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Being paperless as a engineering student - iPad Pro
Hi there! Well, lately I’ve read a lot of posts asking about using the iPad Pro or the latest iPad for note-taking, and I’ve being doing it for a year now. So I guess I’ll be able to answer some if not all of the questions about it. I’ll organice this post this way:
- Hardware I use.
- Software I use.
- Is it possible to use the iPad w/Apple Pencil as a replacement of pen and paper?
- Is it possible to use the iPad as a laptop replacement?
- How I take notes and how I organice them.
- How do I stay paperless.
A bit of background: I’m studying Civil Engineering in Argentina, I have an average of 9.11 out of 10, which I guess would translate to something close to a 3.8-4 GPA (Don’t really know how it works, it’s what I’ve been told). I bought the my iPad at launch last year and I used as standalone device for 6 months.
1. Hardware I use: Currently, all the hardware I use for college as well as living in general are: - iPad Pro 12.9 2017 64gb w/Apple Pencil: I use it as a textbook, as a notebook, and as my principal recreational device. Most of the time I use any technological device, It’s my iPad, I’m even writing this in Apollo in my iPad. - iPhone 8 64gb: well, it’s my phone. I guess I use it almost like everyone else. Apart from communicating, I scan everything that I get, and I upload it quickly to Evernote. - Desktop powerful enough to handle Mathematica, AutoCAD and Office: I didn’t use a computer for 6 months after buying the iPP (what’s a computer?) because I didn’t have one. And I didn’t really feel I needed one. But It made life a bit easier because I could use the named programs from home instead of having to go to college for that. - HP Prime: this thing just rocks. I love being able to use it for tests, and makes my mathematical courses way easier and enjoyable. - Logitech Bluetooth keyboard.
Thanks to the iPad, I haven’t used paper for almost a year. I’ll talk more about it in the point 6. So that’s really it, I don’t need anything else for college and I hope I won’t be needing anything else until I finish my career. It even replaced my broken phone for 3 months until I got the iPhone. So it’s what I consider my main device.
2. Software I use: I’ll name the software I use in my iPad and iPhone, since in my desktop I just have those I already said and some games. I’ll try to divide them into categories:
Storage: There isn’t any file that is in my iDevices that isn’t in the cloud. I pay for two services and use the free tier in the third. It helps me to get any file anywhere, and it has been lifesaving. 1. Evernote: this is my principal app. I store every piece of info I get here, my notes, recipes, tickets, important photos, articles I read that I liked, documents, textbooks. Everything. I’ll talk more how I use it in the fifth and sixth point, but it’s safe to say that this has become my second brain, exactly how they advertise it. 2. iCloud: it’s the second service I pay for. The only use I have for it it’s backup and Photos, which is why I use it. It’s really seamless to take a photo with my iPhone and having it in my iPad in seconds. I got 50gb, and it has been plenty for now. 3. Google Drive: I use this cloud exclusively for group projects. Everyone has one and it lets us organize all the info in a way that we can access it whenever we need it.
Automation: 1. Filterize: it helps me maintain Evernote neat and organized. It creates lists of my notes from every class, my exercises, etc. In short, this app is what makes all my system possible without me needing to keep working on it. 2. IFTTT: it syncs reminders to my calendar, upload screenshots to Evernote, and some other miscellaneous stuff that makes my life a bit easier.
Note-taking: 1. Noteshelf 2: I jumped onboard recently. I use for all my classes that involve math. I’ll talk how I use it in the fifth point, but I mostly use it because of the Evernote syncing. It’s pretty neat. 2. Evernote: I type directly in Evernote for those classes that don’t need math. There isn’t much to say. It let me keep them organized.
