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The iPad as Productivity Tool – Fact or Fiction? (Part 5)

Posted by Martin Bajt on Nov 5, 2012 11:00:52 AM

Sometimes Wishes do Come True

In my last blog post, I was lamenting on how I wished I could take the best features of various apps and combine them into something truly magical.

When it came to the apps I was using to take notes -- an activity that, as an analyst, is fundamental to almost every task I undertake (except when I’m doing actual analysis, which is not to be mistaken for sipping coffee and staring blankly into space) -- it seemed that I had to make a choice between an app that allowed for very natural writing, but no PDF annotation capability, or an app that allowed for writing on PDFs, but that made my handwriting look like I was back in grade school.

I have now started using an app called UPAD, and not only can I import PDF files for annotation, it quite frankly gives my handwriting an almost artistic flair. This is truly as close to pen on paper as I’ve come across. This functionality comes wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing interface -- clearly time was spent on both user interface design as well as the underlying functional engineering. Notes that you can create in the app can be exported to the typical cadre of cloud storage services, as well as easily emailed; the notes can be sent in image or PDF format.

I’ve got some lengthy client working sessions coming up, so I’ll definitely be running this app through its paces; I’ve got a good feeling about this one.

The Amazing Flowchart Race Continues

As you may recall, one of the key features I was looking for in a flowchart app was a level of compatibility with Visio. After my last blog post, I was contacted by a company called Lucid Software about their product Lucidchart, with a claim that they had Visio interoperability.

I took them up on their offer, and started a free trial, and I’m happy to say that they do indeed provide the ability to import Visio drawings, as well as export them. Like the other app I wrote about, Touchdraw, this is done through the VXD format; however, unlike Touchdraw, I’ve been able to import much more complicated flowchart diagrams, so far without any issues. And just as importantly, I’ve been able to export those diagrams back into Visio.

Functionally it’s quite slick, with all the features I’d expect in a flowchart tool including a suite of shape libraries (including BPMN), smart connectors, and text editing tools to name just a few. It’s well laid out, with menus along the periphery of the screen, thereby maximizing screen real estate for the actual diagram.

When is an App not an App?

This is where Lucidchart has been different from other apps I’ve been trying -- it’s not really an app – it’s an entirely online service accessed via your browser from the device of your choice, which means that the Apple kids can play nicely with the Microsoft kids, at least as far diagrams are concerned. Being that it’s a service, it comes with a service-based pricing model -- so unlike a one-time app purchase, there’s a monthly user fee, albeit relatively inexpensive. One of my initial concerns was what happens to my “stuff” if the service disappears, but you can save your files to cloud storage (for example Google Drive) or download them to local devices.

Like UPAD, I intend to really put this “app” through its paces; more good feelings on this one.

The End is Near

No, this is not an apocalyptic premonition; this coming month will bring my iPad experiment to a close, at least from a formal perspective. With thousands of apps in the marketplace, and new ones being added all the time, I expect that I will continue to experiment well into the future, and if you’re interested, I’d be happy to keep reporting to you on a (reasonably) regular basis.

The truth is I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, and it will be hard to close all the open threads from my past blog entries, but I’ll do my best. And it should come as no surprise that my next blog post will attempt to answer the question that a number of people have already asked -- should I get an iPad or not?

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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