iPad in meetings

image I spend a lot of my work time in meetings. Some are productive. Others are college committee meetings 🙂 Anyway, last week I used my iPad at a meeting of the Technology committee of the community college where I teach. As Chair of the committee, I have to run the meeting and prepare minutes. I used my iPad to help me view MS Office and PDF documents, edit MS Office documents, and take notes. The verdict? Mixed. Here’s why.

Viewing MS Office and PDF documents

Our committee’s meetings, like many meetings, often focus on documents. Or I may need to obtain information from a document. Most of these documents are in Microsoft Office or PDF format.

I use Dropbox to store on the cloud documents I think I may need for the meeting. Dropbox is one of several excellent file storage and synchronization solutions.

Dropbox offers an iPad client. The price is right; it’s free. It’s also excellent. Assuming connectivity – usually assured among WiFi, MiFi or 3G – I access any of my Dropbox documents.

The Dropbox iPad client also enables me to open the document in other compatible programs on my iPad. My primary program for viewing Word and PDF files is GoodReader. It’s not free. But it’s only 99 cents. It’s also excellent. GoodReader can read Office and PDF documents – including very large ones. Additionally, GoodReader has its own quasi file system, partly making up for the lack of a user-accessible file system in the current iPad OS.

This combination of Dropbox and GoodReader enables me to view the documents I need to access during meetings.

Editing MS Office documents

One of the many sublime pleasures of being Chair of my community college’s Technology committee  is writing up the meeting minutes. Before the meeting I usually prepare a skeleton of the minutes in Microsoft Word. This minimizes the need for typing or notes during or after the meeting. During the meeting I fill in the blanks, expand on certain areas, etc. I can then complete and send the minutes later the day of the meeting. This way I can prepare the minutes while the meeting is still fresh in my mind.

I can read the draft minutes in GoodReader. But I can’t edit them. To edit, I tried importing the draft into Pages. That didn’t go so well. Pages notified me that there were aspects of my minutes it couldn’t properly import. Like the Times New Roman font. A simple table. Sheesh. Also, Pages turned my 2 page Word document into an 8 page Pages document with page breaks in the weirdest places. I guess that’s why Apple named it Pages.

I’m hoping for better programs to handle Office documents. But DataViz’s Documents To Go for the iPhone and iPod isn’t quite ready for the iPad. Indeed, the lack of a true iPad version is a problem with a number of programs I’d like to use, such as Pocket Informant, a PIM app. So in the meantime, editing MS Office documents remains problematic.

Taking notes

I’ve been using Penultimate and Note Taker HD. They’re not bad. But it’s not the same as taking notes on a Tablet PC with an active digitizer. Not a surprise since the iPad doesn’t have an active digitizer. I also miss OneNote with its notebook organization, especially given the iPad’s lack of a user-accessible file system.

Interestingly, the most common question I was asked while taking notes is whether the iPad could recognize my handwriting and convert it into text. It doesn’t. No surprise for apps that only cost a few bucks. And frankly, I usually don’t convert handwriting to text on my Tablet PC. However, I do searches of my handwriting on my Tablet PC, which in the background does perform a conversion to enable such a search. That functionality I miss.

So why use an iPad instead of a Tablet PC?

Because I want to try out the iPad in business situations. And human nature being what it is, perhaps I’m trying to justify my expensive purchase.

It does seem that with the iPad I am trying to work around issues that wouldn’t be issues with a Tablet PC. However, the iPad does have some advantages over a Tablet PC that mitigate its comparatively lesser functionality.

-It’s smaller and lighter than most Tablet PCs.
-It turns on faster than most Tablet PCs from standby.
-It’s more responsive than most Tablet PCs.
-Much longer battery life.

Closing thoughts

I suspect the iPad will partially bridge the functionality gap with Tablet PCs as iPad versions are released of software such as Documents To Go and Pocket Informant. I also am curious how much difference OS 4.0 makes when it’s released for the iPad later this year, probably Fall. In the meantime, I will continue to try out the iPad in business situations. And continue to report.

