Blog Post

iPad 4: Help with Productivity?

Hi All:

So, I'm the (ambivalently) proud owner of a new iPad. I'm not a total newbie, as I owned the 1st generation iPad before giving it away to my 4 year old nephew; he seemed to get a lot more use out of it than I did. (He's autisitc, so we found some great programs for him to use, too). 

Since I've been away from iPad for awhile now, I'd like to ask people who are using it regularly to contribute suggestions for productivity in the thread below. I'm particularly intersted in your thoughts on:

1. PDF editing


2. Word processing (I used Pages on my last iPad)

3. Stylus-based tools


4. External keyboards


5. Workflow integration software 


6. Voice dictation


7. Programs for Teaching / Presentations 


8. DH tools / software for iPad


9. In short - ANYTHING you've found useful in an academic / classroom setting.


Feel free especially to compare and contrast your favorite products and tools. I'm also looking for a case--I never bothered getting one for the first iPad, which is tough as a brick. (My nephew has been tossing it around for two years and there's not so much as a crack on it). Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

Thanks, all! 



1) Omnifocus.  I use it all the time on my laptop, iphone and ipad.  It's a hierarchical todo list with customizable views: see only the tasks that are relevant to your focus at the time: chores and errands at home, research and coursework at school.  An old post I wrote on this is here.


2) Google Drive.  This is the killer app for writing on an iPad.  Bad thing is you need internet.  But it's the best.  Singlehandedly raised the value of the device for me.  See also Prezi below for using an adapter to turn the iPad into a presentation platform.  That works great with Google Presentations too.  The spreadsheet still sucks though.


3) Mendeley.  PDF reader/bibliographic database.  Right now, only good because it syncs.  Word is there's a new version on the way that will be much better.  Can't wait.  Mendeley Desktop is crucial.  Old post on that here.


4) Prezi.  I do most of my presentations in Prezi.  I make them on a laptop, but give them from the iPad using the apple VGA adapter.  There's nothing better than rolling into a presenation without a bunch of crap.  It's very freeing to the mind.


5) Google Plus.  I know, I know, no one uses Google plus.  Except lots of awesome scientists and altmetrics people do.  And you can hang out with them (videochat) using this app.  Sweet!  Works well.


I also use an app called 30/30 to do Pomodoro creative time, which is a regular series of 25 minutes of work and 5 minute breaks (though I adjust the times to suit).  30/30 is simple and changes color when its time to do the next thing.  Customizable of course.  And free.


One more thing.  The best keyboard I've used it the Adonit Writer.  It's well designed and still slim.  Perfect if you intend on doing lots of mobile writing sessions.  The two bad things about it (and why I don't own it) are its $90 price tag and the fact that it only supports landscape orientation.  Sure, the iPad pops in and out easilty but I don't write on my iPad enough for $90.  You may.


Thanks so much Elliot. I'll try out your suggestions and check out those threads. I had not heard of 30/30 -- sounds like a very useful app. 

As for the keyboard: I have the original, very clunky keyboard Apple made for iPad 1, but discovered it is no longer compatible due to port modifications. So, I'll be shopping around for one as I do intend to write on my iPad. (I wrote half of my thesis on the first one, which is kind of startling, in retrospect).


WORD PROCESSING: CloudOn is quite nice and integrates w/Dropbox and

PRESENTATIONS: As mentioned previously, Prezi is good. I typically create them on the desktop/laptop. There's another cool app called Nearpod. I haven't had a chance to fully incorporate it in my classes, but your audience can log in and follow your presentation via their smartphone. You can incorporate questions or polls and they can respond in real time with the results for everyone to see.

VOICE DICTATION: I haven't found one that I like. No success for me with Dragon.

GRADING/CLASS ORGANIZATION: Gradebook Pro. It's $10, but I feel I've already gotten my money's worth. I use it mostly for attendance. You can email students their attendance at any time right from the app. I'm experimenting w/the grading now, so I'll have to report back later.

EVERNOTE: Just an all around great app (not just for teaching). I use it for to do list (you can add check boxes as well as formatting like bold, underlining, strikeouts, etc). You can add tags and folders. And most importantly, it syncs across platforms: mobile, desktop, iPad, Adroid, etc.

NOTE TAKING: I do use Evernote to take notes, but the AudioNote app, gives you a timestamp to coorelate with your notes. The free version has limitations, you can only record for 10 minutes, but for student presentations, it comes in handy.

FEEDBACK TO STUDENTS: I'm experimenting w/this as well. I tried the ShowMe app and I like it. You can write on the whiteboard while recording comments to your students. It also allows you to pause. I use it when I'm critiquing my students audio projects. However, I'm finding that I like SoundCloud even better for giving my students feedback on their audio projects. I have them upload their files to SoundCloud and they can make the file private. From there, they can either share the file with me via SoundCloud (because I follow them) or they can send me their 'secret link.' Then I can go and add comments on the file; for example, I can leave at comment at 3:05). Very nice.

I could go on, but that should keep you busy for a bit.

I facilitated a "Teaching w/the iPad" workshop :: Fall 2012 and "Teaching w/the iPad :: Spring 2012 at my uni. 

Hope that helps. I'll look for your future updates on the topic.


