I have been using an ipad for several months now and I think I’m just starting to really take advantage of its fabulous potential.

I was primarily looking for an eBook reader. and a notetaker with some mindmapping capabilities.  The quantity and quality of applications quickly has gone beyond my expectations, even though iOS 4.2 is badly missed.

So, after having installed and tried all sorts of ipad software, some have revealed to be useful and will probably stay.

Here are some screenshots of my current setup.

Readers

Readers

Readers and references

These are probably the apps I use the most, as I was primarily interested in the eReader capabilities of the ipad.

The main apps here are GoodReader, Kindle and iBooks.  The Free Books app gives access to a large collection of freely available books, mainly from the Project Gutenberg library.  This is great to find some classical literature but has the inconvenience of often poor formatting and/or missing characters (single quotes, foreign language accents, etc).

The wikipanion is a tiny interface to wikipedia and txtr is a surprising reference search engine.  It is very basic but sometimes can be useful to find additional sources of information on a specific topic.

iScience and Math ref are small references to scientific background.  Perfect companions when you are trying to remember a given mathematical concept or a specific physical law, or even the properties of a natural element.

Finally, Read it later allows you to save web pages to browse them offline and ShinKanji lite is a nice reference to japanese Kanji characters (only a limited set of them in the lite version).  Let’s have a look at those:

GoodReader

GoodReader

In this example, I have some Oracle related documents that I organize into folders.  The first advantage I saw with GoodReader with respect to iBooks is that you can organize your library as you want, and are not forced to use iTunes each time you want to store a document.  iTunes may be great to manage musci and video, but I hate feeling trapped into a colsed application.

So here I open a factsheet pdf.

Factsheet

Nothing new.  What is interesting here is the ability to enter keyboard and freehand notes in the document, with the ability to draw directly in the document.  GoodReader will propose you to make a copy of your original document before modifying it.  That’s pretty handy as you can then search your own notes in the document.

Factsheet2

Factsheet3

Factsheet4

Factsheet5

Factsheet6

A cool feature of GoodReader is that it allows you to browse the web and download documents.  For example, I have entered the url to a specific document in the Oracle documentation library and it’s downloaded and displayed in a couple seconds.

oracledoc_url

oracledoc

Finally, I appreciate very much the ability to transfer documents through several channels, including directly upload via http to the ipad, download with ftp/lDAV and other internet service providers such as dropbox or box.net.

Goodreader transfer

Did I mention that this app also reads Office documents (word, excel, powerpoint) ? In my case, the goal here is not to use the ipad to carry all sorts of documents.  It can be too risky to store confidential documents on an ipad (until a reliable cryptography mechanism is in place) but sometimes, for short times, it is very convenient for quick readings or discrete presentations on a table.

As another example, I’ll open the same book that I purchased on Apress, Expert Oracle Practices, in both GoodReader and iBooks, to spot   the main differences.

eop_gr1

We see here the main controls: a vertical slider at the left to quickly go to a given page.

The horizontal menu bar on the bottom has several cool functionalities.  The ones I appreciate the most are the ability to exactly set the contrast, brightness, font size, background colour and so on.  The reading mode allows you to choose a reading speed and the text will scroll down automatically so that you don’t need to move a lot.  This is interesting if you are holding the ipad with one hand and your coffee with the other, for example, or are just too tired of turning pages.

The table of contents is correctly parsed and the sections are easily accessible, as shown below.

oep_gre2

Nevertheless, the page numbers are never correct, so that what you see in the page footer does not correspond to what is displayed by the app! (this is also the case with iBooks).

oep_gre3

oep_gre4

iBooks

The same book opened in iBooks, with limited functionality and the same issue with page numbers.  iBooks allows you to mark pages for later reference and search.  It is not possible to organize the documents in categories or folders though, and you need to synchronize your pdf’s using iTunes or through mail attachments.

eop_ibo1

eop_ibo2

Amazon Kindle

The only reason why I use Amazon Kindle on the iPad is the availability of some books on Kindle and not in an eBook (pdf or ePub) format.

This is the case with a book I purchased recently, namely Oracle SOA Suite 11g handbook, by Lucas Jellema. I will not enter into the description of this book as I haven’t finished reading it yet.  This is a monumental piece of work which is not only complete and detailed, it also has, along with its 800 pages printed size, an online wiki with additional extras!  phew! A real delight if you like to explore things and constantly learn something new.

Something I don’t like in Kindle ebooks is the fact that you completely lose the original format.  The printed look, the fonts, the overall rendering in a way that just delivers text and images.  Nevertheless, Amazon Kindle provides decent (albeit basic) reading customisation for the fonts, the colours and the notes/highlighting tools.

Something particular with Kindle books though is that they reside in the Amazon repository so that you can retrieve them from any Kindle client or capable device.  There is also a function to synchronize a device with the last read so that you find the location where you left the book lately.

kindle1

kindle2

kindle3

kindle4

kindle5

iScience

This tiny app contains some maths, physics and chemistry information.  College level, nothing fancy here but nice to have sometimes if you have interest in these topics and need to recall some concepts.

Physics1

Physics2

chem1

math

Math Ref

This is another little reference app but is focused only on maths.  Pretty cool refresher.

mathref3

mathref1

mathref2

ShinKanji lite

A small comment about this cute app displaying a beautiful sample of japanese kanjis.  Not only the app provides a description of the kanjis, their radicals and relationships with other kanjis, but gives small clips showing how to draw them stroke by stroke.

kanji1

kanji2