getting things done: ipad for academics

Discussion in 'iPad' started by palpatine, Jul 17, 2011.

  1. palpatine, Jul 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2011

    palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I decided to give the iPad a go for about a week on its own to see how much I could get done with it. Every day when I left the house, I left my macbook pro behind, and when I came home, I didn't use the computer. I had a presentation at the end of the week to prepare, so I had lots of incentive to get stuff done. Here are some of my thoughts:

    1. Equipment
    iPad 1 (16GB)
    Bluetooth keyboard
    External Battery
    Pencil/pen and paper
    iPod Touch 1 (32GB)

    I found all of these to be necessary. I filled up the iPad with my main sources and secondary works (I have digitized my personal library, so this was no problem). The Bookgem stand is compact and puts the iPad in a stable position so that you can tap away on the screen in portrait mode (necessary for opening apps, hitting the home button, etc). The bluetooth keyboard is a must if you want to type quickly and accurately. The battery is not absolutely necessary, but I found myself working a lot outside the house, and I often went long beyond the phenomenal battery life of the iPad. Pencil/pen and paper was necessary because I would read on the iPad and need to take notes somewhere (I do not generally annotate my PDFs with anything more than a few words to mark locations). The iPod Touch played music (no room in the iPad, because it was full of PDFs) and held extra files just in case. Presumably, if I had a camera on my iPad or iPod Touch, I could have taken pictures of my handwritten notes every day, or I could have paired my Bluetooth keyboard up to the iPod Touch while I read on the iPad (first generation iPod Touch has no bluetooth capability)--this would have been the ideal setup.

    2. Apps

    These are the main ones that I used. Evernote got the heaviest use and I quite enjoyed it. Pages was pretty much useless. There was really nothing that it could do for me beyond Evernote (a little more on this below). GoodReader is my beloved PDF reader--nothing else I have tried even comes close. GoodReaderUSB is an app for your computer that enables you to drag and drop files directly into GoodReader without going through iTunes (important because you can move a bunch of files at once and keep them organized in their folders). Dropbox held files in storage just in case I needed them, because I didn't have the computer with me. Same thing for Sugarsync.

    3. The Good
    Consumption of almost anything
    Creation of early drafts
    Long battery life

    I got a lot of stuff read during this week. The iPad really comes through as a device for reading, and media consumption in general. However, it failed abysmally at a crucial moment (more on that below). Creating early drafts was really easy, and with the right combination of keyboard shortcuts, I got pretty far along with the revision/editing process. I still missed the functionality of a mouse, but it was not too bad. The portability was great--even with the keyboard, everything fit easily into my man purse (Waterfield Vertigo), and it felt quite liberating to have shed my backpack. The battery life was phenomenal, but with reading and writing on one device all day long, I did find that my regular 12-14 hour days necessitated a little extra energy.

    4. The Bad
    PDFs with incompatible elements (EDIT: problem perhaps solved)
    Keyboard shortcuts missing
    No footnote support
    iPad locked me out

    At one point during the week I visited a research site and a colleague pulled out a great resource he had printed out. He pointed me to the location, I downloaded the PDF, but could only read part of it. One of the pages crashed the app every time. This is a known issue with PDFs on the iPad that can easily be solved by optimizing the PDF for earlier versions of Adobe to get rid of the incompatible elements. Usually black and white, text-only versions are fine, but anything with color or maps can be a problem. Without a computer, though, there is no way to optimize them. This was hugely disappointing for me. No one sent me PDFs by email during the week, but if they had, they would have probably contained such elements, and I would not have been able to read them.

    /!\ EDIT: the pdf crashing may result from a lack of available ram in my ipad1. by closing every other open application after transferring the problematic file to goodreader (double click home button -> hold down on app icon until it starts jiggling around with the delete option available -> delete everything), i was able to view it just fine. ipad2 owners may not have to be as careful.

    The keyboard was great overall. But, for my work I need to be able to type a macron above vowels. It is easily done in OSX. You just press option+a and then type the letter. Do that with the bluetooth keyboard on the iPad, though, and you get å. Useless. No combination of languages and keyboard shortcuts seems to give me the straight line I need. Fortunately, you can pull up the screen keyboard on the iPad, hold your finger down on the letter, and options will appear that enable you to type the macron. It is pretty annoying to move back and forth from the bluetooth keyboard to the screen, but it CAN be done. It would be nice if Apple could sort this out. They obviously recognize the need for the special characters (it is on the screen keyboard), but haven't carried through the implementation to the bluetooth keyboard.

