Getting Things Done (GTD) with the iPad

Discussion in 'iPad' started by palpatine, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    What I like best about the iPad is that it enables me to travel really light, I have flexibility (doubles as an e-reader), and I get plenty of battery life. Basically, everything I need to get things done fits into a tiny bag that I pretty much take everywhere I go. How do you use it to get things done? I'd love to hear more ideas :)

    I am a graduate student/researcher, and most of my time is spent reading, writing, teaching, and collecting materials for my research. My workflow and setup might not work for everyone, but hopefully it can provide some ideas for how to get things done with a combination of the iPad, iPod, apps, computer, and a few accessories.

    1. Writing
    I take handwritten notes with pen and paper most of the time. I usually use A5 size notebooks, and fold the pages in half so I can write my notes in two columns on each page. Sometimes I pair a bluetooth keyboard with the iPod or iPad so that I can type notes, especially if I am taking notes on a book or article. I set up the iPad as a reader (Incase Origami or BookGem) and the iPod as the device where I type (don't need to see this, but can prop it up if needed). I probably do 90 percent of my work on the iPad/iPod reading books/articles, taking notes, and writing drafts. The other 10 percent involves the computer, where I add footnotes, format, create PDF files, search (iPad can only search one file at a time), etc. *

    2. Reading
    I read a lot on the iPad. Because everything is digitized, I have everything with me wherever I go. BookGem works great as a compact book stand, and I also have the Incase Origami case that not only props up the iPad, but provides a protective case for the keyboard.

    3. Scanning
    I scan handwritten notes at home and upload them to Evernote. Sometimes I also use ScannerPro to take pictures of my notes/handouts with the iPod touch and send those to Evernote. As much as possible, I try to digitize everything, including books.

    1. Evernote
    I put everthing into this application. Handwritten notes get scanned into PDFs using Scansnap or iPod Touch ScannerPro app. It is worth it to get the Premium account, because you receive 1GB per month of storage, and it is cumulative. There is lots of information on the Internet about how to use this application well, and Brett Kelly has helpful book called Evernote Essentials (great information, but overpriced considering how little text is in it) that could probably be read in a few minutes standing in the bookstore.

    2. GoodReader
    As much as possible, I try to digitize everything by putting it into PDF form. This includes books, pamphlets, loose papers, etc. All of these files will eventually find their way into Evernote so that they are available for download and searching, but on the iPad it is convenient to have files already stored in the device ready to be read. GoodReader has a rich variety of funcitons, and is my reader of choice for most materials. It is worth the $5 price tag.

    3. GoodReader USB
    iTunes is a terrible program for transfering files, and one of its most egregious faults is stripping out folders so that all of your organized files get dumped together into a program like GoodReader as a jumbled mess. GoodReader USB gets downloaded onto your computer, and it directly accesses the app on your iPad. Bypassing iTunes, and allows you to quickly and conveniently transfer files with their folders.

    4. Pages
    There is a workaround for using footnotes, but it is not very good, and it is better to think of this program as a way to do some formatting and editing of Word documents that already have their basic structure. Until it gets footnote support, I would call it only marginally useful, and not really worth the hefty $10 price tag. Still, it will do in a pinch if you have to produce a final product of some sort.

    5. RecorderPro
    Best recording app I have found, and it is free.

    6. Dropbox
    Good for transfering files. Some people use it for backup. Plays well with lots of apps. Free.

    7. ScannerPro
    Good for scanning notes, processing them, and sending them to Evernote. Worth the $7 price tag.

    9. gFlashPro
    Fabulous flashcard program if you are into this kind of stuff.

    10. Sugarsync
    Best backup application available (in my opinion).

    COMPUTER (Macbook Pro)
    1. Evernote
    I use this for all of my notetaking. It syncs with other devices and is very easy to use.

    2. Word
    It has support for vertical alignment for Asian text. Pages does not. Otherwise, it seems to be pretty much a toss up between the two programs.

