So often the iPad is assumed to be a content consumption device, rather than a productivity tool. However since I got my iPad I’ve found it very useful for research and academic purposes. I wish I’d had it when I was doing my PhD, especially writing up the thesis. Unfortunately the iPad only came out after my successful viva! And even then it took me quite a long time to get one, only getting an iPad 2 many months after it was released.
The app I find most useful of all productivity-wise is iThoughtsHD. This is a mind mapping app, but can be used by people who don’t generally mind map. It’s great for brainstorming, and getting ideas down fast. I find that I get things down more quickly and creatively using this app than I did before without it, and that means I get more things done more quickly and better. I have a mind map open for each academic journal article that I’m working on. I also have an overall to-do list / possible research areas one. And I have a few other mind maps on the go just for jotting down ideas.
My other favourite productivity app is WriteRoom which is a distraction-free writing tool. There are others like it, but I think it was the first of its kind, and I like it a lot. It lets you focus on writing, getting the text down, rather than worrying about layout and font. I’ll often copy the structure of my mind map / brainstorm from iThoughtsHD into WriteRoom, and then work from there. I find this an easy way of writing up papers and articles. You can customise WriteRoom’s display. I like green text on a black background – very 80s!
I think the best PDF app on the iPad is Goodreader. It works well with all different kinds of PDFs, and you can annotate, even with a stylus if you buy one of those. I bought a cheap stylus from Amazon, one with a squidgy foam end that writes pretty well on the screen. And I can then scribble all over the PDF files on my iPad. For example I’m currently turning my PG Masters dissertation into an academic journal paper, and recently made great headway scribbling all over the PDF of the latest version with my stylus.
Two other apps that I recommend for following academic/research types are Feedler RSS for following interesting blogs, and Flipboard for turning Twitter feeds and others into a very dynamic and easy to scan magazine-type interface. I follow a lot of historians and archivists on Twitter, and it’s nice to be able to use Flipboard to quickly scan their interesting posts.
Also there’s a blog dedicated to using the iPad as an academic/productivity tool. See academiPad.