    No footnote support meant no handouts for the presentation, and so there was no easy way I could go from start to finish on any academic project. There seems to be a clunky workaround that involves copying and pasting in a document that has footnotes in it before you use it on the iPad (imported from your computer), but there are various issues, including ones with proper numbering. This was quite a letdown. If I can't do footnotes and finish the project (without this time consuming hassle), what good was the 10 dollars I spent on Pages? It can do a bit of formatting, but because I still have to go to the computer eventually, it failed to get to the final step and actually create content for me.

    At one point I got locked out of my iPad for something like 40 minutes. I accidentally left the keyboard on in my bag, the keys got pressed while i was walking, and my ipad ended up coming on for a few extra hours. Quite a shock when I opened my bag. Not only was the battery drained significantly, but the iPad locked me out for something like 40 minutes, perhaps because it thought I was attempting multiple times to access with mistaken passwords. I am lucky it didn't erase my iPad the tenth failed login (I had this setting on). Obviously, this was my fault for not making certain that the keyboard was powered off, but such a simple oversight could have been disastrous.

    5. Final Thoughts
    I got a lot done with the iPad. I easily went most of the week without encountering major difficulties. And, I plan to go on a research trip with it for a week at the end of this month as well. I am very pleased with it. *As a content creation device, though, it leaves a lot to be desired (better PDF support, more robust options for keyboard shortcuts, and footnotes). It is not impossible to go from start to finish with it on an academic project, but it would have been very unpleasant in the final steps. With good planning and organization of time (make sure to get back to the computer before the final project deadline approaches), though, you can still be quite productive.

    6. Keyboard Shortcut List

    Keyboard Shortcuts for Controlling Device Settings:
    F1 - decreases the brightness on the device screen*
    F2 - increases the brightness on the device screen
    Space Bar - *when your screen has gone to sleep will wake it up.

    If you want to play some iPod app music in the background while you type
    F8 - play or pause media
    F9 - navigate forwards for media playing, next song
    F7 - navigate backwards for media playing, previous song
    F10 - mutes the media
    F11 - decrease the volume for the media playing
    F12 - increase the volume for the media playing*
    Option (or Cmd or Shift or Cntrl) + F9 - skips to the next album
    Option (or Cmd or Shift or Cntrl)+ F7 - returns to the previous album

    Keyboard Shortcuts for Selecting Text or Moving within text paragraph or document:
    Cmd A - Select All
    Cmd C - Copy Text
    Cmd X - Cut
    Cmd V - Paste
    Option + Delete - delete entire words one at a time to the left of the cursor
    Cmd Z - Undo
    Shift + Cmd + Z - redo

    Shift + Right Arrow - selects/deselects letter by letter moving to the right
    Shift + Left Arrow - selects/deselects letter by letter moving to the left
    Shift + Up Arrow - selects/deselects text when moving up
    Shift + Down Arrow - selects/deselects text when moving down

    Option + Shift + Right Arrow - allows you to select/deselect text word by word when moving right
    Option + Shift + Left Arrow - allows you to select/deselect text word by word when moving left
    Option + Shift + Up Arrow - allows you to select/deselect text line by line when moving up
    Option + Shift + Down Arrow - allows you to select/deselect text line by line when moving down

    Cmd + Up Arrow - *move the cursor to the beginning of document
    Cmd + Down Arrow - move the cursor to the end of document (also works with Cntrl)
    Cmd + Right Arrow - move the cursor to the end of the line *(also works with Cntrl)
    Cmd + Left Arrow - move to the beginning of the line

    Tab *- indents the text
    Right, Left, Up and Down Arrows - will move the cursor in the body of the text
    Eject Button (top row right-hand side of keyboard) - disconnects bluetooth keyboard to allow accessing the virtual keyboard on the device
    Cmd + Spacebar - select a different (International) keyboard if one has been added to the list of available keyboards in the General Settings for the device.

    Keyboard Shortcuts to Yield Special Symbols - Using option key and letters/numbers yields special symbols, and using option shift and a letter/numbers produces some additional symbols. *Option w - yields the symbol ∑
    Option r - yields the registered trademark symbol ®
    Option d - yields the symbol sigma ∂
    Option p - *yields the symbol for pi *π*
    Option g - yields the symbol for copyright ©
    Option 2 - yields the symbol for trademark ™
    Option x - yields the symbol for approximately equal to ≈
    Option v - yields the square root symbol √
    Option k - yields the degree symbol ˚
    Option 4 - yields the cent symbol ¢
    Option j - yields the delta symbol ∆
    Option , - yields the lesson than and equal to symbol ≤
    Option . - yields the greater than and equal to symbol ≥
    Option / - yields the division symbol ÷
    Option n + (then release option key) followed by letter n - yields the ñ
    Option e = (then release option key) followed by letter e - yields é
    Option ` = (then release option key) followed by a or e or i- yields à and è and ì
    Option 5 - yields the infinity sign ∞
    Option 8 - yields the bolded bullet •
    Option ; - yields the ellipse symbol (3 dots in a row) …
    Option b - yields the integral symbol ∫
    Option 1 - yields the upside down exclamation point ¡

