Adonit Jot: The Best Stylus for Academics

Adonit Jot: A stylus optimized for precisionThe stylus is making a huge come back nowadays. New forms and shapes have proliferated over the last few years, begging the question: what is the best stylus for academics? I personally think that Adonit’s Jot is the best stylus out there for people in Higher Education. In this post I share my personal experience with the Jot, discuss its pros and cons, and compare the different members of the Jot family (Pro vs. Flip vs. Touch) with each other.

 

Made for students and professors

First, lets quickly think about what you would you use a stylus for. Most academics want to use a stylus to develop ideas. Thus, the capacity to capture handwriting (e.g., when taking notes) and to draw lines (e.g., when making conceptual maps) are the most important aspects to look for in a stylus made for students, professors, and everybody else whose main business is conceptual work. In other words, what we need is a stylus optimized for precision. [Read more…]

How to Find Discounted and Free Apps that Don’t Suck

LATEST DISCOUNT: $399 Mac Apps bundle for about 8 bucks, Papers for iOS ($15 to $10), Reeder for iPad ($5 to free) and Reeder for Mac ($5 to free).

academiPad’s mission is to share ideas about how to use iPad, Mac and the web for research, teaching and learning… and to save you time and money by showing you the best discounted and free apps for iPad, iPhone and Mac.

New technology is fundamentally changing the ways in which we teach and learn, how we collaborate with colleagues and peers, and how we appropriate, communicate and share information. And there is no shortage on apps out there in Apple’s app stores and the web that help us to increase our productivity and efficiency. But what are the good ones?

HINT: Scroll down to Recent Discounts to see the latest savings.

 

Save time and money with academiPad

Discounted and free appsacademiPad is your guide to the best workflows and apps. Its articles and reviews are a helpful resource to overcome two of the biggest disadvantages of a rapidly growing app marketplace: There are often too many apps to choose from, and few apps can be tried out before buying.

academiPad saves you time and money, but you can save even more cash by checking out AppShopper.com.

AppShopper tracks price changes for all iPad, iPhone and Mac apps. These changes occur more frequent than you might think: Some developers repeatedly discount their apps for a couple of days or even weeks in order to improve their position in the app store rankings. Sometimes, paid apps are even made free for a few days, which is the ultimate bargain. [Read more…]

Paper Clips: A Low-Tech Writing Hack for your Outdoor Office

In the summer I am really enjoying working outside. The iPad is really good for that, as long as you find a nice spot in the shade. While reading is obviously not a big problem, writing on your iPad outside is a little trickier.

I have already talked about the virtues of the iPad as a writing machine and suggested some keyboard cases that fit your writing style. This short post is considerably more low-tec, but it tackles an important issue nonetheless: the digital-analog workflow interface. [Read more…]

Two-Day Discount on Productivity Apps (Scanner Pro, PDF Expert, and more)

Just a quick heads up that you can get some good deals on productivity apps by Readdle over the next two days (its their birthday). Readdle apps receive consistently high ratings in the Appstore, so you can get quality apps for bargain prices here.

[Read more…]

Stylus Academicus: What stylus is optimized for handwriting and conceptualizing ideas?

Stylus for handwriting and conceptualizing ideasMany people ask me what stylus I can recommend for taking notes in class or to conceptualize ideas; and for a long time, I became unusually quiet. The truth is: I am somewhat torn about using a stylus. For the most time, I have found neither hardware nor software developed enough for digital handwriting, but this has been changing for some time now with improvements on both sides. And with Bluetooth 4 being introduced in the new iPad, even better styluses are looming around the corner.

It is therefore time to finally enter the stylus debate: Does it make sense to buy a stylus for university and college work? The short answer is: Only if you don’t expect miracles. A true paper-notebook-like experience is impossible until the next generation of styluses rolls around. However, there are a few styluses today that are optimized for handwriting and drawing conceptual maps, and these are worth a try if you are willing to experiment a little in your analog/digital workflow.

