Category Archives: iPad Apps

iPad 3 is a Wise Investment for Knowledge Professionals

Click twice to view at full resolution – This is the Home Screen of my new iPad

Updated Oct 26 2012: I just preordered an iPad mini to compliment my iPad 3. And now there is an iPad 4 which replaces the 3. Retina is awesome but I’m expecting the iPad mini arriving November 2 to be good enough for 75% of my use (it is quite a bit better than iPad 2 which isn’t half bad) and very enjoyable being half the weight and thinner than iPhone 5. You decide!

I got the iPad 3 on day one on preorder — the Verizon 64gb model. The 2048 x 1536 pixel retina display is a game changer. A booster rocket from which there is no return. Reviewers had trouble explaining their reactions but calling the retina display transformative nails it.

Based on the information I had, I decided to double-down on iPad and get the best available model. I have not regretted it for a moment.

The Retina display on iPad 3 is a Game Changer

Since the iPad IS a screen, the quadrupling of pixels adds value like no other upgrade could. It’s not a feature like a camera that you might not use. It’s a window to see through. The new screen makes content more real and immediate. You feel like you can reach through the glass.

All apps look a lot better even the ones not upgraded. And the upgrades are rolling in every day. The best, most popular apps are now optimized for this display.

Apple’s retina-ready text engine yields immediate benefits. My favorite text-heavy apps like iBooks, Reeder, iA Writer, Instapaper, Tweetbot and Terminology dazzled on day 1. The new iPhoto app, already a great pleasure in iPad 2, is a joy with photos gaining much greater clarity and color saturation.

One reason I am so happy about all this is that a better iPad means better apps immediately. And, this fuels app purchases fueling the R&D efforts of the most talented app developers.

Ever since the iPhone 4 came out and showed us what’s available with a vastly higher Rez screen, I’ve been waiting for the iPad to follow suit. Now we get a big, easy to operate screen and high resolution in one package.

Who Should Buy a new iPad?

I’m speaking to Knowledge Professionals here and serious students not yet in the work force. Everyone. If you strive to be a professional knowledge worker, then knowledge is your game and your eyes are one of your key assets. Your eyes will thank you. More important is what your level of engagement and sheer pleasure will be in your reading and operation of this device.

When it comes to knowledge, you get what you give. Something becomes interesting, when an interested mind shows up. That interest is nourished by great content and is enhanced by this incredible display — plus all the other wonders of the iPad like a clean, consistent user interface and unparalleled responsiveness to touch.

If you were only playing games and not a game designer, I might hesitate. But, you are a reader, writer, speaker, thinker, designer and possibly artist. Don’t skimp on your axe. Tools matter. This investment is a good one.

My Old iPad 1 or 2 is Working Really Well for Me

If you own an iPad 1, the increased speed and responsiveness is very noticeable. If you own an iPad 2, surely there is someone who would like it. The screen alone is enough. You are a professional or have aspirations to be. This is an investment. Re-read the previous paragraphs, go to an Apple store and bring your iPad with you for comparison purposes. Economize on something else that doesn’t have as much importance for your future. Buying a bargain-priced used iPad 2 is a half measure, but if that’s your best shot right now, go for it.

The Camera and LTE

The Camera. The much better camera should not be completely disregarded even though this update is all about the screen. If you don’t have an iPhone 4 or recent point-and-shoot camera, your iPad 3 might be the best camera you have with you. In any case, the iPad has a much longer battery life than an iPhone or other smart phone. Photography eats batteries alive, you may need the juice the iPad supplies for photography. Once taken, use the new iPhoto app to make the most of the photo in a few moments or longer if you have the time. Use the iPad to send that photo where you want it.