    There are also a number of symbols that can be typed when using the shift key along with the option key and a letter/number
    Option + Shift + k - yields the apple symbol 
    Option + Shift + 3 - yields the less than symbol ‹
    Option + Shift + 4 - yields the greater than symbol ›
    Option + Shift + letter o - yields the null symbol Ø
    Option + Shift + 2 - yields the Euro symbol €
    Option + Shift + equals symbol = - yields the ± symbol
    Option + Shift + left bracket [ - yields the right double quotes ”
    Option + left bracket [- yields the left double quotes “
    Option + Shift + right bracket ]- yields the right single quote ’
    Option + right bracket ] - yields the left single quote ‘
    Option + Shift + front slash / symbol - yields the upside down question mark used in Spanish ¿

    Presently, not all keyboard shortcuts work with the iPad and iPhone, such as some important ones for bold, italics and other text formatting within apps. *Not all apps will allow using the keyboard shortcuts. *The trick of hitting the space bar twice to add a period and start a new sentence *does not work. *
  2. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    Excellent review! Thanks very much.

    I can understand your frustration in terms of handling footnotes. It's odd that as invested as Apple is in the education marketplace that such a basic feature of serious academic content creation is not a higher priority. As a former academic I fortunately don't have to deal with that problem but I feel your pain.

    While I no longer have to worry about footnotes, I have retained my absent-mindedness. Thus, I also feel your pain in regard to leaving the bluetooth keyboard on when I transport the iPad. In my case, the problem was not draining the battery. Rather, I found myself being serenaded by my iPad inside its bag. Somehow the iPod app was triggered when the iPad and keyboard were tightly packed in the case. It took me a couple of weeks of occasional puzzlement to figure out what was going on.

    I'm not sure there's a solution to the problem other than to remember to turn the keyboard off (or even better turning off bluetooth on the iPad) before packing everything away. Now that I finally figured out what was going on I'm unlikely to make the mistake. I suspect you're in the same boat.
  3. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Very informative! Thank you! I'm a little concerned with this pdf problem though. I'm receiving my ipad on Thursday, and I've been planning to dump all of my papers onto it. However most of my papers contain lots of color figures, and it would be a real bummer to not be able to read them. Do you know of any way to batch optimize pdfs? I suppose this wouldn't help in the case of downloading them straight from the web though. Hmmmm....
  4. thelookingglass macrumors 68000

    Apr 27, 2005
    Would your issue with PDFs still exist with one of the PDF reader apps on the app store, I wonder?

    Great review. It's also frustrating to me sometimes that the iPad comes SOCLOSE to being a great laptop replacement, but falls short in certain critical areas that seem so easy to address.
  5. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
  6. palpatine, Jul 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011

    palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks for the replies, and glad I could help out. After trying it out, I think the iPad really is a lot closer to being a replacement (most of the time) for the laptop than I originally thought, especially for researchers. So close, yet so far. It stumbled at the last moment. Some of my complaints are specific to my research environment, but without footnotes, Pages and other programs really dropped the ball. They have made the iPad much less useful for a huge number of people (students, researchers, professionals in the business world, etc). It's a basic feature, so I hope that someone will fill the niche.

    1. The Keyboard
    There is no cure for my absent-mindedness, I am afraid. However, the experience was so infuriating (and kind of scary, because I thought it might be busy erasing everything) that I am unlikely to make the mistake again anytime soon.

    2. PDF Optimization
    No big deal to optimize files, IF you have a computer. I do it all of the time. I bought the iPad mainly to read PDFs (digitized all of my books, sources, etc) and it has performed extremely well. I use Adobe Acrobat Pro (inexpensive with academic discount, and some institutions like mine even have it for half again what the academic price usually is) to optimize files. However, I wouldn't be surprised if lots of programs enable you to optimize. Just click "save as" and choose an earlier version. I usually go with Adobe 4.0 and later, but any earlier version ought to be fine. The problem this time was that I was downloading from the web (only using my iPad) and I was helpless.