This article brings you up to date with what you should look out for when shopping for a stylus today, tells you what I think is the best stylus for academics (spoiler alert: its the Adonit Jot), and discusses what exciting developments in the stylus world are lying ahead. [Read more…]

Notes on notes on… Notability

before we hand notabilityI am a notetaking fiend. Ever since junior high, I’ve had either a stack of pens in various colors or (my fave) the Bic retractable 4-color pen. I would use red ink for  vocabulary words & names of important concepts, blue ink for explanations, green ink for things that struck a chord with me, and black for general info. I also drew pictures & diagrams to help drive concepts home. Yes, my notes were epic. I admit, I do still use those 4-color pens when I’m forced to deal with hardcopy items. Sure, I’ve grown up a little, but I still want the flexibility of using pretty colors & putting awesome pictures in my notes.

 

Enter Notability.

I first stumbled upon Notability through this Cult of Mac post, which was sent to me by @JohnWilson. At that point, I’d been using GoodReader to read & annotate PDFs. I liked GoodReader well enough (and still have it), but I felt a bit restricted in what I could do. I think Notability (iTunes link) was on sale for $0.99 at the time, so I jumped right on it. [Read more…]

11 Essential Apps for your Next Conference Trip

ipad apps for conferenceConference time is one of the best parts of academia! It is a time to meet old friends, make new ones, and challenge our thinking with stimulating discussions and talks.

It is also a time for your iPad to shine: these hand-picked 11 apps will help you in all aspects of the conference – from getting there, to giving your talk, to getting in and out of bed.

 

In the air

You can tell me what you want, but for me the travelling is a time to relax and to get excited about the days ahead. The only problem is: air travel is a pain in the back! And if your funding isn’t getting you anywhere close to business class travel, the next best thing you can do is to create your personal serenity bubble that shelters you from all the chaos around you. I am talking about Games and Meditation apps, my friend!

 

Relax melodiesRelax Melodies (free) is a relaxation and sleep assistant, and it is honestly the first app I open after having boarded a plane. Just pick your own combination of relaxing sounds (try Fire Camp together with Rainstorm!), put on your headphones, close your eyes, and ignore everything until a flight attendant tips you on the shoulder to prepare for take-off. [Read more…]

Backup Part I: How to recover from a Mac crash

Let me begin with words to consider for all academiPad readers: It is not a matter of if technology will fail you, but a matter of when. And unless you enjoy rewriting your dissertation or journal submission from scratch, you must have a backup strategy in place.

Sure it is possible that your devices will never have a hard drive failure or be stolen.  For the lucky, you will never leave your phone in a taxi or accidentally drop it in the washing machine.  But for most, you will be faced with at least one type of “crash” in your future.   After recovering from a hard drive crash on my work computer recently, I thought a two part post dealing with the dreaded “crash” was in order.

The goal here is to spend some time thinking about a “crash” so that when one happens, you will be off to races recovering as smoothly as possible.

So as not to overwhelm ourselves thinking about the “crash”, the topic will be split up into two parts:

Part I – Mac crash
Part II – iOS crash [Read more…]

Three steps for fighting the chaos in your email inbox

If there is one thing I am genuinely afraid of it is my email inbox. Every time I am getting too busy to keep my inbox in check, my Unread Emails counter immediately grows three digits big. And I am not even important! How can we deal with the flood of emails from advisors, colleagues, professors, students, administrators, listservs, and RSS feeds? Here are three steps for taking control over your inbox. [Read more…]

Retina display MacBook Pro and other goodies from WWDC

Retina display MacBook ProYesterday’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote saw a flurry of updates, as Apple unveiled changes in its entire MacBook lineup and showcased new features in the upcoming versions of Mac OS and iOS. You can watch the entire keynote online on Apple’s webpage, but just in case you should have better things to do with your time, here are a few highlights:

 

A new MacBook Pro with Retina display

Apple updated its entire notebook line during yesterday’s event. While the MacBook Airs and the 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros saw minor updates on their specs (the 17 inch MacBook Pro was quietly cancelled), Apple’s new 15 inch Retina display MacBook Pro certainly stole the show. For about $2200, you can give your Mac the Retina display treatment and enjoy crisp clear text and photos. Yep, that is 400 bucks more, so what do you get for that? [Read more…]

8 Mac apps for $40?! Is the Productive Macs bundle worth it? [expired]

Productive Macs bundleEvery once in a while, a group of Mac applications are pulled together in a bundle and offered for a ridiculously low price. Productive Macs is one of those, and it offers you 8 Mac apps for the price of $40. Is it worth it? This review will tell you.

