Posted by: lsinrc | June 9, 2010

iPad Tools for Info Junkies–Part 1

Before Apple released the iPad  as a product, many critics derided the iPad as a device without a purpose–I countered it had the right form factor and functionality for content consumption (There is a Need for Apple’s Potential Tablet). It turns out the iPad is perfect for reading/viewing non-web and web content almost anywhere:  in bed, on the couch, at the doctor’s office, and yes, even at your work desk. For information junkies like me, it is a wonderful device–although I must admit I was initially concerned that the iPad’s limitations would not fit my needs.

When I read, I want to do more than just consume–often times I need to categorize the content (tag), temporarily store it for future reference, and then post or tweet about it. After configuring the iPad with the right web tools and apps, I now use the iPad with nearly the same ease as a more powerful laptop for tracking and posting new web information.

While many web2.0 sites have their own custom apps for the iPad, the lack of true multitasking makes it cumbersome to use these apps–often it is more efficient and convenient to use their web tools, or “bookmarklets”, within the iPad browser. Unfortunately, one of the biggest limitations to work around is Safari on the iPad. Without extensions, Safari poses a serious problem–nearly a deal breaker for me.  The major breakthrough in usability for Safari on the iPad is the ability to add web bookmarklets. At first glance, many web2.0  bookmarklets don’t appear to work with the iPad Safari as they ask you to drag the button to the bookmark bar. The secret to making them function on the iPad is learning to paste the javascript code to an existing Safari bookmark.

Capture the Information

Let’s walk through some examples. When viewing a web article worth saving for future reference, Delicious or Diigo are my tools of choice for creating a tagged database of the content. Diigo offers Diigolet, but dragging the button to the Bookmark Bar (as per their instructions) does not work. To capture this button for your iPad Safari, you need to access the actual javascript of the bookmarklet button  on a standard computer.  On the computer browser right-click (or control click on a Mac) and copy the link location of the Diigolet button, paste the script in an email, and send the javascript to yourself to retrieve in the iPad (I saved you the trouble by posting some scripts below).

On the iPad, create a new bookmark and save it (the URL of the webpage doesn’t matter).  Then immediately edit  the bookmark and in the location area paste the javascript code. Now you have a functional Diigo or Delicious button in your iPad bookmarks. Here are the scripts to paste into your Safari bookmarks for Diigo and Delicious:

Update: It appears copying the scripts from the blog below causes problems. Try copying the scripts from this Bookmarklet Google Doc instead.



Posting Tools

Once you set up the ability to capture your web content to a social bookmarking service, now’s the time to post the information to Twitter 0r Facebook. Often when I come across resources to share on Twitter, the time of day may be wrong for catching many followers (e.g. late at night or early morning). One resource that posts to Twitter in a delayed timeframe is HootSuite. Once you have set up an account in Hootsuite and tied it to your Twitter account, you can post your tweet immediately or just click Send Later and set the date and time. While they also have their own iPhone app, a bookmarklet directly in the browser can save you a lot of time.



Finding the Resources

In order to use these tools, you need access to content worth recording and sharing, and RSS feeds are still one of the most time efficient ways to gather information on the web. The best app for RSS that I have found so far is NewsRack for $4.99. If you currently use a RSS tool on your computer or the web,  export the RSS as an OPML file that can be imported to NewsRack. For example, I have a long list of RSS feeds for education and technology resources I follow–you are welcome to use that to test it out. Once you find an article or web resource worth noting, NewsRack has a handful of options to send it to–Delicious, Instapaper, ReadItLater, and even direct connections to Twitter or Facebook–but to take advantage of the bookmarklets above, choose Copy the URL. Once you copy the URL,  switch to Safari and paste the URL to use the bookmarklets above.

While it takes some time to set up the iPad for juggling information, it is well worth the effort. Having these bookmarklets ready to handle the tasks you need will pay big dividends in time savings for information junkies. Watch for Part 2 of this series, where we will continue with even more resources for turning your iPad into an information sifting machine.

There is a Need for Apple’s Potential Tablet


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