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Concerns buying iPad for paperless office work

Discussion in 'iPad at Work' started by SystemsEngineer, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    Hello,

    I would like to go paperless in my work as a Systems Engineer. My typical working day consists of meetings where I sit and talk to people about their requirements. Based on those requirements I provide a course (I'm a trainer too), consult my colleagues or set up a CRS (Customer Requirement Specification).
    During these meetings I use a note pad (pen and paper) to take notes. The notes are entered in chronologic order and if I need to access the notes I need to have my note pad around. I have multiple projects and multiple tasks within those projects so my notes are scattered across the pages and it usually takes some time to find what I'm looking for. Using a laptop to enter notes is not a client-friendly solution, because the client only sees the back of the screen and this prevents an open discussion. Additionally, sometimes I lay my note pad on the table to make a drawing in order to show the client what I mean. Hard to do with a laptop.

    So I was thinking maybe an iPad is the solution.

    I have the following requirements and concerns:

    1. unintentional touch
    When sketching (drawing) I will put my hand on the surface I'm drawing on. On paper, nothing unexpected will happen. How about when I lay my hand on the iPad surface while drawing?

    2. App for text + draw + picture
    I will typically want to add text (handwritten), drawings (hand drawn) and images (taken with the built-in camera) into one single document. It would be nice if the app could convert the hand written text to digital text by using OCR software. Any suggestions for such an app?

    3. Syncing
    I have 3 Macs, all running SL. No iCloud there to sync contacts. Is there any way to sync contacts between the iPad and my Macbook? Syncing using Bluetooth or even a USB cable would be fine.

    4. Which iPad?
    I'm not overly tech-savvy and I'm not really interested in the latest and greatest, just for the hell of it. I'm interested in pure functionality and my guess is that even an iPad 1 would do the trick for me, provided the processing power is enough for what I want to do. If I want to buy new, iPad2 or iPad4 are now my options. An iPad mini is too small for what I want to do. I don't need SIM, wifi will do because I'll always have my android phone w/ tethering at hand.
    Any suggestions on which iPad for my objectives are very welcome.

    5. Other?
    One thing I've learned as a Systems Engineer is that it's possible not to be aware of some things I don't know. So: what do you people know that I don't but should, regarding what I want to do?

    Thanks!

    Peter
  2. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Nice post.

    Hmm....I'm wondering if a Surface Pro tablet (or an equivalent, non-Microsoft tablet) would be better for you. Or, perhaps a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (I'm referring to the one that comes with a pen, in case I got the name wrong).

    The reason I mentioned these is because they have digitizers built in...the iPad does not. So, writing on the screen is not going to yield the best experience, though it can be done and I have seen people do it, and I have done it myself on a limited basis (these have palm rejection schemes). But writing on a screen with a pen with a tip just works better overall than using a fat-tipped stylus, IMO. I use a Lenovo x220t, which is a convertable tablet PC, running Win7. I use OneNote and I can write, include images, and project the image to a larger screen. This does your #2 perfectly. You can put your palm on the screen and it is smart enough to not register (it detect the tip of the pen, so it can reject other pressure points as they don't come from the tip of the pen). I do wish it was much lighter, though, which is why i'm looking for a Windows 8 tablet with a digitizing screen (not just a touch screen like what the iPad has). I'm not keen on Win8, but it comes with these devices and it does have better pen support and is designed for touch screen input.

    You can indeed sync contacts via iCloud. I do mine via Google, but that is not the only way.

    If you do get an iPad, I'd get the iPad 4. The high res screen will be of benefit to you. That is the downside to the Samsung device, IMO. It has a relatively low resolution screen. I would expect them to up their game this year, however, with a new model with a high-res screen.

    But if you want to use an iPad, there are apps that handle handwriting. I don't like fooling with handwriting to text conversion, though, because my handwriting is really not so good, since I type so much these days. But I use my x220t for handwritten technical talks several times weekly. It works very well.
  3. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    Hello AQ_OC,
    Thank you for your elaborate reply and advice. I will surely check out the digitisers, although I do prefer Apple as a brand and OS. I had a look at the x220t, but it looks overly heavy for what I'd like to use it for. I feel that only a Galaxy or iPad type of device (light and thin resembling paper note pad dimensions) will be accepted by my coworkers as something to use on a regular basis. And this probably is the most important requirement, more important than ease of screen input & pen support.
    So I will have a look at the Galaxy and the iPad. I'm 40 years old but I feel like a stone age relic because I've never used any touch screen devices except my Samsung Galaxy Young smartphone. My local Apple reseller said he sells pen-shaped pointing devices for an iPad that have a soft but small tip. Now that you gave me the words to look for, I ran a google search and came up with these:
    The current state of styli and the iPad: does the stylus still blow it? | Ars Technica
    http://www.ipadforums.net/ipad-accessories-ipad-1-2-3/90782-stylus-palm-rejection.html
    Good read and you are right about the iPad not being the best choice for writing on it with a Stylus.

