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Ask Slashdot: Tablets For Papers; Are We There Yet? 180

An anonymous reader writes "When I was younger, engineering and science offices didn't have computers yet. It was the tradition: Piled Higher and Deeper desks, and overloaded bookcases. I ended up doing other things, and haven't been in a regular office for a couple of decades. Now I'm older, spending a lot more time with the screen, and finding my aging butt and back aren't as pliable for the long hours of reading papers. And while looking at rather expensive chairs, etc for a solution, what I'm remembering is we used to be able to lean back, feet up, while reading the stapled print-outs — makes a change from hunched-over writing and typing. So I'm what wondering is this: Are We There Yet with tablets? You guys would know — What makes a good tablet for reading, sorting, annotating, and searching PDFs, etc? Hardware and software — what tablets have gotten this really right?"
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Ask Slashdot: Tablets For Papers; Are We There Yet?

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  • Ipad and Dropbox! (Score:5, Informative)

    by StonyCreekBare ( 540804 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:08PM (#42156647) Homepage
    Works well for me. I just stuff PDFs into my dropbox folder on my desktop, and read em on the iPad. Makes for a happy combination. There is also an Android tablet in the house, works about as well. Seems like a solved problem from my perspective. I never print anything for reading any more...
  • IPads for sure... (Score:4, Informative)

    by masdog ( 794316 ) <> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:14PM (#42156687)
    The iPad has several good PDF reader apps, including some that do annotating. There are a few free PDF readers like BlueFire, but the best one that I've seen is a $5 one called Goodreader for iPad. With the advent of free online storage like DropBox, SkyDrive, or Box, you can put your PDFs online and just download them when you want to read them. I'm sure some of the better Android tablets will also do a pretty good job as a PDF reader, but I haven't gotten my hands on a Galaxy, XyBoard, or Nexus to play with them.
  • iPad with GoodReader (Score:5, Informative)

    by adenied ( 120700 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:17PM (#42156707)

    My wife is finishing up her PhD in a biological science field. A couple years ago she was carrying like 70+ printed out papers around with her so she could reference them when writing at home or at a coffee shop. She got an original iPad and started using GoodReader and said it changed the game completely for her. She's on an iPad 3 now but the effect is the same.

    I got her old iPad when she upgraded and I loaded literally a couple thousand papers and other documents I've saved over the years (mostly IEEE and ACM papers and a ton of standards documents I reference for work), luckily all already organized. GoodReader will let you load things and keep whatever directory/folder organization you have. It's great!

  • by Dan93 ( 222999 ) <danielonolan@gm a i l . com> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:23PM (#42156729)
    Or any e-reader tablet that uses e-ink (unlike kindle fires). I find that it's just as easy to read as print without the eyestrain that comes from reading LCD screens. Also the battery on those things are AMAZING. I rarely have to charge mine more than once per month.
  • Re:Ipad and Dropbox! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neil_Brown ( 1568845 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:27PM (#42156751) Homepage

    I may check out iAnnotate for the annotation capability.

    iAnnotate was the reason I bought an iPad — I just wanted a tool for reading and marking up hundreds, if not thousands, of PDF documents. I've been hugely impressed, not just with the software, but also the support*. I use it multiple times every day, and am a huge fan.

    I use owncloud on my computers, to keep everything in sync, and, since this can expose things via webdav, it makes syncing with iAnnotate trivial too — it all fits together really rather well.

    *At one point, after their support team had dug into an issue caused by my own stupid fault (incorrect permissions setting on my server, which was causing the synchronisation to fail), I tried my best to convince them to accept a donation, pizza, cash, whatever, to say thank you for their time, as it was worth way more to me than the $10 purchase price, and yet they declined. I could not convince them to accept anything for their efforts.

  • by Lluc ( 703772 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:36PM (#42156805)
    LCD screen tablets == eyestrain after a long reading period. If you do not read for long periods of time, perhaps a 10" would work for you.
    E-Ink screens are too small and/or too slow to render a typical journal article well.
  • by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:37PM (#42156815)

    Much as I love my Kindle, it's not quite there for PDFs. While great for text (e.g. novels), it can't reflow a PDF well (or at all?), and the screen size makes it too small to reasonably view most PDFs at full size. A Kindle DX might be better, but still not ideal. Obviously color will be a no-go.

    I would recommend an iPad or something similar for technical documents and most other PDFs. Goodreader + Dropbox is a great combination.

  • samsung note tablet (Score:4, Informative)

    by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @05:37PM (#42156821)

    I am frequently checking the state of tablet technology to do paper annotation. I write and annotate documents a lot. And any interface which is not paper and pencil like is typically useless to me. So all the tablet tend to be terrible on their own. I had a look at those stylus for ipad, that's better but still not enough. It is too imprecise which prevent proper annotation and drawings

    Though, Itried a galaxy note (the phone one) with the spen, and that was a very convenient device to annotate a document. Except it is phone size so it is too small for real life use. The tablet version should be perfect. If you want to annotate stuff, you should check it out and see if it works for you.

  • Ergonomics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wolfling1 ( 1808594 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:07PM (#42156991) Journal
    My company makes software for allied health professionals, and a large number of our customers are chiropractors. They are starting to use tablets quite extensively for recording their medical notes, so I am perfectly positioned to offer a slightly tangential response. Full disclosure: I am not a chiropractor - I've just worked with thousands of them, so I know a bit about spines and posture.

    Subby, you mentioned that your back isn't what it used to be. This is an important factor.

