Google Productivity Pad: September 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

iPad for college Part 4: Accessories and Peripherals

As you take your iPad to college you may find out that what you get out of the box and from the App Store is not enough. You may find that you need some hardware solutions to compliment your iPads usefulness. Here are a few types of accessories that you may find useful.

Cases and covers: these are probably the most common iPad accessories. There are thousands to choose from. They range from standard Apple smart covers to teddybears with tummy screens. The important thing is to get one that matches your needs and style.

Keyboards: If you are using your iPad as your main computing device at college you will probably want to have an external keyboard for it. Particularly for writing all those research papers. Just like cases, there are tons of iPad keyboards to choose from. In fact, some keyboards are cases and some cases are keyboards. Almost all the keyboards now connect to the iPad via Bluetooth. If you need help connecting one check out my tutorial here.

Styli: If you want to take handwritten notes, draw, or do photo editing, you may find it useful to have a stylus instead of just your finger. There are many different styli on the market ranging anywhere from 10¢ to almost $100.
Most styli have a rubbery tip to mimic the conductive nature of a human finger on a capacitive screen. The only big difference in choosing one of these styli is the size, weight, color of the barrel. Other than that they essentially write the same. My recommendation, if you are going to get on of these, is to buy one in the <$1.00 range to see if you it like it before investing in something more expensive.
But my real recommendation on a stylus is to go one of the versions of the Jot from Adonit. They are currently the only precision styli that I know of. Because they use an innovative capacitive disk instead of a rubber tip they actually mimic the way you would write with a ball point pen. I will be doing a full review of them soon.

Hotspot -- if you have a wifi only iPad you may want to consider getting a hotspot to provide yourself with Internet when you are away from wifi. This probably isn't necessary, but can be useful if you need to travel a lot or have an unreliable home or school connection.
There are a lot of different options here as well. My recommendation is the Karma hotspot if it has coverage in your area, you can read a full review here. Another good option is if you are already paying for data on a smartphone you may just be able to turn that phone on as a hotspot depending on your carrier plan.  Also most of the major carriers and prepaid companies offer the option of getting a hotspot with month to month data.

Wi-drive -- one of the issues that can arise from going all iPad is a lack of memory. If you are smart about cloud storage that can help with the problem, but if you are consistently running out of space on your device you may want to consider getting an external wi-drive to help out. The wi-drive connects with your iPad of wifi and allows you to store your files remotely. This is especially useful for things like videos that tend to eat up a lot of the iPad's limited memory.

Camera kit -- if you are using a camera other than the one built into the iPad or an iPhone you will need a camera kit to transfer your photos from your memory card to the photo app. I have never used one myself so I can't make any recommendations based on personal experience. The other option is to get an eye-fi card for your camera and transfer them via wifi.

Apple TV -- if you have an HDTV at your dorm or apparmtent you may want to consider getting an Apple TV. Besides allowing you living room access to all of your iTunes content, the Apple TV will let you mirror whatever is on your iPad onto your television screen. This has the effect of creating a big screen monitor for your iPad. This is awesome for playing video games, ahem, I mean working on homework.

Well guys, I know there is a lot there, remember you don't necessarily need all or any of these. Decking out your iPad can end up getting very expensive. Remember to evaluate each choice based on your needs and budget.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

iOS 7, hands on thoughts

So I have now been running iOS 7 for a few days. My initial impression is that I like it quite a bit. Here are my thoughts in some type of a cohesive form.

