Category Archives: iPad

MacBook Air 11 + iPad 2 – Best of Both Worlds

My new MacBook Air 11 and iPad 2

I am writing an in-depth series of blog posts about iPad apps for knowledge professionals right now and I am nearing the half-way point. Along the way, I’ve decided to buy a MacBook Air 11 to compliment my iPad 2. I specifically got the MacBook Air 11 as my primary Mac and as a mobile device I could carry with my iPad 2 which I won’t leave home without. Why both? That’s my topic today.

Torn between Two Lovers

The iPad 2 has become indispensable to me. It is truly enjoyable to use, is the least onerous computer I’ve ever encountered. There are apps on there that are better than any Mac app, take Thinkbook, for one of many examples. I also tote an iPhone 4, but that’s a given. One might think the iPhone 4 + MacBook Air would be enough, but the iPad screen real estate makes for lots of apps that don’t exist on iPhone 4.

I have been a MacBook Air owner since December 2008 with the 128gb SSD 2nd gen model. As soon as I experienced the ease and freedom of using the 3 pound Air and the instant gratification of the solid state drive, I was hooked. Within a week or two, I swore not to ever buy a full-sized laptop again. My previous main Mac was a 15″ MacBook Pro but I was willing at that point to sacrifice CPU speed and screen real estate for human-friendliness even then. I already had a 24″ iMac when I bought the Air and kept my 15″ MBP as a backup. Except for using the iMac as a place to hook up extra external drives, these machines have gotten less than 5% of my time ever since.

I work out of my home as a self-employed computer/technology consultant and FileMaker software developer with my own software product. I don’t need to visit clients very often. I can work wherever I have a computer. In my case, FileMaker Pro development must occur on a Mac or PC (Mac!). The iPad and iPhone versions of FileMaker, allow access to FileMaker data but not development work. My colleagues and clients work with me remotely most times so I like to get out to my local cafe every day. I combine that with an exercise walk downtown and back through Tiburon’s St. Hilary’s Preserve Open Space.

New MacBook Air 11. Even though I already had upgraded to the MacBook Air 13 2010, everything clicked into place when the new Air 11 came out in July when Lion was released. The 2010 Air 11 was a little underpowered I thought but the new Air is extremely fast, so no complaints there. Carrying both the Air 13 and iPad 2 was a bit heavy for my daily walk downtown so I usually took the iPad 2 and left my Air 13  and a lot of my professional work options at home. Until now. The new Air 11 is a potent Mac whose only limitation is its 11″ screen. Lion seems built for that small screen with its new fullscreen mode. In Lion, fullscreen apps have extra features and work great swiping left or right to change to different spaces — each full screen instance gets its own virtual space.

iPad is in Transition and Still Benefits from a Mac. Yes, the iPad 2 is a Post PC device, but writing my series on using it as a knowledge professional put its current weaknesses front and center. I decided lack of a Finder and the necessity to use Open In… to move documents and images around is a pain right now. Yes, I do it with the aid of Dropbox, but I don’t like doing it. It is laborious and any other creative task tends to run into the limitations of the siloing of iPad apps when compared to the seamless experience on a Mac when doing the same thing. This must change, and meanwhile I want to enjoy the iPad to the full in its current state with its incredible new apps more compelling and varied by the day.

Tiny Incase bag can hold Air 11 + iPad 2 + Kindle 3

Carrying Both iPad 2 and Air 11. The day I bought the Air 11 (August 20), I also bought the $59 Incase Nylon Sleeve bag (I see the 13″ version on sale for $29 at goincase.com. It’s really well-made, small, very light, and has some nice extra pockets for cables, wallets etc.. This bag will also accommodate my iPad with a little help from a minimalist sleeve around it so it can slip in right beside the naked Air 11. I got a $19 suede jacket leather sleeve from Waterfield bags (sfbags.com). The Incase bag is super-padded so the plan worked! I can actually carry my MacBook Air 11, iPad 2 and Kindle 3 in this bag – putting the Kindle 3 naked in the full-length outside pocket. Pretty amazing when you want everything with you on the road in a compact, good-looking bag. The removable shoulder strap is to die for. The fold-away handles are great when you don’t need the shoulder strap.