The LTE. It will cost you $129 to have the option to turn on cellular access when wi-fi is not available. I turned on $20 worth (1gb) of data for my first 30 days assuming I will only use LTE or 4G or 3G as a quick fix in the car or in that occasional spot when stranded without wi-fi and needing a connection. So far that’s how it is going in fact I’ve only used 100 mb or 10% in the first few days. Getting LTE in the Mill Valley Safeway parking lot while waiting for my partner to buy a grocery or 2 was a thrill. You’ll like the option to load a page fast on LTE now and then when the *free* wifi is slower than molasses.

Is iPad 3 a Knockout Blow to Competitors?

I expect unprecedented sales for iPad as a result of the retina screen alone. If you thought the masses were lining up behind iPad making it hard for other tablet-makers to compete, get ready for a big uptick. At the same time I fully expect the most hardy tablet makers like Samsung, Amazon, HTC and a few others to raise their games to try to compete. I wish Palm were still in and hope RIM keeps at it. Microsoft, with its installed base globally on PCs, has a shot with its coming Windows 8 tablet. But, it could take a while and who knows what Apple will do for an encore?

News Reading on iPad — Work Flow for Knowledge Professionals

We live in a world of apps and are beginning to move beyond the web browser. There’s a work flow to finding news of interest, skimming or reading it and filing it away in your reading stack or for reference some time in the future. Here’s a way to do it all on your iPad with great pleasure and efficiency. [Post Updated April 30, 2012]

1. Scanning for Interesting Stories, Cherry picking a few short stories to read now, dispatching some for later.

The first step is to go out and see if there are some important, interesting or exciting new stories just out. Actually, if you have an iPad and a good app or two, this doesn’t even require getting out of bed. Go to your easy chair if you must and get a cup of tea or coffee. Now, what has happened since the last time you checked?

I wrote about keeping current in January and covered the apps I think you should know about. You will want to use multiple apps to get the discovery, diversity, ability to focus on your interests and some input from social (what have they found today?). I recommend you try: Tweetbot for iPad, Zite, and River of News – each has a great user experience, customizability and allows you to dispatch what you’ve found for later use.

The Flow for my 3 Favorite Apps:

  • Tweetbot displays your full twitter stream by default but easily allows you to select a particular list. When big stories break, I consult one of my tech-oriented lists first. Otherwise, I start with my full twitter stream. Tweets are short but usually enough to decide whether to read now by tapping the link or to send to Instapaper by tapping and holding the link and selecting Read Later. Tweetbot let’s you read now in luxury with a choice of beautiful Readability themes built-in.
  • Zite opens to top stories with summaries with feature images. Stories are organized in sections. I usually read top stories first and then consult the sections I’m most interested in at the moment. Tap to read a story. Tap to send to your Instapaper (or now Pocket) reading stack, or Evernote for later reference. Thumbs up or down the article, tags, author and publication to further train Zite’s AI for next time.
  • River of News. Scroll through the stories in your RSS subscriptions in Google Reader. As you go, each post is marked as read. I like that feature. Double-tap to send to Instapaper, triple-tap to email full text, tap star to star, swipe to navigate. Efficient! Three other excellent RSS readers are Reeder $5, Mr. Reader $4 and Perfect Reader $2 on sale). Reeder has a companion iPhone app for $3 which makes it arguably better than River of News if you have both devices – synergy is good.

2. Reading in Instapaper

"Instapaper 4.1 Articles View"
Instapaper 4.1

You’ve stacked your current reading, especially long articles in Instapaper because this is where reading is optimal with different themes, fonts, brightness controls, adjustable line height, margins and auto-scrolling. Equal to the best eReaders except for annotation: no notes or highlights allowed.

On March 16, iPad 3 launch day, Instapaper added 6 great new typefaces. Elena is the new default and I love it. If you prefer sans serif, try Proxima Nova. These fresher, better faces are to die for on iPad 3 and eye-pleasing on any iPad.

Instapaper rules for saved for later article reading. Pocket is #2 (more graphical). Other amenities include file folders, archive, sharing to Twitter, email full text and more. If you want to annotate or have read enough to file for future reference, you can dispatch the article to Evernote.