    Will be continued.

    Thanks,

    Peter
  4. Devynquinn
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    Devynquinn iPF Novice

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    iPad won't do it. Look at a windows tablet like the Asus B121. You can draw, write and edit on screen with the stylus, just like using a pen. Expensive but worth the money. Mine runs windows 7 ultimate and a full MS office. They are awesome and only slightly larger than ipad. Also comes with a case and bluetooth keyboard. Very portable.
  5. col.bris
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    col.bris Administrator Staff Member

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    I have clients using pens with the iPad 4 and they work fine. I suggest trying one to see the results

    There are many apps that support drawing and using the pens

    I am happy to provide the names when I get home later today

    Cheers Colin


    Sent from my iPhone 5 using Tapatalk in Australia
  6. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    Hi Devynquinn and Colin,
    A bit of a contradiction here (which is good for the discussion:)) and yes Colin I would really appreciate the brands/types of the pens and the apps you think work OK on the iPad4. Devynquinn I will have a look at the Windows tablets, thanks for sharing your experience.

    I would like to say a word of thanks to you for helping me out the way you do. This appears to be a very friendly forum, unlike some other forums (in the area of photography) that I once visited. I think I may stay here!

    Back to the topic:
    My Systems Engineering practise (see below) is all about helping customers that are not an export in the field of interest develop a solid list of requirements before jumping to solutions. For the type of products I'm looking into, I find myself to be the "customer" and I'm certainly no expert. But I do want to save myself from ordering product A and be left wanting product B. This is why I could use some help building my Customer Requirement Specification (see explanation below). Theoretically, I could build a CRS and go create my own solution based upon that. But in this field, I can't develop my own solution. I'll have to choose between ready products that are there in the market. Here is where it's very important to be aware of any hidden requirements I may have, because the product I'm about to order may serve multiple requirements (my own, but also those of the stakeholders like family members and coworkers) that are still hidden.
    Customers are: me, my wife, my children aged 4-7
    Stakeholders are: my wife, my coworkers (my wife is a stakeholder too because she won't be amused if I go sit on the couch all night with a new toy instead of doing things together)

    So far, my CRS has the following requirements:
    A. Functional requirements:
    #1. The system should offer a Paperless Office experience for all office tasks: take notes during meetings, compose single documents with text, drawings and photos, create instant PDFs, email PDFs immediately to the meeting members, build an archive per project and within per topic
    #2. The system should be useable for at least 6 hours between battery charges
    #3. The system should be able to be operated by an external keyboard
    #4. The system should perform the tasks leading from this CRS at a speed that is acceptable for a business environment (no annoying delays)
    #5. The system should be suitable for taking notes with a stylus pen device for 6 hours a week
    #6. The system should be suitable for taking notes with typed text for 3 hours a day
    #7. The total amount of paperless content produced (text, drawings and pictures) is estimated at 15~25 pages (letter/A4 format) a week
    B. Interface requirements
    #1. The system should have connectivity with Apple Macbooks and Mac Pro (home environment)
    #2. The system should have connectivity with Microsoft Windows workstations (work environment)
    #3. The system should produce documents that are readable on Windows Systems by my coworkers
    #4. The system should produce documents that are easy to comment on digitally (on Windows Systems) by my coworkers (I don't know if I should require this)
    #5. The system should be able to connect to the internet through any wireless network (wifi), at home, at work, while travelling through android phone tethering
    C. Aspect requirements
    a. Security
    #1. The system should meet safety requirements set by the office system adminstrator (data security, firewall etc.)
    b. Durability
    #1. The system should withstand daily use
    #2. The system should withstand daily transport per back pack (The North Face Surge II) on a commuter train
    #3. The system should withstand occasional use by children aged 4-10

    Based on what I've been reading so far there seems to be a preference for non-Apple brands if entering data with a pen is the main purpose. But there must be more we can do with a tablet and I am wondering what other things you think I or my family members could wish for. I would hate to buy a device based my "paperless office" requirements alone, only to find we made the wrong choice.

    So please shoot me all the requirements you think we might have as a family.

    Thanks!

