Scientific reading on iPad?
June 13, 2010 3:16 PM   Subscribe

How feasible is it to read a ton of .pdfs on the iPad? Can I save some trees and save my spine?

I'm one of those people who has trouble really absorbing scientific articles when I read them on the computer screen. If I print the article out, I can do a much better job of thoroughly dissecting it. (This isn't important for every article, but I'd really like to have the option to do so in a digital format.)

I tried a Kindle, but thought it really sucked for .pdfs. The iPad looks like it would do the trick, but I haven't been able to find much good commentary about how good it is for reading and marking up articles.

Remote access to other machines and all the other "wow, nifty" aspects of the iPad would be a sweet bonus, but if the .pdfs don't look good or aren't readily readable, it's not worth it to me.

Anyone make the transition from paper reading to iPad? Please advise...
posted by solipsophistocracy to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've sort of made the transition to reading on the iPad. PDFs look great.

I don't know how you would mark them up, though. If you mean by taking notes/highlighting them, (1) I haven't tried this, (2) I don't know if there is an app that lets you do this, and (3) typing on the iPad is awkward.

But, given all of that, the display is great.
posted by dfriedman at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2010


I have been doing it on my iPad with good results. If you get one, I would recommend the free app CloudReader. It can handle PDFs and the various comic book archive formats.
posted by slavlin at 3:29 PM on June 13, 2010


I've posted in Ask in the past about how conflicted I am about my iPad -- it fails fundamentally at some of the things I hoped it would do -- but I will say without reservation that it is a GREAT PDF reader. There are any number of excellent PDF reader programs (including CloudReaders and GoodReader) as well as Documents to Go for iPad. PDF is also being built into Apple's iBooks app and should be great.

For markups, I use iAnnotate PDF which is more than serviceable -- not the best reader in the world but very good for marking up. If PDFs are your thing, it's a great device.
posted by The Bellman at 3:37 PM on June 13, 2010


If you mean by taking notes/highlighting them

Yeah, this is what I mean. I think the Sente for iPad app will let me do this eventually, but I'm open to whatever format an app that will let me do this uses. Being able to highlight or take notes though, is one of the biggest benefits of reading articles on paper. I know I can do notes with the computer too, but it's so much less immediate and removed. iPad seems like an ideal platform to let you really interact directly with the text, but if there's no app that will let me do so, then I don't think I'll be able to switch

posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:40 PM on June 13, 2010


For markups, I use iAnnotate PDF which is more than serviceable -- not the best reader in the world but very good for marking up. If PDFs are your thing, it's a great device.

So you read them in one app, but annotate in a different one? Is that not a hassle?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:41 PM on June 13, 2010


Just starting out myself, but I have found that getting the PDF file to the iPad is the greatest obstacle. PDF files can be accessed using the Dropbox application, but that uses the iPad's own PDF viewer, which is limited. (It does not recognize bookmarks, for example.) Services such as drop.io will not work, either, since they rely on iPaper, a Flash-based app.

Other apps are available, but they do not have the ability to simply open a PDF file contained in the Dropbox. You have to use their tools to transfer the PDF file to the iPad.

Once you open a PDF file, however, the display is excellent.
posted by megatherium at 3:42 PM on June 13, 2010


Just an FYI, dedicated support for PDFs is being added to iBooks on the iPad in the iOS 4 update, coming in about a week. This will add a PDF library and management interface and let you mark up and make notes on them. See the recent WWDC keynote for details and a demo.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2010


I'm using GoodReader on the iPad, juggling several hundred finance & economics PDFs without a problem.

You can get documents onto the iPad via multiple mechanisms; it has a built in web browser (which I tend to use most often), or via USB / iTunes or via WiFi off your notebook (which I've never used).

It also handles Excel spreadsheets of varying complexity, as well as jpegs and other file types.

Very nice so far. It cost but not much as I'm frugal.
posted by Mutant at 4:00 PM on June 13, 2010


Reading on the ipad is awesome. I do it all the time and have a great workflow set up. Anotating is not so great. I also have a tablet pc (they can be found for about the same price if this is your main goal). It is far better for marking up papers.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:08 PM on June 13, 2010


It IS a hassle yes -- especially in the absence of a unified file system. So I use iAnnotate for PDFs I'm going to mark up and another reader (usually GoodReader) for PDFs I'm just reading. iAnnotate isn't a BAD reader, it's just not as clean as the ones that don't annotate, for obvious reasons.
posted by The Bellman at 4:29 PM on June 13, 2010


The apps that you should be looking at for this are:
iAnnotate (for annotation and marking up), GoodReader (best reader), and iPrinter (treats your iPad like a system printer, so you just print to it.) As soon as all these folks integrate iDisk / Dropbox (GoodReader already does) - they will be perfect.
posted by Brent Parker at 4:35 PM on June 13, 2010


PDF files can be accessed using the Dropbox application, but that uses the iPad's own PDF viewer, which is limited.