Other college related stuff: 1. Fantastical 2: It has been my favorite to use. I like the UI and let me organice different calendars from Gmail and iCloud. 2. Todoist: I know the app. It’s simple and keep me busy when I don’t know what comes next. 3. Spark: I got 4 different mails over the time, some are full of SPAM and stuff I don’t really want to see. This app just makes an excellent work curating everything from every mail I have and making it accesible for me. It literally made email usable again for me. 4. WolframAlpha: tremendously helpful app. It helps me to understand new concepts easily, and show me step-to-step solutions for almost any problem I throw at it. 5. Desmos and Geogrebra: graphing stuff very quickly. 6. PDF Expert: marking and reading my digital textbooks. 7. Scanner PRO: scanning every piece of paper that falls in my hand and OCR the shit out of everything.
Non-college related stuff: 1. Spotify. 2. Netflix. 3. Plex. 4. Youtube. 5. Medium.
3. Is it possible to use the iPad w/Apple Pencil as a replacement of pen and paper? Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Thanks to really well-made apps like Notability, GoodNotes, Noteshelf and others, and thanks to the Apple Pencil, it’s not just possible, it’s really worth it. The latency it’s next to non-existent, it helps you organize better, you won’t be loosing papers you need. And to be honest, in the long run it’ll save you money. Textbooks are cheaper (...or free...), and you won’t be needing to buy new paper, notebooks, blinders, pencils, rules, erases, etc. I just see positive about doing it.
4. Is it possible to use the iPad as a laptop replacement?
Well... That depends. There are many people who have achieved that. I went iPad-only for 6 months, and it was pretty comfortable. Now, if you need to use programs like Excel, AutoCAD, MathLab, or any program that’s exclusively made for Window/Mac, then no. You can’t. Or you can too. Now that I got a desktop, I wouldn’t need a laptop. When I’m on the go, the iPad can do anything I need to do, inclusive some light Excel and visualize drawings in AutoCAD. But when I need to do some serious Excel or I need to draw something by myself, I use my desktop.
So yes, you could do it. It depends mostly in which programs do you need to use. Probably, for the 90% of stuff you need, It will suffice, the other 10% will decide if you can do it or not. For me, that 10% can be done in my desktop, and I don’t need to do it on the go, so everything I need to take with me is the iPad.
** 5. How I take notes and how I organice them. **
This is the most important part. How I take notes, and how I keep it mostly simple. As I said, I keep everything in my Evernote, and thanks to Noteshelf 2, it’s made automatically. Well, first I’ll talk of the structure of Noteshelf, then I’ll go over my Evernote setup, and last but not not least, how Filterize does its job.
-Noteshelf 2: this app lets you create Categories, which can contain notebooks, where you write. It also lets you sync a Notebook to Evernote. This means that it “publish” it to Evernote in .png format. And every time you add anything to the notes it will get added to Evernote as well. You can even move the note to different notebooks in Evernote, tag it and change its name. So, first, I created a Category for each class I take handwritten notes. Categories setup. Then, after that, I’ll create a “master note” in each subject for the Theory and other for the Exercises, but I won’t be writing directly on them. The Evernote sync will be turned on for these notebooks.
For every lecture, I’ll create a new note called “Class nºX: Subject”, where X is the number of lectures already taken to that point in the class. The subject will be the title of the topic what we’ll learn. I’ll publish this note to Evernote, which will keep the name, and it’s going to get tagged as follow: “-ClassName, -Theory” After that, Filterize will take on and add the rest of the tags needed: “-NªSemester, -University, -Professor”.
After I published it to Evernote, I’ll append the notebook to my Master note of Theory and erase the original one. I’ll do something really similar for practice, but instead of doing one for every lecture, I’d made one for each topic, for example “Heat transfer” or “Partial derivatives”, etc.
-Evernote: I have a stack for college. Right now it has these notebooks: - First year. - Calculus II. - Physics II. - Material technology. - Civil engineering II. - Statics.
First year contains every note from every class from last year. I can find anything thanks to tag sorting, and if that doesn’t work, the search engine of Evernote it’s just fantastic, it searches text in pdfs and handwritten notes, so I have all my notes from last year for reference at my fingertips all the time. For every class I have an “Index” note. Here I have lists that links to notes from any class, exercises from any subject, etc. This is an example of my Calculus II Index note. Keeping stuff organized this way help me to access quickly to the notes of a given subject I need at the moment, and also it made sharing my notes ridiculously easy. Evernote lets my share a public link to my notes, so when someone needs, lets say, “Hoja de ejercicios 7” I can just look up there and in less than two minutes I can send them a note with 10+ pages of exercises.
