Make the Most Out of Your iPad at Work

Recently, I added myself to the list of iPad owners. I own Apple products, but not a tablet, so I was excited to put this new technology to productive use.    These apps aren’t free or cheap ($1-2) like a lot of other productivity apps, but they are well worth it. Here are my top 4 recommended iPad apps to help make your workday more productive.

1. Note Taker

Price: $4.99

If you need a place to doodle, take notes, or annotate PDFs, Note Taker is for you. It isn’t cheap, but you will get much more functionality than something like Penultimate ($.99).

Note Taker lets you create folders of documents and store those in other folders so it’s extremely organized. It also conforms to your style of note taking. Whether writing, note taking or doodling, you can:

  • Insert text via the keyboard
  • Insert shapes (Note Taker has 65 built in) or pictures from both your photo library and your camera instantly
  • Change the color and size of your pen
Zoom Writing and the Wristguard are what make Note Taker great for writing notes.

Zoom Writing

The zoom writing feature allows you to write accurately as large or as small as you’d like. When you want to advance: tap the right arrow to continue on the same line and the left to go to the next.

Wristguard

The gray bar is the wristguard feature. When most people write, they rest their hand on the writing surface. In Note Taker, the wristguard makes sure you don’t mark or mess up the line you’re writing on. You can toggle it on or off in zoom tools.

My Favorite Feature

My favorite feature is the ability to annotate PDFs. I needed to fill out some forms for an online class I was taking and had left my computer at a friends house. I downloaded the forms (as PDFs) I needed, filled out all the subject fields, and sent them in from my iPad.

Note Taker Tips and Integrations

Note Taker has a lot of features and is extremely powerful, but it has a bit of a learning curve, so you have to be patient with it. To read a comprehensive Note Taker user’s guide click here.

Note Taker is compatible with CloudOn (mentioned later), Evernote and Dropbox and you can send your notes to any of these apps using the output button in the tools section.

Overall, this app rocks. Plus, its only $5 for one killer note taking platform.

2. Scanner Pro

Price: $6.99

Scanner Pro is a dream: powerful and simple. Once the app is open, you can either scan using the camera, or upload from your photo library.

Scanner Pro Tips & Tricks

For scanning documents, the sky’s the limit. You can scan almost anything and use custom sizes.

I use “Select All” to choose which part of the document to save, but you can adjust it using the blue dots in the corners.

Once the document is scanned, you can edit the contrast and brightness then export as a PDF or JPEG. Scanner Pro syncs with Dropbox, Google Drive (previously Docs), or Evernote.

Scanner Pro is powerful, so if you don’t need an app of this caliber you can try Genius Scan which is free but has limited capabilities.

3. CloudOn

Price: Free

CloudOn’s claim to fame is being the first to bring Microsoft Office to iPad. It’s great for editing your PowerPoint, Word, and Excel Microsoft Office documents on the go.  CloudOn’s downside are the limitations with creating new documents or doing heavy re-structuring.

 

Capabilities

The keyboard responds to commands like cut, copy, paste, and undo. All of the buttons in the interface are click-able but not all of them work.

I use CloudOn for minor editing and changes like font family, size, and type.

It’s especially helpful in PowerPoint because you can easily edit, add, or delete slides and save to the cloud.

CloudOn links with Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox. You can save, edit and access your files anywhere with Internet.

CloudOn is great for the price and offers on-the-go editing for the on-the-go person who needs to make quick edits to their Office documents.

4. Pocket Informant HD

Price: $14.99

Pocket Informant HD is expensive compared to some other apps in the App Store and  is the most expensive app I’ve included in this review.  However, if I had to choose one app as a must have, Informant is that app.

At Schipul, we use Google Calendars for scheduling and Informant syncs seamlessly. It also syncs with Toodledo, Google Tasks, and iOS Calendar.

The beauty of Informant is that it does everything. It has a calendar (with customizable views much like Google Calendar), tasks & events, notes, and contacts. Each item is tabbed and color coded.

Features that Make Informant Worth the Extra Cash

  1. With Informant, you can call anyone (via FaceTime) straight from the contacts tab.
  2. Informant also enables you to link contacts and send them invite via Google sync or the iPad’s email client when creating tasks/events.

One or more of these features come standard in every scheduling app, but Informant effortlessly puts them all in one place, for you to use. For the same price as a good notebook planner, you always have it, and it integrates digitally.

Increased Productivity for Just $26

I use these apps daily and  I strongly recommend all of them. Together, they make your iPad more than just a portable toy for playing Angry Birds by giving you a suite of tools to increase your productivity at work.

Informant is a stand alone app and the other three apps integrate with each other. I’ve found it is pretty easy using Note Taker, Scanner Pro and CloudOn in unison.

