Using the iPad Pro as a tool for science

By DUY PHAN | November 3, 2016

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BRETT JORDAN/CC-BY-2.0 The iPad Pro can be a great way to keep track of lab notes and papers.

It has now been approximately one month since I started using the iPad Pro. I will try not to reiterate many points that have already been made by other iPad Pro reviews, namely that in spite of not being able to replace a laptop, the iPad Pro functions extremely well as a high-power tablet.

Nevertheless, given that Brainwave is a science-focused column, I will review the iPad Pro not so much as an entertainment or educational device but rather as a device for academic scientists.

First, let me get some of the obvious negatives out right away. You are not going to use your iPad Pro to do your heaviest scientific computing. Again, the iPad Pro is not a laptop replacement. I still felt way more comfortable using my computer to store figures, write papers and analyze pictures. Simply put, the iPad will not replace a computer for doing research.

On the other hand, one of the greatest achievements of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is that it has finally made it worthwhile to read a paper using a tablet. The screen is absolutely gorgeous. I have tried to use other iPads in the past to read and take notes, but I always found the screen way too small.

Having a gigantic screen dramatically improved my reading experience, particularly when coupled with the fantastic Apple Pencil to take digital notes. Gone are the days of printing out stacks of paper that pile up on my desk. Now, all of the papers with their digital notes are saved on my iPad, which can be seamlessly synchronized to my MacBook Pro and iPhone via iCloud.

Speaking of notes, the Notability app and the iPad Pro are the perfect marriage. They were made for each other.

Having the Notability app on my iPad revolutionized the lab notebook experience. Often, it is very difficult to organize a lab notebook so that it is easy to go back and trace the sequence of experiments, especially if the experiments went on for weeks and months.

The iPad Pro and Notability changed all of that. Writing on the spacious iPad screen felt amazing. Notability allowed me to neatly organize my notes in a way that was very easy to keep track of what I was doing. For example, I can create different folders in Notability. Each folder contains experiments pertinent to one specific project.

Now, every project involves multiple experiments. So, each new “note” in a folder is a specific experiment. For each new day that I start a new step in the experiment, I simply just continue writing on the same note. And of course, all of these notes can be synchronized across my Apple devices, and they can be shared electronically for others in the lab to access my notes.

In short, the iPad Pro won’t be able to generate or analyze raw data. But what it can do is provide a very good experience for reading scientific papers and will make it easier to keep an organized lab notebook.

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