iPadPro Apps & Tricks for Handwriting: Note-taking, Communicating and Teaching

Here are some apps and tricks that may be useful for handwriting.  (Please do comment or add so we can share how to utilize the iPadPro effectively. Another blog focuses on the iPad for research.)

Handwriting apps

There are many apps for handwriting. Two dedicated apps that work extremely well with the Apple Pencil (i.e., hair-fine precision and hand palm rejection) are:

Goodnotes shines with the Pencil, saves handwriting in PDF, and hence stores handwriting as vectorized images that looks sharp at whatever magnification.  It is intuitive and even allows surprisingly accurate searching your handwritten notes.

The only thing I miss in Goodnotes is a good visual structure or overview of its “notes”.  Yes there is a three (even four)-level hierarchy: you can make “Categories” (say Courses), subset categories (for lack of better words, say Course-OPNS430), which then hold “Notebooks” (say Class 1 in OPNS430).  It works, I guess, but from an organizational perspective, I prefer OneNote (Microsoft) which I described here.  OneNote also syncs flawlessly with your Mac, iPhone and PC.

Communicating (over Skype)

A simple, free and effective tool is showing whatever you do on your iPadPro onto a window on your Mac (using no special app, only the free built-in QuickTime in OS-X and your Lighting-USB cable).  Here it is explained (it takes < a few seconds): http://osxdaily.com/2016/02/15/howto-record-iphone-screen-mac-quicktime

Why is this useful?  Using Skype on the Mac, you simply share that window (I don’t think the Skype app on iPad allows you to share another app on the iPad) and now you can draw or annotate on your iPadPro and the other party can see it all.  It’s like sharing a white board. Of course, if you use OneNote or GoodNotes or so, you can save annotations into PDF at end of the call and share them.  [You can also save the QuickTime recording, but mostly I would just discard it.]

Presenting and Teaching (in the classroom)


You can use QuickTime as described above in the classroom: If your Mac is connected to a projector, you can maximize the QuickTime window and simply project that to show whatever is on your iPadPro.  [I know you can connect your iPad directly to a projector with the right dongle, but now 1) you don’t need the dongle and 2) you can stay within the “safety” of projecting from Mac and only swap a window when needed to show iPad].

The above allows you to use and “project” any app, including Powerpoint, GoodNotes, PDF Expert.  Of course, you can do it without the Mac by using a dongle.

A more controlled method to project directly from iPadPro is to use 2screens which works well for pdf and webpages. You can have several presentations loaded at the same time and switch from one to another. And: it has a companion app for the iphone that has a good userinterface, you can switch jump slides, you can have a pointer, …

So if you present from PDF, 2screens may be your baby.  While 2screens can also show ppt, “animation and transition effects in Keynote/PowerPoint are NOT supported.”  That means that I can’t use 2screens (as my presentations are in PowerPoint and often use animation and transitions.  The iPad Microsoft Powerpoint app works well as long as you stay tethered and near your iPad while teaching.  I like to be mobile while teaching so the only thing I am missing to teach solely using the iPadPro is a clicker.


The mobile concern will be resolved in new classrooms that support Apple Airplay so you can walk around with iPad in hand.

Another option (I was told but have not tried yet) is to use http://www.mirroring360.com/ which allows you to wirelessly mirror your iPad on your Mac (or PC), which then can be used for skype or be attached to a projector. No cable connection needed so you can walk around with iPad in hand.


Posted in Academia, Research, Teaching | 2 Comments

iPad Apps & Tricks for Research

Here are some apps and tricks that may be useful for researchers.  (Please do comment or add so we can share how to make the iPad work well for research. Another blog focuses on iPadPro for handwriting.)

Sync & store local files on iPad and directory structure

It may be old-fashioned, but I do like off-line access to my files.  There must be some iOS restriction so that cloud storage providers (e.g, Dropbox and OneDrive) cannot just make local copies of entire directories onto the iPad. Using Dropbox and OneDrive you are restricted to selecting individual files (one-by-one) and clicking “Make Available Offline.”  (It would be AWESOME if Dropbox and OneDrive would simply, by default as they do on Mac and PC, make local copies of entire folders and sync whenever connected to the Internet, but alas…).