You can get all of these apps from the iTunes iPad App Store for just $26 dollars (less than dinner and a movie)!

While You Are on Your iPad…

Come check out some of Schipul’s recent mobile responsive sites from your iPad!  Responsive design gives your website the cool ability to display an optimized user experience based on the size of each site visitor’s screen.  Come see how these sites look on your iPad compared to your desktop and smartphone:

http://rig.net

http://cmhouston.org

https://www.tendenci.com

Drupal and WordPress at SchipulCon: One Stage, One Open Source Love

Open Source Discussion with the Founders of Drupal and WordPress from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

“People being told what to do and working for money are never going to match people working for passion and a community.”
~Matt Mullenweg

“With every cell in my body, I believe that Open Source is the way forward.  Especially when it comes to websites, but also beyond just websites.”
~Dries Buytaert

We were beyond honored to host Drupal founder Dries Buytaert and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg at our SchipulCon 2011 event.

Guided by David Stagg, the open source conversation survived epic microphone turmoil  years of open source competitiveness to showcase the true brilliance and passion of these open source leaders.

Dries Buytaert and Matt Mullenweg share the SchipulCon stage

Around Designers vs Developers Flocking to WordPress and Drupal (Respectively)

Matt:  “I learned a ton about code and programming and back end systems… mainly because I had sort of a vision of something that I wanted a user to realize…. and so we made certain design choices from a technical view that to me are more intuitive.

There were two big pressures early in WordPress’ life:  1) everyone wanted us to adopt a templating system because everyone at the time had one  and 2) they wanted us to go a strict object oriented model.  So you could extend everything WordPress does through classes essentially.

We took an action oriented plug-in approach… which is perhaps not as correct from a programmer’s point of view, but easier for beginner users.”

Dries:  “When I started Drupal, I was in college to get a computer science degree – almost an engineer.  So I wasn’t too concerned about user experience – more obsessed with the architecture and the right APIs and all of these things.

When I finally released Drupal as open source, it really attracted an audience of developers.  The initial community was a developer community and began to expand to more and more developers.  That emphasis on architecture was reinforced.   [We’re] trying to change that and it’s slowly starting to work – it’s very much historical.”

>>> Cool side notes:  Matt has been a Drupal member for 8 years and one week.  His interests on his profile include typography and simplicity (the only person to include this in their profile).  Years back,  Matt gave a credit to Drupal and reminded Dries that he had some code in WordPress very early on — time for Matt to contribute to Drupal!

Wordpress and Drupal at SchipulCon

What Do you Wish you had Done that the Other Did?

Dries:  Matt did a lot of things right, he started his company sooner, WordPress.com is a tremendous asset to get more people involved and his focus on design and usability is key – a very important thing to do very early on.  In a way, Drupal is paying the penalty for not doing this early on.

Matt:  When I look at the Drupal community, the thing that I like is that the software runs the community itself.  The bug tracker is Drupal, the forum, the issues – everything is Drupal.  Also the 3rd party developer community – even though WP has more websites, we have fewer of the large consulting firms.  Drupal has a lot more large development firms building these giant websites, that’s not as common with WordPress.

How Do you Benefit from the Other Existing?

Dries:  If WordPress wins, Drupal wins.  Because that means Open Source is winning.

Matt:  Competition is good.  Anytime any firm or product does something amazing, the bar has been raised.

Want more SchipulCon brain candy and memories?

Dries Buytaert and Matt Mullenweg jumping like mad

We’ve got some great SchipulCon speaker videos going live in the next couple of weeks, just be sure to keep an eye on our SchipulCon video gallery! Matt and Dries chat photo album has lots of great photos of these great guys and be sure to find yourself in all of our albums from the event.

Thanks again for being such a special part of SchipulCon!

Five Companies to Watch from Launch Silicon Valley 2011

Launch Silicon Valley event 2011

Yesterday was the annual Launch Silicon Valley event, hosted by the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs. The event took place in Mountain View at the Microsoft campus, and had several big names in tech and startups speaking. At Schipul, we love building websites for entrepreneurs – we are one! – and we get totally geeky and excited about new technologies; so this was a must-attend for us. I took one for the team and made the trip to Mountain View (about five miles from our Sunnyvale office) and braved the 65 degree and sunny weather to check it out. Before you hate on me too much, please note that at one point there was no coffee available. NO. COFFEE.

In the morning, the agenda focused largely on panel discussions on the future of venture capital and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley, as well as the rest of the world. You’ve likely heard it suggested that we’re currently in another “tech bubble”; based off of the recent LinkedIn IPO and a coming IPO from Groupon. While most everyone agreed that yes, we are seeing a bubble again, they felt that things would be different this time since the overall world economy is still struggling. That factor would keep the stock market in check; since no matter how excited you may have personally been to hear about these IPOs it’s highly unlikely that the average American is in a position to wager a big bet on them. For that matter, few companies would be able to either. There’s not a huge worry about throwing the breaks on this bubble, and the overall hope is that entrepreneurs who get large valuations will cash out quick and then reinvest back into the venture capital arena.

