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The iPad and grad school

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Admittedly I am an Apple fan but the idea of an iPad for grad school as a replacement for a notepad, some text books and calendar plus easy access to the web is intriguing me. Currently I have a MacMini as my main workstation. I do most of my work there and that probably wont change. My wife has a MacBook, which I also use from time to time. Watching the release of the iPad got me thinking about what I would find as a killer device for jotting down hand written notes (with a stylus) tagging them and annotating electronic reading assignments. On the other hand a full blown laptop would allow me to do more on the go. At this point I am waiting for the usual bugs to be worked out and useful apps to be released before purchasing during the back-to-school time frame (often when apple makes deals on educational purchases). The question for everyone is, would you get one of these devices instead of a laptop, assuming you have a dedicated computer at home? What would you consider a "must need application" in order for you to get one? Or is this some rich person's plaything?

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I'm sticking with a MacBook. Multitasking is essential, and I believe it's missing on the iPad. I'm often syncing notes and pdfs with Dropbox, adding citations in Zotero and reading from an academic search engine at the same time. The best thing about my laptop is taking notes right next to my readings, with my assignments and Google open to handle quick questions. Perfect screen size and position, easy-to-use keyboard.

That said, I understand the urge for a stylus. I have a Livescribe pen and notebooks that I sync with my computer, so I have a complete database of my notes at all times.

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I've been thinking about getting an iPad eventually, since I have an iPod touch and use it almost constantly (and as I understand it, the iPad is really just an iPod touch but bigger). I usually leave my laptop at home unless I'm planning on working on an essay or something, and just take my Touch which I can use for internet browsing, checking e-mail/Facebook, To Do lists and other organisational/life management tasks, basic research, checking source texts, reading PDF's, etc. The only major drawbacks to using the Touch as your portable computer of choice are that the keyboard is too small to type anything lengthy and the screen is too small to do much reading comfortably. Both of these will be solved by the iPad.

That said, I absolutely won't be buying the 1st gen of the iPad. I thank my lucky stars that I got the 2nd gen iPod touch and not the first. Apple always releases something with the intent to later refine and make it better. For that reason, people who snap up the first release usually get a raw deal. By the 2nd or 3rd gen, they'll likely have addressed the biggest beefs with the iPad.

Also, if anyone computer savvy is reading this, I'd like it if someone would make a Zotero app for iPod touch/iPhone/iPad that would sync up to your Zotero library, so you could have all your citations/saved books on the go. You'll be rewarded with gratitude.

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Do you think taking notes on the iPad is going to be anywhere near as comfortable, useful, error-free, etc. as either a pen & paper or a laptop with a real keyboard? I haven't tried an iPad yet, so I'm not sure, but unfortunately I'm pessimistic. If you're thinking about calendar/email/other things, a smartphone is a much cheaper option. As for me personally, I do too much more than just taking notes on my laptop for an iPad to be a replacement. I can't even downgrade to a netbook without losing some vital functionality :(

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I frequent a forum with a bunch of artists who asked similar questions about using the iPad with a stylus to draw and no one agreed that the ipad is a replacement for a tablet. I'd rather buy a netbook or a tablet instead of the iPad for various reasons.

-costs just as much as a tablet pc

-no usb ports so you can't transfer data to an external

-once your batteries can no longer hold a charge, Apple just gives you a brand new one. This might sound, but you're losing all your data on your current iPad.

-you still need a bag to carry it around (why not just carry a tablet pc then?)

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We purchased an iPad and I'm blown away with how fast I am on the virtual keyboard - as fast as on a netbook. Still, I think something like the mythical "Courier" tablet rumored from Microsoft with it's pen input is the holy grail of digital note taking.

http://www.engadget....ictures-and-de/

*full disclosure

This coming from a militant Windows user with a deep disdain for Macs.

