Stay Focused with an iPad and GoodReader
Well, I’m only a few days into classes this year and am already starting to consider my iPad as indispensable as my laptop. I’ve been at this long enough to realize that schoolwork is split fairly evenly into consumption and creation. You consume books, readings, and notes, while you create papers, projects and tests. My MacBook Pro is terrific for creating things, and I always thought it was just as ideal for consuming the PDF readings Trinity professors kindly assign us in lieu of extra textbooks. Boy was I wrong. One day of using GoodReader ($0.99) on my iPad has completely changed the way I study.
GoodReader is basically that; a really good reader app for the iPad. You can open PDF’s from mail attachments in the iPad’s default email program, or download them from Blackboard (or your school’s hopefully-superior equivalent) via the app’s built-in browser. GoodReader will also read Word Documents, save web pages, or even open .zip folders, making it ideal for just about anything a professor can throw at you. Once you open a file for the first time, you’ll immediately understand why this is one of the best ways to organize and consume your class materials. The reading screen gives you the obvious iOS pinch-to-zoom and swipe-to-flip pages, as well as the ability to rotate the file and change your viewing options. It’s also boasts a surprisingly good text-recognition system, empowering you to search for keywords on any file, or even transform the a crappy scan of an old library book into a customizable, distraction-free, scrolling list of clean text.
GoodReader simply works the way it should, but its best feature is the fact that you use it on an iPad, and not a laptop. I’ve never had the easiest time consuming class documents on a computer. Usually I’d open them in OS X’s Preview, and read the first few pages straight through. So far, so good. Then my computer would alert me to a usually-not-so-important email, so I’d check that. From here I figured I should catch up on Google Reader, so I’d get trapped in there for 20 minutes. After this little vacation, I’d usually go back to the PDF and skim the next few pages really quickly before tweaking my fantasy football team or checking Twitter. Coming back to the PDF, maybe I’d glance at the subheadings for the next few pages before heading to Facebook, and then I’d often end up skipping the last few pages entirely. I got by alright, but distractions, and my habit of falling for them, prevented me from absorbing everything I should from class readings.
GoodReader on the iPad made a world of difference. Today I laid in bed with nothing but my iPad, and I read articles cover to cover for two hours straight. While a laptop allows you to fit chat windows and web browsers next to your PDF file, the iPad forces you to focus on one thing at a time. The lack of a multi-window interface, which many people consider a weakness, is actually the device’s greatest strength as a consumption tool for college students. While I’m on record predicting that the iPad will really catch on at college campuses, it wasn’t until I started using GoodReader that I was convinced that it can actually enhance learning and truly make you a better student.