives tomorrow night (gadget 'squee!' goes here).

Note however
Of course one could also just use google docs..
I don't believe it works in offline mode on tablets. Happy to be corrected.

Jonathan Jarrett said...

For this kind of question I find posts like this at Doug Moncur's Thoughts of a Knowledge Geek really helpful. Indeed, what he wrote there is probably one reason why I now have a netbook as my second computer, although I did make sure to get the one with the longest possible battery life. He is not doing what you want to do, but I still think his comparison of devices is informative.