  • It's not really that different:
    • Everyone has been making such a big deal about how iOS 7 is the biggest redesign to the iOS ever, which is true, but its not so different that anybody should confused by it.
    • In style it has changed quite a bit.
    • In form and function it is almost exactly the same. Nothing happened in iOS 7 to confuse somebody whose been using iOS in the past, unlike what happened in the Windows 8 redesign.
  • I love control center
    • Control center is the quick access menu you now get when swiping up from the bottom of the screen. This is something that I think we have been waiting for a long time in iOS and I am really glad it is finally here,
    • I'm glad it is available from the lock screen without having to put your passcode in. 
    • I wish you could customize which apps and setting appeared in control center.
  • I like iTunes radio
    • I know it's pretty much just like pandora, but having it built right into my apple device is nice. I don't know how much I will be using it since I don't listen to music that often. Who knows, this might change that.
  • Find My iPhone
    • The updates to security with Find My iPhone are one of the most important features of iOS  7. I highly encourage everyone to keep it turned on. These are the kind of important things that Apple does even though they aren't flashy and don't catch a lot of attention from the media.
  • A few things that bug me:
    • I'm annoyed that Newsstand is no longer a live icon showing the current issues of your magazines. To me this isn't a huge deal, because I really only have the Ensign on my Newsstand, but it still was nice. 
    • While I like the new way multitasking displays with the cards (reminiscent of Web OS, may it rest in peace) and the easy closing, I am not happy happy that there is no force quite all option. Ever since multitasking came out we have been waiting for this option. It does not seem like it would be hard for Apple to give it to us.
    • Another thing I think they easily could have done was give us a Dvorak keyboard. Really, how hard would it be to add one more keyboard layout to the list? Especially since iOS already knows the layout because it can use it for Bluetooth keyboards.
That's it for now guys, these are just my first thoughts, I'm sure I will have lots more to say about it in other posts as we go along. please share your thoughts on iOS 7 with me on twitter or in the comments here.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

You should not buy a laptop, unless...

You NEED one! I mean this really seriously, if you are one of those people thinking about buying a new laptop, any laptop, even a MacBook, you need to seriously consider whether you need one or not before you buy. Because if you do not NEED a laptop functionality specifically, you are probably better off with an iPad. Note that I only recommend laptop replacement with an iPad, no other tablet has the amount of apps and thereby functionality to take the place of most laptops.

Here are the four things to consider before you buy:
Your computing needs: What do you need to use a computer for in your daily life?

If the answer is checking email, Facebook, and playing spider solitaire, then really you only need a tablet, or maybe even just a smartphone.

If, however, the answer is that you are heavily involved in photo and video editing and so you use Photoshop and Final Cut Pro daily, than an iPad is certainly not going to cut it for you.

Somewhere between these to extremes lie most of us. You need to determine where you are, I mean actually make a list, before you buy a laptop. If you don't do anything that requires heavy processing power, if you aren't what they call a "power user" then you probably don't need a laptop.

Your access to other computers: Even if you do have jobs or hobbies that involve heavy computing power, are you really going to do that work on a new laptop? Or do you have access to a desktop that it actually makes more sense to do that work on?

  • At work: If your job involves heavy computing then chances are you have a desktop at the office that satiates your need. In this case having a laptop is only necessary if you need to do a lot of work on the road. The truth is that a lot of us do need processing power to do our jobs, but we don't need to take our jobs everywhere with us.
  • At home: Maybe you are just a hobbyist who likes to write HTML in your spare time, so you really need a computer outside of work to do that. But, do you already have a desktop at home? Do you really need a laptop for your hobby? Would you really even use it very much?
  • At school: Most college students (which I have been posting about recently) have access to a lot of school lab computers so they really have consider whether they need their own computer or if a iPad would suffice along with using the labs when a desktop is needed.
  • At the library: Since losing Internet at my house I have been going to the public library a lot. This has reminded me how many people still do not have home computers, and they still survive. Maybe there are times once or twice a month when you need to do something on a computer that you cannot do on a iPad, perhaps the library could cover these needs and you won't need to buy a laptop.
Your price point: How much money do you have? That is the most crucial question in all of this. If you have a lot of money and nothing to do with it, I guess you can go ahead and buy a laptop, that way you can use spreadsheets to keep track of all your spending and stock options. But if you are really in a tight spot, but really need some kind of computer than you need to consider this carefully. Don't get looped into buying a laptop just because the world seems to say you need one, do what is right for your needs and your budget. I highly suggest considering buying a used iPad, here is a how to guide.