How’s that 11″ Screen Working for Me? Sometimes it feels a bit small, of course, but mostly you just use it and it seems just fine. The mobility and comfort compensate and make up for the small decrease in screen space. If you already have an iPad and regard it as an essential part of your kit bag, you too may find the Air 11 it’s best companion.

The Shrinking Laptop. As a computer professional, I won’t be abandoning the Mac any time soon. But, devices like the iPhone taught me that I could get an amazing amount of work done on an iPhone (I bought it on day one: June 29, 2007). Then the iPad, with it’s larger canvas showed how helpful a little more room is. But these devices reduce one’s tolerance for bulky devices that are heavy. In an always connected world, you want your devices more mobile. In a digital world, you are using devices more and paper less. You need devices that are more like paper. The Air 11 is the most paper like PC available and it is a very powerful Mac!

Maybe the iPad will do it all Soon. The imminent release of iCloud may make the Air less important because it will allow better file access but a lot of the ease there will depend on apps being modified to support iCloud’s new features. This process will take some time to play out. I’ll still need the Mac to develop on FileMaker – at least for a bit longer (who knows what future versions FileMaker Go and FileMaker will bring). And my favorite all-purpose writing tool, Scrivener, doesn’t seem ready to release an iPad version just yet. I didn’t want to wait, and this new Air 11 will be long in the tooth before all the pieces of Apple’s strategy mature. Meanwhile, I’m having a fantastic time with my portable office.

Organizing your Thoughts and Information on the iPad – Best Apps

The iPad didn’t fare so well in our last episode. Gathering thoughts and information is hard to do when you don’t have a way to search your entire device and have to jump through hoops to move data and docs from one app to another. The gathering function on iPad is a work in progress for sure so your best to go back to the Mac (or PC) as needed to fill any gaps. These limitations of the iPad should gradually diminish as the apps mature and the platform adds innovative file management into iOS5. I expect iCloud to be part of this fix.

Let’s assume you’ve gotten the gathering step together on your iPad with a little judicious help from your Mac or PC. First, we explore the nature of organizing as it applies to creative projects. Then on to the best apps available to take on this challenge.

The Nature of Organizing

We aren’t organizing our car, office or desk. We are organizing all that we know, have thought, are thinking and have gathered so that it will serve our creation process. Here are the pieces of this process:

  1. Grouping. Time to group up what you’ve gathered as best you can. Maybe you will find different kinds of things — you could put them into groups by kind. Maybe you have things that apply to your introduction, issues, examples. Try grouping them and you might get some more ideas with the added advantage that you’ll be able to find things more easily as you create your project.
  2. Arranging. Arranging goes beyond grouping and includes consideration of proximity and positioning. For example, you could put something in the center and other related items grouped around it. If all these things are on a table, a white board or a tool that allows this sort of layout, you’ll be able to see them. Items put front and center are central or more important than those put on the outside edges. What you are looking for here is a birds eye view of your problem/project. You want to see everything at once – grok it in its entirety in a glance or detailed perusal.
  3. Rearranging. This is the same as arranging but the extra point to consider is, how quickly and easily can you rearrange when you want to look at things differently?
  4. Identifying Relationships Between Things. This is another place where visual tools help. For example, you can draw a solid or dotted line between Idea A and Idea B. You could put an arrow head on both ends or one end of that line.
  5. Characterizing Items/Ideas. Here’s where size matters. Something really important might be larger than a less important detail. Colors could be used in color-coding or for the added feelings they bring. Photos and icons can be added to the mix to wake up the right brain.
  6. Ordering. This is the linear part of organizing and is most efficient if the app you are using can do outlines. A good outliner gives you a quick and easy way to sequence items and organize them under subheads. You can also hide or show elements of the outline to focus on certain pieces of the puzzle.
  7. Mind-mapping. Mind-mapping is a visual version of outlining with more emphasis on positioning and visualizing. The better mind-mapping tools will let you have more than one node, comments, icons or flags on items, colors and other capabilities more often found in a pure drawing or diagramming tool.

