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Five tips to get more out of your iPhone or iPad in the new year

Usually a New Year’s resolution happens when a person makes a promise to improve themselves. Despite our best intentions, studies have shown that as high as 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure. This year, buck the trend and just try doing something simple, something easy; something you have not done before with your iOS device.

So how does one take a resolution and turn it into a revolution? Rather than using your iPhone or iPad as a consumption device to buy more music, books and movies, or as a communication device to share, post and send, use it to think. Change the way you normally go about performing some mundane tasks and try accomplishing them from a slightly different angle.

These five suggestions are a good place to start:

Take dictation with Siri

Take dictation with Siri

Siri can certainly help you out with a lot of the tasks you routinely perform on your device by providing you withe a hands free interface. But did you know that Siri is a great listener, too? It may feel a little odd at first, but anywhere you can type, you can speak. Tap the microphone on the keyboard and Siri will be listening to you, capturing your every word.

This is also a great way to refine your thoughts. Sometimes when you try to speak what you are thinking rather than write it down, it changes the thought and makes it more real. And once you have captured what you have spoken in text, you can select the text and have Siri read it back to you.

Hearing someone repeat back your thoughts you can also help you better articulate what you are thinking. Just be sure that you have turned on Speak Selection in the Accessibility settings of the General section of the Settings app.

Scribble some notes using a stylus

Scribble some notes using a stylus

Your finger may be good for a great deal of situations on your touch screen device, but not all of them. If you are a paper person getting through life with a series of pads, pencils and paper everywhere, then perhaps it is time to try something new.

To start out, try using Wacom’s Bamboo Stylus Solo ($19.99 Amazon) paired with a good note taking app, something that can handle your style of handwriting. One of my go-to favorites has been Penultimate (Free iPad), which will also sync to your Evernote account. If you are looking for something that works on both your iPhone and iPad (or just your iPhone), then give Notability ($2.99 Universal) a try. Notability has a lot of options to share your handwritten notes, but does not sync as seamlessly with a service like Evernote as Penultimate does.

Map a thought through to the end

Map a thought through to the end

To-do lists and notes may be a great way to capture a finished thought, but when it comes to developing a complete thought, there is something better. Mind-mapping applications are certainly not new, but are more accessible then ever before. By using diagrams to visually map information, mind maps are most effective at expanding on a central idea or theme. Branching out in all directions, you can freely move your tangent thoughts around and get back to the central idea rather quickly

MindNode ($9.99 Universal) is the app that I use most when brainstorming a new idea. The important thing to look for with mind mapping apps is their support for the FreeMind document interface (which MindNode does support). That way you can save and share your mind maps more easily with others.

Scan in and annotate a document

Scan and annotate a document

In an effort to go truly paperless, the camera on either your iPhone or iPad can be a great place to start. The trouble is that taking a photo of a document is not always as easy as it sounds. Photos of documents are often angled and include the background of the surface where the document was resting when the photo was taken.

With JotNot Scanner Pro ($0.99 Universal), you can zoom into the corners of the document and trim out all of the excess imagery when you take a photo of a document. It will also straighten out the most obscure of angles and make the document look as if you scanned it in with a professional scanner. If you would like to add OCR recognition to your document, that is translate the photographed words into selectable text, then SmileOnMyMac’s PDFpen Scan+ ($4.99 Universal) is the app you need. I have just found it much easier to select the corners of a document with JotNot.

Once you have the document scanned, then the two best apps that I have used to annotate a document have been PDFpen ($4.99 iPhone, $14.99 iPad) and GoodReader ($4.99 iPhone, $4.99 iPad). Both apps will allow you to mark up documents, highlight text, and take notes.

Draw a self portrait from a selfie

Draw a self portrait from a selfie

Just because you don’t think you have the skills to be Picasso does not mean you shouldn’t try. A great shortcut is to experiment with layers and try tracing the photos you have taken. You can play with the transparency settings of each layer to make your drawing more pronounced, or the photo. When you have finished, you can delete the photo entirely and leave only drawing. While apps like Brushes 3 (Free Universal) and Layers ($4.99 iPhone, $5.99 iPad) have captured the imaginations of artists around the world, I have found ArtStudio ($4.99 iPhone, $4.99 iPad)) a little easier to get the hang of personally.

If you do not feel like using one of your own self portraits as inspiration, then take a photo of your surroundings and sketch it out. You will be surprised at just how calming of a mental exercise this activity can be.

7 Responses to “Five tips to get more out of your iPhone or iPad in the new year”

  1. GoodReader is an excellent recommendation but the current version in the app store for iOS devices running iOS 7 has some bugs, so you might want to wait until GoodReader’s forthcoming 4.0 update becomes available (if your iOS device is running iOS 7). This isn’t a knock against the people behind GoodReader – apparently they were in the midst of making changes to the app itself when iOS 7 was announced and then Apple’s changes under the hood to iOS 7 caused enough of disruption and shift from the previous major versions of iOS such that GoodReader had to essentially start over. This is a story that probably isn’t told enough by sites like GigaOm, about how the platform providers (Apple, Google etc.) can make big changes that cause detriment to the developers of native apps (i.e., as Tim Bray once wrote, a developer of native apps on a platform is like being a sharecropper on a land owner’s land). As such, I truly hope the pendulum will swing back toward the open web winning as a “platform” and reduce the power of the proprietary land owners who have attempted to carve out of the web which was given to the world as a gift in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee and CERN.

  2. until I saw the receipt which said $6522, I accept that my brother could realie earning money in there spare time from their computer.. there sisters roommate has done this for only a year and just repaid the dept on there villa and purchased themselves a Jaguar E-type. view website………

  3. Those are really good thoughts. As a grandmother, I play tic tac toe and other fun games using fingers or the stylus with our grandkids. There are apps for fingerpainting that can be a creative tool for hours. To design and editing patterns to sew, knit or crochet for kids and young adults. After the “slate”, an iPad is perhaps the only handheld learning tool that is equally revolutionary.