I finally got a tablet and it is an iPad2. I am mostly smitten.* The iPad does seem friendlier than a laptop … It doesn’t serve as a physical barrier to the face (I really noticed the difference in one of my classes last year) and the apps do offer neat opportunities for sharing. The IFLS blog looks, i think, stunning on an iPad.
Now, I know that the iPad has some gender relations problems, see here. And certainly there are some “where are the women” moments in iPad chatter land, see here (helpful post on academics using iPads). And it’s a consumerist nightmare in many ways – expensive, inaccessible, and all those Bad Apple issues. I’m setting those latter very real concerns to the side for the moment.
This post is the start of an effort to survey law profs, informally, about apps that work. The post is getting longer and longer, so I’m going to cut if off now and see whether you find it helpful. If you just want the apps I discuss, a list of links/names is at the bottom. Please, if you have any “can’t miss” apps, let me know and i’ll update.
First, I asked my colleagues about apps they love:
Top recommendation, Reeder: “for keeping up with RSS feeds, and posting links straight from those feeds to Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper (a read later app) individual friends via email etc. It has made that part of my day much more pleasurable and efficient.”
eReaders: Kate says “I prefer iBooks [comes preloaded] for its lack of distracting bells & whistles (by contrast, for example, some of Kobo’s community stuff is incredibly infantilizing and annoying ie congratulating you on how many pages you’ve read & awarding you badges for reading accomplishments).
But, it’s worth having more than one e-reading app as different apps direct you to different sources of public domain material.
Stanza has a particularly broad and interesting range.
My current office neighbour , James Stribopoulos (although we move back to our renovated building next week – the only bad thing about this move is losing James as a neighbour. I am gaining the Faculty Lounge as a neighbour) uses Iannotate for PDF’s and docstogo for word files.
James got many of the recommendations he offered from our new colleague, Ben Berger, who has a long list. Here are a few:
I don’t think anything beats iAnnotate for the functionality and little features like a horizontal scroll lock, which means that you can expand the text and then scroll vertically without it shaking left and right. ….. I used it to read grad student work and mark it up, then sending it straight back by e-mail. I also edit proofs, highlight articles, etc. Good reader is a nice alternative as well and has improved its annotation functions but I still find iAnnotate the best
The two best apps in my view are DocsToGo (premium) and QuickOffice Pro HD. You must get the high end app of each but they are worth it. The advantage that Docs to Go has over QuickOffice is that one can read footnotes and other hyperlinked info in a docx or doc file, whereas all of the other readers strip these out just now. QuickOffice, on the other hand, is nice because it gives you natural page breaks, so if you’re just reading text (not footnotes) that’s kind of nice. it also has the best file management utility, which lets you drag and drop among programs, whatever the file format. most importantly, though, it has a very good print to PDF feature that means that you can flip a word document into PDF and use iAnnotate!
If you use a stylus for writing by hand, NoteTaker HD is far and away the best note taking app I’ve used, allowing you to simply write and save, and then e-mail or print to pdf. It also lets you insert photos, diagrams, etc. …. the stylus can be really hit and miss. The key, I found, was to get one with a soft rubber end, not a foam end. The foam is not nearly as responsive and breaks down rapidly. [Ben doesn’t know what brand of stylus he has, but he did send me a picture of it]
The other great thing about NoteTaker HD is that you can sign a pdf and e-mail it right back… so if you find yourself needing to sign things this on the road or at home, this lets you avoid printing and dispenses with the need for a fax.
For taking notes through typing Notability is an amazing little app that lets you record audio and tag it with typing as you go. You can then simply tap the words that you typed and it will bring you back to that point in the recording.
Evernote is the best that I have used for simply typing out notes or taking a photo as a note and it lets you have folders for organization. Evernote also has iPhone and desktop versions with which it automatically syncs.
Keynote is the best for overhead presentations from powerpoints. It’s not great for editing (Docs to Go helps on that) but is excellent for display. If you have the iPad to VGA dongle [link is to apple store Canada, $35, but there are other places, obviously, to buy it], you can simply hook up directly into the projector – swiping your finger across advances slides. Holding your finger gives a laser pointer effect. I used this all the time in class.
Then, I went to the ‘net (actually, I went there first, let’s be honest, but it was overwhelming, so I turned to friends and armed with that info, went back to the web).
First, I tried Reeder, as per Kate’s suggestion, and it is lovely – but then i discovered Flipboard, which I highly encourage people to try. It will mash together, in one place but categorized neatly, your twitter, facebook (not that you do), google reader, and any number of other sites like the Guardian. And it does it in a way that is beautiful. AND, it will display your twitter feed in a way which shows you a preview of whatever was linked. Brilliant. Like reading a great personal magazine. I am a big fan.
The Instructional Technology Blog at Albany has a nice post, Law Professors: There’s an app for that with a number of interesting things including an app for randomly calling on people, which MUST be of interest to feminists (clearly can’t solve all the problems, but at least unconcious gendered selection bias?). The randomization app is called PikMe. Here is a review (i’d say it gives a 3/5 or so) from the ProfHacker column/blog in the Chronical of Higher Ed of that app, and a link to an app called Attendance. PikMe has some major limitations (you have to add the class “by hand”!).
The Albany link also has a variety of other useful suggestions, I think, some very well known (ikeynote, for presentations, dropbox, for syncing) and others less so. The blog also has posts covering the content at the CALI [Computer Assisted Legal Instruction?] conference, which i found helpful, since the CALI site only has, ugh, long videos. I need text, people! You all talk too slowly!
Here’s one thing that was hard to find – Zotero on the iPad. For a variety of Bad Apple reasons, this is much more complex than it should be, but Prof Hacker offers one possibility. This I find quite exciting, although please note the drawbacks listed in the link (to ProfHacker again).
*[thing that I don’t love about iPad functionality….] the way that the keyboard layout means I keep putting question marks instead of periods at the end of my sentences like some demented uptalk transcription? Doesn’t the iPad know that uptalk is a gendered phenomenon that seems to be a strategy for conforming to gender norms by being unsure and non threatening rather than confident and dominant? I’m probably wrong but i thought the textual equivalent of uptalk is not a question mark but ellipsis…. I think…..
Apps only, no talk
PS Express (photoshop)
Iannotate for PDF’s and docstogo for word files ($)
Keynote for presentations ($)
Hardware iPad to VGA dongle
And the iPad does offer some very cool possibilities for kids (look at this book for kids (shaking the iPad changes the parents from two women to two men or one of each) – the creator explains it in this post/video).