As I said before, Evernote became my second brain. It keeps everything I need, and It has made wonder on how I keep my stuff college-wise accesible at any time and in a organized manner. But this need work. You could throw everything in one notebook and Evernote would be good enough to let you retrieve what you need thanks to its search engine. But keeping my system needs a bit more of work. You need to add some tags manually before it gets automated, but I feel it’s well worth it.
Filterize: This is what makes magic. It’s connected to my Evernote, and it organice it as I need it. If you don’t really know how to script it or you don’t use Mac, then it’s a wonderful tool. Some stuff it does: - It creates those lists I showed automatically. They are called Table of content (ToCs), and when a note fills a specific criteria, it adds it to the list. For example, one of the ToC I showed would search for notes that would fit this criteria: “intitle:”Class” tag:”Calculus.II” tag:”Theory” . This list makes the list of all my notes of the Calculus clases. If you change intitle”Class” for intitle”Exercise” and you change the tag Theory for Practice, you’ll get my ToC of exercises. - It tags automatically any note that’s tagged with some of my classes names with: -College and -2ºYear. - It takes my mails that I forward to Evernote, and if it comes from certain people it stores it to Others in my University stack. If they are PayPal tickets, it tags it as /Ticket, /PayPal, /Expeneses, and moves it to a different notebook. - If I webclip an article it moves it to an Article notebook I have, tags it, and makes a ToC for the articles I didn’t read and the articles I read.
It has a lot more of functionalities, but those are more tailored for other stuff like an ONG I participate.
** 6. How do I stay paperless. ** At this point, having paper it’s something that really bothers me. You have to not loose it, to keep it somewhere where you’ll find it if you need it. It takes space. It takes time to keep it organized (more than my current system after you set it up). I don’t know, I’ve grown a resistance to have and use paper in general.
What I’ve do to stay paperfree is the following: - I downloaded all of my textbooks, so I don’t really need paper since I have everything in the iPad. - If someone gives me a sheet of paper, and old tests to practice for example, I’d scan it with my iPhone and send it to Evernote properly tagged. As easy as that, and I’ll have a note there where I could even write or highlight on.
At the beginning it requires effort to be and stay paperless, after a couple of weeks you really see the benefit of it and it start to be a natural thing in you. I could find anything I’ve signed in the last two years with just a couple of clicks, and it doesn’t need a complete phyisical archive full of copies for that. All in all, going paperless was the best decision I’ve made. I’m a messy person. I forget stuff and loose them all the time. The fewer things I have, the less I loose. The less that I’m involved in organizing my stuff, the better they get organized. I’ve reached a point where I feel this system works for me and I almost don’t work for it. Just add some tags and that’s it. At most, every couple of months I’d need to add a new filter in Filterize, but that’s it.
The reason to post this was to show that yes. You can get by using an iPad for college/note taking. And not just get by, you can get the experience to be way better, simple and faster.
If you have any question about my setup, how it works, anything, I’ll be glad to answer.
Talen's Calculator Guide V1 (X-post from /r/engineeringstudents)
Calculator Guide by Talen PhillipsVersion 1: 19AUG2015
NULLA. IntroThis guide is meant primarily for students, but can certainly be used by practicing engineers, plenty of whom seem to use scientific and graphing calculators alongside software packages like MathCAD, Mathematica, Maple, etc. It is not intended to be a full review of any of these calculators (many of which I have limited experience with).
The reason I'm writing this guide is because I find that being very familiar with my tools helps me spend a little less time doing tedious calculations and more of my time actually focusing on understanding material. I highly recommend other students pay a little more attention to their calculators so they can make the most of them.