3. Reading & Annotating in Evernote

Always with you. Reading is not at the level of Instapaper, but you get an even better always with you capability with Evernote. It is free on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle and more. Instapaper doesn’t have a desktop app so you have to use a web browser to get there and the experience suffers as a result. There’s a high-end Evernote service that you can add for more storage and some other amenities.

Note Taking / Annotation. You can write a full article in Evernote and have that power including bullets, numbered lists, variable headings and more. This ability to write and annotate is a big advantage of Evernote. The trade-off is that it takes longer to get the full-text of an article into Evernote than it does to file to a folder in Instapaper. I save the really good stuff to Evernote so I can engage with it.

Annotation. Even more often than writing notes in Evernote, I will highlight key passages. I can also color text and style it as I can in writing my own notes.

This work flow is almost too easy and enjoyable to call it a work flow.  It works especially well on the iPad whose big screen and multitouch is wonderful for skimming, reading and annotation. I now know what this is like on an iPad 3 and it is really stunning.

Keeping Current – Best iPad Apps for Knowledge Professionals

Knowledge professionals live, prosper or die by their ability to keep current in their chosen fields. Besides your own knowledge niche, you need to keep current with events of the day that matter to your associates and constituents. A lapse in specialized or general knowledge reflects badly on you and may affect your ability to create value for your clients and associates. This is the fifth in a series of posts about using the iPad as a versatile mobile tool to accomplish essential knowledge functions.

We live and work in a mesh of people and information. Maybe there was a time when professionals just went to work and did their jobs. In these confusing, complex and rapidly changing times, important informal partnering and value exchanges occur constantly with our colleagues, vendors and clients. These major and micro-exchanges can make all the difference. But I digress.

This post begins the topic of Keeping Current and how you might best use an iPad to stay abreast of events and information in your field, your other areas of interest, your location and the world at large. Our focus today will be on News reading. My follow up post will finish up with Social News reading — with Flipboard leading the pack. Then I will get into reading after news capture with a discussion of reading apps like Instapaper and note/storage apps like Evernote.

Essentials of Keeping Current

Discovery. I want to be able to discover new news sources, authors and specific news items efficiently. I don’t know in advance what is going to be important. I want to be able to skim to sift through the new news.

Focus. I want to focus on the areas, sources and authors I find most interesting and valuable. This is in conflict to some extent with discovery but is equally important.

Diversity. Another value is that I want to see enough diversity in the news to get different view points that cause me to think and continue to refine my thinking and gain whole new perspectives and new concepts and knowledge.

Ways to Stay Current

There are many ways to stay current. Here are a few:

  1. Watching television news.
  2. Reading the morning newspaper(s) and weekly magazines via paper.
  3. Reading the morning newspaper(s) and weekly magazines via the internet or other electronic means.
  4. Creating your own aggregated set of news sources via RSS feeds and perusing the new entries that have come in since you last checked.
  5. Following news provided by those in your social or professional circles via means like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and new apps like Flipboard.

I’m going to skip over #1 and #2 as the dominant traditional means of staying current that have been losing share to electronic, internet and app-based methods. Further, I’m going to only cover #3 briefly as I think these methods are imitative of paper publications and are still finding their way as new media. I don’t think the biggest value add is here.

#3 News and Magazine apps on the iPad

I don’t know whether we are just in the era of rampant ADD or what but it seems in the last 15 years since web browsing began, we’ve become a nation of skimmers and surfers. Somehow the genie is out of the bottle now and I’m not willing anymore to be a recipient of news fed to me in a canned way, however literate, from one publisher. I am no longer interested in relying on the New York Times to find out what is going on. But, I am interested in having a newspaper constructed on the fly for me based on my interests and drawn from many sources not just one. That’s now possible and I find it desirable and efficient. If you like these single publication apps, go for it. Some other top publications like the Wall Street Journal and The Economist may serve you perfectly, but there is this new alternative that I really like…

Zite: Combo Custom News App

The new way to read like before but better is via an app like Zite. It has sections like the New York Times but there are distinct differences. You can choose among Zite’s standard sections to create your own newspaper and you can add custom sections. For example, I have separate sections for iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle along with standard sections like Politics and World News. I like being able to my favorite topics front and center.

