Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving the iPad another shot


In light of the announcement of iPad 2, I’ve decided to give our iPad 1 another go.  It spent some time being a test platform for my husband, but I’ve reclaimed it to test it again this week.  The best way to get to know it again is to really use it, so I’m making it my first go to device.  I will turn the iPad on first every morning and use just that until I run out of stuff I can do on it.  It’s doing a great job of getting me through my email, news, and social network feeds.  I have re-discovered Penultimate, and added a few apps that may be useful for collaborative note-taking. 

My first impression on picking it up for the first time in a while was how light it is.  I’m also loving the all day battery life.  That’s one of the things having the Cr-48 around has made me think about more.  It’s really nice to plug a device in overnight, unplug it in the morning, and then use it all day long without having to worry about the battery life. 

I’ve thrown a few new apps on to try, including a promising course note management app that could work for managing student notes.  The real drawback is that it doesn’t allow inking over PDF, only typing with the onscreen keyboard, which means I would lose out on the chart and only be providing them a list of things to do. 

Penultimate has seen several updates since I last played with the iPad, and it is much nicer to use now.  The palm rejection is really good, allowing me to write naturally.  The inking is smooth and relatively accurate, allowing me to write smaller and fit more on each of those little pages.  Which leads me to one of my favorite aspects of OneNote (and Evernote) – infinite pages.  You get to the end of the page, and magically, more page appears under you.  There is no awkward trying to cram the end of the sentence onto the current page, the page just keeps going.  My for this post ended up being 9 pages in Penultimate (and it is expanding as I type).  It’s annoying to have notes spread over pages.  I like the smooth scrolling over one long roll of notes.  But, page turns aside, I did enjoy drafting in Penultimate.  I like to sit with a pen and write, then revise as I type.  It’s not as pretty as OneNote on an active digitizer, and it doesn’t generate searchable and text-convertible ink, but it’s good enough for a draft.

Which brings me to the sharing aspect.  I’m used to doing everything in OneNote, which syncs through the cloud to all my devices.  Getting notes out of Penultimate and into that universe was less easy than I would have liked.  I ended up emailing the note to myself as a PDF, opening in it in Foxit, then printing it into OneNote.  Once that’s done, I get the nice set up of notes on one side, Live Writer on the other. 


That allows me to view my written notes right next to what I’m typing, which makes me happy.

Another thing I was pleasantly surprised by was how easy it is to type on the onscreen keyboard in landscape mode.  It wasn’t 10 finger touch typing, but it was close.  I could tap out some medium length stuff from the couch with the Apple case at typing angle.  There’s even a good blogging app. 

But all of this is just hobby stuff.  As much as I’d love to get paid to just sit around and blog, this is just something I do in my spare time.  For work, I need Windows.  I can kludge the iPad into almost working sort of well enough to get by in the studio, but it’s not going to be nearly as strong of a solution as what I have now.  I mean, I could put the Suzuki CDs on the iPad and have the kids play with the pre-recorded piano parts, but it’s not going to be as good as SmartMusic (in addition to sightreading games that aren’t replicable on the iPad).  I could use that course management thing to send typed lists to them at the end of the lesson, but it’s not going to be as good as the charts I use now. 

With GarageBand coming to iPad 2, I have hope that MakeMusic could bring some SmartMusic functionality over.  I’ll be watching the iPad space as apps start to take advantage of the new features of the second gen iPad, but for now, I’ll stick to the Windows tablet and just keep a spare battery or AC adapter on hand.


  1. I'm wondering if you've played with Noteshelf (a better alternative for Musicians than Penultimate) as well as OneNote for iOS.

    I'm hoping SmartMusic comes to iPad. I think they're beginning to see the light/feel the heat with posts like this in their blog:

    I'll be getting the iPad 2 on Friday (or shortly thereafter) and I'll see how its additional speed impacts my use of the device (many PDF files, some pretty large).

    By the way, for blogging, I've found BlogPress to be a pretty great app.

  2. Funny you mention NoteShelf, as I just saw it recommended in another forum earlier today. I have looked at the description and was close to getting it, but I have too many other open projects at the moment. It's on my list of things to try. I also looked at BlogPress, and it does look like a good alternative, but still not as full featured as my current Live Writer + plugins set up. It's good to have confirmation that those are good options and if I end up doing more with the iPad, I'll definitely give those two a go. Penultimate is just so smooth, no other app with inking I've tried has come close.

    I'm keeping a close eye on what SmartMusic is coming out with. I had always thought the iPad hardware wouldn't be up to the task of fully duplexed audio, but if Garageband can do 8 tracks, hopefully there's a way for SmartMusic to do one in one out.