    3. PDF Readers
    I have tried a bunch. Goodreader is by far the best I have used (amazing functionality) but it crashes as well with these files. I do not know the technical details (in this case, perhaps not the map, but the textual elements inserted into it), but I believe that there are incompatible elements introduced into recent versions of Adobe PDF, and the PDF engine on the iPad (which all of the apps are using I guess) cannot handle them. If you want to see what happens, here is a link to the PDF that crashed (17MB large file). It is in Japanese, but the words don't matter. Go to the map on page 12 (I think) and see what happens. If you are able to see the map on your iPad, wait a few seconds. Sometimes it takes a while before it decides to crash. If anyone knows of a viewer that can handle this file, I would love to hear about it!
  7. fattire357, Jul 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2011

    fattire357 macrumors regular

    May 18, 2011
    Thanks for your review. I'm sorting out these issues now so it is helpful to hear your experiences.

    How is Goodreader with handling Dropbox integration? Can it sync with Dropbox? Also, can you write notes in the margins?

    have you tried pdf expert?
  8. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    Trouble is that many of the "easy to address" shortcomings aren't necessarily "easy to address," either for somewhat obscure technical reasons or because doing so would undermine Apple's own laptop sales. I have my own list of shortcomings that I'd like to see addressed but in some cases I don't have much hope. For the foreseeable future I think we'll continue to see the iPad as a very useful adjunct to a laptop (or desktop) but not a "replacement" for either.

    In the context of this thread, though, the failure to provide adequate support for footnotes in Pages is a major shortcoming. It should be fixed. Period.
  9. Detrias macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2011
    First of all very good review and i found it pretty useful myself since im probably gonna run a similar setup. My question is have u tried one of those bluetooth dongles to be able to have your ideal setup? or is it just not compatible? Just curious
  10. gusapple macrumors 6502a


    Jan 29, 2007
    The alphabetically sixth to last state.
    Thank you so much for the review! I wish that the rest of the iPad forum were as informative and intelligent as this thread was. I was thinking about getting an iPad for education, but the lack of PDF support as well as the lack of Footnotes make me worried. A lot of classes require a Chicago citation form, and without footnotes, it is nearly impossible. Kudos on the writing, and I hope to see more reviews from you.
  11. systole macrumors member


    Mar 24, 2011

    First off, props on the review.

    Any thoughts on using the iPad instead of the Pro for the presentation itself?

    How's the battery drain with an external display/projector?

    I will be leading workshops/presentations at 8-10 conferences this next year for my new job. I get $900 towards a new device, and am contemplating between the 64GB iPad 2, or an Air.
  12. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Thanks again for the responses!

    1. PDF Expert
    I have not tried it. If anyone has it, and can try to view page 12 on that link I posted above, I would very much appreciate it. It would be great if I could find an app. to solve this crashing. I have heard that PDF Expert crashes as well, but haven't confirmed this myself.

    I want to make it clear that the iPad is a FABULOUS PDF reader, and I am thrilled with it. I am overseas now and have my entire personal library at my fingertips. 99% of the time it is no problem. But, in things I scan, and in stuff I download, there is the occasional outlier. I can easily solve that on my computer by optimizing the file before moving it into the iPad, but it is a problem if you intend to go without a laptop for long periods and think you might be getting something by email or online that could cause problems.

    2. Dropbox and GoodReader
    In Dropbox or any other app, there is an icon that appears in the upper right and you can send it to GoodReader to read. That is how I use the two together. Beyond that, I am simply not as familiar with the syncing. With GoodReader USB I can move everything into the iPad in just few minutes (hundreds of PDFs). Dropbox is really only good for me as a "just in case" or "optional" app. The two seem to play very well together.

    3. Notes in the Margin with GoodReader
    No problem. I find it more than sufficient for my needs. But, as I mentioned above, I usually only type in a few words to mark the spot and perhaps its significance. I take my detailed notes separately for review independent of the pdf.

    4. Easy to Address?
    Yep. The footnotes "can" be done now with a clunky workaround and renumbering (apparently), but technically it doesn't seem like a terrible leap to me. Neither does the ability to put a straight macron above the character. OSX does it, numerous macrons can be done in iOS with the bluetooth keyboard, and the on-screen keyboard has the capability already. Again, technically it doesn't seem like a big deal to me. More an issue of recognizing the gap between the bluetooth keyboard and the on screen one. The PDFs are technically beyond my knowledge, and I have no idea if this is something that could easily be fixed or not.