Even better, with Zite, I can thumbs up and thumbs down different articles and then have Zite give me more of what I liked and less of what I didn’t. So, for example, my Philosophy & Spirituality (a standard section in Zite) has gradually evolved to give me more about Zen and less fundamentalist Christian pieces. The Politics section has shifted to the Left.

Besides this customization, Zite respects my preferences in another important way. I can send the articles I want to keep to Instapaper or Evernote or email the full text. Now, every publication won’t allow Zite to do this, but most will one way or another (sometimes they require you to go to their website first). I resent apps that restrict me to email the URL to myself, Evernote or a colleague. I know they have to make a living too, but still. Zite recently introduced an excellent iPhone version that is excellent for reading news on the small screen.

RSS Readers

In the early days of blogging circa 2003 – 2005, bloggers used RSS readers. This allowed us to subscribe to each other’s blogs and browse new blog posts from the blogs we followed. I’m still doing it and it still works well but I have to admit to also using Zite and in a minute I’ll be talking about social news apps.

RSS Readers Defined. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, an RSS reader allows you to automatically received new blog posts from any blogs whose RSS feeds you’ve subscribed. The most popular RSS Reader on the web is Google Reader. You use a free Google email account to use Google Reader and add subscriptions there. All you need to do is enter in the url for the blog you want to add to your RSS reader. You can add or delete from your list of feeds as desired.

The essentials that RSS Readers excel at are Focus and Diversity. You can flood yourself with a ton of feeds that cover many subjects that you care about (Focus), and by subscribing to a lot of different sources within each subject, you get diversity. However, one key aspect of discovery doesn’t happen as well. You don’t get new sources and new topics as much. We all like a new discovery so you may need to go to Zite or social news apps for that spice.

There are several really good RSS News Readers for the iPad and I have my four favorites: Perfect RSS Reader, Mr. Reader, Reeder and River of News. All draw the articles from Google Reader, the web site. I’m not mentioning some other RSS readers like Byline.  If you want a more magazine-like experience, you may prefer Pulse, Pulp, Read or Newstream.

It may very well be that the days of these more traditional newsreaders is numbered on the iPad due to the appeal of magazine-like presentation. Of these magazine-a-likes, I’m currently reading Newstream the most. I’ve used it to go straight to some of my tech favorites like The Verge, GigaOm, MacStories, Monday Note, TechMeme and AppleInsider and the Atlantic. There is a wealth of good apps here that are furiously competing with each other and getting better all the time.

Perfect RSS Reader – $2 regularly $5. Newcomer whose aesthetics I like. What can I say I like the antiqued look. I like the split screen with articles listed with descriptions on the left and full articles on the right. With lots of functionality available with discrete buttons at the bottom. My current newsreader of choice. But you really should occasionally check out the competition because you never know when one will jump ahead of the others. I own all four of these.

Reeder – $5. King of the hill until really good competition took note and copied and then elaborated on what Reeder had done on iPhone and then iPad. I still prefer Reeder on my iPhone which is where I think it still dominates the straight RSS reader category. Besides being classy and great at what it does and innovative. Reeder has an wonderful Mac app which I like when I’m taking a quick news break on my Mac.

Mr. Reader – $4. Uber Powerful. Perfect if you like a list with some description for each and don’t want the full article except when you really do want it. This can work well if you mostly read elsewhere which many people do. You skim here and just hit the arrow to move the winners to Instapaper or Evernote in full when publication allows it.

