I recently got an iPad 2 and am still discovering all of the ways that I can make use of it. In addition to being a “bigger iPhone without the phone” (how I initially conceived of it), I’m discovering just how useful it can be for research.
I have been playing with a number of different note-taking and “productivity” apps, but so far my favourites are Evernote and Penultimate. Evernote is kind of tricky to describe because it is just so darn robust. Think of it as an updated, improved and digital version of that big notebook/day timer/coupon holder/place to shove a photo of your cat that many of us lugged around in the 1990s. In the few short weeks since I signed up for my Evernote account (which is free, although you can upgrade to premium for more features – something I did pretty quickly once I figured out just how fabulous this software is!) I’ve used it for taking notes, for “clipping” sections of webpages I need to refer to later, and for storing photographs and documents. I’m sure there are all kinds of other uses for this software that I haven’t yet discovered. Penultimate may be easier to describe, but it is no less awesome. Basically it allows you to handwrite notes on the iPad. You can use your finger, but I like the stylus that I picked up for $15. You can scribble, doodle and erase to your heart’s content on pages that look like an old-school notebook. Why not just use a notebook? Well, this way all your scribbles and doodles are all in one place and not as likely to get misplaced. You can share your scribbles and doodles via email or save them as photos.
I just discovered today that these photos of your notebook pages can, in turn, be inserted in to your Evernote notes. These two applications work amazingly well together and I can see them really changing how I approach research. Today, for instance, I was trying to summarize a Sherlock Holmes story, so I whipped out my handy-dandy stylus, opened up Penultimate and scribbled down a few thoughts. I then saved it as a photo and popped it in to a larger Evernote note that I had started on the broader project I’m working on. Seamless. Easy. No more scraps of paper to lose. Yay!
I’m looking forward to seeing how the built-in camera in the iPad 2 works for taking photographs of documents in archives. I’ve got a few research trips planned this summer so will be trying it out soon!