I think GoodReader is great. It is supposed to handle a variety of file types, but so far I've only used it with PDF files. (I've only been an iPad owner for a couple of months now.) But it's great for annotating PDF's, and you can set it up to sync with Dropbox and some other cloud storage providers.


Evernote:  a killer app for notetaking, web clipping, image archiving.  Easy sharing among all of one's machines.  No fuss, no hassle.

iAnnotate or GoodReader for .pdf reading (I am a journal editor!) and markup.  Either is great, each has its own feel.  Worth trying both to decide which you like best.  GoodReader handles .doc and .docx files, but does not always display them in the most readable way (no footnotes displayed, for example, not good for reading journal articles, for sure!).   iAnnotate just got a lot better with .doc and .docx in the last revision.

Google Drive:  for wordprocessing and sharing files across machines.  Best editing environment I have found.  Forget Pages!!

Zotero and Mendeley:  both have apps that sync with your database.  Neither is great, but nice to have them when you are working on the fly.

Note Taker HD:  for handwritten notes using a stylus.  Used this a lot in the beginning, but Evernote cured me of that.  App author is the guy who wrote the original Visicalc for Apple, I believe.  Nice tech history note. . . .

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard:  Small and compact, but an extra piece of equipment to carry around. . . .  Haven't found a case-based keyboard I could like.

Flipboard:  Can't be beat for organizing your RSS news feeds.


Given this feedback, I'm going to test each of these recommended programs and report back on my results in this forum. I've just downloaded Evernote and Google Drive, which seem the most highly recommended of these applications. Prior to this thread, I did not know that Google Drive was a word processing tool; my impression (based on articles such as this one: was that it is mainly an online warehouse and a competitor to Dropbox. Hmm.. I'm the newbie in this domain, so I'm just taking notes and experimenting at this stage. Thank you all *very much* for your contributions and suggestions; I'll be sure to post back with any discoveries I make. 


In no particular order.

Stylus: Adonit jotpro. It has a plastic disc rather than a rubber tip...bye bye annoying friction, hello smooth writing. The precision is amazing! A prof in my department tried mine out and was instantly sold! I had a Griffin stylus before which served me well and for a good while until the rubber tip disentegrated on me. I got the JotPro beofre I read the reviews (not a gret idea) and found that A TON of people complained that it scratched their screen. I don't have a screen protector, I've used the jotpro for a semester straight, daily use, and not a scratch (and believe me I check daily!). Worth considering. I like also that if anything happened to teh disc tip I can replace it for about $3 whereas I have to throw out a rubber-tipped stylus when the end falls apart.

Pdfs: I've used Goodreader from day 1. It's great (with a few liimtations). I still use it for grading. Now I use Sente which I love (a few limitations here too of course).

Note-taking: Notability...I like the voice integration. I've done a couple of interviews with profs overseas and it's worked like a charm! Considering WritePlus now because I've started using DevonThinkProOffce and I see the value of having al my notes as searchable docments...WritePlus will supposedly convert my handwritten text into typed text...I'd really rather not type on my ipad.

CloudOn: when I do type CloudOn is great! Cosigning on this one. I haven't tried Google Drive for word processing...will give it a whirl and see how is stacks up to CloudOn.

Presentations: SlideShark!!! Surprised it's not on here. I'm not a fan of prezi (gasp) I find it all rather dizzying and I am yet to see the point. Maybe I haven't yet seen an effectively done prezi. SlideShark let's you show your ppts from the ipad. You have the added benefits of presenter view on your ipad only so you can keep track of time per slide and overall presentation time, see your notes etc. You can use your finger as a laser pointer (I do this way more than I need to I think it is just so cool) and you can walk around the room and navigate your slides using your phone/ipod touch. This is great for when my students break into small group disucssions. We can engage with the slides and I can circulate at the same time.

SoundCloud sounds to try it now.


This is great, Annette! Thanks so much for these suggestions. I'm definitely gonna go ahead and order Adonit jotpro and see how it works :)


*WritePad not WrtePlus.

Just tried out SoundCloud: looks great for grading my students' audio recordings.

Not impressed with Google Drive for word processing. CloudOn has all the features of Word like comment bubbles, footnotes etc. Google Drive seems more like a text editor....first impressions.

I've also been trying out Notability for grading. I prefer it to Goodreader for the handwritting capabilities.


re: Google Drive. I just doesn't "click" for me. CloudOn is rather Word-like, hence perhaps my preference, still, for the admittedly limited Pages. I'm guessing it will remain my go-to wordprocessing program for iPad until something better comes along (or until Pages simply gets better). 


Actually, was thinking more about the PC or Mac interface into Google Drive, which is a much more complete composing environment. Google needs to port more features into the iOS version, which they will eventually do, I think. As of now, editing text on Google Drive on the iPad is a complement to the more complete environment when going in through the web on a PC or Mac.


Agreed, David. 


Thanks for your feedback! I've tried a few of recommended processing documents, and I must say, Pages still wins for me despite its obvious flaws. This may have much to do with the fact that I've been using the program on my Macbook for years now; I prefer it even to Word, which I find clunky and unwieldly. 

The biggest (and perhaps only) lingering issue I have with Pages for iPad is that it does not elegantly import or export footnotes / endnotes. That is a huge criticism, given that much of our research requires that we keep good and consistent notes. Alas, the search continues...