River of News – $2. I used this app for probably a year and really enjoyed 2 key features combined. I could just spin through the river of articles and I set the preference to mark them read as I went through them. That feature alone can be helpful if you want to actually get through all your feeds. Simple clean interface without the column on the side. Worth your $2 if you haven’t tried it and think it sounds like something you might like. Simplicity is appealing and I may come back home here one of these days. I sure haven’t deleted this app from my iPad.

Social News Apps

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – we will save for part 2. Twitter is the originator of the short status update and is the winner for social news for the knowledge professional. Twitter consists of 140 character blurbs of information-laden content shared publicly for others read. This service has proven so valuable that it has been adopted in a lesser form as Status Updates by Facebook, LinkedIn and many others. Sharing links to blog posts and youtube videos is dominant and thus forms a source of news that shouldn’t be ignored.

Status Updates on Twitter and elsewhere and tools that stand on the shoulders of these tools is a large and burgeoning area that I will address as a separate blog post. For now, just keep in mind that keeping current can’t be complete without the use of these tools in some capacity. On the iPad, I would start with Flipboard.

Writing on the iPad, Part 2 – Rich Text Options

This is part two of my inquiry into the current state of serious writing apps for the iPad. For most iPad-toting knowledge professionals, I would recommend my favorite Dropbox text editors as a good but stopgap option. I explain the advantages in that post. I also mention that rich text is more fun at minimum. If you are so inclined to make something bold as you are writing, you should be able to do that. We’ve come to expect this and for good reason.

Unfortunately, rich text options on the iPad are still limited. The main two places to find some rich text editing on iPad is in Word Processors like Pages and the Word options in Office compatible apps like Documents to Go and in a some Notebook and Note-taking apps. I will cover my favorites.


Just a quick word on Mail. In iOS 5, Mail received the ability to bold, italicize and underline text. Yay for that. A little bit of rich text creeping into the iPhone and iPad. Rich text has a future, it’s just a little slow in rolling out.

Traditional Word Processors

Time is running out for the traditional word processor. We don’t write documents all the time anymore. We don’t write letters. Word Processing was designed for paper communications which are gradually dying out. However, the alternatives that are growing up to take their place are rarely as powerful and full-featured.

This option is especially useful to those who have a predilection for Microsoft Word or Pages on the desktop. It is not uncommon for computer users to use one application for almost everything. You have an application you are comfortable and competent with and tend to look there when attempting to do something with a document. That’s not a bad way to go although sometimes you’ll be trying to use your tool of choice on projects that don’t fit very well…

Pages is available on the iPad and there are several Office compatible apps that include Word-a-like functionality. Let’s take a look. All of these will give you rich text capabilities.

Pages ($10 – #3 Top Grossing iPad app). If you are already using Pages on your Mac, Pages on the iPad is the first place you should look for a word processor. Pages for iPad is much less powerful than Pages on Mac but it is more powerful than any dropbox text editor by a country mile. And it looks good and feels good to use. If you haven’t already bought Pages, look and see if it has the power you are seeking. The main drawback to Pages for iPad is that it doesn’t support Dropbox or other options besides iCloud. If you have gotten up and running with iCloud, this is your best bet.

The promise of iCloud is transparent syncing from Mac to iPad and back. I haven’t read enough manuals yet to be assured that iCloud is safe yet. If you have MobileMe, multiple Apple IDs and generally are dragging your feet regarding the still largely unproven iCloud, you will be stuck using iTunes to get documents from Mac to iPad and back. It works but is clumsy compared to Dropbox options. When iCloud just works, it will reign supreme.

Office-a-likes. There are three leading Office-compatible apps on the iPad with variations: Documents to Go Premium ($19 – Word 2007, 2010 only #18 on Top Grossing iPad app), QuickOffice Pro HD ($20 – Doc & Docx #13 on Top Grossing iPad app) with Office2 HD ($8 – Doc & Docx) lagging behind. These are a little more expensive and I have not purchased any of these so I will bottom line what I’ve garnered in my research online. Documents to Go is the most Office-compatible but probably the least Mac-like. QuickOffice has the best user interface among these but slips down a notch in compatibility. Office2 HD is somewhere in between.

