Taking Notes on the iPad

One of the many things that irritate me about the App Store is that I have to pay 99¢ or $6.99 to see if an app will do the job for me — will help me do my job. One of the most practical applications of my iPhone has been in taking notes, and specifically in using concept mapping software to do so. Actually, I’ve impressed myself (doesn’t happen very often) at how quickly I’ve gotten fairly proficient at thumbing text.

Of course, the benefit of using concept mapping software for taking notes is that you are organizing the notes at the same time that you’re writing it down. After the event, it is easy to adapt the structure to your particular work needs. In addition, many concept mapping tools will easily output your map to a number of formats, including image files — and some provide web space for posting your maps. This enables us to share our notes easily and quickly with our learning networks.

The main challenge and number one deal-breaker, as I have sought out mapping software for note-taking has been the interface — and the most important consideration is that I be able to take my notes without having to leave the keyboard. If I have to grab the mouse, reach down to the touchpad, or reach up to a menu or an icon to start a new sub-topic or sibling topic, then it interrupts the flow and requires unproductive angles of thought.

So, the tools that I have found to be easiest to use are:

  • Laptop (Macbook Pro), it is, hands-down, XMind. XMind is open source, and therefore free. The include a web service where you can upload your maps and even make them available as embedded windows. To navigate, you simple press [Tab] to create a new child topic and [Return] to create a new sibling topic.
  • For iPhone, it’s SimpleMind. The organic flow of the maps is interesting and flexible, but that it doesn’t do automatic spacing and visual branching might be a disadvantage. Navigation is not quite as convenient as XMind. Pressing [Return] will start a new sibling topic. But to create a new child topic, you have to reach up and click a plus icon at the top of the screen.

    SimpleMind, as well as XMind will output in a number of formats, including FreeMind, which seems to be the default mapping software. Evidently, most tools will output to FreeMind and import FreeMind maps.

  • I’ve probably spent about $30 looking at various mapping programs for the iPad, but the one that is easiest to use taking notes, is Mind Pad. Navigation, like SimpleMind, uses the [Return] key to create new sibling topics, but to spoon a new sub-topic, you have to leave the keyboard. Mind Pad also shares files very easily with XMind, though you have to change the file extension. Also, Mind Pad does not seem to offer any web space for uploading work.

    I’ve been looking forward to the iPad-native version of SimpleMind and have been in conversation with its developers about the possibility of its release before ISTE. Alas, it appeared in my SimpleMind search last night, I downloaded it ($6.99), and found that it does not have the navigation easy that the iPhone version has. Disappointment! I’ll continue to check out the updates and look for an efficient keyboard navigation.

At any rate, I suspect that ISTE 2010 is going to be where I more fully developing my thumbing skills on the iPad. I am looking forward to not having to lug a laptop around with me, except for sessions I am presenting at.

Finally, a quick reminder, that if you are taking pictures at ISTE, and uploading them to Flickr, be sure to tag them with iste10. Here are the photos already tagged for the conference.

See you in Denver and at EduBloggerCon.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.