I've tried to remove my personal biases, however some calculators are actually better than others. This doesn't mean the others aren't capable of getting you through your degree. In fact, ANY of these calculators will do the job. Hell, even a slide-rule could work. However, being able to compute directly with complex numbers, evaluate definite integrals and derivatives, work with matrices, find the roots of polynomials, and solve systems of equations is a HUGE advantage in certain classes.
Generally speaking, all you really need is one of the calculators from section 3. Graphing and CAS aren't required. YMMV
Algebraic is what most people are familiar with. It is also known as “infix notation”. The operators go between the numbers just as you would write it, and the calculator uses parentheses to resolve any issues with the order of operations. The only downside is that the entire equation is on one line, without the ability to show numerators and denominators or full integrands as you would write them. For example, if you want to enter a fraction which has a sum in the numerator and a difference in the denominator, you enter: (a + b)/(c - d). This is less than ideal. In fact, it's the worst input method I'll discuss. It requires more keystrokes, more forethought, and often can't be displayed appropriately on the calculator.
Textbook-style input is exactly what it sounds like. All functions are displayed on your calculator exactly as they would appear in a textbook, or how you would write them on a page. If you want the expression above, on most calculators of this style you would type [fraction button], a, +, b, [down arrow], c, -, d. The fraction would then be displayed without parentheses just as you would write it. Having the expression displayed clearly like this aids in thinking and allows easy editing even after the fact (typically you can use the arrow to select and edit expressions you've already evaluated).
Textbook-style input is also known as “Mathprint” on TI calculators, “Natural-V.P.A.M.” or “Natural Display” on Casio calculators, and “Writeview” on Sharp Calculators.
RPN (also known as postfix notation) is the black sheep of the family (though many older engineers swear by it), and is only used by one of the major calculator manufacturers (HP). It is ostensibly the fastest method of input, but you really have to be fluent in RPN to take advantage of the extra speed. I'm not sure I'll be able to give a comprehensive explanation here, so I won't try. The short version is that it works very much like a computer's stack. You push numbers into the stack with an enter key, and when you hit an operation that works with N numbers (typically 1 or 2), the first N numbers are popped out of the stack, the operation is performed, and the result is pushed back into the stack. Note that HP's metaphorical stack pointer points to the bottom, and elements are pushed UP into the stack.
The input sequence for our fraction would go: a, [enter], b, +, c, [enter], d, -, /.
Opinion: Unless you feel particularly adventurous, hipster, or you think in terms of stack elements, it's probably best to stick with Textbook-style input. It has the strong advantage of allowing you to see previously used expressions and edit them.
II. Basic Scientific CalculatorsExamples: TI-30 series, Casio fx-300, Sharp EL-W531X
The calculators in this category have decent functionality for the most part. They all cover trigonometric functions, logarithms, exponents, and most can do some fairly advanced statistics and even have a few probability functions. However, they're missing some key features that the advanced scientific calculators have.
I generally advise other engineering students to avoid these calculators. It's only a few dollars difference to get a much, MUCH more powerful model. If you must get one, try to get something like the TI-30XS MultiView, Sharp Writeview (denoted with a W in the model number), or the Casio fx-300, all of which have textbook-style input.
III. Advanced Scientific CalculatorsExamples: TI-36 series, Casio fx-115 (known as the fx-991 in the EU), HP 33s/35s, Sharp EL-W516X or EL-W506X
These calculators have all of the functions of the basic scientific calculators, but also handle numeric integration and differentiation, matrices, and complex numbers. Note that not all functions will work in the complex domain. All of the calculators I listed except the Sharp are allowed on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam in North America. I haven't used the Sharp, but I own the HP, TI, and Casio. All of these calculators except the HP cost between $10 and $20 in the US. The HP costs $50.
The TI-36 and the fx-115 are roughly equivalent in terms of functionality. It's hard to find something that one can do but not the other. Both of them are about as capable as a TI-84, except without graphing, programmability, and limited matrix size. There are three main differences that lead me to recommend the TI over the Casio.
- The Casio has different modes for different kinds of calculations. For example, complex numbers require complex mode, which doesn't allow integrals. The TI has one workspace for most of its calculations.
