January 7, 2013: After some hard thought, I've decided to officially shut down this blog. I know I haven't updated it in a while, but I thought I should let you all know so you can remove it from your RSS feeds, etc.
Reason: I've decided that I need to find ways to make more time to read and create books.
I had great fun working on illustrating I'M BORED (written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Sept/2012) and am now working on writing and/or illustrating new book projects. In addition to my picture book projects, I also want to get back to my novel writing.
My challenge: I want to do too many things and am currently involved in too many projects. My solution: To prioritize and cull.
Thanks so much for your support and interest in my projects.
(Note: Also see my list of notetaking apps and other useful iPad apps for writers.) COURSENOTES | iTunes link | Website Version: 1.1. Updated May 13, 2010. Developer: Jonathan Klein, Price $4.99. As you may be able to guess from the name, CourseNotes is geared toward students. I loved the clean and easy-to-use interface, and intend to use this app for taking notes when I attend workshops this summer at the SCBWI conference. The app lets you keep your notes organized by subject and class meeting. You can also mark items as ToDo items for easy browsing later on. Export via e-mail or peer-to-peer with other CourseNotes users. A bonus: you can also keep a lexicon of terms and definitions for each subject. What I liked: I know it's not really relevant to functionality, but I LOVED the app icon with its Moleskine-like look. My favourite iPad icon ever. I liked the interface and clean design so much that I spent a while trying to figure out how I could use this in my day-to-day writing. What I found, though, is that although it's perfect for taking notes for classes, I don't I'll be able to use it regularly in my writing projects and notes. My attempt to use this app for managing writing projects: Instead of entering a course name, for example, I entered the name of a book project. There were also fields for "Instructor" and website. Hmmm, I thought. I decided to use the Instructor Name field as my genre/type field, so entered "YA novel." Under website, I entered the wordcount goal. I labelled each note session with a Chapter. e.g. Note #1 was "Chapter 1", note #2 was "Chapter 2" etc. Up to this point, my plan was working since I could then type whatever I wanted under each Chapter heading --- plots notes, for example, or a rough draft. But then I realized that these were all being listed under one session, and you can have multiples sessions for each subject/book. I suppose the other sessions could be used for other book-related notes. Another session could be character notes, for example, and another could be general background info. I like the look/feel of CourseNotes SO MUCH that I'd be so tempted to try this were it not for the fact that you can't rename or reorganize session notes -- the date they were created automatically becomes the name. You can pick the name of subjects but not sessions. Within each session, however, you can name the notes. On my wish list: To be able to choose or create a template rather than have to stick to the course notes theme. But then it wouldn't be called "CourseNotes", would it? As I said before, this app is GREAT for students or anyone taking courses. As for general writing-related notes, I'm still looking for an excuse to keep this wonderfully designed app on my iPad all the time, not just for course notes. [Update: CourseNotes just informed me that they're actually working on a version which allows users to rename sessions, yay!] CourseNotes iTunes link
(Note: Also see my list of notetaking apps and other useful iPad apps for writers.)
Version 1.1. Updated May 19, 2010.
Developer: Aji, LLC. $9.99
Up to now, I've mainly reviewed apps that writers can use to take notes as well as write. Editing, however is a big part of the writing process, so I figure I should mention iAnnotate, which lets users read PDFs as well as mark them up. I've already used this to add handwritten edit notes on some manuscript pages. I just convert my MS-Word document to a PDF first -- to try this, go to the Print dialog box (on a Mac, anyway) and select PDF -> Save As PDF in the lower left corner:
There are several ways to get files from your computer into iAnnotate, but for larger documents and libraries it's recommended that you download and install the free Aji PDF Service app. That way you just need to move files into a folder on your desktop, and they'll automatically appear in your iPad folder as well. However, you can also transfer your documents using a web download, iTunes File Sharing, or open docs from Mail and other apps.
I recently used iAnnotate to import a PDF schedule of the SCBWI Summer Conference and marked it up with notes about what workshops and talks I'd like to attend.
There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to figuring out how everything works, and you really DO have to read the manual to fully master the basics, but so far I've found it well worth it.
My experiment with importing a PDF from Dropbox:
I wanted to see how easy it was to import a document from a Web storage service like Dropbox, so went through the process:
- Clicked on the "download" icon in the top left corner, which looks like a down arrow.
- Of the two choices of "Aji PDF Service" or "Web Download", I chose the latter. At this point, an integrated browser opens up inside the iAnnotate app.
- Went to the Dropbox site and logged in.
