...because another iPad blog won't hurt anyone

on april 3rd 2010 a friend of mine travelled all the way to beautiful New York city to pick up a brand new iPad just for me ! I decided that i'd write down my thoughts and experiences and maybe some reviews of apps or accessories. I am also an amateur astronomer and am running an astronomy blog

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Notebooks for iPad

Ever since I got my iPad i've been trying to get through a workday by just using the iPad instead of my company laptop. With Appigo Todo i've already found a great Todo App that syncs with toodledo so that i can manage my todos both on the iPad and on my company laptop. What was missing though, was a professional app to edit and manage meeting minutes as well as documents that relate to those minutes.

That's where notebooks for iPad comes in. At  8.99USD it's not one of the cheapest apps out there, but as i'll try to describe in this review - it's worth every penny. So what makes notebooks for iPad so great ? Here are some of the things that make it stand out of the crowd:

  • Syncs with mobileme (and hopefully soon with other free services like dropbox). This means that all my content that already sits on mobileme can very easily be synced to my ipad and from then on is available offline directly on the device. This means that i can easily mix notes that have been created on the iPad with complex documents
  • Great file format support. The app can import text, HTML, RTF, PDF, MS Office, Apple iWork documents, photos, as well as web archives.
  • "Open in" functionality lets me open documents in other iPad apps like Keynote, Goodreader, iBooks, or other
  • "Send to" function lets me send any text snippet to Appigo Todo in order to quickly create a task. I'm using this feature regularly and it is very handy
  • Create unlimited nested "books". Books and their contents can later very easily be moved if you decide to make structural changes later. This really helped me alot since i created an elaborate file structure which later had to be chagend. The "move" feature made this process very easy which otherwise would have been a major pain in the a... 
  • Intuitive and easy to user interface

Here are some screenshots of the user interface:

Notes and documents can be kept in the same Notebook:

A "jump" function (the little bookmark icon) simplifies moving between nested books. At first i thought the little bookmark icon was a bookmark function - so i spent a day or so tediously navigating between nested notebooks until i found the function by accident. Yep - RTFM does apply here : )

New notes can be created using the "+" icon. The "new from pasteboard" feature did not work well for me though. I tried to copy content from other applications into Notebooks for ipad but the content did not appear. I guess this only works inside the app itself. Maybe i should read the manual again...

The timestamp feature is a very handy way to quickly insert a date or time. I use this feature to define the filename for every note i create. Maybe this feature could be used to insert user generated text modules or special formats in the future ?

Every note, document or notebook can be protected with a passcode. Once an item has been protected, it is only visible once the master passwort has been entered. I find this feature to be very handy in a business environment where you are bound to end up with "eyes only" material on your ipad.

The app can "send" your content to a bunch of other apps on the iPad. It can also create tasks in Appigo Todo using the "send to Appigo Todo" button:

Notebooks for iPad works very well without or with a keyboard. It would be great if certain buttons could be assigned to specific functions, but i guess apple does not seem to allow this since i've not seen any other application that map specific functions to keyboard keys.

So far i have imported more than 300 notes from MS OneNote. This took a couple of hours since i had to manually convert all my OneNote notes to the .txt format so that i could import the data ensuring a minimal filesize.

So far the developer has answered all my questions very quickly and i feel that there's someone behind this app who really wants to deliver a great product. I hope that he keeps adding alot more helpful functionality in the future. 

Even with the current functionality, i feel that I really got alot of bang for the buck. That's something i can't say for all the apps I've bought...

After using the app for almost a week nonstop i've also found some things that are missing:

  • basic formatting like bold type, bullets, or even simple tables. this really is the feature that i miss the most. The developer informed me that this is a feature he has been wanting to add for quite some time, but Apple won't let him ad it to the app. So i guess i'll have to wait a while for these feature to be added
  • the ability to insert any type of document (not just a picture) into a note itself
  • syncing with a free service like dropbox

I'll add more info about this app once updates are released.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the GRIFFIN jumper sleeve arrived

After a little more than a week, the GRIFFIN jumper sleeve arrived today. At last the days of fear of dropping my iPad and scratching it badly are over ! The jumper sleeve costs USD 29.90 and the shipping to switzerland was only 8 USD. That's cheap compared to the outrageous shipping prices that I'm used to.

The jumper came in a spaceous cardboard box that had some flaky stuff inside it which ended up on the nice black material of the sleeve. I only got it off by using one of those sticky rollers that you can use to remove fuzz from a jacket. Unfortunately i took the pictures before I realized how much of this stuff was stuck on the outside - so all the little white dots you see in the pictures are now gone.