Edited by sirjimbob

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For those looking for an alternative to the iPad, there's also the HP Slate (no idea on release date). I'm still not interested in either since they don't really fit my needs, but they're always interesting to look at. Although the Microsoft Courier that sirjimbob posted is probably the only thing I'm interested in. It seems like a good alternative to an actual notebook or schedule book for school.

http://www.slashgear.com/hp-slate-still-exists-and-this-rendered-video-proves-it-0580442/

http://www.slashgear.com/adobe-and-hp-show-off-slate-flash-and-air-take-limelight-0877107/

EDIT: It seems a couple artists from the other forum I use have the iPad and are capable of drawing on it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is-t7fsU4Nw

Edited by joro

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... That said, I understand the urge for a stylus. I have a Livescribe pen and notebooks that I sync with my computer, so I have a complete database of my notes at all times.

Oh, you use one of those pens! How do you like it? I recently learned about them and I'm very interested in picking one up. Do you think they're worth the cost? Also, do they use ink (if so, where do you go to buy refills) - or are they entirely electronic?

Another question for you mac users: have you ever had trouble using your laptops with projection units? I hope to be doing a lot of power point as a TA so the thought of not having that work properly is worrying

Edited by Joe Lordan

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It seems that if you plan to use a stylus that you must use a glove so that you won't end up writing with your hand instead of the stylus. :lol:

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Oh, you use one of those pens! How do you like it? I recently learned about them and I'm very interested in picking one up. Do you think they're worth the cost? Also, do they use ink (if so, where do you go to buy refills) - or are they entirely electronic?

Another question for you mac users: have you ever had trouble using your laptops with projection units? I hope to be doing a lot of power point as a TA so the thought of not having that work properly is worrying

I like it! The software is a bit tedious if you have a computer that lags, though. In my opinion, the pen is worth the cost. I'm sure it'll come in handy for interviews. But I was annoyed when they came out with a nicer new pen right after I bought mine! No warning. <_<

The pens do use ink, so you have handwritten and digital notes, plus a recording if you choose. You can buy refills off the internet, but there are a few other places you can get them, I read.... I don't use my pen all the time -- usually only in classes that don't allow laptops or when my battery dies -- but I've had it for two semesters and I've yet to change the ink cartridge.

I haven't used my MacBook for projection, but I see people do it all the time at UC Berkeley. Just have to make sure you have the right cord for the particular machine.... I'm sure someone else can speak more to this.

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Jae: Thanks for the info and the Livepen tip. Have to check that one out.

Joro: Oooh wearing a glove without finger tips to use a stylus would look pretty weird to say the least. Maybe I'll get a white glove and bedazzle a few rhinestones on it for some flair. Then again maybe not. :P

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I also have a livescribe pen, or did until it got washed with my laundry. If I could just remember to take it out of my pocket, it would be the single greatest tool I own in my academic endeavors.

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The iPad seems extremely cool but also extremely unnecessary for me. I just upgraded to a computer that is under a decade old, and this thing is futuristic enough for me. I still haven't been able to get my head around things like the iPhone or iPod touch, so the iPad is going to take a while for me to accept as normal. It's a hilarious looking product, the kind of thing that in 10-15 years I bet we'll all be laughing at, as we type away on our computerized pieces of paper or invisible telepathic air computers or whatever the future holds in store. To me, it is kind of a rich person's plaything, or maybe the essential device of the up and coming generation. I grew up using computers whose general format has changed little since the first time I used one (aside from the switch from mouse to laptop finger-pad-thing). An integrated screen/keyboard that I touch with my fingertips or a pen just seems too fanciful and weird for me to use in everyday and practical situations. If it suits you more though, go with your gut then. Although I second people's advice to wait for the next generation to come out before buying one. One needs only to recollect the extremely quick evolution of the early iPod to realize how much better the upcoming models of the iPad may be.

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I'm more looking forward to this technology.

I expect that the Microsoft Courier will include this technology when it arrives.

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Tried the iPad today and the first issue I had with it was the typing function. The alpha keyboard is the default and the most commonly used symbols require you to shift to the numeric keypad. That is a hassle for the most popular symbols of them all -- the @. It makes entering an email addy cumbersome. And are you thinking of taking notes on it with some kind of stylus or something? (oops! you already addressed that!) I was talking options with the mac genius and this did not come up. I still would think it cumbersome. Cool? Surely. Practical? I'm voting no on this for anything academic. It is quite obviously first and foremost a media/entertainment device. For cataloguing heavy text info, note-taking and document manipulation it is not functional.

Edited by coyabean

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The iPad seems extremely cool but also extremely unnecessary for me. I just upgraded to a computer that is under a decade old, and this thing is futuristic enough for me. I still haven't been able to get my head around things like the iPhone or iPod touch, so the iPad is going to take a while for me to accept as normal. It's a hilarious looking product, the kind of thing that in 10-15 years I bet we'll all be laughing at, as we type away on our computerized pieces of paper or invisible telepathic air computers or whatever the future holds in store. To me, it is kind of a rich person's plaything, or maybe the essential device of the up and coming generation. I grew up using computers whose general format has changed little since the first time I used one (aside from the switch from mouse to laptop finger-pad-thing). An integrated screen/keyboard that I touch with my fingertips or a pen just seems too fanciful and weird for me to use in everyday and practical situations. If it suits you more though, go with your gut then. Although I second people's advice to wait for the next generation to come out before buying one. One needs only to recollect the extremely quick evolution of the early iPod to realize how much better the upcoming models of the iPad may be.

I cannot pinpoint exactly why but your comment tickled me mightily. LOL

It has an air of possibility to it, your vision of the immediate future. It's cool now but it's also kind of clunky and it doesn't fit in a purse! And it's the technology we already have but in a different box. It's not this huge game-changer yet.

I'm with you -- give me the air writer thingy that downloads directly into my brain. :) That's impressive and grad school worthy.

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For those that don't like that the iPad can't multitask, it looks like it will be able to by this summer with the release of iPhone OS 4.0 with multitasking for both the iPhone as well as the iPad... personally I will stick with my macbook, the iPad seems useless to me, I like having real keys, that touchscreen stuff still bothers me (although I'm sure I will eventually have to jump on the badwagon...) which is also why I have a blackberry versus all the touch screen phones that are out these days.

Anyways, here's the link concerning the OS 4.0 stuff, if any of you are interested:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/04/08/iphone.os.wired/index.html

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The thing is that the multitasking appears to be really a service you can sign up an app for. Meaning, if there is an app which would require something aside from what apple already provided (so far I found VoIP and audio, and feel free to add here), it won't be able to run in the background. Seems like a bad design decision from the developer's standpoint, of course apple gets to control exactly what can run in the background.

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Hey Everyone,

I am not in graduate school as of yet, but I am and Undergrad who has been heavily involved in my own research... serious enough to be publishing. Consequently, I think my input isn't easily dismissed and might be directly applicable to you.

I have the 16 gig iPad with WiFi and it has exceeded my every expectation.

1) Typing was the one of my biggest concerns. Within a week I was typing fast enough where taking copious notes in lectures wasn't an issue. At this point I feel like I am typing just as I do on my Macbook. If you wanted to attach the keyboard doc to it you could, but it just seems antithetical to the point of having a tablet.

2) The publication process is much easier with this. No more awkward positions with my Macbook or hauling it to coffee shops to read articles in PDF forms. I can't tell you how many times I've fallen a sleep with my macbook just hanging off the edge of my bed as I spent the previous night reading articles into the wee hours of the morning while trying to get comfortable.

I find that whole process much easier to do, especially when using Papers. I can manage article databases and make notes on them that are easily shared electronically making manuscript write ups much easier. Yes, you could do this on a macbook too, but my main interest in having this device was ease of portability.

3) you can transfer data easily. I have some working databases in excel format on my iPad and it transfers to my Mac easy. The App cost 9 bucks. Apple does control the means for how this happens and the route it takes, but it isn't impossible to wrap your head around. Plug in and manage it that way or transfer it on your wifi network.

4) I have had no wifi issues like some who have complained. Been at a few universities and no issues.

5) Some apps aren't quite ready for prime time, but updates have fixed this easily.

6) Maybe the battery issue is legit, but I have never replaced internal batteries on any of my portable apple products. I still have a first generation iPod that works like a charm. The only battery I ever needed to replace on my laptop was due to manufacturing issues way back when there were concerns the powerbook battery would spontaneously combust.