    3. Adobe Acrobat Pro
    This program enables you to take scanned pages and combine them, run optical character recognition (OCR), bookmark, etc. to manipulate PDF files for reading on the iPad. It is absolutely necessary if you scan books. Expensive at regular price, but reasonable with an education discount. Sometimes my iPad crashes when trying to read PDF files that have incompatible elements (usually associated with color or pictures, but may also have something to do with small RAM in iPad1), and using this program to optimize files for use with older Adobe versions is an easy solution.

    4. HoudahSpot
    Has lots of functionality for searching.

    1. Waterfield Vertigo Bag
    It holds everything: iPad, keyboard (with Incase Origami case), iPod, BookGem, etc. Yes, it is a murse (man purse / man bag). Get over it :)

    2. Incase Origami Keyboard Case
    Protects the keyboard when it is in your bag (keys stay clean, don't get pressed, and power button doesn't get inadvertently turned on).

    3. BookGem
    Good for holding the iPad, iPod, or books. Very handy and compact. By far the best bookstand I have ever used.

    4. Backup battery
    I have a Splash backup battery, but I am sure anything will work fine. It is useful for long periods away from power outlets (international flights, extended time in coffee shops, etc.), and I like that it can provide power for two devices at a time.

    5. Canon SD1400
    I have this camera, because it was the best compact camera on the market when I bought it 1 year ago. I have had better experiences with Canon than with other brands, and anything from them with lots of megapixels should be fine. If used in conjunction with a tripod and a little practice, this can basically function as a scanner for books. It is very handy and MUCH faster than any scanner, but unless you get a really good picture, I don't think the OCR works quite as well with it, so I try to use office quality scanners whenever possible.

    6. Bluetooth Keyboard
    Apple's keyboard is a gorgeous device, and well worth the price. It really works best with the Incase Origami case. Also, you'll want to become familiar with the keyboard shortcuts like command + shift, command + up arrow, command + a, command + v, etc.

    7. ScanSnap
    Really useful for scanning books (if you are willing to tear off the spines), loose papers, notes, handouts, bills, etc.

    Attached Files:

  2. Meanee macrumors 6502a

    Mar 8, 2011
    Just to add my 2 cents. Incase 13" bag works well and very flexible in day to day tasks. Most days, it just has my iPad, house keys, and a point and shoot camera. Some days, it gets loaded with flight gear, and still holds everything well.
  3. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    thanks! could you send a link, though? i couldn't figure out on their site which bag you might be talking about.

    i like the vertigo because it is really compact, and everything fits in there, including my camera and house keys. i am kind of tired of backpacks, especially in this heat (i spent 8 hours walking around in 95+ heat today). but, if i were to get one, i am leaning towards booq right now.
  4. Meanee macrumors 6502a

    Mar 8, 2011
    I cannot find the one that I bought. Was a while ago (2 or 3 years back), picked it up for my netbook. Now primarily using for an iPad. But it has no problem fitting both. is the closest one to what I have. Great build quality, and not even a slight damage after using it daily for about a year. I could still probably return it if I had the original receipt, it holds itself that good.

    And it does not look like a murse :)
  5. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks again for the bag recommendation.
    But, I am afraid I am unlikely to get it.
    Lightweight, durable, and compact, my murse is far superior to those big "manly" bags :)

    It also has the added bonus of forcing me to stay compact. It seems that whenever I have space (like in a backpack) I have a desire to fill it (i am sure there is some freudian take on this!), and with the murse it doesn't have much extra space. No more and no less than I need.
  6. Omegaman02 macrumors newbie

    Jul 16, 2011
    The Land Before Time
    As an educator, a lot of the apps and programs you use, I use also.

