I originally bought my iPad 2 to play with, but I thought wouldn’t it be great if I could use it for University (at least then it’d be a whole lot easier to justify) so I embarked on an app spending spree to find the right ones. I decided to write an introduction to the ones I use from a practicality point of view. To give you some context, I’m a Civil Engineering student, at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, and will be discussing this in reference to my lecture experiences.
Apps and Stylus Used
After much searching I settled on the following apps and stylus.
* Signifies iPhone and iPad compatible app
I’m going to start with Dropbox because it’s the most important app. iPhonewzealand have previously reviewed Dropbox so I won’t go into huge amounts of detail, but it is a universal automatic file backup service where you get 2GB storage free and can pay monthly for more. As a Uni student, if you sync only lecture notes and assignments, you can fit your entire years coursework in. By universal what I mean is that you can install clients on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux (and web access) and these will all automatically backup and push updates to each other should they be logged in, when I make a change on my iPad it is automatically synced to my PC.
You can pin code protect Dropbox on iOS and I recommend you do so, if a mate fools around it affects all your files.
This is the main menu, displaying the help guide and my folder structure that I set up previously on my PC. As you can see we have the option to open the document in Noterize and PDFReader.
PDF Reader Pro
As you can see I have imported the quick start guide into PDF Reader Pro, if it crashes then just open PDF Reader Pro manually, hit the upper left inbox button and open what you wanted (import is a little buggy at the moment).
The only real reason I have this software is bookmarks and jump to page. Critical functionality lacking in Noterize, especially if you have a 900 page eTextbook like I do.
Noterize will be your main workhorse as a student. It lets you import almost any file type (though it hates docx equations – be warned) and edit them. You can add text boxes, use the stylus (or finger) to write and highlight your notes and then when you’re done you can upload it back to Dropbox via WiFi or 3G in the same format.
As you can see from the image, I have added back in (very crudely) the shading on the graph, added notes in bordered textboxes (note: you can use different types and colours of text display), and drawn connectors.
Some lecturers give out incomplete lecture notes that you have to fill in, generating rather a large amount of quite vulnerable paper. Noterize coupled with Dropbox will eliminate the need for paper and allow you to directly edit the raw files your lecturers upload. You can also import documents from websites via Safari (and I’m sure other browsers but I just use Safari).
One important feature I haven’t discussed yet is audio, yep that’s right, Noterize can record audio for each page, automatically moving to a new audio file when you swap page. So I can start on page 1 and by the end of the lecture I will have audio for each page. Unfortunately the mic on the 3G iPad 2 is crap, so the audio quality is poor, however it might be possible to use a Bluetooth microphone to solve the problem.
Some other features include the ability to add pages between existing ones in imported documents. Add webclips and photos, and use VGA output to present your document on a TV or Projector. You can also copy a page and insert it into a different document.
Penultimate’s usefulness is directly proportional to how useless you are with the stylus. That being said the Dagi stylus is the most accurate stylus available for iPad (and if you argue Pogo I will slap you). Penultimate allows you to create notebooks which can be uploaded through iTunes or via email as a PDF.
It’s worth pointing out here that this app can only orientate its options vertically, but you can write horizontally if you wish. I have moved the controls to the top of the iPad because I kept hitting the page turn when writing near the bottom but this is personal preference.
Hitting the ||| button will present you with a quick pick selection of all pages in a current notebook. Alternatively you can swap pages by hitting the top left and right buttons (because I moved them).
As you can see my writing is currently a work-in-progress, but from my notes you can see that I can easily swap colours, draw thick and thin lines and draw pretty pictures. I find this as easy to write on as paper, you just need to practice your technique.
One thing I have not shown is paper choice, Penultimate can present you with lined paper, grid paper and plain paper backgrounds. The final thing I want to mention about this program is its “Wrist Guard”. Penultimate is known for best being able to detect what’s a stylus (or finger) and what’s the wrist that you can’t keep off the damn screen. It’s not perfect, you’ll get the odd splotch but the eraser tool can easily tidy that up.
Stylus choice is a personal one but my personal preference is the Dagi Stylus. I suggest you watch this video where they review the 4 main stylus options.
You don’t need to pay for PDF Reader Pro, but you do have to buy Noterize and a decent stylus. Dropbox is essential for all Students, if you don’t have it already go put your finger in your desk drawer and slam it shut. Now (that you are suitable chastised) go download it.
Noterize and Dropbox are an amazingly useful combination, you don’t need Penultimate unless you intend to be drawing pretty pictures. My drawings were rubbish, but on the website for Penultimate there is someone who drew a pretty amazing cut away of a heart for a bio class on it.
You also get a 15% online discount on a Pogo Stylus with both Noterize and Penultimate, but why would you want one? Well it is the best for sketches, but it truly sucks for writing.
Anyway I hope you found my procrastination, err I mean app reviews interesting. Hit the comments and let me and others know what you use.
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