- The TI has a fantastic layout. Maybe I'm just used to TI calculators or maybe it's the "cycle keys" (push once for pi, again for e, and again for i), but I like working with the TI much better.
- The TI is about 3x faster than the Casio. This won't matter for typical calculations, but if you ever have to evaluate a complicated integral like the gamma function, you'll be happy to have the TI.
The programming aspect makes the HP calculators a step up from the others on this list. There are already programs to do many things that the other calculators can't do (such as solving systems of complex-valued linear equations), and there's PLENTY of room for more programs. I'm told that the memory doesn't get reset by the test center, but I can't confirm that.
The Sharps I've seen in the past looked like knock-offs of Casio calculators, but the current models look different (and pretty!). I have no idea what they're like, so I won't say more. (if anyone else discusses them, I'll edit it in)
There are others that have been left out such as the programmable Casio models, but they're not allowed on the FE or PE, and this (to me) is the point of using a non-graphing calculator.
IV. Non-CAS Graphing CalculatorsExamples: TI-84 (in all of it's incarnations), TI-83, Casio 9860GII, Casio PRIZM fx-CG10/fx-CG20
This category is for your oldschool, run-of-the-mill, graphing calculators. These are for when computer algebra systems (CAS) aren't allowed by your professor... but graphing calculators somehow are. I want to start off by saying that YOU DO NOT NEED A GRAPHING CALCULATOR FOR ENGINEERING! If you ARE going to get a graphing calculator, I strongly recommend you go all in with an advanced CAS model.
With that aside, I can point out the benefits of having such a beast.
- First of all, I have yet to see a graphing calculator that wasn't programmable (although I'm sure they exist). Creating your own programs is extremely nice for learning concepts inside and out, and for saving yourself a couple of minutes on a test if you're really prepared for it.
- They typically come with software for all kinds of things. Yes you can play games on them, but you can also use that financial app when you're taking econ.
- Where Advanced Scientific calculators will support up to 3x3 matrices, most of these will support MUCH larger matrices (though still not complex matrices).
- These calculators aren't solar powered. They have lots more juice to run through their processors, and can therefore do computations much faster.
If your school supports Casio, feel free to pick up the PRIZM. I have no experience with it, but the display looks really nice.
I haven't used the non-CAS nSpire models, but I can't really see a good reason to use them, since the TI-84 CE will be more test compliant, and probably faster.
V. CAS Graphing CalculatorsExamples: TI-89, HP 50g series, TI nSpire CX CAS, HP Prime
Here we enter into the wonderful world of Computer Algebra Systems. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for your laziness. Having a fancy CAS calculator isn't an excuse to not learn how to do partial fractions or laplace transforms. You should know how to do symbolic stuff like that efficiently by hand. If you do, then these calculators are a GREAT way of checking answers and exploring problems. They're all programmable, they all come with awesome software, and they all have powerful graphing abilities. (they also handle complex matrices, which is extremely useful)
I considered splitting this category into basic and advanced, but the newer calculators don't do THAT much more than the older CAS models, so it all goes into one category.
The TI-89, and HP 50g are the oldest of this bunch in terms of technology, but they were made specifically for engineering students and practising engineers. The TI is certainly more user friendly (IMO), but the HP models tend to have a bit more functionality (though you can get software for both). None of these have whizbang color screens or touchpad/touchscreen interfaces. They're just monochrome displays. They both run on AAA batteries, and have a long battery life.
- Interface: The main difference between the TI-89 and HP 50g is the input style. The TI-89 has an algebraic input. The HP is firmly based on RPN, though it supports algebraic and has a decent equation writer that can serve as a clunky textbook-style input. RPN is by far the preferred input method for the HP.
- Programming: The TI-89 can be programmed with a TI version of BASIC, or with assembly, though there are resources that allow for C programming (kind of). Meanwhile the HP 50g can be programmed in RPL or assembly, and there are resources that allow for C programming (again, kind of).
- Connectivity: The HP 50g actually has much more connectivity with the outside world. It has a USB port, an SD Card slot, a serial port, an irDA port, and even a buzzer (IDK just go with it). The TI-89 has a USB port and a port for connecting to other TI calculators.
