Going back to university as an iPad only user

mk313

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Feb 6, 2012
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So, a quick write up of my first week of the new grad class.

First, a word about the program. It’s is an MBA-lite Master’s Cert program done in conjunction with work and a local institute. It occurs at my place of work, is paid pretty much entirely through work, and is comprised of co-workers in my department. A lot of the work will be done in groups. This may impact how much I use the iPad, but more on that later.

It’s a 10 week class. I’m not going to report on every week, but I wanted to at list give an update. As I said earlier, I’m going to give going iPad-primary a decent shot as a data point for the thread.

Out of the gate, I ended up using my MacBook for something. We needed to buy these course packs off the Harvard Business School web page. There were about 30 of them. I bought and downloaded them on my Mac because I was short on time, and just wanted to get the task done. I’m glad I did. Instead of coming down named something like ‘Course Study A” they were 7834943.pdf. I renamed them in the Finder and imported them into iBooks. I could have done it on the iPad, but opening and renaming the files is a pain on OSX.

While I’m being honest, I also submitted the assignment via Safari on my Mac. I’m pretty sure I could do it on the iPad, but was coming down the wire on submitting. Next time I will try it on the iPad. I did view the scores on the iPad, though. I also just created the template file for how he wants his papers formatted on the Mac since I can’t edit styles on iPad.

The actual assignment was reading two PDFs and creating a short PowerPoint presentation with some bullet points. I did all of this on the iPad. Obviously, reading on the iPad was easy. However these PDFs come down resist marking them up in iBooks, PDFPen, or PDF Expert. I couldn’t use the text highlight tool, but could get around it by just using the Pencil.

PowerPoint was fine, but it felt like there were a few extra presses needed. Not a show stopper. Since we need to submit the actual PPT files, I can’t go too crazy on the fonts as is my wont. Given the pain in installing fonts on iOS, this is for the better.

In class I used OneNote to take notes. I did not take many of them. All of the lecture materials are on the Canvas site. I just took a few notes about assignments and the like.

From this week, I feel if the class was just a class with individual work, I’m pretty sure the iPad could cover 99% of what I need to. My concern is the group assignments. My gut feeling is we will be throwing files around work network shares, using Visio, and workflows I can’t even do on my Mac, much less on my iPad. If I go solo, I an use Graffic or OmniGraffle to create my diagrams.
Interesting report. Please update us periodically on how it goes. I always enjoy reading these threads
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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So, a brief update.

Last week, almost everything but submission done on the iPad. Just needed to do a quick Word file.

This week I did not use my iPad hardly at all for school. I got sick and had to do something weird in PowerPoint for the class at the last minute. Thinking about it later I could have created the diagram in Graphic and imported it into iOS PowerPoint. At the last minute, we realized something that we thought was a group assignment was an individual assignment, so I just quickly created the PowerPoint and submitted it on my work PC.

The one thing I can see stopping me from going iOS-only is my team has decided to use Google Drive to store and review assignments before we post them. For the life of me, I can't see how to upload a file from my iPad to the shared Google Drive. It's not my Google Drive account, and I can't see a way to link it into the Google Drive app.

I can do my own individual assignments and created the PowerPoints for review on my iPad, though. So, I'd say about 95% of this class is possible on my iPad.
 
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jgelin

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Jul 30, 2015
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So, a brief update.

Last week, almost everything but submission done on the iPad. Just needed to do a quick Word file.

This week I did not use my iPad hardly at all for school. I got sick and had to do something weird in PowerPoint for the class at the last minute. Thinking about it later I could have created the diagram in Graphic and imported it into iOS PowerPoint. At the last minute, we realized something that we thought was a group assignment was an individual assignment, so I just quickly created the PowerPoint and submitted it on my work PC.

The one thing I can see stopping me from going iOS-only is my team has decided to use Google Drive to store and review assignments before we post them. For the life of me, I can't see how to upload a file from my iPad to the shared Google Drive. It's not my Google Drive account, and I can't see a way to link it into the Google Drive app.