The Best Apps for Organizing

If you were relying on the physical world alone, you might do what detectives do and create a murder room for your project. You then can put all the books, files, charts, drawings, photos and what not together in this room and hang out there for inspiration. Breakthroughs can come from dwelling in, on, around, and amongst the problem/topic and its data. Scientists hangout in their labs. Let’s see how the iPad and its best app-makers handle this challenge.

Notebooks and Outliners

My three favorite notebook apps are Circus Ponies Notebook, Thinkbook and Noteshelf. I’m going to throw Omnioutliner in here as a fourth option since it is a pure outliner with some special qualities you may find useful.

Circus Ponies Notebook ($30). Best App. This ambitious full-featured app is still having some growing pains and will benefit from further refinement and dropbox or iCloud support to help you get things into it (gathering). As mentioned in my last post, there is a Mac version that is mature and amazingly feature rich that can be used in conjunction with the iPad version. That’s a big plus. Here’s the concept. You have a single portable container in which to create a set of pages in an outline and you can put images, attachments, stickers, text and outlines on pages. There’s a drawing layer and voice annotation. Text is styled and colored. You can do all the organizing I describe above, you can rearrange easily and it has awesome search capabilities. You want it all integrated and as of this writing, it doesn’t get any better than this. There is no complimentary iPhone app at this time and none is promised (implication: don’t leave home without your iPad!).

Thinkbook ($5). If you can live with text alone in a powerful outlining environment with some juicy and innovative features, this may be your app. Thinkbook offers slick touch manipulation, tabs, to do items, smart search widgets and an amazing controller called the slider. The slider, lets you quickly rearrange items and move them between notebooks. You can define pages, notebooks within pages or notebooks. Flexibility reigns supreme here. This is such a good app that it’s worth buying just so you can evaluate it for yourself. The price is right and the developer promises that images and full dropbox support are coming. Simplicity has its own pleasures and utility.

Noteshelf ($5). If visualizing is what you are after and handwriting with your finger or stylus is your idea of a good time, this could be your tool of choice. Excellent ink smoothing. Great free and cheap backgrounds for your pages. You can insert different backgrounds for different pages. I recommend something minimal like Penultimate for a handwriting tool in the brainstorming phase. But in the organizing step, you can take more time and the extra features like more pens, separate pages and highlighters are helpful. If you use Noteshelf regularly, use it for brainstorming too. The extra features won’t get in your way when brainstorming if you have mastered the app.

Freeform is the operative word. More like paper. If you can’t type well or you are in a setting where typing would be awkward, handwriting is your only option. If you are a fast typist on-screen, carry a small bluetooth keyboard, and/or prefer digitI like getting digital text and can type so using this kind of app when typing on the screen seems a bit much such when meeting with other people. But if you want to sketch out the big picture, you could do it here.

Three other Notes Apps with Visual Aspects: These other apps have other strengths listed in parentheses: Notes Plus (type text blocks, optional shape recognition), Note-taker HD  (type text blocks, insert wide variety of shapes, arrows and form items) and Notability (typing text is the main event, drawing and images added in dedicated popovers). I’ll do a Notes post soon. I promise!

OmniOutliner ($20). Rich and creamy iOS UI with excellent generic outlining. That’s about all for now. You can insert images via copy and paste but cannot resize them.

Mind-mappers


There are a few other mind-mapping tools on iPad, but there is one that seems to be in first place by a mile so I will simply recommend it here:

iThoughts HD ($10). Circus Ponies Notebook doesn’t do mind maps. So, if you are serious about your iPad and creative projects, you might want to toss this excellent full-featured mind-mapper into your toolbox (your iPad). It will let you spread out your ideas in a visual set of hierarchies. You can add color, icons, notes, separate items off to the side. Great exporting. You could always attach a PNG or PDF of your Mindmap to your Circus Ponies Notebook.

Diagrammers


Omnigraffle for iPad ($30). I own it and occasionally try using it. Glad I have it to whip up a pretty diagram. But I like the other tools that include outlining logic or are a bit simpler like what comes in Noteshelf most of the time.

