Using the iPad for Speaking Notes

May 19, 2011

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

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