Our Thinking

The iPad as Productivity Tool – Fact or Fiction? (Part 3)

Posted by Martin Bajt on Sep 10, 2012 4:59:21 PM

For those who might have missed the last installment...

This is the third in a series of articles on whether an iPad can be a useful productivity tool for a consultant.

Last month I talked about how the iPad had become my companion at work (if only it would buy me a coffee -- wait, I’m sure there’s an app for that). My colleagues (the non-electronic variety) have begun to notice, especially if I don’t have it with me, which happened for a few days when I was having some connectivity issues. And the jokes about playing Angry Birds when I’m really taking notes have finally dropped off.

Speaking of taking notes…

I’ve become quite fond of taking handwritten notes, so much so that I’m taking way less notes than ever before. Back in the old days, when I used pen and paper extensively, I took a lot of notes during meetings – no detail seemed too insignificant to jot down. At times I felt more like a transcriptionist, except that it never seemed important enough to learn any sort of shorthand method -- and by that I mean I was too lazy to bother (we’ll get back to that).

So what’s changed? Well, many things, but primarily a combination of two.

I’ve gotten older more experienced and writing notes on an electronic tablet is still not quite as quick as pen and paper, and maybe it never will be – perhaps it doesn’t need to be (at least for me, but maybe that’s some of that experience showing). They say the devil is in the details, but sometimes those details are distracting and, in the end, not always as important as I once thought. The fact that I can’t take notes quite as quickly has made me much more judicious about what to write down -- it’s become about capturing key words, phrases and concepts.

For the most part, I’ve been using an app called NoteShelf. As the name implies, it’s visually presented as a shelf (for those with iOS devices, think iBooks) with one or more notebooks that you set up. You can select from a variety of paper types to use in the notebooks (lined, graph, day planner, etc.), depending on need or personal preference. I’ve tried a number of other “notebook” apps (NoteLedge and Bamboo Paper among them), and and I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t; so far, this is the one that’s stuck with me the longest. I find there’s virtually no lag between me writing and the text appearing on screen, you can zoom in on a section of the page when writing to make it easier (the app moves the zoomed section as it needs to while you’re writing), and it integrates with other some other popular apps (notably Dropbox and Evernote). Bottom line -- it’s a simple and relatively frills-free app that does what I need. I’ll try out a few more before this experiment is done, but I have to admit, those other apps are going to need to have some real magic to make me change.

What do you mean the Apple Store won’t let you borrow things to try out for a few weeks?

There’s definitely no shortage of styli on the market. Before I could commit to any particular one, I wanted to try a variety of them, so I took a trip to my local “Apple store” – which is actually a buddy of mine who seems to own at least one of everything that Apple and pretty much every other major technology vendor sells. He took three different styli out of his inventory and I tried them all over the course of a few weeks. The one I was most interested in trying was the Jot -- it seemed to have the most marketing hype, and as we all know, that means it’s the best. Except that I didn’t like it that much. I wanted to like it; it seemed so much more elegant than its cousins with the soft, fat tips. The theory is that with a clear plastic disc on the end, you can see exactly where the center of the stylus is pointing. What I found was that the screen didn’t always detect its presence very well, which was annoying, and quite frankly that seemed to defeat its purpose. I was actually surprised at how nimble the silicon-rubber tip styli were; I had fully expected that it would be like trying to write a masterpiece with a crayon. Much like the NoteShelf app though, the Macally Stylus Pen does everything I need. I’ll keep my eyes open for innovations in the stylus market, but again, there’ll have to be some real magic to make me switch.

What about typed documents?

Turns out that much of what I write down honestly doesn’t need to find its way into a typed document. At least not during the stage of the project I’m currently working on. (It was a way different story when I was heavily involved in meetings and sessions to gather requirements.) I did pick up a Bluetooth keyboard (the ZAGGfolio, which does triple duty as a hard-case shell, a stand, and keyboard). I do use it, but I don’t feel I’ve done enough with it at this point to give any meaningful feedback -- I’ll keep plugging away at it and talk about that in a later blog post.

Remember when I said I was too lazy to bother learning some shorthand?

As analysts, we often take notes -- a lot of notes. But I’ve never seen an analyst use any form of shorthand, and I’ve never heard any talk about it (although until now I’ve never really thought about doing asking anyone). I’m not talking about classic, stenographer shorthand, which I understand can take years of practice to learn and master. But I understand there are other methods, which the shorthand purists will argue is not true shorthand. I might have to look into it – does anyone have any experience or thoughts on this?

I’ve started to develop a stack of apps that seem to be, at least to me, quite useful for a consultant, particularly an analyst. I think my biggest challenge will be finding a reasonable diagramming tool that, ideally, is Visio compatible (which seems to be the de facto tool that most people use). I’ll be diving into that and will report back to you next month.

As always, if you have any thoughts, questions or comments, feel free to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.


Read all the posts in this series:

Part 1 - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2012/07/the-ipad-as-productivity-tool-fact-or-fiction/

Part 2 - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2012/08/the-ipad-as-productivity-tool-fact-or-fiction-part-2/

Part 3 - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2012/09/the-ipad-as-productivity-tool-fact-or-fiction-part-3/

Part 4 - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2012/10/the-ipad-as-productivity-tool-fact-or-fiction-part-4/

Part 5 - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2012/11/the-ipad-as-productivity-tool-fact-or-fiction-part-5/

Conclusion - http://ig.obsglobal.com/2013/03/the-end-is-near/


Topics: Professional Effectiveness

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