The free app Document (by Readdle) provides a solution: it connects to your cloud storage apps and you can click entire folders and click “Sync” in upper right “to enable two-way synchronization.” It will automatically include subfolders in the sync.  GREAT.  The app also views many file types, including media files.

Annotating PDFs

There are many PDF apps that may work well for you. After I found Documents, I got hooked on PDF Expert. This $9.99 app is also made by Readdle and integrates flawlessly and uses the same file structure (including directory synching).  In addition to usual text markup (in all ways you can imagine), it also works perfectly with Apple Pencil for beautiful pen markup. So it meets my two objectives: easy file management and handwriting.

Organizing research ideas and projects

If visual file structure appeals to you, consider Microsoft OneNote. I love the 3-tier hierarchical structure: I have a Notebook for Research, Teaching, Seminars and Service. Within each notebook, you have various folders (say one per course that you teach).  And within each folder, various pages (say one per class of your course).  It synchs automatically over the cloud with your iPhone and Mac, and with PC.  And handwriting works fairly well.

Writing research articles in Latex

Cloud and web-based Latex tools like ShareLatex work well on the iPad. If you also want off-line access and compilation, consider the $15 Texpad.  A nice feature is that it connects and synchs to one specific Dropbox folder. In Texpad, I clicked “dropbox” on left side, and clicked “+” to write a new simple test *.tex on iPad.  This directly created the folder \Apps\Texpad on Dropbox and everything syncs automatically.  Thus, just move your active *.tex files to the root directory Apps\Texpad in your Dropbox folder. Colleagues told me that the Mac version of texpad is also excellent.

Posted in Academia, Research, Teaching | Leave a comment

First day of regular check-in process at Brussels Airport

I just arrived at Brussels Airport an hour ago and figured I share some experience of the new check-in processes at what used to be Europe’s most convenient airport.

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Sinus Bradycardia, Life Insurance, and Cycling

A short interruption of my dormant blog state to share a new learning.  Recently I looked into changing my life insurance policy and underwent a physical exam as part of the qualification.  A professional came to our house and administered the typical various common tests, including an EKG.

Today I received a letter from the insurance company stating:

After careful review, we are sorry to inform you that we have found it necessary to postpone this application.  The reason for this decision is as follows:

  • Cardiac Studies – EKG with significant sinus bradycardia.

Such letter gets your attention…  I quickly looked up “sinus bradycardia” (thank you Internet!): two Greek words “Bradus” = slow; and “Kardia” = heart.  “Sinus” is Latin and you recall from math that sinus = wave, rhythm. So there you have it: (abnormally) “slow heart rate,” which apparently is anything below 60bpm, as for “most people, a resting heart rate between 60 to 100bpm is normal.”

I started feeling better…  Sinus Bradycardia can be a sign of fitness and being well trained.  My resting heart rate is about 42 (and it’s a great marker of fatigue: it was 49 on Monday after two intense weekend rides–each with TSS of 200+).

When I forwarded the letter to my agent, he wrote:

Hi Jan,

I found out early last week and that is when we went to bat for you and had the chief medical director review the case and issue you the preferred policy at the lowest rate possible – so everything is taken care of.  You can recycle that letter!

All’s well that ends well…

Posted in Cycling | 3 Comments

Dreaming of the Dolomites: pump or CO2 cartridges?

It’s another cold winter in Chicago.  Dreaming of my trip to the Dolomites end of June is all I can do.  Given that it won’t be a race, time to inflate a flat really isn’t a factor so I’m thinking of carrying a pump instead of cartridges.

Of course, the overriding decision factor is weight.  So I’ve put my new Lezyne test up to the scientific test and it wins by 21g.  Yahoo!  Added bonus: the pump can fly with me (on the airplane that is) while cartridges cannot.

