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An iPad in The Real World: iWant or iNeed?

by on April 19th, 2010

An iPad in The Real World: iWant or iNeed?

Is an iPad just an iWant, or can it also be an iNeed? For me, its utility as a light, portable document reader fully justifies its cost, notwithstanding its many other useful features.

I work with several organizations that hold frequent meetings. To save paper, printing and mailing costs, most of them have gone “paperless”, and now rely exclusively on emailed electronic documents. The document readers are our bulky laptops, lugged around from meeting to meeting. The meeting rooms soon become a farrago of finicky, slow-starting laptops, scattered carrying bags, bulky power supplies, and entangling power cords.

Last week I brought my iPad instead, comfortably portable in its svelte Apple protective case. Instant start-up, and thanks to its 8-hour battery, no power supply or snaking cords. At lunch meetings now, there is even room on the desk for the actual lunch.

I first thought that getting files and documents into the iPad would prove daunting, or at least a bit of a chore. Not so. I simply transferred them from my computer to my MobileMe iDisk and opened them in one of several programs on my iPad that automatically import iDisk files. I use ReaddleDocs, which reads many different file formats, but GoodReader or PrintCentral, among others, would also do nicely. The latter app, moreover, allows you to print from the iPad, in case you wanted to do any editing on the fly.

The use of iDisk does require a wireless internet connection in the meeting room, unless you have saved the transferred files to your iPad ahead of time. If you don’t use MobileMe, most of the document readers mentioned can establish their own wireless connection with your computer through a home LAN. Or, as a last resort, they can be transferred in the usual fashion through a wired connection with iTunes.

The iPad is now my computer of choice for all my meetings.

John Southin is a retired professor (Biology, McGill) now living in Eastern Ontario.

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  • Brian

    Hi Professor Southin,
    I am graduate who is interested in buying an iPad for all the papers I need to read through, the other half of what I want it for is for taking notes, especially marking up PDFs and powerpoints with diagram notes and hand written circles and whatnot. The handwriting/drawing component is essential I think for science and math students, yet no reviews seem to put any focus on these areas. I was wondering if you think the ipad is a viable note taking device if you had a stylus? This is what will make it an “iNeed” for school.

  • John Southin

    I wish I could help, but in fact I've been wondering the same thing myself. Being retired, I happily no longer need physics or chemistry equations and formulas in my daily life, and have had little inclination to see if there are as yet any iPad apps that can help with scientific note-taking on the fly. Let's keep each other apprised if we find one.