    Have you taken a look at Tablet Scanner HD for the iPad? It works best if you have an iPad 2 as you can scan right into the iPad.
  7. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    thanks for the suggestion!

    i don't have the ipad2, but i will keep it in mind for the next time i upgrade. at the moment, i am doing quite well with my scansnap, because it does such a great job, especially when you have lots of documents to digitize.
  8. insearchof macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2011
    Thanks for starting this thread! I've been looking for user experiences to help me to decide whether to get the iPad :D.
    Like you, I'll be taking a lot of handwritten notes but mainly in Japanese and Chinese, and I have some questions about some of the apps you've mentioned:
    1) Can any Evernote Premium users comment on searching within notes which are handwritten, and written in Japanese and/or Chinese? Are there any issues?
    2) I've installed Evernote on my Android phone to try it out and have used its Snapshot feature to scan things. I find it okay so far but will have a lot of class handouts to digitize. Would like to know in what ways you find Scan Pro better?
    3) I translate manga and would like to continue doing that on the iPad. The way I do it now is to have the manga open in Preview (Spaces 1) and my translation draft in Pages (Spaces 2), so I end up moving between these 2 spaces. Is there a similar way to do it on the iOS for iPad or do I have to keep hitting the Home button?
  9. palpatine, Aug 23, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011

    palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Glad you found the thread to be helpful!

    1. I am not sure how this handwriting recognition works in Evernote Premium. I also take notes in Chinese and Japanese. It hasn't recognized anything for me yet in any language! I need to mess around with this more when I have time. Perhaps there is a setting I am missing. As far as I know (I need to experiment more with all of the Evernote features), you cannot add annotations directly onto the PDF notes you upload, but the PDF itself is contained in a "note" and you can take notes in there. Does that make sense? It's kind of like having an image (the PDF) in a Word document and typing above and below it.

    2. ScanPro has lots of features. I think with a good camera (not the iPod4) and ScanPro you can get by pretty well. However, I would recommend investing in ScanSnap or some other similar scanner hardware. It is inexpensive (under 200), scans at 600 dpi (useful for even the most complex printed Chinese or Japanese characters), and it is speedy.

    3. The iPad won't work like OSX. Sorry. I do a lot of translation as well, and typically what I do is read in the iPad and take notes elsewhere, because iOS cannot multitask. HOWEVER, I have had wonderufl success reading on the iPad and typing on the iPod! What I do is sync my bluetooth keyboard to the iPod. I touch type, so there isn't much use for looking at the screen, and if I need to enter a Chinese or Japanese character I find the screen is plenty clear enough to select the correct one. Your Android phone ought to work well. I consider this my ideal setup, because it enables me to get by taking all of my work everywhere in nothing but a man purse.

    *The Bluetooth keyboard in iOS will NOT produce elongated vowels (macron above vowels) when romanizing Japanese, and I don't think you can create all of the accent marks with pinyin Chinese either. It is infuriating. However, the good news is that the virtual keyboard does this. Click the button on the top right of the apple keyboard to get the virtual keyboard to appear, hold your finger on top of the vowel you want to type, and you'll get an option of typographic elements to put above the vowel. You get used to doing it. I sure wishapple would map the keyboard better (like they do with OSX), though. I've written Steve about this (really), but he hasn't written back yet. He's probably too busy building castles out of HP tablets for the garden gnomes in the backyard.
  10. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
  11. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks for the link. I am not a member of his cult, though. I follow a different organizational guru (Noguchi Yukio). I just like the phrase, because it puts the focus where it needs to be--on getting things done--organizing is a way to do that and not an end in itself.
  12. insearchof macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2011
    1) Oh, I get what you mean. Hmmm. Perhaps I can do it in GoodReader then?

    3) I'll keep your setup in mind :p Thanks for the keyboard tip!
  13. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    not that i am aware of. i am just not familiar with character recognition capabilities. they have all failed miserably so far, so i generally just leave my notes in pdf form and type up important words or phrases inf necessary.
    sure. good luck with the translating!
  14. insearchof macrumors newbie

    Aug 22, 2011
    Just an update in case this proves useful to anyone else looking for an app that allows handwritten annotating of PDFs: it's eNote Taker and it costs $2.99.

    I was pleasantly surprised by it. It works just how I imagined such an app would work - I can highlight in the PDF itself and write notes (the only downside is I don't have a stylus yet so my handwriting is more of a chicken scrawl :p).

    It opened my PDF files without a problem which was nice because when I first tried opening them with GoodReader, I had to save the PDFs with a new name before they could be viewed. GR's help indicated that it was an issue with the iOS limitations.

    I like how the wrist rest can be moved up and down so I don't always have to scroll the whole page up or down.

