Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A couple of months ago I wrote a series of articles on the advantages of phone capable tablets. I think it's time to provide an update on how one such device has continued to transform my life on a day to day basis.

In the past couple of weeks, I have been lucky enough to have the chance to help a number of nuclear medicine researchers. I worked with them in my capacity as a linguist because, unlike our neighbors in Malaysia and India, Indonesia is not a former British colony thus, as a consequence, English remains a significant barrier for progress. The researchers I work with were working on a research to develop a nuclear medicine technique that can be deployed nationwide to help people with keloid problems. Obviously, to be able to conduct their research, they have to also gather information from various international scientific papers on the subject. While the prevalence of the modern internet has allowed them access to a vast number of papers, none of these are available in the researcher's mother tongue. I was invited to help alleviate this problem by providing them with Bahasa Indonesia summaries of the various papers that they needed to help with their research.

In the past, doing things like this would involve a large work desk, a PC and stacks of paper as well as notepads for me to scribble stuff on. I would first have the individual papers printed and then I would read through them will taking notes on my paper notebook before going to the PC from time to time to type my summaries.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.0 has changed this. Now I only need the tablet and my laptop to do it. Instead of printing the individual chapters, I’d open the PDF file on the Note 8.0 and, utilizing Samsung’s unique multi window feature, I’d open a note taking app called Papyrus and, using the S-Pen, I would go through each section of the documents while taking notes a window below. If there are things that I feel I need to gain more understanding on, I’d just put Chrome on one of the two open windows to search for extra information and if I want to, I can just select a section of the text and paste it straight onto my notes. Another up side of doing things this way is that I can instantly share my notes  to Evernote, keeping things safe, organized and easy for future retrieval and then after each section, i would use my laptop to transfer my notes into a document. In the coming weeks, I plan to get a portable, yet decently sized bluetooth keyboard to see if I can remove the laptop from the equation altogether.

You can see an example of how I use the Note 8.0 in this kind of situation below:

This also means that I can now do such jobs anywhere and anytime if I need to, whereas before I had to wait until I’m in my office due to the sheer amount of paper involved.

I chose Papyrus over Samsung’s S-Note for the fact that Papyrus makes better use of the available screen real estate as you can see in a comparison shot below:

Besides the more efficient utilization of available screen space, Papyrus also makes use of a number of finger gestures that make note taking easier. For example, instead of having a vertical scrolling bar, Papyrus allows its users to scroll through pages using a two finger gesture. Another intelligent use of gesture is the use of a single finger gesture for erasing stuff, allowing me to use my index finger as an eraser as I ink using the S-Pen. These gestures are customizable, but I found the stock implementation to be intuitive enough. Another advantage with Papyrus is that, unlike some other third party S-Pen note taking apps, Papyrus has S-Note like pressure sensitivity that makes inking feel more like writing on a piece of paper.

In the past I used to use Lecture Notes extensively, however, I found that the app does not recognize pressures the way Samsung’s note taking app does. I also tend to feel that the app suffers from a degree of feature creep. Take a look at this screenshot below and check out the sheer number of options presented following a tap on the menu button.

Making translated summaries of scientific papers is not the only thing that the Note 8.0 has helped to improve. Samsung’s pen equipped small tablet had also transformed the experience of taking part in online classes. Studying from videos and interactive web pages had never been easier. I am now able to jot down notes while watching lectures on a single screen. I can even properly join a session of Steve Blank’s online course while at the bus stop.

Another efficiency boost that comes from the combination of an active stylus, side by side multi-tasking and 8 inch screen is felt as I research the web either for a project or an article that I’m working on. It is incredibly easy to scan through a number of different web pages on one window and jot down or just copy important pieces of information on another window. Just like summarizing papers, conducting web research no longer requires a decently sized desk, a pc/laptop and a set of stationary.

Oh, in case I forgot to mention, it also doubles as my phone, saving me from the constant anxiety that comes from worrying about battery levels on multiple devices.

TouchWiz might have garnered a lot of criticism throughout the years and I can agree with quite a few of them. Whike it is hard to argue with people when they accuse TouchWiz of being messy and bloated, in terms of making my work easier, at the moment nothing in the market can do it better than the TouchWiz equipped Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Looks like my love and hate relationship with TouchWiz is not ending anytime soon.