This is a bit of a pick your poison situation. If you must be compatible you are least likely to get an unpleasant surprise with Documents to Go which has a special capability that carefully preserves your desktop Office documents in full. QOPHD and O2HD sacrifice a little in compatibility for other virtues. Pages also opens and saves to Word format but will omit features in Word that it doesn’t understand. Don’t use Pages, QO or OHD2 to edit any but the most basic Word document created on the desktop that will get distributed as a Word doc.

Notebook & Note-taking Apps with Rich Text

Since we’ve already run out of options for word processors that can do rich text, the next stop is Notebook apps that can do Rich Text. I’m going to limit our discussion to notebook apps that are oriented towards allowing you to write something that resembles a document as opposed to putting in text boxes when you want to type (these are more like working in page layout mode – better for notes than more serious writing projects I think). These notebooks will flow the text and assume that text reigns above and beyond other objects which might be inserted.

OK. We are are simply writing here anyway, so does it matter whether you write in a word processor? Maybe it is OK to write in your notebook where you’ve put everything about this topic including images, web clips, your random notes, outlines, the works.

Keep in mind that you need to be able to get that writing back out of your notebook when you publish or distribute it in some way or other.

Evernote (Free). Just recently, Evernote for iPad has added the ability to edit notes and use rich text fairly extensively including bold, italic, strikethru, underline and the unexpected: highlight! You also get numbered lists and checkboxes. And Headings, Subheads, Paragraphs and Blockquotes. These are web-oriented but the web is a big piece of the action these days. Kindle’s new eBook format for the Kindle fire is HTML-based and ePub docs are full of HTML as well.

Evernote allows multiple notebooks and can be used free with lots of storage possible. Freemium  is done right. You are induced to upgrade with extra features, but the free version works really well on its own.

I did find some difficulty getting my rich text out of Evernote on the iPad. I found that if I synced the formatted text note to the cloud and opened the note on my Mac, I could copy and paste it into textedit and get rich text just fine with the exception that checkboxes for to do items did not come over. However, I couldn’t get rich text to paste into the iPad version of Pages.

I’m overall impressed and see Evernote for iPad as a viable rich text writing app. Evernote has gotten a huge amount of funding this year and looks like a really nice product with a great future. It is awesome for notes and support of multiple devices plus any web browser.

Circus Ponies Notebook ($30). Notebook supports rich text and has from the beginning. It is an alternative that has more bells and whistles than evernote including diagramming, scribbling, audio recording and outlining and colored text (actually, I like Evernote’s highlighting better but that’s a personal preference).

Circus Ponies Notebook is just beginning to hit its stride. It’s such a powerful app that it needs a lot of work to make all that functionality user-friendly by touch. At the price of free, Evernote is easier to like and recommend. On the other hand if you love the Mac version of Circus Ponies Notebook, you’ll be really happy to be able to bring your amazing notebooks with you on the road and around town.

All Purpose Writing Tools

Scrivener. This is a small category right now. I love Scrivener for Mac as an all purpose writing tool. It has outlining, index cards, rich text, supports markdown and much more. Unfortunately, Scrivener isn’t available on the iPhone or iPad. However, the makers of Scrivener, Literature & Latte have just announced a new project to bring Scrivener to iPad and iPhone in 2012.

Storyist ($10). In the meantime, a similar product dedicated to fiction writing does exist for iPad. It has outlining, index cards and rich text right now. Storyist has a Mac counterpart as well and really does best when used with the Mac counterpart which has more power. As a specialized writing app, Storyist is impressive. I bought it and hoped to twist it a bit to work for non-fiction. I’m sure it can be done but it looked to be difficult.

If you write fiction check out Storyist as an option and keep an eye out for Scrivener. I would guess it will be the latter half of 2012 before it shows up.