7) Notes in meetings: no more loosing that paper!

8) Managing scheduling: Easier.

Is multitasking an issue? Yes and no. First, the new OS will most likely fix this if you care that much. It can be a pain in the butt, but it can also help keep you focused on one thing at a time. It all depends on what you want the iPad for. Is it a total replacement for a netbook? It depends on what you use your netbooks for. I have the macbook for heavy processing that I need to do for research...I use lots of media and there is no way I could swing that on an iPad or netbook.

The whole issue is about production and consumption to me. I'd much rather do my consumption (articles, searching article databases and all the other browsing and watching I use my laptop for) on the iPad. It feels right and is much easier to manage hauling from spot to spot to complete work than my laptop... not that that is huge.

I'd rather keep heavy production databases for research, media and research software and heavy work processing on my laptop.

So if you are looking for a device to supplement a desktop or a laptop the iPad is something to look at and is totally functional for class notes and basic research endeavors (article searching, highlighting, managing and database creation)

If you want it to be your sole device in grad school you will be disappointed.

Edited by musicforfun

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I'm sticking with a MacBook. Multitasking is essential, and I believe it's missing on the iPad. I'm often syncing notes and pdfs with Dropbox, adding citations in Zotero and reading from an academic search engine at the same time. The best thing about my laptop is taking notes right next to my readings, with my assignments and Google open to handle quick questions. Perfect screen size and position, easy-to-use keyboard.

That said, I understand the urge for a stylus. I have a Livescribe pen and notebooks that I sync with my computer, so I have a complete database of my notes at all times.

This may be a little off-topic, but I thought I'd ask here anyway. I've come across mentions of stuff like 'Dropbox' and 'Zotero' as well as 'Endnotes' and so on - programmes which seemed to be designed to assist in note-taking/collating and so on. They sound like they would be useful, but I have VERY limited knowledge of anything beyond the basics- like word, excel and powerpoint. I want to explore my options for digital note-taking (I have a MacBook Pro) and was wondering what programmes you all would recommend (for someone trying to bridge the gap from handwritten notes to electronic) as a starting point. Any info on the prices/how to get the programmes etc would be great too!

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I'm going to just say "ditto" to everything that MusicForFun wrote. I bought a 32GB WiFi iPad for grad school.

I specifically bought it for reading research papers and news. Sounds insane right? Not for me...I have no issues reading/working on a laptop or at a desk, but I cannot stand reading a 40-page research paper (PDF) on the computer. I can never get comfortable so I always end up giving up after 5 pages and print out the PDF. I spend a lot of time reading news, and I usually read the news on my phone...but it would be nice to have a larger screen.

These two items (for me) are where any tablet shines. Personally, I like the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad interface...but any $200-500 tablet with a decent design will do the trick.

In my opinion, if money were no object, I would get a Windows 7 tablet with Microsoft OneNote. I am a huge fan of Microsoft OneNote, it is probably one of the best pieces of software for a tablet (for students) and truly is the best for note taking. The Apple products (regardless of the applications) cannot compete with a stylus based tablet because the touch interface does not let you use a stylus with a fine tip. You can buy or make a stylus for an iPad, and in all honesty they work great...but not for extended note taking unless you want to write larger than you are used to. The stylus (or your finger) is fine for most artists, but a Wacom tablet, Windows tablet OR a hacked Macbook tablet will still beat it hands down for fine point writing/drawing. This is a technological limitation of capacitive multitouch displays...but I won't rule out that someone might develop a conductive material to put into a "nicer" more note-taking-friendly stylus.

I wouldn't buy one with the expectation that you'll replace your laptop or desktop -you need something to back up to- but for the tech-savy, it is a damn nice complement to your tool set.

FYI - Microsoft announced they were canceling the Courier project (boo! This was awesome) and HP is halting developing on the HP Slate after their purchase of Palm. You can expect HP to release a WebOS (Palm) based tablet to compete with the iPad between 6-9 months from now.

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