I can do my own individual assignments and created the PowerPoints for review on my iPad, though. So, I'd say about 95% of this class is possible on my iPad.
Have you tried using the files app in iOS 11 to drag a file from some other storage space and place it in the Google Drive? This may be a way for you to be able to upload to Google Drive in a roundabout way.
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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Have you tried using the files app in iOS 11 to drag a file from some other storage space and place it in the Google Drive? This may be a way for you to be able to upload to Google Drive in a roundabout way.
All I've tried to do is drag it from Files into the shared Google Drive Web Page. If I hosted the shared folder, it would be easy. I don't. though.

I'm going to invest much time into workarounds. I can just use my work PC if I need to drag the files to the shared drive.
 
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Spacemaster

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Sep 11, 2016
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Doing my PhD in experimental Physics. I use my macbook (for Matlab, mathematica, latex, etc) mostly at my work. For lectures and studying, my iPad. It's a MUST device for university students.
 
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Macalicious2011

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May 15, 2011
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London
Kudos for sharing your experience and demonstrating patience that I don’t have.

My 10.5 iPad Pro is fantastic but there is now way it would have cut it as my only university device, especially for researching and writing a dissertation. A laptop is a much more efficient tool for producing pieces that require a lot of back and forthing between PDFs, Word, explorer and multiple tabs.
 
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Synergie

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Jan 15, 2011
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Halifax, Canada
Kudos for sharing your experience and demonstrating patience that I don’t have.

My 10.5 iPad Pro is fantastic but there is now way it would have cut it as my only university device, especially for researching and writing a dissertation. A laptop is a much more efficient tool for producing pieces that require a lot of back and forthing between PDFs, Word, explorer and multiple tabs.

If you get used to it, there is not much difference. Most often especially on the smaller 13” or even smaller 12” MacBook screens, people hardly ever multi task on the screen. They prefer to stay full screen and switch between apps anyway. The 15” MBP is out of the price range of most university students and the small (tiny) MacBook 12” is horrible to type on and look at!
In that sense it’s not much different than iPad especially the pro. The 12.9” Pro has more screen real estate than the 13” MBP due to aspect.

If you grab the Apple BT magic keyboard, you will find typing as easily as a desktop and the switcher shortcut works.....Command-Tab. In fact using keyboard shortcuts I can get around just as fast or faster on iPad Pro than on a MBP.
 
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Macalicious2011

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May 15, 2011
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London
If you get used to it, there is not much difference. Most often especially on the smaller 13” or even smaller 12” MacBook screens, people hardly ever multi task on the screen. They prefer to stay full screen and switch between apps anyway. The 15” MBP is out of the price range of most university students and the small (tiny) MacBook 12” is horrible to type on and look at!
In that sense it’s not much different than iPad especially the pro. The 12.9” Pro has more screen real estate than the 13” MBP due to aspect.

If you grab the Apple BT magic keyboard, you will find typing as easily as a desktop and the switcher shortcut works.....Command-Tab. In fact using keyboard shortcuts I can get around just as fast or faster on iPad Pro than on a MBP.
Nice. I didn't know switcher shortcuts work on the iPad too. I which you could connect a bluetooth mouse to it *showing my way out the door*
 
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mk313

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Feb 6, 2012
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If you get used to it, there is not much difference. Most often especially on the smaller 13” or even smaller 12” MacBook screens, people hardly ever multi task on the screen. They prefer to stay full screen and switch between apps anyway. The 15” MBP is out of the price range of most university students and the small (tiny) MacBook 12” is horrible to type on and look at!
In that sense it’s not much different than iPad especially the pro. The 12.9” Pro has more screen real estate than the 13” MBP due to aspect.