    5. Bluetooth dongle?
    No. I haven't tried them. But, I do have an ipod4 that could do it. It is still brand new and in the box. I am torn between keeping the old ipod and selling the ipod4, or trying the ipod4 as part of my ideal setting. It is keeping me up late at night churning in my mind :)

    6. Useful in Academia? (Gusapple)
    What kind words! I highly recommend the iPad in academic settings, and I am very glad I got it. However, it is still primarily a content consumption device, and not so much a content creation one. It is very, very close to being both. But, without the footnotes, in particular, I wouldn't rely exclusively on it. It is best thought of as something to take notes with and write first drafts. That's OK by me. You just don't want to go into the purchase with unrealistic expectations of its current capabilities.

    7. Presentations
    I plan on giving it a try this fall semester in my classes. Personally, I am leery of it, because tech can be so finicky, but I will have many chances to test it out in classrooms before students arrive on campus, and our institution is very good at keeping everything consistent in each classroom. If you have thorough control of the environment (projector and connectors) then I think you'll definitely enjoy using the iPad, just because it is so incredibly portable. I doubt the battery will be much of an issue, and usually you can plug it in somewhere while using it. I wish I had more information. Sorry!
  13. JasonHB macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2010
    Warwickshire, UK
    Hi Palpatine

    I have had a look at that PDF that you are experiencing crashing issues with and I have tried an app for PDF annotation called neu. annotate.

    This is a free app and I use it for annotation of PDF's and to date it has worked very well for me.

    Anyway, I have sat on page 12 for some time as well as zooming in and out, doing some annotation and generally messing around and it has not crashed on me at all.

    It is certainly worth trying it out.

    Hope this helps

  14. vega07 macrumors 65816

    Aug 7, 2006
    OP, I tested our your PDF on my iPad with Goodreader and I was able to view all maps, including page 12, fine. I zoomed in, zoomed out, and spent around 20 seconds with each page containing maps to see if the app would crash. It didn't.
  15. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    OP: do you have an iPad 1 or 2? If you have the 1 maybe the issue isn't with PDF optimization but rather with the lack of RAM on your iPad. I tried the PDF you gave us and I couldn't get it to crash either.
  16. thunderbunny macrumors 6502a


    Jul 15, 2010
    Cheshire, UK
    Have you looked at Papers for handling, er, papers? I've not had a problem with it handling any scientific paper I've thrown at it. (I'm not an academic but probably get through just as many papers).
  17. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
    Do you mean "Pages?" I'm not familiar with "Papers."
  18. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Papers is a great app for the Mac, and they have an iPad app too. It organizes your database of academic papers, etc.
  19. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
  20. jsh1120 macrumors 65816

    Jun 1, 2011
  21. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    New York
    FYI - Audiogalaxy means not having to load your ipad with music, you just stream it from your home computer

    I love it!
  22. littledude8209 macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2009
    You can edit/make footnotes in pages......

    Tap the wrench in the menu bar while you have a document, and tap Document Setup. There you go...
  23. palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    1. footnotes
    yes. you can type footnote and header information in manually. however, unless i am mistaken, you will not be able to use superscript for the number in the text (to make it into a little number floating in the air), the number in the text has no relationship to the one in the footnote (necessitating a manual change to every footnote number each time you add or delete a footnote like we did in the old days of typewriters), you'll have to manually move footnotes around as text flows from one page to the next, and it is rather difficult to make it clear the distinction between the main text and the footnote. given the functionality that word processors have had for the last two decades in this regard, i would call the footnotes in pages a giant leap backwards into the 80s. but, perhaps i am missing something.

    2. ipad1 and ipad2 with crashing pdfs
    i am using ipad1. this is a very sad thing to hear. if true, then it sounds like i am going to be suffering for a while, because i don't know any way to fix a lack of ram problem. thank you so much for trying the link. also, this would explain why even goodreader has failed me. at least optimization is an option! this is great news for people interested in the ipad 2 as well. i will edit the original post.
  24. palpatine, Jul 18, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2011

    palpatine thread starter macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    many apologies to all. i had a couple of pages open at the time, and i ended up pasting the wrong link... that pdf worked fine for me too!

    here is the correct link.

    and, i have some good news. thanks to your comments about the ram, i have tested it again. this time, i made sure that every other app had been closed down. page 12 of 16 (the large map) rendered beautifully!

    i have edited my original post. this would be important for potential customers to think about if they plan to read pdfs and are trying to decide between an ipad 1 (used or refurbished) and an ipad 2.
  25. tstarks33 macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2008
    Not seeing how I can add footnotes using this...

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