iPad in Architecture [2011]

[10/05/2020 > updated version available here.]

Ever since we got our first iPad 2 we have been testing various setups and apps – as usual with the architectural community in mind.

Before we dive into our recommended setup, let us share our 2 cents worth on the ups and downs of the current combination of iOS and iPad 2 hardware.

It does in deed feel much snappier as the original iPad – does this warrant an upgrade though? we are not sure, unless you use skype or facetime very often, then our next point might help…

The iPad 2 comes with two cameras (front: VGA 640×480, back: 960x720p) which both work reasonably well for videoconferencing apps, but not much more. a lot of people are rather disappointed by this choice apple has made, however simply due to the form factor we normally prefer to take photos on an iPhone over the iPad anyway.

Apple now allows the iPad to mirror its display to HDTVs and projectors (optional adaptors), the only downside here is that the iPad’s aspect ratio (1024×768) typically results in some black bars either side especially on widescreen HDTVs.

smart cover
A lot has already been said about this, but it really is a magnificent piece of industrial design.

personal hotspot
One of the main new features that apple introduced with the new iOS4.3 is called personal hotspot, which if enabled allows for very easy setup and usage of your iphone’s data connection for up to 5 connected devices (previously known as tethering). this feature works so reliably that we can easily recommend getting the iPad 2 as wifi only, i.e. without 3g and the added cost of a monthly data plan.

no user accounts
In the tradition of apple’s other iOS devices the iPad is essentially a single user device, i.e. there is no possibility to setup individual access protected user accounts.

data transfer
A major complaint we share with a lot of people is how to get data onto the iPad. currently apple’s officially endorsed method is to add your data to iTunes, connect the iPad via USB cable then sync – a process though somewhat cumbersome at the same time also creates a backup. however, some apps allow access to cloud services such as google docs or dropbox, which ultimately bring us to our next point…

Given all of the above and some intensive weeks of testing in various real architectural environments, we recommend the following setup:

To sync data to the iPad use Dropbox – its free (2GB) easy to setup and syncs as soon as you have an internet connection.

A stylus will facilitate sketching and note taking tremendously. we can recommend the Targus stylus as they have a very durable tip which is made of capacitative rubber and not foam which easily looses its shape. btw. sourcing of a stylus proved a very frustrating experience as the official apple shops do not sell any, luckily Officeworks has a variety incl. the Targus stylus for approx. AUD20 in silver or black;


dropbox, free, very easy to use for syncing and also for quickly viewing and presenting PDFs, JPGs and even movies;

pdf highlighter, AUD8.99, although a bit pricy this is currently the only PDF annotation app that integrates seamlessly with dropbox;

adobe ideas, free, allows for easy markup of photos, which can be shared as PDF via email;

penultimate, AUD2.49, a very nicely crafted note taking app designed around moleskine notepads – 2 things to note are: you can not zoom in and sketches or notes can only be shared in PNG format;

iAwriter, AUD1.19, besides the obviously gorgeous typography, stephen fry can’t be wrong;

2do task manager, AUD8.99, if you use ical todo’s this is the task manager you need, can sync either via mobile me or wifi;

irhino 3d, AUD3.99, obviously only useful if you use rhino but a 3d viewer from which other bim manufacturers can learn a lot – let’s hope google reads our blog and eventually releases a sketchup viewer;

AutoCAD WS, free, dwg viewer by autodesk, however you need to register and upload files via a browser;

We are sure there are many more apps suited to architects and rest assured we are constantly testing other apps as they become available – as usual please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

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