GoodReader integrates Dropbox.

OP, I think you need to scam some colleague's iPad when the iOS4 update comes out and see how his or her copy of iBooks suits you, though.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2010


I have been disappointed using it for this purpose. The pdfs I have attempted to read have been formatted with 2 columns per page (so smallish font) and include some diagrams and equations.

It's a very responsive device at the "natural" zoom level (100%). I consistently found that when I zoomed in on one of the columns -- making them approximately the full width of the screen -- it would get very slow to render and to move around.

Possibly I was doing something wrong, but it was really very frustrating: I was specifically excited because it seemed very snappy in-store and would be suitable for blowing the text up to jumbo size, but I've had no luck with pdfs when zoomed in on them.
posted by hoople at 6:50 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, seconding that you should wait until June 24, when iBooks gets built-in PDF support, and seeing how things work then.
posted by suedehead at 7:26 PM on June 13, 2010


It's not free, but this may be relevant to your interests: Papers for iPad.
posted by joeyo at 7:28 PM on June 13, 2010


The new OS coming out next week will support PDFs in iBooks. IBooks does allow for annotations in books, perhaps the functionality will carry over to PDFs. This is not welcome news for the producers of Goodreader.
posted by sourwookie at 8:31 PM on June 13, 2010


I also found Kindles useless for PDFs, and for nonfiction in general. I never realized until I owned one how vital it is to flip back to pages you've already read and revisit material when reading papers. The time it takes for electronic ink to draw to the screen makes eBooks useless for this.

The iPad, on the other hand, is a dream. Given the failure of the Kindle, I never would have guessed that it would be such so useful for reading academic papers. But it is just great. I use Dropbox with GoodReader, and being able to pull up and easily read any paper I want at the drop of a hat is friggin' great. I've managed to convert a lot of initial Apple naysayers in my department by showing them how wonderful it is for reading papers though.

It's useless for production though (unless you count making occasional MeFi comments, like this one). It's for consumption only. People seem to care that you cant take notes on papers, although I haven't been bothered by this. They'll probably eventually come out with something that will do this well, but I doubt it'll ever be very good. Better to just change habits. I've gotten in the habit of propping it up with a BookGem, loading up papers, and then taking notes in a separate LaTeX document using a netbook on the side. Then I save the notes in the same folder as the original paper in Dropbox and compile it, and I can then open up the notes on the iPad for use later.

I don't read too many papers with tiny graphs or anything like that though.
posted by painquale at 9:50 PM on June 13, 2010


If you're planing to use the iPad to read scientific papers, you should definitely look at Papers. It stores all the bibliographic metadata for the articles, so you can quickly filter through your library to find all papers written by a particular author, or published in a certain journal. Additionally, there is a built in search tool for PubMed (and other literature databases for other fields). Unfortunately, it doesn't let you annotate PDFs directly, but you can type notes into a hovering text-box whilst reading.


You can either download PDFs with the built in browser (you can add a bookmarklet to Safari that opes the page you're viewing in Papers) or sync wirelessly with the desktop Papers app (Mac only).
posted by James Scott-Brown at 1:09 AM on June 14, 2010


Papers pales in comparison to Sente, but thanks for the tip.

I've gotten in the habit of propping it up with a BookGem, loading up papers, and then taking notes in a separate LaTeX document using a netbook on the side. Then I save the notes in the same folder as the original paper in Dropbox and compile it, and I can then open up the notes on the iPad for use later.

This kind of defeats the purpose to me. If I've gotta have a shitload of different stuff simultaneously, I might as well just sit at the damn desk, print the paper, write on it, and type up my notes.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:36 AM on June 14, 2010


Thanks a bunch, everybody. Sorry for threadsitting so closely.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 5:04 PM on June 17, 2010


I bit the bullet and got one, and it's working out perfectly. Thanks for the input, everybody!
posted by solipsophistocracy at 5:47 PM on August 28, 2010


« Older Creating labels using a databa...   |  What are your tricks to keep f... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.