Index Cards


Index Card ($5). The preeminent index card app on the iPad is called Index Card. It is a great app for smaller, quicker organizing projects. You can’t put in images, but you can assign individual cards to any of 14 attractive colors. You can color-code and assign labels to the colors if you wish. You can stack cards into named stacks. You can rearrange those cards but not group them. The ultimate cards app is on Mac in Scrivener with its new (as of version 2) free-form card arranging mode. Either way, this can be just enough visualizing to help you get that birds eye view on small-scale organizing projects. Major extras: (1) exports to RTF and (2) Syncs card title and front text to Scrivener via Dropbox.

Update April 9 2012

Upon further reflection and further progress in the field of iPad, I have a few more places to point you. One conclusion is that, as Steve Jobs has said all along, simple has a lot going for it and often trumps fancier, more functional and grandiose efforts.

CarbonFin Outliner.  Consider using Outliner as an inexpensive and get-the-job done tool and save OmniOutliner, if you can pop for the price, for when you are in a slower mode or like the synchrony with its Mac counterpart. Has an iPhone counterpart and a website counterpart. [$5]

Lovely Charts. With not nearly the feature list of Omnigraffle, Lovely Charts replaces Omnigraffle on my home page for diagramming because it is more simple, agile and easy to use. [$5]

Paper. Designed to support creative thought more than anything. Still in very early days but with an Ink engine to kill for. An immense pleasure to use for those cocktail napkin diagrams that make all the difference. [free with 4 $2 tools as in app upgrades]

Corkulous Pro. I can’t stand the smiley face icon, but Corkulous has some advantages over and compliments Index Card. First, Corkulous has an iPhone version. Even if you don’t create on iPhone (which you can if a little on the cramped side), you can see your previously created or in progress cork boards. Its strength relative to Index Card, which I still love, is that the boards are huge but you can zoom in and you can have cork boards within cork boards ad infinitum. [$5]

Writing Kit. Not so much going on the visual side although you can insert photo links and view them in preview. But ambitious with built-in web search and web browsing with a queue and outlining via Markdown. Create a text document for your latest budding idea.  Well thought-out, ambitious app. [$5 ]

Gathering your Thoughts and Information on the iPad – Best Apps

OK, you’ve brainstormed to get a sense of the possibilities for your project and you’re ready to get going. The next logical step in the process is to gather everything you’ve already done and all the clippings you have saved in anticipation of this day. It would be great if the iPad could help you gather what you need into a single work area so you could then draw upon those materials in your project and add things as you find them as you go along.

The iPad is currently limited in its gathering functionality. I think and hope these limitations are temporary while Apple comes up with their new Finder replacement and iCloud services. Meanwhile, the show must go on. I’ll go through those limitations first and then talk about what I think are the best ways to go about gathering on the iPad, the best apps to use while doing so. The Mac doesn’t share any of the limitations found on the iPad, so unless you have no choice, you’ll want to include it in your gathering work flow. I’ll make some recommendations here as well.

My Mac dictionary has this to say about gathering in general: “bring together and take in from scattered places or sources“.