7 Responses to “iPad in meetings”


  • Very informative review. I appreciate the observations and I look forward to updates on the usefulness of the iPad as these additional apps become iPad friendly. I will need the arguments to convince my wife that we really, really need to get an iPad. For work reasons of course.

  • Looks like Evernote may have a solution to your note-taking woes in the future:
    http://www.slashgear.com/evernote-considering-digital-ink-handwriting-recognition-for-ipad-0484220/

  • Well those things are for sure not mentioned in the Ipad’s description page; Welcome to the era where people buy stuffs to know what the hell they are!:)
    You sided with Steve Job (sighs), he just sees customers as pawns in his sick game.
    Hey! but I am not here just to make you feel bad about your purchase, I have a suggestion that I feel you might know about already, but am not sure why you don’t use it. Have you try GoogleDocs? I think it has to work it is not flash base and all the processing is on the server side not the client side so you have to be able to use in Safari mobile. Like you I love OneNote, but i think you can make a Draw in google docs to take notes using a stylus (if the Ipad has one).
    Anyway I think Dell-Slate is looking promising.

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  • I use my iPad for business travel and note taking in meetings. It also serves as my main document sharing/projecting device for all nosiness meetings.
    I use pages to keep notes, Keynote to import and project documents.
    I use Goodreader and the excellent Air Sharing for document reading and file storage.
    Dropbox gets used mostly to have frequently used documents available on the go and as backup for device failure.
    I now carry a BT keyboard for document creation outside of meetings (plane, trains and hotel rooms). I don’t miss my netbook or MacBook Air for these use cases.
    I’m curious to see what Documents to Go brings to the table, as Pages does. Funky things to Word document formatting.

    Good review

  • Check out writepad for handwriting recognition.

  • I could not agree more that the iPad has the POTENTIAL to be one of the best tools for taking meeting notes.
    I also agree that, in general, EverNote is a great app, especially on the Mac and Windows.

    Unfortunately I find EverNote on the iPad to fall far short of what I believe is needed. The biggest shortcoming is that EN iPad does not support rich text in any way. You can’t create new notes with rich text, nor can you edit existing notes (made on your Mac or PC) that use rich text.

    Without rich text, there is no good way to create lists.

    About 90% of all of my meeting notes involve lists of one kind or another, and usually require multi-level lists.

    I have written extensively about this in the EvernNote iPad forum:

    Make Evernote be THE Premier Meeting Notes App for the iPad
    http://forum.evernote.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=17069&p=71939&hilit=meeting+notes#p68424

    If you would like Evernote to add these features to make it a great Meeting Notes App, please login to the EverNote iPhone/iPad forum, and add your supporting comments to the above thread.

    Here’s one section:

    TO: Evernote Owners & Investors

    You have a great opportunity to make a ton of money with an iPad App!!!!

    Amazingly enough, there is NO iPad app that is well suited to taking, let alone distributing, MEETING NOTES!

    I have personally tried most of the available “Notes” apps for the iPad.
    They all suck except for Evernote.

    Evernote has all the infrastructure to make it a GREAT Meeting Note iPad app.

    You just need two key features:
    1. Bullet and numbered lists
    2. Meeting Templates
    3. Handwritten notes (OK ,this is 3)

    Here’s the Use Case:

    Walk into a meeting with nothing more than an iPad.
    Quickly take notes using either the KB or handwritten.

    Quickly record standard meeting info:
    1. Meeting title/name ((pick list)
    2. Participants (selected from Contacts)
    3. Actions (take aways)
    4. Decisions
    5. Next Meeting
    6. Etc

    Most meeting “quick-notes” benefit from lists:
    1. Bullets
    2. Numbered

    There are many enhancements one can envision, like Action Item tracking, but that can come later.

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