    Peter


    Systems Engineering approach
    My Systems Engineering job is all about assisting customers that aren't experts in the field of interest. In Systems Engineering, we define the requirements first ("Customer Requirement Specification" or CRS), without jumping to solutions, and we try to work with those requirements towards a set of options, make a trade-off using the CRS itself and finally choose a solution and verify that it meets all requirements listed in the CRS. It's a completely different process compared to buying consumer products because the latter is all about wanting to buy what's offered and what the neighbour has (my 7 -year old daughter wants a Nintendo DS because her girlfriend has one). After the CRS is ready, it may become apparent that the requirements can be met by Solution A, B or C. Alternatively, it may turn out that one solution can't serve all requirements, or that all requirements can be served by existing solutions and nothing should be developed or acquired. After the system is defined, a System Requirements Specification (SRS) will follow (say a SRS for a tablet) in order to select the right tablet and accessories for the tasks required. In the end, we as Systems Engineers hope to ultimately serve the client's needs in such a way that he/she is completely satisfied and won't be faced with a lacking solution within the period specified.
  7. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    You can accomplish this with either the iPad, Android, or Windows tablets. But you can very likely do this *best* with a device that has a digitizing screen that uses pen rather than a capacitive touch screen that uses a sytlus. Actually, what I'm calling a pen is really a stylus, but people are using that term with pens that work with touchscreen only devices.

    There are now tablets that run Windows and Office (with OneNote). These tablets are about the same weight as an iPad. You can get keyboards for them too. Here is an example:

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2014
  8. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    This one might be better:



    This is very similar to how the Lenovo X220t works...but this device is a tablet and comes in a tablet form factor. The x220t is a convertable laptop and is heavier than these Win8 tablets. Note that the screen detects the pen...this does not happen on a capacitive touch screen device (iPad). You can do more precise "inking" with a digitizing screen. On a touch screen, the typical way to do this is zoom in close, write, and then zoom out. In that way, you can write with fine detail.

    I'm hoping that the next iPad has a digitizing screen in addition to a touch screen.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2014
  9. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    In addition to the Samsung line, I'm also going to consider this one:



    I don't know why this guy made this video all square like this, but there are many others to look at.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2014
  10. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    Hi AQ
    I watched your videos and yes they look better for stylus work than a couple of iPad/notesplus videos I watched. Thank you for your links, very helpful.

    My next step now is really to find out what the people on this forum use their tablets for, and whether or not the iPad is doing those things better than other brands. So what are your favourite apps? What are you using this thing for? And why Apple and not Galaxy or vice versa? I know there are 10s of thousands of apps but just add your top 5 here below. By doing so I can see what you do with it, complete my CRS and start the trade off.
    Please do take in account that I have young children who may like to play games or get educated on a tablet.
    Thanks!
  11. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My most used app is GoodReader for viewing PDFs and giving talks. I also use my iPad for reading papers from journals and reviewing papers for journals. I keep manuals for my car, my electronics gear, blood work scans, etc. in there. It is great for that. Plus, it links into Dropbox so I can get to that material from any place.

    Then, I use magic piano probably every day too....more for stress relief. I use the YouTube app a lot to follow tech vlogs and reviews. I have a lot of apps, too, from games (I'm not much of a gamer but I keep several around), to recipe apps, to kindle books, to magazines (computer stuff), comics, and movies. I only really watch movies on an iPad when I travel, though. I probably have 300 apps on iPad. I have a 3rd gen and a mini, as well as two other android tablets. I have several pcs and laptops, so I use the best tool for the job and hand. Sometimes I will take my iPad and keyboard out some place to get some words down when equations aren't needed.

    Yes, it sounds like you have some other motivations beyond just work. As I mentioned more than once, you can do what you want on an iPad. The apps are there. Things won't be as optimal in the work department, but maybe an iPad will serve your overall needs better. It is a very powerful general purpose device, once you learn all the various details to get what you need from it. It is certainly a lot more fun than any windows machine I have ever owned.
  12. Devynquinn
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    Devynquinn iPF Novice

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    I can not find a stylus that acts and feels like an ink pen. Suggestions?
  13. Devynquinn
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    Devynquinn iPF Novice

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    My ipad: media consumption, movies, Internet, news. My Asus, editing what I have written without having to waste ink and paper. I type my manuscripts, then edit by hand, which helps me catch more errors. Then I can go back in, make the changes in type and delete the handwritten notes. I have not found a stylus that acts like a real ink pen that would allow me to do that on an ipad.
  14. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    This is most helpful, thank you for your shortlists. I have learned from experience that I am a much happier computer user since I made the switch from PC to Mac back in 2007. I just get more productive and I like the philosophy behind the OS. But, as Simon Sinek says, it's the "why" or the "vision" that contributes most to making companies successful, not their products and he uses Apple as an example. I don't think I will ever go back to Windows for my private computer stuff, because I like it this way. However, for tablets I don't know if there's much difference between iOS, Android and Windows. They all seem to work the same (from a distance). But like I said, I haven't ever used a tablet in my life. So I'm going to ask:

    AQ, I am wondering if you can describe why the iPad is more fun to you than a Windows equivalent. Is it just the fact that it's from Apple, with its almost presumtuous ways to do things and their stylish presentation, or are there really distinctive differences that would - for me - tip the balance to iPad?

