Evernote Scannable, the killer app

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Evernote is central to many of my productivity processes and I continue to find new ways to leverage it for business and for personal uses. I have used many scanning apps to get information into Evernote with my iPad and iPhone. There are many apps that work great for scanning and several of them are discussed in my new iPad Productivity ebook. However, Evernote just released their new app for scanning called Scannable. I downloaded this app on the day it was available and I have been using it almost every day since.

What sets Scannable apart from every other scanner is its simplicity. Scannable automatically recognizes the size and type of paper you are scanning and adjusts itself automatically. Additionally, Scannable is setup to scan one page after another with NO manual interaction, just place a page to scan in view of the app, allow the app to automatically crop and snap the picture and then replace the page with another page.

scannable

That’s it! With this app you can scan multiple page documents in excess of 10-20 pages in less than a minute. Of course the quality of the scan is dependent on how steady your hand is, but you get better at holding the iPad with practice. In addition to turbo capture mode, Scannable provides many options for storage in addition to scanning to Evernote. Scannable allows you to save scanned images to Photos, iCloud (including directories in iCloud Drive), Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. You can even email scanned images as well. Each of these options is easily accessible once you have completed capturing. Beyond these storage options, Scannable allows you to default all scans directly to Evernote in the notebook you chose. One other cool feature is that Scannable automatically notices when you have scanned a business card once the scan is stored in Evernote. Evernote recognizes the text on the card and attempts to find the contact in LinkedIn, just like old Evernote Hello. What’s different is that Evernote Scannable does this by recognizing that a business card has been scanned. Very cool!

Scannable is to document scanning as Drafts is for idea capturing. Drafts makes it extremely fast and easy to capture ideas on the iPad by eliminating all of the app fluff and allowing you to just type. Scannable does the same for scanning by removing all of the complexity so that the process of saving paper is extremely quick and easy.

An App like Scannable is just one example of the many apps and processes that are out there to help you improve productivity on the iPad. I write about many such apps and processes in my new iPad Productivity eBook.

Have you tried Scannable yet?

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How to work with PDFs on your iPad

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PDF handling is one of the more productive capabilities of the iPad. Many PDF functions done on a computer are sometimes more efficient on the iPad. Some of the major PDF functions include Creating, Annotating, Combining, Scanning and Text capture. There is no one application that accomplish all of these functions well, but with a combination of several of the more robust apps you can efficiently handle all of these functions from your tablet. The above mindmap shows a few of the major apps broken down by function and as you can see there is no one app the crosses all of the major work functions. However, with a few of the better apps you can transition your PDF work to your iPad. Read on to learn how some of the major apps can save you some time and maybe even make dealing with PDFs fun.

Creating PDFs from office documents is an infrequent function for me, but I like appreciate having ability to do the conversion on my iPad. The app I have used for years for creating PDFs is PDF PROvider which I wrote about in this post. To convert you can “Open-In”; documents sent via email into PDF PROvider and then convert the document. However, PDF PROvider also connects to Dropbox for file syncing and provides for some basic annotation. The free version just supports “Open-In” functionality, which means you would simply email a file to yourself if you need to convert. Other apps that support converting PDFs include PDF Export and DocAS. PDF Export charges $2.99 which provides additional functionality like merging, splitting, cloud storage access (Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, SugarSync, etc.) and annotating. DocAS for $6.99 also converts documents to PDF but adds note taking features including typing and stylus writing. Additionally, DocAS provides a presentation mode for displaying content via a projector.

Annotating PDFs is by far the most common function done with PDFs. I am sure many of you receive PDF documents that you need to review and sometimes comment on. Most people print these out and write comments and then have to complete the additional step of re-scanning the document. With the iPad these additional steps are unnecessary. One of the first apps I ever bought for the iPad is GoodReader and it has been part of my regular workflow since my first iPad 1. With all of its functionality and capability, GoodReader does bring a lot of complexity as you can see from this screen shot.

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Even after using GoodReader for years I still have to think about how to annotate a document. Because of this complexity I recently tried an app called PDFpen. This app does not have all of the functions that Good does, but PDFpen does a few things very well, specifically annotating as you can see from this shot; two clicks on the main user interface to get to the annotation tool.