Your timeline: how long are you planning to hang on to this device you want to buy? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years? If you only plan on using it a short while than a cheep netbook might be right for you, but then an iPad mini might also be a good choice. The nice thing about an Apple product versus some of these other computing options is that they tend to keep working longer and hold their value better. For example the original iPad is now four years old, but many people still have them and they work fine, and they can still catch a pretty good price on eBay.

So that's it, consider those four things when deciding whether or not to buy a laptop and you will be good to go. If you have got any questions feel free to drop me a line on twitter or just leave a comment below.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS 7, not yet

Because of my internet issues at home, and because it is the smart thing to do, I am holding off on upgrading to iOS 7 for a few days. I know that is weird for a blog dedicated to iPads, but I kindof have to. Please share your thoughts or questions on iOS 7 by tweeting at me or using the comment below.

And remember, live better.

Monday, September 16, 2013

iPad for College Part 3: Useful Apps

Previously I discussed apps that are really essential to have if you are using an iPad at college, especially if you are not also using a laptop. Also in this series I discussed setting up an iPad for college and how to survive without Microsoft Office. Now I would like to talk about some apps that are useful to have which did not fit into the necessary category. 

Prezi -- Some people love it, some people hate it, most people just haven't got a clue how to actually use it. For those who will put in the time to learn to do a Prezi well, it is an excellent piece of free collaboration and presentation software. Unfortunately the iPad version still lacks a lot of features from the online version, but it is good for beginning projects and brainstorming, but you will have to add the details from a browser version later. The iPad version is also great for presenting if you have an iPad to projector adaptor.

Adobe Reader -- If your college experience is anything like mine, you will read more PDFs than you can count. I use to read these all on my laptop in the early days, the iPad or a Kindle provides a much better experience. While the iPad can open up PDFs by default and can also send then to iBooks, I prefer to use adobe reader for its annotation abilities and easy to use interface. 

iMovie -- If you are doing a lot of video production you are going to want something with a much bigger screen than either sized iPad, but if you just want to do some quick work on the fly than you will probably want this app. 

Penultimate -- This is the sketch pad notebook app made by Evernote. It is a fairly simple app, which is on of the really nice things about it. It is great for taking handwritten notes electronically. It has options for blank, lined, or graph paper,so it is useful in many different classes and settings. All you notes get saved in Evernote which does text recognition on your hand writing.

Skitch -- Another Evernote produced app, Skitch is for annotation. It allows you to draw over the top of pictures, screenshots, or PDFs. It makes explaining things really easy. I use it annotate most of the screenshots I share on this blog.

LinkedIn -- Most college students are using Facebook and Twitter, but LinkedIn is another important network that they should begin to build a strong professional presence on. Much of the business world is moving online and LinkedIn serves as your virtual, searchable, online résumé. They have been making a lot of improvements to the app over the past few months, it still is not fully fuctional, but it is getting there.

Wikipedia -- Professors may not all be agreed on Wikipedia yet, but students mostly are. It is probably the best place to gain quick information in terms you can understand, it can give you a summary and explanation of almost anything, often better than your teacher. There are a lot of different apps that can hook you into Wikipedia, choose one that you like, I use wikipanion.

iTunesU -- sometimes you just need a little extra explanation about a subject, or you can't take a course because you don't have time, but you would love to learn the about it. iTunesU has thousands of lectures that can help you, and they are all free! 

Well, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start. Next in this series I will be talking about accessories and peripherals to use with the iPad in college. 

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

College Apps: What about Microsoft Office on the iPad?

Note: This post was written before Microsoft released Office for iPad. I still stand by what I wrote here though, and you can read my thoughts on office for iPad in this post.