    You may or may not have missed what I wrote as #7 in my Requirements Specification:
    #7. The total amount of paperless content produced (text, drawings and pictures) is estimated at 15~25 pages (letter/A4 format) a week.
    I should add to this that my current amount of (handwritten-on-paper) pages is far less than this: I have used a smaller notebook (about 6"x8" size) for a year now and it's about half full. That comes down to about 3 pages a week. I think I will produce more pages once I can have it all digitally, but really I won't be using the iPad all day for entering text-drawings-pictures. It is essential that I can do it when needed, but it's not core business.

    So based on all of this I think I should weigh the personal benefits of having a tablet just as much as the business reasons.

    I look forward to your replies. And this still can go different ways for me. I have not yet made up my mind.

    Thank you so much for your efforts. Very much appreciated!!

    Peter
  15. AQ_OC
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    AQ_OC Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Peter,

    I'm convinced now that the iPad will be what you are wanting. Now, there are some big differences between Windows, iOS, and Android. iOS is app-centric, while Windows and Android are file-centric. On iOS, files are a bit harder to interact with than on the other two. Even OS X is file-centric compared to iOS. So you may need to be aware of this and plan to deal with the fact that things will be different on iOS that what you may be used to. Some people fight the different way of thinking and we here spend a lot of time trying to help them through it. I admit for me it was a bit of a shock at first, but once I thought about it I found it much eaiser to adapt myself.

    Now why do I found iOS & iPad more fun? I've been Windows user since it came out...used DOS before that..and VMS before that. Windows used to be fun....but the lack of competion as all but killed program development for Windows, comparatively speaking (there continues to be app development, but nothing like how it was). App development is alive and well on iOS. New apps to do new things in new ways. I think that's why I find it more fun. Truth be told, you can get done as much on a PC, but it just isn't as enjoyable. Plus, you can't sit on the couch and half-watch TV while fiddling with a PC they way you can with an iPad or Android tablet. :)

    I think its time to turn this to figuring out the best set of apps are to get done what you need to do. I have a few notions, but I don't have exhaustive knowledge of all of the many apps out there. Maybe Colin friends can offer some input on this too.

    Handwriting apps: I have UPAD, Penultimate, Notability. There are many others. I don't consider myself any kind of expert on these, but I like Notability the best. It takes notes (obviously), lets you annotate PDFs, draw pictures, use dropbox, etc. You can read in .doc, ppt, and xls files, as well as PDFs. And it is currently on sale, too.

    Drawing: Several of these too. I have this one called iDraw which seems very powerful. This is a vector based drawing app, so you might not need this one as it is not mainly for free hand drawing. But something to keep in mind as a systems engineer.

    You will also need a good stylus. There is the Adonit Jot Pro. It has a fine tip on the end, but I'm a little afraid of it. Reviewers on Amazon claim this one has scratched up theei iPad screen. I don't know what to think of that. I have found that if the tip is made of microfiber rather than rubber it works better. New Trent seems to have some models with fine tips on them which I find work better for me.

    That's all for now.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  16. SystemsEngineer
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    SystemsEngineer iPF Novice

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    I'm learning with every post. Ironically, my first computer experience was with Apple. It was in 1985, I was 16 years old and our school had a room full of Apple II's. Off white box with keyboard built in, no hard drive, external 5.25" floppy drive that needed to hold a system disk to boot from, amber or green CRT monitor on top. After that I was thrilled with the first PC I saw that had a hard drive built in. At university, 4 years later, I had my own PC and I did a lot of pascal programming. There were MacII's in those days but they were quite unaffordable. After that i kept upgrading to 386, 486, Pentium and that's where it ended in 2007. I got my first Mac, a Macbook Pro 17" 2006 model with a 30" HD Cinema Display. I still use it weekly, although it has been complemented by a Mac Pro 5,1 and a 13" Macbook to take on the commuter train with me. The PC is in the attic gathering dust. Anyway this is my computer experience.

    I looked up the meaning of app-centric and file-centric. I wasn't aware that the former existed and quite frankly I'm not thrilled by the prospect of using such a system. Then again if you say you can adapt I certainly should be able to adapt too. Anyway a friend of mine owns an iPad 3rd gen. I don't get to see him very often but the next time I do I will try his one, knowing what I've learned in this topic will give me ample opportunity to determine if it will meet my needs and wishes. I may even get a stylus thing to test it properly.

    Thank you all for your efforts in educating me and for your analyses and advice. I really appreciate that, as I've mentioned before. It may take a while before I write again, because I need to do some testing first. I'm not in a hurry. I want to make a good choice that I won't regret, I don't want to end up getting a Galaxy or other after I get an iPad. :)

    Peter

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