PDFpen

Combining PDFs may be a more infrequent function for some, but for me it is a monthly occurrence as I create packets for my company’s board meetings. Even if you do not find yourself combing PDFs now, the function may be useful for those times you send multiple files within an email; combining these files into one larger file is a cool way to improve your recipient’s experience. And, the additional benefit of combining files is that the original document type become irrelevant once the original document is converted to a PDF. Of the apps I have mentioned above, GoodReader and PDF PROvider both provide combine functionality. The process in Good to combine PDFs is to open the multiple page layout view (button on the bottom of the screen with four boxes) and then click Append on the bottom right side of the screen. From here you simply navigate to the file you want to append within your cloud account.

goodcombine

Scanning documents into PDFs is an incredibly easy way to eliminate paper from your life at the entry point, i.e. as soon as it hits your hands. There are lots of scanning apps available for the iPhone and iPad and I have tried many over the years. My current favorite is Readdle’s Scanner Pro. However, there are plenty of great scanners out there not the least of which is Smile’s PDFpen Scan+. My recommendation is to try several of them starting with Scanner Pro and choose the one that is easiest and fastest for you as the quicker you get at scanning documents the more likely your home or office stays paper free.

Text capture is a function I don’t do much myself, but if you receive lots of PDFs via email from colleagues you may benefit from PDFpen Scan+’s capability of converting a PDF to text, called optical text recognition (OCR). To test this functionality I imported my free, 19 page Introduction to iPad Productivity ebook and hit the OCR button in Scan+.

OCR1

After about 5 minutes of processing, Scan+ completed the process and I was able to paste all of the text from my ebook into Drafts. The scanning did include the screen prints in the book which resulted in some strange results, but overall I was able to access all of the important text from my document.

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As you can see there is little you can not do with PDFs on the iPad. In fact, I rarely use my computer these days for PDF processing, even for combining many files into one document packet because it is just so easy and convenient to use the iPad. Try one of these apps for one of the major functions mentioned above and you may find yourself using your iPad a little more for productivity and a little less for watching videos.

Have you tried any of the apps mentioned above? Have a I missed a PDF that you really like?

 

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5 ways to speed up a slow iPad

Even the newest of iPads can get slow from time to time. But, with a little bit of work you can make some dramatic improvements to the snappiness of your iPad. Follow some or all of the steps listed below to make your iPad (and iPhone) feel like new again.

1. iOS7 added some cool visual effects throughout the OS. Unfortunately for older iPads like the 2 these tricks slow down the overall feel of the iPad. Go to Settings -> General – Accessibility and turn off Reduce Motion to hopefully provide some speed improvements.

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2. Most of you are familiar with the limited space included the base iPad; 16 GB is just not enough for most users given that the OS itself takes up over 2GB in space. Add in apps like Evernote, Onenote or even Dropbox and your space is eaten up really quickly. If you are hobbled by a 16 GB iPad, an important way to speed up your iPad is to free up space. Head over to Settings -> General -> Usage to see how your memory is allocated. Generally just by removing old photos by sync’ing them to your computer and then removing them from your iPad is a great way to reclaim space. Another obvious way to gain space is to delete unused apps. The final way I have found to reclaim space is to use an app called PhoneClean which does an excellent job scanning your iPad (and iPhone) and removing needless files including browser cache files and other left-over crap. The app runs on Macs and PCs (XP-Win8) and connects to your iPad/iPhone via the standard power cable. Having a few old iPad2s around, I have been using this application for years to keep things neat and tiddy, especially when I need to find space to download a movie or two for kids. Here is a brief overview over from their site;

As the only and best iOS cleaning utility, PhoneClean pioneeringly delivers a solution that helped millions of users reclaim billion gigabytes of storage space. With just few clicks, it allows you to quickly detect and remove temp, cache, cookie, off-line and many other kinds of junk files. The cleaning efficiency is surprising and dramatic, even more than you ever thought possible.

 

 

Unfortunately PhoneClean is not a free app and costs $29.99 for a lifetime license or $19.99 for a yearly subscription. I originally started using this apps years ago when it was still free but I upgraded to the lifetime version about six months ago. The link for the Mac version can be downloaded here and the Windows version here.