    So far so good....
  15. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011

    Now if I could just find an app that enables the user to place the wrist rest at the TOP or LEFT SIDE of the page. Right-handers of the world are largely unaware of the difficulties and annoyances faced by Southpaws. (Our patron saint is Ned Flanders.)
  16. PracticalMac macrumors 68030


    Jan 22, 2009
    Houston, TX
    Excellent list of suggestions!

    I would add:

    Measures: converts anything to anything, from Ft to M, measures of energy, to women's dress sizes (can be critical info!), even values that are obscure, like Hand, Palm, Chain, Rope and many others.

    BING: is a good alternate search engine

    Bloomberg: if you need economics

    I found a number of great periodic table apps, great even for casual users.
  17. FloatingBones, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011

    FloatingBones macrumors 65816


    Jul 19, 2006
    One suggestion on the Mac side...

    This is an awesome collection of tools, Palpatine.

    I wanted to add a tool on the Mac side: Scrivener. This was one of a dozen apps for studies that Apple featured in their Back to School promotion this fall. Unbeknownst to Keith, Scrivener's creator, they created a slogan for the tool:

    That pretty well says it all. While the tool was originally designed for writing the Great American Novel (or maybe the Great British Novel), it works very well for organizing data and writing research papers. It has a stellar rating in the MAS and has an excellent support forum at .

    Fans of the product frequently ask for an iPad version; Keith has so far has declined. He recommends the iPad as a satellite tool for doing research and writing small bits. Scrivener behaves well with iOS apps simplenote and index card and anything that uses dropbox. Scrivener is incredibly well-designed. Some of the craftsmanship will not be obvious until you have pounded on the tool for a while. It's available in the MAS, but I recommend downloading a fully-functional 30-day trial from the developer's website.

    One other note: Leo LaPorte and Tom Merritt are scheduled to interview David Allen on this week's episode of Triangulation on Wednesday. It should be available on iTunes as both an audio-only and video podcast about 12 hours later. Both use the iPad extensively; I'm guessing GTD on the iPad will be discussed during the show.

    Update: the Triangulation interview with David Allen is here (with video) and here (audio only). While he doesn't talk about any particular tools, it's quite valuable to hear his philosophy. All three of Allen's books are available as audio books. He also recommended a new title, "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.
  18. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Hi. Thanks so much for adding Scrivener to the list. It is definitely worth considering if you do a lot of writing.

    As it turns out, I am currently in the middle of the thirty day trial. It is a phenomenal piece of software for OSX. I wholeheartedly recommend it for someone who does all of their work there.

    Alas, it lacks support for the iOS (as you mentioned), and while it plays well with others, it is quite clumsy when compared to apps that sync with themselves such as Evernote. Still, I think so highly of the software at this point that I may find it worth it to put up with the minor annoyance. SimpleNote is nice, and so far I haven't encountered any problems. I'll give it a couple more weeks before I make a decision on it.
  19. Mirai 11 macrumors 6502

    Mirai 11

    Aug 3, 2005
  20. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks for the suggestion. I am guessing you have not used the app, though, because it got poor reviews. I am glad Adobe is doing something, but it is 9.99 and provides relatively little functionality. My suggestion, if you want to turn something into a PDF, is to just use Pages. When you email the file, select PDF, and you are all finished.

    In my case, I am usually turning paper into digital files, so I need something a bit more robust than an iPad app, unless someone comes out with an app that will take hundreds of images and / or pdf files, combine them, and conduct ocr on them :)
  21. saberahul macrumors 68040

    Nov 6, 2008
    A very well written and informative thread. Although, you do have a lot of time on your hands :p but thank you for this, it helped me find some good apps I did not know existed.
  22. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    glad to hear i could help. not so much time on my hands, really, but visiting the forums here is a really nice break in between work. i have learned a lot here.
  23. HappyDude20 macrumors 68030


    Jul 13, 2008
    Los Angeles, Ca
    I can't believe OmniFocus hasn't been mentioned yet. David Allen recommends it on all Apple devices if you have them.

    It's literally the best app i've ever purchased on any device and use it daily, more than any other app.

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