I thought I was somewhat of an early adopter but dozens of other people I know have purchased iPads in the last month or were trying to use them all along so this is becoming a frustrating issue. I would strongly suggest that you talk to your school administration about this ahead of time and see how supportive and progressive they are with this so that you are prepared either way. Books can be more expensive than the iPad itself which is a major issue despite how much more convenient it is to read on here.
Notes Plus – I love this app and use it all the time for note taking. And no, it does not convert your handwriting into type! This is the first question people usually ask me about it but I wasn’t looking for that feature at all and am not sure why I would need it. It takes a little getting used to but I would strongly encourage you to invest the time in getting over the learning curve of writing on the iPad.
I have a notebook for each class in this app and could organize it further if I desired. Its easy to switch between colors, draw graphs, shapes, even insert type which makes my notes far more interesting to look at (and remember??) than they used to be. (Not to mention how much more fun it is to doodle when your mind starts to drift!)
You can write freehand on the whole page or my preference is to use the close-up window. This just zooms in on a section of the page and as you write. The box moves kind of like a typewriter so you continue where you left off. It’s not the same as writing on a piece of paper – it’s better, but different, so allow yourself some time to practice before you give up. I love having all my notes in one place where I can easily reference them or send a page or entire notebook to a friend.
Pages – This is Apple’s version of Word and costs $9.99 (relatively a lot for an app.) It has all the basic word processing functionality you would expect and only let’s you email documents or save them to Apple related products, iTunes, iWork, etc. None of which I am using. I will be looking for an alternative to this.
Numbers – Apple’s version of Excel. I only tried to use it once while working on a group assignment due the next morning. Not the time to invest in learning the nuances of a new program. It’s also $9.99 and I’m not sure I’m going to need it. I could have waited on this one.
DropBox – This is what I am using to save files until I can try the new Apple cloud solution that is supposed to come out this fall. It is pretty user friendly and is easy to access from my laptop, iPad, iPhone, home computer or random Internet cafe – I love having all my docs backed up and accessible when I travel. It does have several limitations talking to other apps however. For instance I can pull a file off of it into Pages but can’t push something back up to it from Pages. I realize this is a design limitation in Pages and am going to investigate a different (cheaper?) word processing app as a consequence. Stay tuned.
The app version of DropBox also doesn’t have some of the functionality of the online version so I find myself navigating to it from Safari any time I need to create a folder and move files around. That is a pain. Also, you can share photo folders in the web version pretty easily….but not from the iPad. There is no way to do this from the app itself and when you are on the online site you can’t cut and paste the link they provide from the iPad. I have consequently eliminated this step when sharing photos (see the note on Photos.)
Black Board – If your school uses Chalk for professors and TA’s to post course material this is the app equivalent. It is actually much nicer to use than the online version and worth checking out.
Using the iPad for everything means downloading lots of photos from my travels this summer. I spent the better part of the day yesterday improving that process. ‘m still not sure its the best way but it works pretty well for my purposes. First you need to buy the $30 camera conversion kit from Apple. (http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC531ZM/A) This works with the SD card (or direct USB input) for most cameras. You plug the SD card into the camera dew hickey and plug that into the only input on the iPad (i.e. you cannot charge the device while doing this.) This automatically dumps the photos into the photo app that comes with the iPad. You can’t modify, organize or upload the photos from here so I don’t waste any time with this.
After they are all downloaded I open the Photgene app where, although I still can’t organize anything, I can modify the pictures in a million ways. (This is a very cool app in that regard.) I then select the pictures I want to share with others and upload them to Facebook (or Twitter, Picassa, FTP, Flicker, email etc.) from the app. Then I upload all the pics from there to DropBox so I have them saved and can now delete them (in apple’s photo app) from the iPad so as not to take up all that space. This is bit cumbersome and takes some time over most wifi connections, but this is the best way I’ve found to upload, modify, share and backup photos using only the iPad.
Skype – They just released the iPad app for this which is great and a big improvement from using the iPhone app. I think its pretty amazing to be in my room in Bangkok talking to my parents who have called my AT&T cell phone which I have forwarded to my Skype number for free, anytime I have wifi coverage.
Imo -This app let’s you go gtalk, yahoo chat from the iPad.
Friendly – The only Facebook app I have heard of for the iPad. It has some limitations though. I usually just end up going to the Internet sight in Safari.
Epicurious – Completely unrelated to school, great for dinner ideas!
WSJ – The Wall Street Journal has done a great job with this app which makes it more fun to read news on here then in paper version. Right now the online copy is free with your reduced student subscription rate to the regular paper but they are currently “reviewing their pricing strategy”, so you know what that means. (Unfortunately HBR does not seem to have an equally good app that I can find. There is a third party reader but it seems to have limited functionality so I haven’t played around with it too much, maybe someone else can provide some guidance here.)
Google Translate: This is just an iPhone app but it’s still very cool.
Other favorites: XE Currency Converter, Flixster, Open Table, Starchart, TripIt, Jetsetter.
Alright, that’s enough from me! Tell me your favorite apps and how you are using the iPad for school. I imagine I will have another update on this topic in a few months after I have used it a while longer.
Elizabeth Rogers, an Executive MBA student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, blogs about her journey through an EMBA program for Poets&Quants. Her earlier posts: