Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The ipad as a research tool

It probably seems really strange, given it's 2019 and almost Hallowe'en to be writing about using the ipad as a research tool. but last week was the first time I'd used the second hand iPad I bought at the start of the year as an impromptu research tool.

I'd been down in Chiltern working on the documentation project, when I was chased out of the back room due to the unexpected arrival of a large tour group.

Now I'd been researching Karna Vita desiccated ox liver pills - it may not be your thing, but between the first and second world wars pills containing desiccated liver were very much a thing.

They were held to be really good for perking people up, getting extra iron into your system if you were a bit anaemic, and some doctors advised women to take them during pregnancy if they were feeling tired and worn out.

So, having been chased out I went down the road to the local library, which was (a) open and (b) had reasonable free wifi - in fact zippier wifi than last time to do my research.

But rather than drag my work laptop in, I simply took my iPad mini into the library.

Now I'm not a virgin as far as tablet and keyboard combo's for work are concerned - I've been through two seven inch android tablet and keyboard combos in the last seven years, most recently a cheap Alcatel tablet bought from Telstra's remainder shop.

It's around the same vintage as my iPad, and certainly feels as capable, even if the apple slickness is not there - you have to work at integration, but basically it does everything you would want to do:

  • search for stuff of the web
  • capture url's and web pages
  • write notes about stuff
  • export stuff to somewhere useful
absolutely no surprises there and equally so using the iPad - chrome basically is just chrome, and you can save stuff to evernote or one note as easily as anywhere else and apple's notes app certainly frees you from dependence on weird editors, of course it has restrictions - no markdown for example, and it only wants to talk to applications it knows about - and that revealed a little gotcha.

Now you might think, as I did, that if you save something from notes to Onenote, say, via Airdrop, it would save it to the cloud and then sync it back to local copies.

But no, what it actually seems to do is transfer data to the local instance of the application and then leave it to the application to do any synchronisation required.

Now you can see immediately why Apple implemented it this way - make it a universal on device service with a documented interface, and leave it up to the application implementers to work with the service and do any synchronisation required.

Fortunately it integrates with OneNote and with apple's email service meaning that content can be saved easily, or if you don't have the software installed use email to post content, as with Evernote.

Unfortunately, the email integration puts the content in the body of the message, rather than creating an attachment, which means that attachment based services such as sendtodropbox or Epsonconnect, are of little use to you.

And that's the rub. With the iPad, everything is slicker and easier than it is with the Android environment - but that's only providing your'e happy playing inside of Apple's walled garden ...