- Price: The TI-89 Titanium usually costs ~$140, meanwhile the HP 50g can be had for ~$75.
The TI nSpire CX CAS is TI's latest offering. It's fast, has a fancy screen with a touchpad controlled mouse, and runs on a rechargeable battery. Like the TI-89, it gets plenty of support from TI and the community. There are plenty of apps to do whatever you need. It supports textbook-style and algebraic input styles, and is fairly user friendly (lots of drop-down menus). If you're looking for a CAS calculator, this is a solid choice. Be aware that some teachers will disallow the nSpire, even though they allow the TI-89.
The HP Prime is (to my knowledge) the most recent calculator technology. It was released in 2013 (vs 2011 for the nSpire). It sports a high-res multi-touch, backlit, color display and a rechargeable battery. The calculator runs on a MUCH faster processor (ARM 9) than anything else here. It's at least an order of magnitude faster than the nSpire (which is already the second fastest calculator here). It supports all three input styles, but seems focused on textbook-style input (RPN isn't available in the CAS screen). It's a little less intuitive at times (though the contextual help button is VERY nice), but seems to have more functionality than the nSpire.
I just want to note that the touchscreen initially seemed like a gimmick, but turned out to be extremely handy. If you want to select a previous result, you just touch it twice, and it will appear in the command line where your cursor was. Is that result off screen? You can quickly scroll back with the flick of a finger. If you want to explore a function you graphed, you can use inertia scrolling and even pinch-zoom (and that speed comes in really handy here). Can you tell that I like this calculator? Even the freaking buttons are nicer than other calculators! AND it's cheaper than the nSpire. PRIME4LYFE,BTCHS!
VI. Vintage Scientific CalculatorsExamples: HP 15C, HP 42S, TI 68
I imagine you're all wondering why this category exists. To put it bluntly, these calculators are better than the current models at many functions. I don't understand why, but the best scientific calculators seem to have been produced during the 80s and early 90s. All of these calculators are programmable. All of them handle matrices, and all of them can solve systems of complex-valued linear equations.
The HP 15c is the oldest of these examples. It was recently brought back into production for a limited release in 2011. The release wasn't even that limited, but those calculators are now consistantly selling for ~$450. It is praised for it's horizontal layout, easy programmability, and excellent buttons.
The HP 42s is the successor to the HP 41, and they are both widely considered to be the best scientific calculators of all time. Where the HP 41 had expansion ports for various peripherals, the HP 42s comes with much of that built in, and it comes in a much smaller package. There's no computer interface, but if you have the printer, you can use the IR port to print calculations and programs. I actually own one of these, and let me tell you, complex numbers are EXTREMELY well supported. Try calculating eiπ or ln(-1) on another calculator. You can even make complex matrices and store them in any of the numerous variables. Freaking awesome! The interface and display is also nicer than the 35s (it has soft-key-style menus). These calculators usually go for ~$200 on ebay. If you want to play around with a free version of this, have a look at Free42 on iphone, android, linux, and windows.
The TI 68 is something I'm a little less familiar with. I do know it can solve systems of equations with up to 5 variables and even complex values. It's also keystroke programmable. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of these, but it's hard to find one that hasn't been half destroyed from use.
There are even older models than this, but when you start to look at calculators from the 1970s, you realize that certain features are missing (such as continuous memory)
VII. Author's notesI'm only a student, so I'm certainly not an expert on calculators, and there are many resources available all over the internet. Feel free to come over to /calculators if you have any questions. There are a few of us who keep an eye on that sub, so questions usually get answered pretty quickly.
I plan on expanding this guide at some point in the future. If anyone has anything to add to this guide, please let me know, and I'll incorporate it (with credit). If there are any errors please
Feel free to distribute this guide as you please so long as you include all of it. Remember to give me credit, and include this section and the additional credits section.
VIII. Change-log and CreditsNone Yet
NOTE: slight wording changes and grammatical/spelling corrections may not be recorded