Can I use the Xoom to edit pdfs using a stylus?
August 8, 2011 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I want to read and mark-up ebooks and pdfs and word docs using a stylus but not be bound to Apple. Your experiences with the Xoom or other tablet?

I read on here that the Ipad does this pretty well via notetaker, but I am kinda anti-apple. Can I do this on the Xoom? I think I read that I would be relegated to using a keyboard to make notes on the Xoom. True? Do you know of another non-apple tablet that will do this?

Thanks in advance!
posted by WinterSolstice to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, there are lots of apps for Android tablets that do this.

QuickOffice (included with Samsung Galaxy) lets you create and edit MS Office compatible docs.
EzPDF will let you annotate and mark PDFs. However, I don't think there's an app yet that can actually edit the PDF itself.

Just FYI the Xoom is one of many tablets, and is kind of heavy. Be sure to check out the others.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:58 PM on August 8, 2011

have you given any thought to a convertible tablet pc? i have the (recently discontinued) hp tm2t and it's a sweet a great deal on ebay ($600)... windows 7 has built in handwriting recognition that actually works and it can insert into any program (part of their whole 'surface' initiative). also, unlike almost every tablet out there, it has true pressure sensitive stylus support (the harder you press, the bolder(or wider or any effect,really) the line...great for photoshop,etc) AND capacitative touch. (stylus included, slots into the side...back acts like an eraser) most tablets (like the ipad, xoom, and others) have only touch support and any stylus for them is pretty much a big conductive sponge on a stick...very unlike writing...also, the side of your hand will set it off as well...aggrivation central (the tm2t switches automagically when the tip of the stylus comes near the screen...but, very intuitively, you can still pinch to zoom,rotate,scroll,etc...its hard to explain...try writing with a pencil, then use the fingers of the same hand to touch the paper...see how the pencil tip moves about an inch from the paper? it's like that) plus, while quite a bit heavier, yes, it IS a full-featured pc laptop...12" screen, keyboard,trackpad, use it as just a tablet, you open it, flip the screen around, and close it again. though it seems everybody is leaping into the standalone tablet market, i believe toshiba and dell are still making convertible tablet PCs. if you really want to go android, AFAIK, ony the htc flyer (which only has a 7" screen) has true stylus support (stylus NOT included, and $70), but you're kind of actually likelier to find handwriting support with a windows pc than android...
posted by sexyrobot at 5:25 PM on August 8, 2011

Repligo looks like a good option and apparently does support stylus use. Haven't used it myself but I've been reading about it a lot lately.
posted by beyond_pink at 7:06 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

(every Android and iOS can be used with a stylus. They use capacitive styluses rather than the hard tipped version for older style resistive touchscreens, but your local big box store sells them.)
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:10 PM on August 8, 2011

I have an Asus Eee Slate. It is a Windows 7 machine, and has the nice touch interface that sexyrobot describes above. But it is a standalone 12.1 inch tablet rather than a laptop with a fliparound screen. It is awesome - as powerful as a regular computer. Handwriting recognition is great. Runs Office 2010 and everything else I've installed (Sims 3). BUT - It is pretty expensive, and apparently can be difficult to get.

I bought it in lieu of a laptop for starting graduate school this fall, and I have been really happy with it. If you just need to markup documents, it may not be worth it. But it is a terrific option instead of a regular laptop.
posted by jeoc at 7:28 PM on August 8, 2011

every Android and iOS can be used with a stylus. They use capacitive styluses rather than the hard tipped version for older style resistive touchscreens, but your local big box store sells them.

that wasn't what i meant, exactly...there's basically 3 types of screen input technologies currently out's up to you to decide what you need...

1)resistive touchscreens. these use two conducting layers that register input where they are pressed together, either with a finger or a passive stylus. they require a bit of pressure and are not super-accurate, even with a stylus, and are not pressure sensitive (i.e. they'll register where you're touching, but not how hard. These are an older technology and somewhat outdated and on their way out...found mostly in older phones, palm pilots, etc.
writing experience: like a stick in clay

2)capacitive touchscreens. these use the natural current in your fingertip to locate its position on the screen, but won't work with non-conductive (ie plastic tipped) styluses. they are more accurate, don't require physical pressure, but are also not pressure-sensitive. this is the tech most widely in use iphones, ipads, and the vast majority of android devices. these are designed almost exclusively for finger input. they DO make styluses that work with them, but they are of the conductive sponge-tipped variety. also, if your device is multi-touch (as most are nowadays), it's going to pick up the side of your hand as you write, borking your input. fixes for this are: hovering your hand over the surface as you write AT ALL TIMES (grar!), or wearing a special non-conductive glove. (also grar)
writing experience: crayon held in your fist

