pdf

Adding Skim to the Efficiency Toolbelt

Most writing apps can create a PDF. Dozens of apps can read a PDF. But, when you want to highlight, create bookmarks to useful sections and create annotations, things start to fall apart.

Plenty of apps can handle the task, but the features and price vary wildly.

Some come with basic features that aren’t much more powerful than Preview. While others come with impressive options and a price tag to match.

However, there is an efficient, feature rich, and low cost alternative called Skim, and after highlighting the heck out of a project management book, it has become my tool of choice.

Skim is a free tool that offers great features for reading, highlighting and annotating PDF files.

When a PDF is open, you can either use thumbnails or a Table of Contents for navigation. In the center is the document itself where you can easily change the zoom and page style. Then on the right are your notes. Working with all three for navigation and highlighting is very smooth and straightforward.

To highlight, select the Note tool, set the option to highlight, and whatever you select will be marked. Not only will it be highlighted in yellow on the page, in the right pane, your selected text and the page it came from will be displayed.

Once you have dozens of notes, you can double click the page and be navigated to the highlighted text. Very nice.

Further, all the notes can be exported out as a separate text file. This is incredibly handy for use in another document or using as points in a presentation.

Another simple but great feature is the use of Bookmarks. You can make several of them and jump to wherever you want. I made sure to set one so I know where I left off each day. If the app closed or I had to load something else, I jumped right back to my place.

From a QA perspective, I see plenty of uses for this. I have taken requirements docs, saved/copied/exported them as PDF, then used Skim to highlight the key features I need to focus on. Out of a 50 page document, only a few points are relevant to me.

Those are then copied into Taskpaper where they are turned into a checklist.

I can also take those notes and add them to DevonThink so I can group project notes together.

Point is, I have been looking for a way to read and highlight PDF files that was easy to work with and easy on the budget. Skim fits the bill in every respect.

Working on a 400 page PDF file was no problem and I have a ton of great notes to work with.

So, if you have a lot of PDF files to read, or you want a solid way to extract key pieces of information, Skim is a great tool to work with.

skim

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AirDisk Pro and Notability – Now that works nicely

I had a great time transferring files over to AirDisk Pro last night. I sent over a couple Top Gear episodes and a bunch of PDF files.The Top Gear episodes played fine and copying them over that easily was pretty cool.

But once I had the PDF files in AirDisk Pro I opened them up in Notability, which is a new note taking and PDF reading/annotating app I just bought. Notability lets you write notes using the keyboard as well as through handwriting. You can jot down ideas and sketch out pictures. That part alone is pretty sweet. But you can also load up PDF files. You can highlight text, write in the margins, add your own text using the keyboard and mark it up as you see fit. I loaded up a 500+ page PDF and found reading and highlighting to be very easy. You can hide away the menus and there is a great palm rest feature that keeps your hands from being interpreted as a touch point so you can write freely on other parts of the screen. We need more apps that support this.

Although I haven’t used it very much you can use Notability to take notes by hand as well as with the keyboard. I scratched out some text with the stylus and then used the keyboard to explain what those cryptic symbols meant. You can pretty much place text anywhere which is a very cool feature. I didn’t get too into the text editor, but from what I can see it’s a full featured word processor. That makes a pretty impressive all-in-one editor.

Finally, you can use Notability with Dropbox, iDisk or WebDAV. Pretty impressive, no?

Overall it’s a pretty sweet app. And for $0.99 you need to grab a copy as quickly as possible. When you combine this with AirDisk Pro you get a pretty impressive suite of tool to transfer, read and play just about anything you can play on the iPad and you can do it all for $2.

Notability – Take Notes & Annotate PDFs with Dropbox Sync
Ginger Labs web site

AirDisk Pro – Wireless Flash Drive

image

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