Gathering: How the iPad Stacks Up

  1. Search – a way to locate relevant items quickly. If a lot of your info items tend to be tagged, you’ll want to take advantage of tag searches. Spotlight search is severely limited on the iPad. There’s no way to search the entire device.
  2. Ability to combine information items, notes, images, media with a variety of different file formats, created in a variety of apps. If you have your Mac handy, you can hook your iPad up, run iTunes, select the Apps tab, scroll down, select the app you want to make a file available to and drag it into the iTunes app window. My favorite app for combining is Circus Ponies Notebook ($30) but you need to use iTunes and a Mac to load the files you want in. This is far from ideal. Even though many of the documents you want may be on dropbox or already on your iPad in other apps, you will be stymied in moving them over to CP Notebook. No dropbox support as yet. No emailing the document from another app to yourself and then using “Open in…” to get it into Notebook. Not yet. Another way to go with Notebook is to start the Notebook on your Mac if you have CP Notebook for Mac ($50), and load it up with goodies from your Mac. Then transfer the file over to your iPad via iTunes. That works. You can insert images directly from your photos on the iPad at least.
  3. Some sort of space on which to position or collect these items. You’ll need a digital location to assemble what you’ve got in one place. In the old days, you might work on the living room floor or on a table, putting everything you need in that place. But most of our assets are digital these days so working analog will slow you down. You could arrange them in the order you find them, but you might be able to group them a bit as you go along even though that grouping is far from final. The ideal space exists in Circus Ponies Notebook except for the need to use a tethered Mac and iTunes to make combining work beyond copy and paste or inserting images from your iPad photo library.
  4. A way to preserve this collection and order over time. Since you don’t have all your stuff spread out on the floor, desk or conference table, you have digital room to keep what you’ve gathered. Circus Ponies Notebook does great on the preservation of order in a notebook with the caveats just mentioned.
  5. A way to organize this collection as we see opportunities to do so or a simple way to export what we’ve got to a second tool that works really well for organizing. Based on an outline at its core, Circus Ponies Notebook wins here. There are other options like Notability, I just prefer the greater robustness of Notebook.
  6. Mobility if we can get it. It would be great to be able to gather while on the road and then take that collection of gathered items along with us when we go out. You can take your Notebook with you on your iPad, if you’ve loaded it up prior. You just can’t gather at full tilt while out. You can manipulate what you’ve got but that’s really organizing now isn’t it? And that’s a separate post.

Other Gathering Gambits

Dropbox. This dire need in the gathering stage has been addressed in a piecemeal way by the dropbox app. Dropbox is a place in the cloud that can sync to your iPad, Mac and iPhone. There’s a free Dropbox app that lets you go in and grab things. Some files like plain text can work well here and some apps are good at accessing and saving to dropbox.

Plain Text. Dropbox has been used best with plain text files. There are scads of plain text notes apps that support dropbox. Some of them give you the ability to access all of dropbox not just a single folder. If you like working in text and only text, you are in business. You can gather your text notes in a big project folder with subfolders perhaps. Simplenote allows tagging but not folders. Nebulous Notes lets you gather your notes together in multiple folders in dropbox. Unless you’ve embraced this plain text for everything method, you’ll be far from happy. If you are a Mac user, you expect more. Much more. However, if your writing projects are destined for the web, plain text rules and you can learn Markdown to make it pretty. Apps like Nebulous Notes (powerful) or Elements (elegant) will preview for you so you can see what you’ll get when web-published. I see Nebulous Notes now has a way to export your text to PDF which may work well sometimes when you want to go through a copy of what you’ve written and annotate it to note where changes should be made.

Evernote. If you keep all your notes and web clips in Evernote and tag religiously, you could create an Evernote notebook for a project. Simply give all relevant notes the same project identifier as a tag. The beauty of Evernote is that you can search all your notes from iPad and iPhone as well as the web or your Mac (or PC). Gathering could be a reasonable option for this. The few drawbacks I see are that (1) Evernote is kind of slow for quick note-taking, (2) is plain text only on iPhone and iPad, (3) there’s no outlining capability and (4) Ordering is pretty rudimentary – limited to putting things in a notebook and tagging. The slowness issue can be addressed with a new third party universal iPad/iPhone app called Quick Ever ($1). Evernote is one of the better options. You will need to be monogamous about putting all your notes, web clips, PDFs etc. into Evernote for this plan to work, though (some like me find that difficult). A Premium Evernote account ($5/mo or $45/yr) will allow you to add more file types to Evernote including office docs.

Outliners. A robust outliner that can hold the digital items you gather would help right now. The reason I like an outliner is that it gets us ready to organize by putting our items into a tool that allows you to drag things up and down, insert and hierarchically order without difficulty and with speed. There’s little to no friction in the process, so why not gather in the tool that will also facilitate organizing when you are done.

We’ve talked about my favorite gathering outliner, Circus Ponies Notebook, above and noted its shortcomings. Rightly, I think, Circus Ponies has focused so far on moving its great functionality over from the Mac and postponed trying to make up for the file management shortcomings that currently exist on the iPad. Surely Apple would deliver the goods and save Circus Ponies the work of doing file management from scratch like Good Reader has done. I think an outliner is a whole lot better place to gather your thoughts and ideas than a set of plain text files is. An outliner lets you move things around. Even if you can’t do much inserting of different document types on the iPad, just being able to re-order things gives you a jumpstart on the next step in the process – the organizing step.