- Found the PDF document I wanted to import. At this point it got a bit confusing. When I clicked on the file name, a tip appeared VERY briefly at the top of the screen but disappeared before I could read it. By experimenting, I discovered that clicking on the date to the right of the file prompted a small down-arrow symbol to appear. Clicking on the down-arrow gave me a menu that included "Download File." Clicked on "Download File." (Update: The developer said to use "Open in...iAnnotate" from the Dropbox app...I'll have to look for this.)
- Was given a message that the file would be put in my Web Downloads folder.
What I liked about iAnnotate:
- Wide range of annotation options, including text notes, highlighting with different colours, underlining, free form drawing, and bookmarks.
- Lots of documentation, including a user guide and in-app help & tips.
- E-mail and forum support.
- Toolbars are customizable.
What I didn't like:
- When I went to read a copy of my annotated documented that I had e-mailed myself, I found that all the annotations were missing. :-( Apparently I'm not the only one experiencing this problem, so hopefully the developers can fix this soon. (Update: The developer pointed me to this link for an explanation about why annotations may not show up when e-mailed out.)
- Failing a successful e-mail export, I tried exporting via iTunes. While inside my document, I chose "Prepare for the iTunes upload." A message popped up saying that all my documents were up-to-date and could be accessed through iTunes. When I went to my ITunes file sharing folder for iAnnotate, however, my file wasn't listed. I also couldn't open the folders that were listed. (Update: The developer said that for iTunes, I need to highlight the folder, then use "Save As" -- apparently it's an iTunes limitation.)
I'm going to do more tests before officially reporting this as a bug, but it's definitely an indication of the learning curve that is involved in properly using this app.
On my wishlist:
- Undo gesture.
(Note: Also check the list of iPad apps for taking notes and writing that I've reviewed so far.)
Last updated: Apr. 27, 2010 - Version: 2.0.3
Size: 2.4 MB | Price $2.99
Developer: David Lukas
Easy to use interface.
I know it's corny, but I did like the background napkin graphic!
Font size can be easily changed.
Pen line width can be easily changed, and there's also a choice of ink colours.
You can use the pinch gesture to pan and zoom.
You can have more than one text block per note. You can also resize each text block and move it around independent from the others. You can also drop text blocks on top of the images you've drawn.
On my wishlist:
Would be nice to change the font.
What I'd use this for:
Because the background image is included, this would be a fun way to send an informal note / ideas to someone, especially if you're including a doodle.
Great brainstorming/doodle pad.
What I wouldn't use this for:
Text that I want to use in another application. Whether you e-mail the note or save it to the photo album, only the image is saved, not the separate text.
iNAPKIN 2 - iTunes store link
Last updated April 20th, 2010 (Version 3.2.1)
Size: 2.9 MB - Price: $7.99
Developer: Byte Squared Ltd.
In my continuing search for the perfect app for writing, here's my review of Office2 HD...
Enables a user to view, create and edit Word (DOC) and Excel (XLS) files on the iPad. I didn't test the spreadsheet part of the app at all, so all comments below relate only to the writing-related features.
What I liked:
- Unlike the other apps I've reviewed so far, Office2 HD lets you store documents in hierarchical folders (yay!)
- Lots of formatting options, including bold, italics, underline, paragraph indentation. You can insert pictures, tables, bullets and numbering.
- There is an Undo and Redo option (though you have to scroll to the end of the options bar to get at them, reducing their convenience).
- Great customer support. Each feature/bug I reported got a quick response from the developer.
- Integration with other services like Google Docs, MobileMe, Box.net, and more.
What I didn't like:
- Not as intuitive an interface as some of the other apps I've reviewed. To rename a file, for example: Instead of just tapping on a filename and typing the new name, you have to: (1) Tap on the "greater than" sign to the right of the filename, tap on the "greater than" sign again to bypass the "e-mail file" option, type the new name, click "Done", then click "Save."
- I couldn't get any keyboard shortcuts involving arrow keys to work. This is a deal-breaker for me since I'm starting to use the Bluetooth keyboard a lot with my iPad, and find that I can type and edit much more easily if I can keep my hands on the wireless keyboard most of the time.
- No way to set a default font and font size. The default is always Helvetica 12 point. If I prefer another font and/or font size, I always need to manually set it before starting a new document, or do a "Select All" and change for an existing document.
- When I imported an MS-Word document (which I could read fine in MS-Word) from one of my critique partners, the app turned everything black (and unreadable). Turns out that the problem was a few lines of red text. However, I imported other docs with coloured text as well as creating docs within the app with coloured text, and there was no problem. I eventually got around the all-black document by changing the red text to regular black, then importing again. I haven't been able to recreate the problem since, so this might just have a problem with the one document.
Good writing app for those who need the formatting options and again, I -loved- being able to store my documents in different folders. If the user interface was streamlined and keyboard shortcuts added, I'd be using this app much more often.