    During our lab trials of tablets, we received a lot of feedback about the ergonomics of tablets - and one tester actually had to be excused from testing after a measly 15 minutes due to neck pain developing. Here's the problem:
    - A tablet has a very small screen. Don't let anybody trick you into thinking that a 10.1" screen is big. Its not. You have to hold the tablet quite close to your face to be able to read it comfortably.
    - Even the lightest tablets still have significant weight. You can safely anticipate that your tablet will weigh about a kilogram.
    - When you hold a kilogram weight up in front of your face, it distorts your body's centre of balance. In order to compensate, your body transfers weight either resulting in you leaning backwards, or sticking your backside out. Either of these are posturally abnormal positions. For the first 5 minutes, no problems - but for extended periods, this can (and likely will) result in back pain, neck pain and headaches. Over weeks and months, it will damage your spine.
    - The alternative is to sit in a relaxed position and hold the device in your lap. Sounds good until you realise that your entire body is falling into a C shape (when seen from the side). This is also an abnormal position for the spine - and creates the same problems. We see a lot of x-rays of children who spent excessive time with the iPod/PST/handheld device in their lap - their spine is worse than that of a 40 year old.

    In the end, we published an official white paper advising our customers that A) tablets work fine; the technology is sound and reasonably mature; B) we DO NOT recommend that they use them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:09PM (#42157011)

    imho we ARE there.

    I initially tried out a Lenovo Thinkpad tablet but the n-trig based pen system wasn't responsive enough. I've since switched to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and it is AMAZING. My wife uses it to take notes, lecture from, annotate, email etc etc. Between S-Pen, Kno and other pen aware apps, this tablet fills all of our needs. She works in neuroscience for a university and in a lab and reads and annotates on many papers on her Note 10.1.

    I'd strongly recommend you check it out.


  • Re:IPads for sure... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Silas is back ( 765580 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:45PM (#42157241) Homepage Journal
    It's astounding how many use Goodreader or iAnnotate on iPad when there is an absolutely fantastic paper management app available in the form of "Papers", made by Mekentosj. It has a Desktop (Mac + PC) counterpart so you can sync, it has all the major search engines built in, supports your university's proxy, has annotation features and what not. I love the thing! (I am not affiliated with that company in any way)
  • Re:No, not really... (Score:5, Informative)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @07:22PM (#42157493)

    The newer iPads have the resolution and speed to do PDFs justice; but capacitive touchscreens aren't exactly god's gift to stylus-based annotation. Yeah, they sell capacitive styluses; but it isn't exactly a Wacom...

    The Samsung Note tablets are not just capacitive. They can distinguish between your fingers and the pen. It's not even modal. In other words, if you're reading something, you can just use your finger(s) to flip the pages and the pen to highlight what you want. The tablet even knows when you're just hovering your pen over it, or whether you're actually touching the screen with it. It's quite amazing.

    My only recommendation is that you if you get such a tablet, you get the latest version of the Note -- not the original Note. Samsung did a much better job integrating this technology in their latest version.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @07:45PM (#42157649)

    PDF actually stands for Portable Document Format.

  • Re:iPad and Dropbox! (Score:3, Informative)

    by aisnota ( 98420 ) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @09:24PM (#42158221) Homepage

    iPad App's for BYOD Legal or just student uses. All of them are Apple VPP US/UK vetted, but I am not sure if my notes for the other side of the pond make sense in the context of your publication plan, left in for reference none-the-less and have sold 1,000 or more in that program, make sense for legal papers, term papers with Klammer more of an integration bridge to the Windows world.

    1: Cymbol £1.49 / $1.99
    -- Finally Pilcrow , Section , Trademarks ®, Superscripts and with much more easily tied with your favorite App's on the iPad (Keynote/Pages/Mail/Numbers/Notes/iDraw/iAWriter), with Unicode2Glyph conversion!


    2. iAnnotate £6.99 / $9.99
    Personal favorite for speed, iAnnotate PDF is the most powerful annotation application for the iPad bar none from much experience by yours truly.


    3. Klammer £0.69 / $0.99
    Open EML, Winmail.dat and MSG files (MSG support via in-app purchase) on iPad and view their contents and attachments. All that business communication your device did not view in the Mail application is now accessible to you with just one touch.


    4. Dropbox Free plus storage
    Any file you save to your Dropbox is accessible from all your computers, iPhone, iPad and even the Dropbox website! But the key is mobile tablets and across Linux to other platforms via that web interface.


    Does that outline what you should have now?

  • by Neil_Brown ( 1568845 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @04:34AM (#42159939) Homepage

    Autodesk do a handy app sketchbook express, its a sketch pad

    I note you are using Android, so my suggestion may not be worthwhile, but I am using PenUltimate for all my hand-written notes, and, for that simple task, it does an excellent job. No OCR, but, frankly, I'm not sure how much processing power you'd need to throw at my handwriting...

    One more issue some pdf files are locked and cannot be edited or annotated. Some software will ignore this and let you annotate others will not.

    I may be able to help you here, if you have access to a Linux machine (heck, it may work natively on Android; I don't know): use ghostscript to assist in removing the lock. I have this as

    #! /bin/bash

    # takes specified file and prints output using ghostscript

    gs -q -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=output.pdf -c .setpdfwrite -f $1

    Just save the file in question to your machine, and run sh pdfname.pdf and wait for output.pdf to be generated.

    There may be better ways of doing this, but this has worked pretty well for me over the last couple of years, so I hope it offers some assistance.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.