 

 

3. Turning off auto app updates is another good strategy to both save space and increase speed. Not all updates are necessary especially if you are comfortable with how well an app is working for you. This way, you get to chose which apps should be updated and when; i.e. how App Updates used to work prior to iOS. Remember each new update for an app generally adds space and definitely adds functionality which translates to slower performance on older machines. To turn off auto-app updates go to Settings > iTunes and App Store.

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4. I have read some posts that do not agree with this next suggestion, but I absolutely subscribe to the belief that killing unused apps from memory will make your iPad faster. This is probably due to my Windows days where the only way I could keep my machine running was by killing everything that I was not really using. The architecture of the iPad is definitely different and I don’t know how much of a back-ground running program stays resident, but I do notice a difference when I kill apps that I am not using. To make myself feel better and to prove that killing apps makes a difference I downloaded a free app called Sys Activity Manager which is a cool app that shows details for your iPad’s, memory, processes, storage and battery very much like the activity managers on Macs and PCs. As a test I installed and ran the tool both before and after killing a bunch of processes on my iPad Air. Take a look at the my before and after.

BEFORE

beforemem

AFTER

aftermem

5. Once you have followed the above recommendations, the final step to add more snap in your iPad is to do a real re-boot. If you are not sure how to do this, simply hold the power button down for about 10 seconds until you are presented with the Slide to Power Off slider. Go ahead and slide and let your iPad sit for about a minute. I am not sure it this is really necessary, but I seem to remember hearing it takes a few seconds for the circuitry to truly reset. Caulk this up to superstition, but it seems to work for me.

That’s it. Without fail the above steps have made a huge difference in the performance of my old iPad 2 and it has even helped in my new iPad Air 32GB.

Do you have additional tricks to speed up a slow iPad?

DISCLOSURE: The links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a few cents if you click the link and purchase the app. This costs you nothing but it helps me keep this site running.

 

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SEVEN reasons to choose Microsoft Onenote instead of Evernote

I love Evernote, in fact I credit my Evernote productivity journey on the iPad as being a big reason for my blog’s growth over the years. I even published an ebook focused on leveraging Evernote on the iPad. But, the sad reality is that many corporate executives can not use Evernote to organize their notes across their own devices due to corporate security policies. Unfortunately for me my company is one of them. However I do have access to Microsoft Office 2010 at work and with it Microsoft Onenote. I also am able to use Microsoft Onedrive as well. Because of the potentially large numbers of corporate users that can not use Evernote on their iDevices and the fact that Microsoft Office is still the corporate standard for many people, I figured it was time to check out Onenote. Can I leverage my iPad and Onenote to access my work notes without using the public cloud? Can I manage my tasks using Exchange and Onenote on my iDevices? Can Onenote leverage my work Sharepoint sites and allow me to share notes and information as easily as Evernote allows me to? These are the questions I will seek to answer in my next series of posts.

Have you ever tried Onenote? Ever heard of Onenote? I had noticed the icon on my desktop and most all screens in MS Exchange since upgrading to 2010 a few years ago. Being the Evernote nerd that I am, I never felt the inclination to try Onenote out until recently. The Evernote hack as well as the growing realization that there are many people who can not access Evernote from their work computers has me thinking twice about Onenote. In addition to more security, there appear to be many additional reasons to consider Onenote as a valid notetaking app. Here are seven that I have come up with so far.

  1. Microsoft Onenote is included with corporate editions of Microsoft Office.
  2. Onenote 2010 and later versions have a very simple interface and is easy to use for Evernote veterans.
  3. Onenote is cohesively integrated with most aspects of Microsoft Office including Exchange, Sharepoint and Onedrive.
  4. Onenote includes some of the important features of Evernote including notebooks, tags, tasks, note linking and searching capabilities.
  5. Onenote can integrate across iOS devices via Microsoft Onedrive.
  6. Onenote integrates directly with Exchange Tasks. This means that tasks created within Onenote automatically create tasks in Apple Reminders if you have integrated your Exchange Account directly on your iDevices.
  7. As I mentioned, Onenote can sync via the public Onedrive which has the same security challenges that Evernote and Dropbox do. However, Onenote also supports sync’ing via Onenote Business and Sharepoint. This means that if your company supports Office 365 or provides internet access to Sharepoint, you can leverage Onenote securely and have the same convenience that Evernote provides.