Two More Top Outliner Apps to Look At

The truth is that, the ideal tool is not yet available for the iPad. There are the best in class tools but the real limiting factor for gathering on an iPad is the lack of a file management system. Because each app has its own sandbox and has very limited ways of moving data to and from other apps, you’ll have to compromise and piece together a strategy.

OmniOutliner. OmniOutliner for iPad ($20) rocks if you can limit yourself to styled text. It’s sexy and you can add extra columns to your outlines which is kind of cool. You can add outline items easily and move them around as you please. But try to get information into the outline and you find it very limited. You can paste a graphic file in from the clipboard. But once it is in, you can’t change its size. There is no Insert… command which will let you select an image from your photo library. What would be even better is a way to select from any image on your iPad no matter which app created it. There is no dropbox support so forget about the images that might be there. However, there is an awesome OmniOutliner for Mac ($40-60) that would allow some upfront gathering there and then transfer of the outline to iPad for on-the-go gathering and organizing later on.

Thinkbook. Step down a notch from OmniOutliner and give up styled text. But in its place, get a cooler outliner, to do items (which CP Notebook has), a very slick way to re-order items fast with Bitolithic’s slider. And, keep all your notebooks together and quickly accessible via the home page. Outlining like no other but limited to text for now. Thinkbook is very new. If you can live in text you can get outlining and text together with importing of text and exporting of text with dropbox support. They already have images on their to do list. This is a thinking tool that I like a lot in its early days. Bitolithic makes Comic Zeal, so they know all about images and layout. Keep an eye on this app!


When all Else Fails, Use Scrivener

There’s a Mac in your life somewhere, I’ll bet. If you are writing at any length and aren’t married to Microsoft Word, consider using Scrivener ($45) for the heavy lifting in the Gathering step. The Literature and Latte folks know about gathering – see the banner they use on their site above. Here’s what I’m thinking. Get all those goodies you have on your Mac and from your web surfing and stick them into Scrivener. It has a Research section and a Draft section. Put previous excerpts from writing into the Draft part and your images, URLs and other documents into the Research side.

The cool thing about Scrivener is that it can represent all the little pieces of the puzzle in both the Drafts and Research sides as index cards on cork boards. It can do almost anything. Has tons of keyboard shortcuts. You can print out the index cards and play with them on the floor if you want. It has a really good outliner as part of its fundamental character. It has lots of import and export options. There’s a Windows version in Beta.

You can have Scrivener be home base. Now use the iPad as your home away from home. Print a PDF from your Scrivenings from time to time and annotate that in GoodReader or your favorite PDF annotator. Some like iAnnotate, PDF Expert, Readdle, Noterize or Note-taker HD. PDFs from your Mac can be dropped into Dropbox. Dropbox on iPad can use “Open In…” to route the PDF to your favorite PDF app. You are better off with GoodReader but that debate is for another day. Annotation fits the iPad like a glove right now.

Also, on your iPad, you can sync pieces of your Scrivener that you are working via dropbox to your iPad if you use a number of good apps like Simplenote, Index Card or plain text apps like Nebulous Notes, Elements or Plaintext. There are cool videos on the Literature and Latte site to show you how to sync in both directions to your iPad app and roundtrip back to Scrivener. It can be done!

There are lots of ways to gather your thoughts and other info items on your iPad. Your Mac might be of help for the time-being at least. Have fun. We’ll go into organizing next time out!

Brainstorming on the iPad – Best Apps

This is my second post about iPhone and iPad apps as viewed through the prism of essential knowledge functions. My first post provides some background so if you haven’t read it, you may want to start here: Information Capture on the iPhone – Best Apps. Brainstorming is an essential knowledge function and often the first step when undertaking a knowledge project.

There are many brainstorming techniques. The four that I spend the most time using are all done fast: diagramming, mindmapping, outlining and putting ideas onto index cards and stacking/rearranging them. Plain freewriting is a fifth that is a mainstay but is something that can be done in any writing or notes app. More on that in another post.