2 cartridges and inflater = 114g

2 cartridges and inflater = 114g


My new pretty Lezyne pump is exactly 93g as advertised!


Posted in Cycling | 5 Comments

There is no free lunch on Ventoux

Brilliant day in Bédoin: perfect for the ride with Gerry that we planned on a few months ago. Given that we hadn’t been any more specific in our planning, Gerry asked this morning “so what are we going to do? A ride or…?” Well, here we are 1min from the official start of the Ventoux climb so “let’s do a strong climb and then we see what we do from the summit,” I said. Gerry needed no more arm twisting 🙂
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Posted in Cycling | 8 Comments

Garmin 510 “low on memory” solution

During two big rides this season my Garmin 510 ran out of memory and I lost the data. Bummer!  The weird thing is that I always delete my activities so there were no old rides on the Garmin so how could it have ran out of memory?  Where did the 10 or 11MB go?

I may have found the weird answer from this Garmin forum:

If you are using a Mac then you need to empty the trash while the 510 is connected to the Mac to really free up the space.

So I did and, indeed, the Garmin 510 then showed again 10+ MB free.  Hopefully this will solve the problem, but who would have figured that you need to empty the laptop trash to clear Garmin memory?

Posted in Cycling | 5 Comments

Cycling around Barcelona: Col de Parpers; Turo de l’Home

A short blog summarizing three nice road-bike rides last week around Barcelona–mostly for those who may visit in the future.  (I like to find good rides when I am in a new area but it was fairly difficult to Google something in English…)  Ride 1 and 3 were very similar 3hr rides that left straight from our hotel in the city (near Diagonal del Mar).  Ride 2 was the queen stage: 40min train ride and a 6hr big ride with two big climbs.  Wonderful!

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Posted in Cycling | 4 Comments

Fitness five months after laparoscopic surgery (appendectomy)

It’s been 5 months and 12 days since my surgery. Time for a short update, since March blog. Fitness is fine and I feel no different from before surgery–so all is good from that most important perspective. What about the little stuff?

1. Weight is back to two years ago. That’s higher than what I hoped for and about 5lbs above last year (when I was training hard for the Haute Route Alps–this relates to the next point):

2. What about strength? My last FTP test last week was 10W above the previous one in March, which is further progress. Yet I am still about 10% below my usual numbers. (Yes, I was easier on myself in my assessment last March when I stated the same.) How much can I blame on illness 5-6 months ago? Not sure…

Surgery surely gave me am easy excuse until a wake-up call two days ago. When I told my cycling buddy James after a spirited group ride that I still wasn’t up to regular levels he replied “off course you’re not!” Asking why he said that, I got an unexpected response: “you haven’t been training as you used to.”

Humm, that did get me thinking… So I decided to do 4 x 8min LT this morning which confirmed my suspicion: I indeed haven’t been training as I used to and it shows.

Moral of the story: I wanted to track my improvement path since surgery and the gradient is positive (yet falling, as expected) but there are indeed two confounding effects that I cannot disentangle: time since surgery (easy) and training intensity during that time. (I could add a third excuse: getting older.) Controlled scientific experiments are difficult!

(For those readers who stumble on this blog after googling “fitness after laparoscopic surgery”, do share your progress in the comments.)

Next test will be on Ventoux in a few weeks–hopefully with Gerry. Stay tuned…

Posted in Cycling | 2 Comments

Time to put something on the roof!

I love the three weeks of the TdF–it’s the height of summer to me and this first week certainly has been interesting and entertaining (which is, after all, the purpose of pro sport, isn’t it? Bread and games…). Time to put something on the roof–painted by Shannon: can you see the polka dots if the pics’ resolution is sufficiently high?

My personal interest is to see how long Jurgen VandenBroeck will remain in the race; and if so, how competitive he will be. Today’s stage to Gerardmer will give a first indication…
Which rider are you following (aside from the usual suspects)? Surely there will be more huge upsets; much better than a predictable outcome! Vive Le Velo!


Posted in Cycling | 6 Comments