If you grab the Apple BT magic keyboard, you will find typing as easily as a desktop and the switcher shortcut works.....Command-Tab. In fact using keyboard shortcuts I can get around just as fast or faster on iPad Pro than on a MBP.
although I would disagree that the 12" MacBook is horrible to type on or look at (I use mine daily and love it), and I think that the iPad has some real limitations compared to a Mac/Windows computer, I do agree with your sentiment that once you get used to it, the iPad works about as well as a normal computer. if you remove the apps where there are real limitations (Excel, etc), for most normal tasks, the iPad works perfectly fine. Even for apps like excel, it is generally usable, but I found that oftentimes I had to update spreadsheets for Pivot Tabes, etc (and word docs for things like tables of contents, etc) on my computer after i had started them on my iPad, but that once the changes were made on the computer, they showed up just fine on my iPad). I think that one of the issues that people looking to move over run into is that they try it for a week or whatever, and find it hard to use, so they move back to their computer. I completed my MBA and my iPad was my primary computer. I found that the longer I used it, the easier it became to complete tasks on it. At first, you are trying to do everything just like you did on your computer, and it takes longer to do because you have to think about each action. After a while though, using the iPad becomes second nature, and you get used to the workflow and it can be just about as fast as using a regular computer, maybe faster in certain circumstances.

You also learn how to use the shortcuts or adapt your habits to fit the iPad. One great example I see is that people don't like that you can't open two instances of an app at once (word, excel, powerpoint, etc), but in reality this was never an issue for me. I have both Office and iWork on my iPad, and you can easily open one Word doc in Word an another in Pages (or the equivalent for slide decks or spreadsheets in the other apps) and use them side by side. I never really had a need to open more than three of the same types of document at the same time (for the third one, I converted one of them, which was a reference document, to PDF and used Adobe Reader), so the practical limitation of the iPad never became an issue in real life usage.
 
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Macalicious2011

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May 15, 2011
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I think that one of the issues that people looking to move over run into is that they try it for a week or whatever, and find it hard to use, so they move back to their computer.
That's pretty much me and explains the reasons why I love using Mac at home but swear by PCs and Windows at work for Word, PDF, heavy Excel etc. Old habits can be hard to unlearn.
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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A mid-semester update. For those just joining the program, I am in an MBA-lite Master's Certificate Program. It is not an engineering or science program where I need to unleash the might power of the Death Star.

This week I completed and submitted all coursework via the iPad. The assignments were two PowerPoint files and a Word file. A few general observations:
  • The only cheat I used was I had a Visio file I needed to insert. I saved the JPG files from Visio on my Work computer. I probably could have created the diagram again using OmniGraffle or Graphic, but life is too short.
  • PowerPoint on iOS can be unpleasant to use. I have to double-tap to edit text blocks and it can only insert images from the Photos app. It hasn't been updated to use the new Files app. I know Microsoft hasn't released a version of OneDrive that support this, so maybe a future update will do this. Other than that, it went pretty smooth. I've thought about using Keynote, but I wanted to keep the file formats as native to Office as possible.
  • Word was fine. The inability to edit styles continues to frustrate me, however I was able to format the paper with a minimum of fuss and drama. I did not need to use citations, but I've used EasyBib in the past on the iPad and it worked well.
  • Submitting the file was slightly aggravating mostly because OneDrive isn't compatible with Files so there were a lot of taps in getting to the file. Canvas -- the web software school uses -- can upload from Dropbox or the Files app. I store my school stuff in Dropbox. The only reason I don't is with a free Dropbox account I can't set a file to store locally. I can with OneDrive. I needed to use this once during a power outage, but I'm rethinking just using Dropbox.
  • The one open area remains viewing a teacher's comments via Canvas. The teacher for this class has not used that feature yet, but he may with this last assignment. That was a roadblock I hit last semester.
  • I forgot about one, minor, area I used my Mac. Due to a communications snafu, none of my group members submitted our team assignment. I realized this in class and quickly grabbed it off our Google Drive and uploaded it from my Mac. I just walked through doing it on my iPad and it would have taken the same amount of steps. Just being transparent here.
I feel pretty confident at this point that I can do all my school work on an iPad. Graphic, OmniGraffle, iWork and Office are all capable of at least getting the job done. It may take a few steps, but I got the job done. I liked the focus environment of the iPad for writing. Not having some of my time wasters on the iPad meant I was more productive and engaged in Deep Work better. The iPad is such a portable device. It's lighter than the MacBook and using it with a Smart Keyboard makes for a very flexible work environment where you can flip between the touch screen and read course material and flip back to a working environment.