3)digitizer screens. these use an array of sensors under (or in) the screen to pick up input from a special digitizer stylus (these are pretty neat, actually...they have a tiny piezoelectric coil behind the tip that generates a tiny current as you press down...this is what the screen picks up). these are by far the most accurate, are pressure sensitive (usu ranging from 256-2048 levels of pressure...the tm2t i mentioned has 512...there's a youtube video comparing screens of 512 levels with 2048...if you can tell the difference, i'll buy you a coke), and are definitely the most suited for hand-written input. it's basically the same as a wacom tablet integrated with a screen (the one in the tm2t is manufactured by wacom). these are also the most suitable for artistic endeavors...other touchscreens only measure position, not pressure...its the difference between using a magic marker, and using a paintbrush. (if you go this route, i cannot possibly reccommend artrage enough). they do however, draw a bit more power than touchscreens and so are mostly found in devices with a bit more battery to them ( won't find them in a super light tablet with a decent-sized screen...though i have heard this is changing...oops, scratch that...asus eee slate for the win on this one)...also they make the screen a bit (1-2mm) thicker (ditto).
writing experience: like ballpoint pen

um...3a)combination digitizer/capacitive touchscreen. these are actually more common than plain jane only-digitizer screens (like the wacom cintiq...the only one with 2048 levels) and are the kind in all the convertible tablets i mentioned as well as the htc flyer

so, um...reccomending: if you dont mind a small screen (7") and really want to use android: htc flyer
if you'd like having an attached keyboard, more power, big hard drive, lower cost, etc...convertible laptop (still reccomending the 'recently discontinued' i mean 'in the last month' you should still be able to find them fully warantee covered and for a fraction of retail)
hmmm...checking out the youtube...that asus slate looks pretty sweet (and also has a pressure sensitive stylus) :) the screen looks better than mine :( , but then again it only has flash memory/SD cards...mine came with a 500gb hdd and 2 graphics cards and a totally sweet engraved aluminum body :)'s also 2 pounds heavier :(
posted by sexyrobot at 8:44 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the input so far! I've been trying to do my homework on this and I kept getting confused answers from different places about what I could and could not do on different machines. :S Plus there was usually Kindle talk thrown into the mix really throwing me off.

Repligo looks promising. The Asus looks totally awesome and if I had the budget I would be all over that. But yeah, I already have a laptop and really am just looking for a tablet to replace my paper books/articles/notebooks.
posted by WinterSolstice at 9:19 PM on August 8, 2011

here's another drool-worthy comparison of the asus slate with the ipad, with particular focus on the handwriting experience...what this guy has to say about the ipad's capabilities in this regard is applicable to all capacitive touch screens (ie the vast majority of tablet devices out there)

... that asus slate is really only about $300 more than most other tablets, and has pretty superior specs across the it comes with a bluetooth keyboard... but, do yourself a around and find a place that has a digitizer screen (whether it be a convertible or the htc flyer (which i believe they have at best buy)) and give it a test'll be hooked (it's amazing to me they aren't more common)...if handwriting is your focus (for me it's drawing), it's going to be the thing that feels most natural. and the handwriting recognition in windows 7 is pretty darn translated my rather wonky penmanship with about 99% accuracy straight out of the box and has only gotten better...

but if cost is really an issue, maybe just wait 6 months...if you haven't already, check out engadget...they have really great coverage about what's up-and-coming...keep in mind, we're really in the first (or 1.5) generation of tablet computers, and things are moving fast...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:44 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just bought a Xoom, principally to read/edit/mark/annotate PDFs and it works great. I use it with a $10 app called Qpdf, which works like a charm. Although I don't have a pen, I'm sure you could use one to highlight/cross out/underline with this program and you could certainly use it to write free text in the margins (which does not convert to font, so when I write it with my fingertips, it's often illegible -- a pen would help here).

In sum: Qpdf with Xoom is a great match.
posted by mateuslee at 10:55 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am personally waiting for the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet which comes out in 2 weeks. It's a 10.1" Android (3.1) tablet which includes an active digitizer. It seems like it might be a better choice than most other Android tablets if you'll be doing a lot of annotation.
posted by JMOZ at 6:50 AM on August 9, 2011

I've been using ezPDF (liniked above) with an Asus Transformer, the Android little borther of the the slate. I do not use a pen with the device, but in many other ways it fits what you need. I can read for hours at a time without eyestrain---recently on a trans-Atlantic flight, for example. At $399, the Transformer is the best current deal in Android tablets, IMO.

Apparently, most capacitive-capable pens (like this one, for example) will work with the Transformer screen. It just thinks the pen tip is a finger.
posted by bonehead at 6:51 AM on August 9, 2011

Kindle works great on any Android tablet too. I don't think Kindle-compatability will make a huge difference to which device you end up choosing.
posted by bonehead at 6:53 AM on August 9, 2011

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