In short: Unless you already have a good information management workflow in place, the Productive Mac bundle is a good investment. DEVONthink and HoudahSpot are two alternative systems to organize all kinds of files – either in a database or through tagging. MacJournal is a great tool for organizing your writing projects, and MailTags seems to be a good way to expand your info management workflow into your email inbox.

The rest of this review gives you some more background on how the eight apps bundled in the Productive Macs offer fit into academic workflows. [Read more…]

iPad in the classroom: New technology meets old challenges

iPad in classroomA growing number of universities and colleges embrace the iPad as a teaching and learning tool inside and outside the classroom by outfitting every student and faculty member with an iPad. What are the results, and what are the challenges? Won’t students be on facebook instead of following the lecture?

My university doesn’t have an “iPad for everyone” programme (yet?), but I stumbled over a document produced by Seton Hill University today. Seton Hill was one of the first universities to embrace the iPad, so there is something to learn from their past experience. This brochure describes how the iPad transformed learning at SHU.

What I found interesting going through this document was that it is not enough just to throw an iPad into every students’ starter kit. In order to fully take advantage of the iPad for teaching and learning, it is important to rethink the infrastructure, curriculum, and training for students and professors alike. [Read more…]

Serious writing with iPad: What keyboard case fits your writing style?

iPad Keyboard CaseThe iPad can be an incredible tool for the serious writer, but only if paired with an external keyboard. Which of the countless alternatives out there is the right keyboard case for you? Its simple: Go for a quality keyboard that fits your writing style. This guide discusses three things you should consider about your writing style, and it reviews ten of my personal favourite keyboard cases.

Before going into the details of quality and writing style, you might wonder what makes the iPad a great tool to do some serious academic writing? I have written a complete post about the benefits of writing with the iPad that I encourage you to check out. In short, during the warmer months I frequently use my iPad to write my dissertation “in the wild” or, as you might call it, the city park. I find this change of place to boost my productivity, and the iPad helps me to get into the flow and stay there. There are other reason that make the iPad a fine machine for academic writers (e.g., battery life, health, comfort, focus, and even screen estate), but an external keyboard is a must. [Read more…]

Writing in the wild: Unleash your flow with a keyboard for the iPad

Writing on the iPadI am finding more and more that the iPad is a really great tool for writing sessions. However, if you are planning to write for an extended period of time, you’re going to need an external keyboard. In this post, I am discussing why the iPad is great for writing everywhere, how my setup looks like, and what good keyboard alternatives are out there for you.

Especially now, as the summer slowly returns to my little town in Canada, I enjoy taking my iPad to the park for morning or late afternoon writing sessions. Writing outside the the ultimate productivity boost for me. Breathing the fresh air and smelling the scents of an unfamiliar surrounding really gets me into my flow – maybe this is mandatory for someone whose dissertation is about the role of nature in sustainable consumption. However, nothing of this would happen without the external keyboard that I throw into my bag before strolling to the park. [Read more…]

Simplenote: A free service to sync notes across all your devices

SimplenoteHave you ever lost an idea or email address you wrote on an obscure piece of paper? Are you constantly emailing yourself to keep all your notes “in sync”? May I introduce Simplenote: A better way to manage information in academia that even poor grad students can afford (it’s free).

Integrating all your devices with each other is a big focus here on academiPad. You can sync your task across iPad, Mac and iPhone via Wunderlist, and minimalist writing apps like ByWord and iA Writer let you sync your writing projects over the cloud. But what about pieces of information that are not really a task, and which are not really something you want to clutter your writing environment with? What about all these little notes academics constantly write down? Are these forever lost on post-it notes or the backside of envelopes? Nope… [Read more…]