Now let's answer that crucial question:
What about Office?

If you have lived on this planet anytime since 1998 chances are you've been wound up in the world of Microsoft office. Unfortunately our world seems to run on this bloated suite of software, and if all you have is an iPad your going to run into trouble right off the bat. For some odd reason Microsoft has never decided to bless the most popular tablet in the world with its good graces. Although a couple months back they did decide to make a stupid Office version for iPhone, available only to 365 subscribers. There's some typical Redmond innovation for you.

The good news is that if the iPad has taught the us anything it is that we don't need Microsoft, or Office, anymore. There have been a number of Office competitors released for the iPad since its creation, personally I prefer Apple's own suite:
iWork Suite -- it turns out that for years Apple has been making a suite that is as good if not better than the three basic Microsoft Office offerings. They can be had for a much lower cost as well. The best part is that they allow exporting in all of the MS Office file formats, making it easy for you to share files with you unenlightened classmates and teachers.
  • Pages -- is a breath of fresh air after years of the tortuous experience of MS word for years. The iPad version is clean and easy to use. 
  • Numbers -- is an excellent, easy to use, spreadsheet program. But, as I said earlier, it is the area of iWork that is the most lacking to advanced users. However, that type of advanced work is really best done on a computer still, the iPad just isn't ready for it yet. 
  • Keynote -- has been Apple's strongest iWork offering on the Mac offering a much more intuitive experience than MS PowerPoint. On the iPad it has seen a little bit of trouble with issues entering text, but it is still the most robust presentation software out there for a mobile device.
iCloud -- there is even more good news for students going iPad only at college. Apple has recently rolled out the iWork suite to iCloud. This means that if you choose to save your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to iCloud you can access and edit them from any computer with a web browser. Since most students have access to school computer labs this is the perfect solution for those times when you need more screen space or a large keyboard. 

There you have it, the easy way to leave Microsoft Office behind and just use your iPad. If you have found any other apps that make good substitutes I would like to hear about them. Tweet at me or leave a comment. I would especially like to hear if you've got good substitutes for the less known portions of Office.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better (you can start by not using Office anymore).

Update on 9/10/13: Apple has just said that all new iOS devices get iWork for free! So now there is really no reason to care one bit about office.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Apple's Sept. 10th event

As most of you probably know, tomorrow, Sept 10th, is a big day for those of us in the Apple world. Ever since Tim Cook said there would be no new products until the fall we have been waiting for this day. Last week Apple finally sent out invitations to the event. Apple's invitations are notorious for teasing something that will happen at the event and this one was no different.

What will we see?
A blog such as this would be remiss if it did not offer some kind of prediction on what would happen at this event, however, I am not a very good guesser ever so don't expect me to go to much out on a limb here. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

iPad for college Part 2: Necessary Apps

Now that you have your iPad all set up and ready for college your going to need some apps for it right? It's not going to do you much good as only a calendar and email device. As I mentioned before with my little brother at college for the first time taking only an iPad as his computer I came up with a list of apps I thought would be essential for him to have. Most of these are also recommended by Apple under their apps for college section in the App Store.

  • Pages -- is a beautiful and fully functional word processor for writing all of those papers you'll be getting assigned soon.
  • Numbers -- is a very easy to understand and use spreadsheet program. It creates great looking graphics as well. One word of caution though, if you are an advanced MS excel user in a CS, mathematic, of scientific field you will find that Numbers on an iPad may not be able to handle everything you want it to, you are probably one of the people who still needs a laptop. 
  • Keynote -- Is a great app for making presentations that look wonderful. It will allow you to email them out in a variety of formats so that you can easily collaborate with classmates on group assignments.
  • Evernote -- will be your new best friend in college. It will help you keep track of all your notes, and is a great place to organize research, draft assignments, and just about anything else you might need. It is probably the most indispensable app outside of your calendar and email. My full review is here.