Would I recommend using an iPad as an only computer right now for a college student? Probably not. I think for a lot of classes a desktop OS is more adabtable. Each semester you need to revisit your tech needs. Next semester I may hit a wall an iPad can't solve. It is unlikely I will hit a problem I can't solve with a Mac. I have that fallback with the Mac, though. That said, even if you go iPad-only, schools, workplaces, and homes typically have desktop computers if you need one in a pinch. You may suddenly need an app there is no app store equivalent of.

We are close, though. It's doable if you know the nature of your program and are prepared to maybe do a little more thinking on your feet.
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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Another semester, another entry in the "Brammy Uses His iPad".

This class, first assignment I hit kind of a wall. What I needed to do was technically possible on an iPad, but would have taken too much extra time. We had to do a Cost Benefit Analysis Excel spreadsheet. The calculations were simple. The problem I ran into is how split view worked. This is one of those rare times I wished for a windowed environment on my iPad.

What I needed to quickly switch between was: The PowerPoint with the examples of how he wanted the sheet to look and sample data; a Word file with the actual data he wanted us to use; and my Excel sheet. All of this was possible on the iPad, but multitasking didn't quite work the way I wanted. I could just cmd-tab between the apps, but it was hard to compare his example to my layout.

In the end, I caved and just used my MacBook Pro attached to my 27" monitor and positioned the apps so I could see just the sections I needed. I could have done the work on the iPad, but it just just more efficient to do it on the MacBook Pro.
 
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mk313

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Feb 6, 2012
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Thanks for posting these updates. I enjoy reading them, the good and the bad. I’m done with school, but I used my iPad a lot when I was getting my MBA and I love reading how the iPad works for school work now,.
 
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onepoint

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Aug 3, 2010
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Another semester, another entry in the "Brammy Uses His iPad".

This class, first assignment I hit kind of a wall. What I needed to do was technically possible on an iPad, but would have taken too much extra time. We had to do a Cost Benefit Analysis Excel spreadsheet. The calculations were simple. The problem I ran into is how split view worked. This is one of those rare times I wished for a windowed environment on my iPad.

What I needed to quickly switch between was: The PowerPoint with the examples of how he wanted the sheet to look and sample data; a Word file with the actual data he wanted us to use; and my Excel sheet. All of this was possible on the iPad, but multitasking didn't quite work the way I wanted. I could just cmd-tab between the apps, but it was hard to compare his example to my layout.

In the end, I caved and just used my MacBook Pro attached to my 27" monitor and positioned the apps so I could see just the sections I needed. I could have done the work on the iPad, but it just just more efficient to do it on the MacBook Pro.
Situations analogous to this, I would bring up the PowerPoint on my iPhone (or preferably iPad Mini if I have it with me)
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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Situations analogous to this, I would bring up the PowerPoint on my iPhone (or preferably iPad Mini if I have it with me)
Yeah, the nature of the PowerPoint (a screen grab of a financials spreadsheet) would have been hard on an iPad. Also, I try and keep these experiments to one device only.
 
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Brammy

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Sep 17, 2008
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Thanks for posting these updates. I enjoy reading them, the good and the bad. I’m done with school, but I used my iPad a lot when I was getting my MBA and I love reading how the iPad works for school work now,.
Thanks. I enjoy writing them as well. It's fun to post real-world examples to counter some of the "you can't do this on an iPad" as well as a few examples of where it doesn't go as well.
 
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