LT. Governor Gavin Newsom by Joel Henner

The economic talk continued with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom appearing at the conference to chat about development in Silicon Valley and California as a whole. Newsom mentioned that he had recently been visiting several states to see how the others work with their businesses, and mentioned Texas as one of those stops. Newsom stated that in California, 33% of residents have been unemployed for over a year. 33%. It’s a mindboggling figure, and one that many of us in Silicon Valley are isolated from, as unemployment numbers have actually been decreasing in this area. It speaks to the importance of  entrepreneurship and strong technical education; as those new startups who develop new technologies need folks to hire. Newsom’s talk is available on YouTube; I highly recommend you checking it out. He’s a great speaker and I’m excited to see what’s in store with him as Lt. Governor.

But on to the good stuff. The afternoon was full of startup pitches; companies who had been around for a year or more and those that just started last month – all presenting on their product, idea, technology. Presentations were limited to 6 minutes and then a panel was allowed to ask questions. Viewers in the audience then voted on the idea they think has the best chance of making it. You can view a full list of the companies who presented at the SVASE website (bottom of the page). Here’s five companies that I think you should keep an eye on:

1. Steelhouse – Steelhouse combines two things a Schipulite loves – web analytics and eCommerce solutions. Steelhouse enables a eCommerce company to get real data on their customers and then better target their promotions to them. As a company, you’ve got to love the idea of being able to really drill-down on the activity going on in your shopping cart. Who’s buying? What time? What made them click? Where did they travel to on the site? How long were they there? Do they come back late at night? How many people looked at this campaign in the last 30 days? How about the last 30 seconds? Think of it like Google Analytics on  steroids. Better yet, check out the site! The President of Steelhouse is Mark Douglas, who used to work for a little website called eHarmony.com. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s okay if you don’t want to tell us how.

2. Take The Interview – The former Operations Manager in me loved this one. Take The Interview is a cloud-based platform that enables employers to better screen job applicants. It’s hard to tell what someone is really like from just a resume. It’s hard for a jobseeker to stand out from all the other resumes, unless you use Comic Sans 16-point font in hot pink. [Please don’t ever do that.] Wouldn’t it be great if you could have applicants submit a little video of themselves answering some of your core interview questions? Wouldn’t you as an applicant love the chance to get your bright smile across right away? This platform makes it possible. I’m excited to see this one develop, and especially curious to see how some of our Tendenci job board users might be able to incorporate it in to their processes.

3. Innovalley – Did you ever see a video about a guy with a hoodie that had the controls for his iPod built right into the sleeve? Yea, that was these guys. They call it “smart apparel” and it can be anything from the  aforementioned  hoodie to a laptop bag that charges your laptop and sneakers with built-in GPS. I want it all.

4. Oomba – These guys? Well these guys are having some naming troubles, so the name was changed from Waba to Oomba literally the day before Launch 2011. The website doesn’t tell you much; but imagine a company that allowed you to trade those virtual objects you collect in games like FarmVille and World of Warcraft, or even auction them off to the highest bidder. Since you, of course, don’t play FarmVille you may not know much about these items  (at least not that you’ll admit, but don’t worry, your secret is safe with us. On the Internet.)

In many games though, you can earn or capture rare items like a sword or talking cow. Maybe you earn two talking cows and decide it’s too much, because they’re arguing all the time. So you want to sell one, because it would be virtually mean to just let one go wander in a virtual field. eBay however banned you from doing that, so where do you go? Oomba is your place. The company is headed up by Michael Williams, a guy who has written many computer games himself and who gave the best presentation I saw. Also on board with him is Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. [No, really. And I was totally in the room with that guy.] And cause that wasn’t enough, they also brought on the guy who created Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon. I think it’s safe to say this is a team that knows a bit about gaming and collecting. I’m excited about this one.

5. Trutag Technologies – You know that medicine your doctor just prescribed for you? There’s a 10% chance that it is  counterfeit. On the surface, 10% isn’t a lot, right? But we’re talking about something that you’re taking to get better, something that if you take the wrong thing, could do you real harm. Now 10% is a massively large number, isn’t it? Trutag looks to fix that with a edible bar code that will authenticate medicine at the dosage level. While they primarily focused on the medical applications at Launch 2011, they detail other possible uses on their website. While I think it’s kinda weird to think that your medicine has been tagged with something that can be read by a scanner but is edible; the technology behind it all is amazing.