Diagramming is often the first thing I try when in the definition phase of a creative project. I want to see the subject so I can figure out how to deal with it. I’ll start trying to diagram it and usually accompany those initial drawings with words that come to mind. Which app helps you do something like this on an iPad? I got started early with Penultimate and have kept coming back to it.  I favor the simplest, quickest app that acts like paper and gets out of my way. Right now Penultimate is the 19th paid app in the app store. That’s saying a lot!

Penultimate is all you need for brainstorming and doesn’t have extras that will lure you down sidetracks to make your brainstorming look prettier. Pretty is almost a drawback in this phase of creativity. We are looking for speed of output to capture things without the critical faculty censoring and limiting your outside-the box-thinking.

Mindmapping is my favorite technique when in the getting started phase of a creative project. I can type fast and get a bunch of nodes branching off of my project name or subject. Right now there is one clear winner in the iPad Mindmapping category: iThoughts HD. This app came out when the iPad was released and has been upgraded extensively.

Why iThoughts HD is at the top mind mapping tool on iPad:

  1. A full range of import and export options that will help tremendously as you move back and forth between knowledge functions and apps.
  2. Great integration with the cloud via Dropbox, MobileMe, WebDav and box.net.
  3. A little sister app for the iPhone that will allow you to create new and see your existing mind maps and tweak them when you are without the iPad.
  4. A powerful tool that reminds me of the premium quality swiss army knife of mind mapping tools on my Mac: Mindjet Mindmanager. The extras aren’t really important in brainstorming, but they come in handy for the presentation-quality versions you’ll want when putting the finishing touches on your masterpiece.

Outlining is another key brainstorming tool. Dash off lists of things that come to mind. With the aid of the outliner you can list items under items and group them as you go or later. I’ve been using Carbonfin Outliner for over a year with few complaints. It does the job for $5 and there’s an iPhone version for $5 as well. There’s also web access with additional functionality. Excellent value. But now, there’s a new luxury outliner that cannot be denied.

OmniOutliner. There are many outliners for the Mac, but OmniOutliner 3 has ruled the roost for years. Every upgrade was free – this is years we are talking! Now we’ve got the junior version for iPad which is actually better than the Mac version. Yes, better. Omnigroup spent a long time learning how to take advantage of the iPhone and the iPad and released some other apps: Omnifocus, OmniGraffle, and OmniGraphSketcher. Now they’ve released OmniOutliner and it is splendid. It is like a Rolls Royce compared to a Honda Civic. Both will get you there. You’ll need to pay $20 to get this one. But, then if you are a smart knowledge professional, you’ll want to avoid being pennywise and pound foolish. There’s already a Mac app. There’s sure to be an iPhone app. And we know Omnigroup keeps tweaking their apps.

You need an outliner for not only brainstorming but also for gathering and organizing – two other important knowledge functions. Don’t skimp here unless you have to. For the time being, you won’t get Dropbox support and the file management is pretty basic. Omnigroup has promised file management upgrades and looking at dropbox support. They are loving iCloud and I expect iCloud to soon trump Dropbox for Omnigroup and for the rest of us. iCloud is much more powerful than a simple service like Dropbox. On the plus side, you can import OPML files (like the ones you can export from iThoughts HD), interchange files with OmniOutliner 3 on Mac, export to MobileMe, use rich text styling and add extra columns to your outlines. This is the power outliner of choice. One last thing, you can insert graphics into outlines.

Index Cards. Another way to brainstorm is to write your snippets of ideas onto index cards. Paper index cards are the favorites of researchers and writers and have been for many, many years. They are small. They are interchangeable and stackable.

Index Card. This is my index card app of choice. Its big brother – a full scale writing app – is Scrivener for Mac ($45). Index Card may be the only pure index card app on the iPad. Drag cards around. Color them. Write on the back sides of cards. And, if that isn’t enough, put them into stacks. Stack cards one level deep. This is a lovely app. Also view cards as a list. $5. It’s an inviting way to get a handle on what you need to do or what the main pieces are in a creative project. Stacking and coloring let’s you organize these things as you progress beyond brainstorming. Limited syncing to Scrivener which has unlimited levels and images attached.