It is actually smaller than I thought it would be - it's only slightly bigger than the iPad - here's a picture of the iPad next to the jumper sleeve:

The quality of the sleeve seems to be pretty high with nice black neoprene material and white seams around the edges. It has a lid with a piece of cloth attached (with the GRIFFIN logo on it) which you have to pull pretty hard in order to open the sleeve to get your iPad out.

Sliding the iPad into the sleeve is easily done. The interior is white and made out of a very soft and "fluffy" material. I think my iPad will really enjoy spending some time in such a nice and cozy sleeve : )

Once you put the iPad in the sleeve, you have to almost use both hands to pry the flap back over the device. I guess with time it will get easier. 

On the other hand - you really want the flap to be as tight as possible so that it won't come open when you're walking down the street and your iPad goes flying into the gutter...

Here's the iPad in the sleeve compared to the size of my iPhone. I think I'll be quite happy with this sleeve until i find a professional and multipurpose flip case. I might add some more experience with this sleeve once I've been using it for a couple of days....

At first glance I'm giving this sleeve 4.5 out of 5 stars because i think it really looks good, the material is high quality and the interior is really soft and padded to protect the ipad, even if i happen to drop the sleeve. However, it does not have a separate little pouch for headphones or maybe the iPhone or even better: for the wireless keyboard.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Air Video

Air Video from Inmethod allows you to stream media content from your mac or windows PC to your iPad. It is supposed to be able to share content in your private wireless network as well as over the internet. It requires a server component that needs to be installed locally on your computer and it does not support (DRM) content that was purchased in the iTunes store.

Installation - I just downloaded the server component from their website and then ran the software. It creates a little icon on the upper right corner of your OSX menu bar. I did have to go back to their site in order to download the latest beta version - but more on that later.

Configuration - You can configure the server in the "preferences" pane. Here you can either add one or more physical drives that you can share or you can add iTunes playlists. It does not matter if it's a regular or smart playlist. 

When I used it for the first time I defined one of my media drives as the source which resulted in a very loooong liste of files on my iPad. I quickly decided that this was not very usable so i created a couple of smart playlists in iTunes, for example a playlist that would list all movies within the genre "science fiction" or a playlist that would list all files for season 7 of the TV Show "24". This gave me a much nicer structure and also made it much easier to scroll through and find specific content.

At first, the Air Video server did not find any iTunes playlists. I had to download the latest beta release which fixes this particular problem.

Internet Sharing -  When i tried to activate the internet sharing features, i got a "double NAT detected" error message. I am currently using only one router connected to my cable modem and theoretically this should work just fine. I did not want to fiddle with my router settings just to get this feature working, so i could not test this particular feature. There's a whole section about this problem in the air video forums - but I've not been able to read it yet.

Performance - I did have some issues with HD video content with a very high resolution (1080p), which resulted in stuttering playback on the iPad. This could be due to missing ressources on either my iMac or on the network. Content at 720p resoluion or lower did play back just fine on the iPad. Server load on my iMac was at 50%. You can either choose "direct playback" or "on the fly transcoding". I always chose "direct playback" which worked just fine. My wireless network runs on an Apple Airport Express base station in G/N compatibility mode.

All in all it's a great product for just 2.99 USD ! Now i can sit next to my wife on the couch and watch the latest episode of "V" while she's watching Heidi Klum and her beautiful models...

  • You don't have to tediously sync content to your iPad anymore
  • Works over the internet (although not for me)
  • Even plays back content that does not come in the standard iTunes formats
  • The interface is simple and elegant
  • Does not support content with DRM protection
  • Does not support direct iTunes library integration - you have to manually add playlists. It would be nice if it would just attach itself to your iTunes library - like the Apple TV does

Thursday, April 22, 2010

what apps am i missing the most ?

Front Row or Apple TV for my iPad - The Air Video App (see my upcoming review) is great, but it does not play content purchased in iTunes. Currently most of my media content is still ripped DVDs or material i did not get through iTunes (cough...cough) - but i'm slowly buying more content through iTunes and this will be a problem for Air Video.

Whats App Messenger - it would be great to have the same free SMS functionality on my iPad that i'm using every day on my iPhone. I tried to install the App on the iPad but it did not work.

to be continued....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the ipad dock

I'm not going to bore you with a two page review about a dock that's just, well, a dock. It's the only accessory I currently own, so that's what you're gonna get ! It only works in portrait mode and therefore restricts the usage of the ipad while it is being docked. I originally got two of these docks - one for my office and one that I would use at home. I think i am going to sell my dock once someone develops one that lets you somehow rotate the ipad in both portait and landscape modes.

  • it works in portrait mode
  • it's heavy enough so that you don't have to worry about your iPad falling over
  • no landscape mode
  • does not allow other devices with the same connector (iPhone, iPod) to dock, so you end up with ANOTHER dock on your desk

I'm giving this dock 2 out of 5 stars. Apple really should have put some more brains into designing this thing.