Monthly Archives: May 2012

iPad for Students

I get really bored when people tell me that my iPad is useless and I shouldn’t of bought it. Apparently I can’t use it for anything productive at all. Well, the thing that this sort of person usually gets wrong is that they think the iPad (or any tablet to be honest!) can take the place of a laptop or desktop. It can’t. It wasn’t meant to. If you can find good uses for it, then buy one; if you can’t then don’t!

My iPad is primarily used to read Kindle eBooks and lecture notes both in Powerpoint and PDF format. It is also my main podcast consumption device, and honestly rarely does it get used for games; I’m currently far too in love with my 3DS. Anyway, this article was meant to give you a run down of what productivity apps I use on a regular basis and how I use them.

Let’s start with Evernote! This is one of my favourite services ever! On my laptop (see, I don’t try and use my iPad for everything!) I am drafting this post in Evernote, but where it gets really cool is how it stores and organises my uni notes (by lecture: organic, inorganic, environmental, phys chem etc) and how I can make revisions from it, and later access them on my laptop!

I take all my notes using a Livescribe smart pen (a topic for another article, also when I bought my smartpen they had a promotion for a years free evernote included!), and it handily converts them to PDF which I then file away in Evernote. If I write neat enough, Evernote even makes them searchable. But mainly the attractive factor is I can have all of my past notes (Well, from January 2012 anyway) available on any computer I use (obviously including the iPad…) I’ve always been told taking good notes saves you later and now I know why. It’s amazing. I tried taking notes with a stylus on the iPad directly and found the experience to be in a word: ‘shit’.

Next up is GoodReader. This is probably the best PDF reader I’ve found yet. I particularly being able to make annotations really easily. It’s great! Scribbling over presentations making extra notes is really handy. If you have loads of content to transfer over, it contains a built in webserver so that you don’t have to faff around with iTunes.

LastPass is another of my productivity apps which allows easy and secure access to all of my passwords for the various services that I use. I wouldn’t remember random passwords, and making them easily memorable means I’d fall into the trap of most likely always using the same password. Bad. Lastpass: good. Not really a productivity app; but an app I use all the time nevertheless.

WolframAlpha! Any science student knows just how handy Wolfram Alpha is. It’s pretty much a calculator on steroids. Type in the name of a chemical, and it’ll load up the structure and all sorts of really useful data. Formula, compound, IUPAC name, molecular weight. As I said, a lifesaver for science students. By the way, the molecular weight of eicosapentaenoic acid is 302.5 g mol-1. It is also an approved dietary supplement, which is in the form of an oral capsule. Give it an equation, and it’ll attempt to balance it for you, give you the equilibrium constant and properties for all of the reactants and products. As I already said, it’s pretty damn useful.

The next app I want to write about is Dropbox. I use Dropbox to keep my game saves and documents in sync between my computers (not so much since my PC died, meh..) and the Dropbox iPad app lets me access any of these files in a pinch if I need to access them, email them to my lecturer or something like that. It’s also handy for getting wallpapers and other assorted crap onto my tablet without having to go through iTunes. Additionally there are many apps that support saving their files to cloud storage services such as Dropbox.

You might of noticed I didn’t mention any word processing apps. Wondering why? Because I found them all terrible! None of them offer decent compatibility with Microsoft Office which is what I use extensively for my assignment work. I tried loading up my research project in Quickoffice…It ignored the first page break; completely broke the formatting of the table of contents; added loads of space between bullet points; completely ignores equations from Word’s equations editor; disregarded the formatting of my tables; replaced two tables with a single Chinese character…. Yeah.. not the best! If you just write up simple essays I guess it might work for you, when paired with a bluetooth keyboard; but anything complicated and it falls flat on it’s face. There is a cloud service called CloudOn that connects your dropbox account to a hosted session of Microsoft Office. I found it to work really well; the only problem is that I can’t rely on my internet connection all the time, and therefore it’s pointless for me. If you always have internet it might be worth checking it though

This is why I said when I started this article that the iPad has its place and the laptop still has its place. I couldn’t replace my laptop with an iPad or other tablet even if I wanted to until the word processing offerings improve. I still can’t find an app that supports super and subscript! The iPad is awesome for reading documents (beats carrying heaving books!); managing notes; and for basic research which is everything I want it to do. The people that tell you the iPad is useless haven’t found a use for it and that is the key. Plus it is shiny. And I like shiny things.