That’s my seven reasons and I am sure there are more. Check out this post for some further thoughts on Onenote on the iPad as I have been using Onenote now for almost a year across my work laptop and my various iPads. I can’t say that I like Onenote as much as Evernote, but I can say that Onenote has provided me a secure way to access my work notes across all of my devices.

Have you been using Onenote on your iPad? What has worked? What hasn’t?

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REVIEW: nimblstand iPad easel for increased productivity

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There are many products on the market that seek the make the iPad more productive and laptop-like. I have owned four different iPad/keyboard cases over the years with varied success. Some of them have been retured, some have worn out and my current Zagg Folio seems to be working reliably. However, even though the Zagg is working, I still love to try new gear. One new piece of gear that I have been using now for the past couple of months is the nimblstand iPad easel. The nimblstand is a unique product that combines an iPad stand with the Apple Wireless Keyboard to create a perfect productivity setup; assuming of course you already own the Apple keyboard. What sets the nimblstand apart is just how simple the design is, there is essentially nothing to break as it leverages the elegance of the iPad along with Apple's own keyboard. Read on see if the nimblstand is for you.

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As you can see from their website, the stand is designed to be used in conjunction with the Apple Wireless keyboard. If you have ever used the keyboard you are probably familiar with the excellent feel and efficient operation of this high quality keyboard. After having used most of the iPad case/keyboard products on the market I am confident that none of them is as efficient and high quality as the original Apple Wireless Keyboard. nimblstand props the iPad at the perfect angle for typing at a desk or even on your lap. The stand has the additional benefit of reversing the iPad for an angle better suited for reading or writing with the Bamboo Stylus.

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The nimblstand is made from non-bleached plastic that comes from a single sheet which is molded into the stand. nimblstand includes an option to buy the Wacom Bamboo stylus with the package as well. The design of the stand includes an “inkwell”; location to hold the stylus for quick access. The overall design is essentially future proof as it works perfectly with the original iPad up to the latest iPad Air and props your tablet in either portrait or landscape mode. The stand would work perfectly with other tablets as well. The package included a few foam stickers that prop up the iPad Air which is smaller than the original iPads. The stand would even work with an iPhone as well.

Of course, if you already have a keyboard/case combination, the usefulness of the nimblstand is certainly diminished. My current keyboard/case combination is the Zagg Folio for iPad Air which has served me well. However, when I am home and the kids are not on the Mac, I can definitely see setting up the nimblestand with the Apple Wireless Keyboard as I am still a better typist on the Apple keyboard. Additionally, the nimblestand works great at propping the iPad for reading and writing; much more stable than what the Zagg provides.

The nimblstand is a good value, regularly 39.99 and 56.99 with the Bamboo; but for the holidays nimblstand is running a 20% off sale bringing the price even lower to 31.99/48.99. Given the high price of cases and especially keyboard/case combinations, the nimblestand is a good option. Even if you do not already have the Apple Wireless Keyboard, buying both together would bring the total cost to about $108, just $8 more than the Zagg and over $60 less than the ClamCase Pro. Yes, the ClamCase and the Zagg provide a more laptop like package but the nimblstand essentially future proofs your investment, i.e. there will likely be a time when you may upgrade your iPad and the nimblstand along with the Apple Keyboard will be there no matter how big (or how small) the future iPad may get.

Overall I am pleased with the nimblstand as it fills a need and provides additional productivity options for the iPad. Even if you already have a bluetooth keyboard, the nimblstand allows you to connect the more efficient and fast Apple keyboard for heaving writing sessions. In fact, I am writing this post using the stand and my Apple keyboard.

Have you seen the nimblstand?

 

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Workflow, a new app to automate tasks on the iPad and iPhone

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I have been playing with automation on the iPad as long as their have been apps created with automation in mind. Given that an iPad is not a PC, either Mac or Windows; the iPad has always had limitations from a workflow perspective. Automation of simple and sometimes complicated tasks has been a way to make the iPad even more useful from a productivity perspective. My last post on the subject reviewed some of the key automation options around summer 2014. Fortunately, developers have not stopped coming up with more and more ways to make work more efficient on the iPad. And the most recent example of this ceaseless development is an amazing new app for the iPad iPhone called Workflow. This app is designed to take automation to a whole new level for iOS and ultimately make workflow automation available to the masses rather than just the nerds. After spending some time with this app over the past few days I have to say that the developers did an amazing job right out of the gate and I can already see how this tool is going to make my life easier on the iPad and maybe could make your life a bit easier as well. Read on to learn a bit more about this app and about my first attempt at creating a useful workflow with Workflow!

