Using the iPad for Speaking Notes

May 19, 2011 | 6 Comments

Soon after getting an iPad, I started thinking of how I could best use it replace printed notes when speaking in public. The first thought was to simply load my notes in Pages for iPad, but I wanted to be able to easily navigate through a document with the flick of a finger. Scrolling through a Pages document didn’t meet that need very well.

I soon realized that Keynote for iPad was a good option. By creating a presentation, and then ‘playing’ it on my iPad, I could set it in front of me, and flip through the screens one at a time as if they were note cards. The downside for this was that it was more cumbersome to transfer the teaching notes into Keynote and format them.

I looked once or twice in the app store, but didn’t find anything other than scrolling teleprompter apps, and that wasn’t what I needed. It seemed like a need that was unfilled, and I considered learning how to develop for iOS so I could create an app for speaking notes and make millions, or perhaps, dozens.

Until last week, when I had a revelation.

Each of the PDF apps I reviewed a few weeks ago are designed to flip through a page at a time. They can function much like notecards on a podium or pages of an outline, without the concern for wind gusts or clumsy fingers knocking them to the floor.

The problem with the PDF apps, though, was that a typical 8.5 x 11 page viewed on the iPad makes for smaller type and gaps on the sides. But how, I wondered to myself, would it work if I create a page size that matched the size of the iPad screen. So I did, and it works great.

With apologies to everyone else in the world who has moved on to the metric system, I created a paper size called iPad which is 5.84 x 7.63 inches. I took it a step further and created a document with a dark background, and saved it as a template in Pages. Anytime I want to create speaking notes for my iPad, I put them in this template, and then save them as a PDF to a Dropbox folder that syncs with PDF Expert. iBooks works just as well for this, though it doesn’t have the convenience of the Dropbox sync. GoodReader for iPad also works well, though it removes the status bar with the time, which I prefer to be able to see.

Ipad speaking notes

I now have a means to easily format notes in outline or manuscript format and output them to my iPad. The only significant shortcoming of this system is that I don’t have a means to edit notes, which means haven’t found a way to capture those bits of inspiration I usually scribble in the margins of printed notes.

To save you the trouble of making your own template, below you can find a template for both Pages and for Word. (You’ll notice a single white line at the bottom. I can’t seem to find the proper dimensions to get rid of it. As I’ve adjusted, I either get it on the side or on the bottom, but I prefer it on the bottom. If you find dimensions that eliminate it, please let me know!)

Pages Template | Word Template

  • publius

    To edit your notes, get iAnnotate and use the typewriter feature. iAnnotate also allows to open multiple PDFs and switch to each PDF via tabs in the app. Very nice.

    You could also consider creating your file in Pages, print to PDF, then use Acrobat to bookmark the PDF for easy navigation around your new file. Then import to iPad. iAnnotate and Goodreader also allow you to create bookmarks but you can’t rearrange them or nest them like you can in Acrobat.

    If you play with iAnnotate (it’s a bit busy to begin with), I think you may discover tools that may make it even easier to annotate and move around your notes.

    Not affiliated with iAnnotate. Just like it. Good luck!

    • John Chandler

      Thanks for the comments. I thought iAnnotate could do what you describe, but when I used the typewriter, it just typed text over the top of mine. I must not have had it properly selected, so I’ll have to give it another go.

  • publius

    John: You can drag the typed annotation anywhere on the page so it doesn’t have to obscure the text in the PDF. Just tap the screen to begin typing, then drag after you’ve finished typing (I think you have to tap the move icon that appears in a toolbar above the typewriter’s text are before you can drag the typewritten stuff to a new location).

  • gary

    I don’t have an ipad, but those I know that do use Evernote for notes and teaching. They can edit on any of their devices and have the notes synced up to date on the ipad. Although I think you’d have to scroll through your notes rather than swiping pages.

  • Thanks so much for making this template available. I’m officiating a wedding tomorrow and was stressed out about how to hold my speaking notes and a microphone. Now my notes are in my iPad and I just need one hand to navigate the pages. What a help you’ve been!

  • Thanks to everyone for their helpful comments. I find that GoodReader is nice for making notes to my text. But for some reason the text doesn’t display with as much contrast as I would like. I have found that PDF Reader displays the text better. There is also an autoflow function with PDF Reader that can be quite useful. You can easily use your finger to either advance or go backwards. Annotating the text is just not as easy to do in PDF Reader. But it is fairly easy to make annotations in another program and then open that annotated file in PDF Reader.