A few more weeks have gone by since my first article in this series and I’m getting more and more comfortable with everything. New hardware, updated software and a few more bugs are the highlights of these couple of weeks.
My hardware setup is pretty much the same as it was last time, but with a few additions. I did get my Apple case and switched out the Case Mate one with that. The built in stand feature is great, and so is the screen cover for protecting my screen(protector) when the iPad is in my bag. I also got a Chinese knock-off of a portable stand in the mail but that one didn’t work very well for me, so I went back to the DIY solution when I need to prop it up in portrait mode (the Apple case handles landscape mode).
The biggest addition is the Apple Bluetooth keyboard that I reviewed a week ago. My thoughts on that are pretty much summed up in the review, but I will add that the keyboard is a useful thing to have at school as well. Sometimes you just need to take a lot of notes rather than annotate existing documents and since I type way faster than I write the keyboard comes in handy. The size makes it an easy thing to carry around and since I use a laptop bag to carry the iPad anyways (to make room for accessories etc) I might as well bring it and use it when I can.
Software-wise, Save2PDF got an update since last time that fixed a bug that prevented the page size to work. It still can’t convert Powerpoint presentations correctly though so I’m still using Keynote and the Save2PDF printer feature for that. I also discovered a few new bugs in smartNote, and I’m getting a bit tired of the company’s relaxed attitude towards critical bugs (I’ve emailed them a couple of times and they don’t seem overly concerned). One bug I found was that if you insert a PDF file or page from one after a page you’ve taken notes on, it will erase those notes. This is easily prevented by simply adding a blank page first (which you can do by simply tapping “next” if you’re on the last page) and then delete it afterwards, but you have to know about it to prevent it. There’s also a bug where pages sometimes duplicate- I don’t really know what causes this though.
I did actually find an alternative to smartNote, but haven’t bought it to try yet as it’s 10 times the price of smartNote. Circus Ponies Notebook (what a peculiar name…) is $30 and appears to have some of the features as smartNote but also has a Mac version. I have sent them an email asking about a PDF export feature (which I couldn’t find any info about) as well as a comment on what makes it worth 10 times the price of smartNote. I don’t know if they will respond (and do so with some reasons to make me spend that sort of money) but one can hope.
We actually have a couple of weeks off right now and I’ve been visiting some family, and one one (short) trip I only brought my iPad. I didn’t do any studying, but I did have everything I needed with me to read the material as well as do tasks and write papers- in a single 730gram device. The weight you normally have to carry with you to school also has to go with you when traveling sometimes if you have things to do for school while away, and that is in addition to the other luggage, so having everything on the iPad is extremely useful in such cases.
Lastly, iBooks has proven to be a much bigger part of everything that I originally had thought. I quickly realized that it’s too slow and messy to try to organize notes in smartNote directly so I changed things around a bit. I created more collections (groups/categories) in iBooks and now export finished notes from smartNote to iBooks for safe keeping and reading. That way I don’t have to deal with the lack of folders in smartNote and it’s much faster to load a rendered PDF file rather than the smartNote notebook that sees all the notes and additions as editable layers rather than a single document.