With iOS8, Apple added a lot more capabilities for apps to interact with each other whereas prior versions of iOS kept each app separate, i.e. “sandboxed”. This design decision allowed Apple much more control over what is happening on the devices which limits the bad things apps can do. The opposite of this design is of course Microsoft Windows where installed apps can access other apps and system processes which means that each machine is at the mercy of the quality of the apps installed. The effect of course are things like full system crashes, viruses and other assorted issues. With iOS 8, Apple provided more options for apps to interact with system processes/apps like Calendar, Mail, Contacts, etc. as well as providing options for apps to work together in new and unique ways. Workflow leverages these additional integration capabilities by building a framework to create workflows that can combine different functions across the iPad/iPhone. Whereas prior to iOS 8, automation was mostly limited to automating specific tasks within an app with tools like TextExpander or using outside services like IFTTT or TaskClone to monitor very specific things like new Evernote notes or Google Mail. Workflow changes all of this by providing the ability to create real automation directly in iOS without former limitations. The best way to see how this works is to download the $2.99 app and take a look at the included Gallery of workflows. If you want a more in depth overview of the app and a few useful workflows take a look at this review out on Macstories. You may be wondering whether Workflow is a bit advanced for the average iPad user. And to an extent it is, at least for the average person starting out. However, Workflow does provide some great example workflows that are easily expanded or adapted and there will continue to be people like Federico coming up with new and useful workflows. Additionally, other 3rd-party apps will surely jump on the bandwagon developing hooks and other integration methods for Workflow to leverage.

workflow

In an effort to create something useful as a starting point I created one very basic workflow to create a new note in Evernote with a list of the day's meetings and open reminders/tasks. This is hopefully the beginnings of a more sophisticated workflow to recreate what I saw executive assistants creating for executives at a former employer. Each exec would be provided a schedule for the day with associated notes, phone numbers and directions. The executive would carry around this folder from meeting to meeting to use as their guide. At the time I always thought there had to be a way to automate this. This rudimentary workflow is a first step in creating this daily guide. The workflow is an adaptation of the Share Availability workflow included in the Gallery. This workflow pulls all calendar events for a user-selected day and then sends the booked times via email. With a few small tweaks I was able to change the output of this template to create a new note in Evernote with the listing of events including start time, end time and event name. I also added a second section to pull active tasks from Apple's Reminders app. Here is the resulting note in Evernote from my workflow.

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Yes, this is basic but I think you can see the potential. I would love to extract addresses from all meetings for a day and list distance between meetings and maybe even pull directions to meetings adding each to the daily agenda. Given the wealth of building blocks included with Workflow, I bet both of these requirements are quite possible. You can try my workflow by downloading and installing it from here. Also, take some time to try out the workflows that Federico posted in his article.

As you can see, the possibilities with Workflow are endless. Hopefully Apple will not be threatened by the power of this app and pull it off of the App Store, so get your copy soon just in case. And, the price of $2.99 is not the final price, but an introductory price to get the app in more hands.

Can you see the possibilities of Workflow? If so, what would you like to automate in your workflow? Have you created you own workflow already that is saving you time? If so, please share it in the comments.

DISCLOSURE: The links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a few cents if you click the link and purchase the app. This costs you nothing but it helps me keep this site running.

 

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Free eBook: Introduction to iPad Productivity

As a busy blogger and iPad "expert", I get asked all the time about the tools I use to be productive on the iPad. So I decided to write a small book explaining some of the basics, the things that will get you using your iPad for work rather than play. This eBook is not a replacement for my iPad Productivity eBook, but rather an introduction for those of you ready to leave the laptop at work.

You can’t buy this eBook. There’s only one way to get it—by subscribing to my FREE email newsletter. Don’t waste any more time lugging that laptop around. Sign up today!

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