Steelhouse, TruTags, and Innovalley were all voted as “Most Likely to Succeed”, along with Sylvatex Biofuels, Warranty Life, and Flyvie (which I know our own Katie Laird will be interested in). It was so interesting to hear from these entrepreneurs and get an idea of some of the technologies being developed today. Innovation is still alive and well! If you’re interested in learning more about the start up culture in Silicon Valley, check out the SVASE website. The group is a great resource for those looking for venture capital funding, and for tips on how to navigate the many challenges of a startup. Maybe we’ll see you at Launch 2012!

Featured image photo courtesy of our own Ed Schipul //   Lt. Governor photo courtesy of photography Joel Henner from PR Newswire

Fit Geek Travel Tips

For a lot of people, travel means letting go of their usual exercise routines.    It’s easy to understand why—if you’re in a fascinating new place, why would you want to waste time inside a generic hotel gym?    If you only head out of town a few times a year, skipping your exercise probably won’t set you back very far.    For frequent travelers serious about keeping in shape, figuring out a way to squeeze exercise into your travel is critical to staying on track.    For me, the best way to integrate sightseeing and exercise is simple: go running!

Foot travel is the best way to familarize yourself with a new place.    Odds are, if you in a car or train, you’re going too fast to get a good look at anything.    If you are on foot, you really get the chance to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (for better or worse…) of the city you’re visiting.    Running also keeps packing simple, because you don’t need a lot of equipment.  All you really need is a good pair of shoes, and some clothes you don’t mind getting sweaty in.    If you’re really concerned about weight/space in your suitcase, Nike makes extremely lightweight and flexible running shoes that are based on the latest footwear technology.

In the past, the most difficult things about travel running were figuring out exactly how far I ran, and remembering my route.    In Houston I know that I am covering 3 miles every time I circle Memorial Park.    I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me that.    But until the advent of the smartphone , when I was running in an unfamiliar city, I was left to guess.    The solution?    Runkeeper.

Runkeeper is a free app (you can upgrade to pro for $9.99), available on both the iPhone and Android,    that uses your phone’s GPS to track the duration, distance, speed, elevation, and calories burned on your run.    It also maps your route, which is extremely helpful when you are trying to relocate something you passed during your run.    You can even share the details with your friends, by posting your stats to Facebook and Twitter.

Have bad joints, and can’t run?    Walk or bike instead.    Runkeeper works equally well for walkers and cyclists, should you feel inclined to rent a bike while you’re out of town.    Weather need not be a deterrent either.    I’ve run through rainy streets in NY and snow covered sidewalks in Oregon.    However, if you think you might encounter some inclement  weather, invest in a weather-proof case for your phone. If you get caught in a sudden downpour, you’ll be very glad you did!

If you’re also watching your diet really closely and need some extra help while you’re on the road, there are calorie tracking apps as well.    My favorite is a free app for the iPhone called Lose It!. It helps you calculate your caloric intake with an extensive built-in database of possible foods (you can also enter in calories manually), and adjusts for calories burned during exercise.    It’s not an exact science, but it is a useful tool when you are outside your usual environment and want to keep your diet on target.

Some vacations certainly call for parking yourself in a lounge chair for days without lifting a finger, and trying every bit of local food you can get your hands on.  If it’s not one of those trips, use the technology you’re probably carrying in your pocket/purse anyway to help you stay fit this summer!

CC license photos thanks to flickr users mikebeard &  philcampbell.

OH MiFi! What an internet connection!

Verizon Mifi Card courtesy of judybaxter on Flickr
Verizon Mifi Card courtesy of judybaxter on Flickr

You find yourself at the crossroads in Nowhereville, Arizona and your trusty iPhone 3G pulled a  Houdini  what do you do? With no blue or red pill what options do you have? Get out the old key map? Boo.. that’s old school. Let’s use Google maps!

Now you can travel anywhere and take your broadband connection with you. The Verizon MiFi card is your new partner in crime giving you a 1Mb/s download speed. You and four of your buddies can connect and watch the latest in politics while searching for a guiding light home.

This nifty piece of technology can fit in your pocket and last up to 3.5 hours with light usage (emails, surfing) and 2 hours with heavy usage (youtube, facebook, flickr). It comes with an LED indicator for battery usage, a cable to connect it to your computer for a single USB internet connection, and a power cable to recharge it on an AC outlet. The USB cable charges too.

Verizon offers a  variety  of pricing plans including pre-paid ones. You can buy 1 week worth of access capped at 300MB for $30 or you can pay $30/month for 250MB. Personally, I would use the pre-paid plans only when I go on vacation.

If you can afford the initial $269.99 this easy to use MiFi card can come to the rescue and you can be the geeky hero you have always wanted to be!