Friday, January 15, 2010

Off topic: tech stuff I like

With all the hype over Apple’s forthcoming tablet (disclosure: if it’s got a stylus, I fully intend to buy one too!), and exam grading weighing me down, I thought I’d do a little post about tech stuff I like. First on the list is, yes, tablet computers. I’m on my third (I’m a little rough on my toys) and I love my tablet, which swivels to reveal a regular laptop keyboard. My current model is the Lenovo X61. The tablet makes working on the Metro or on an airplane much easier than a regular laptop does: I read stuff in portrait mode, and it takes up a lot less space. I can handwrite comments on Word documents, and with the aid of the cheap and highly useful PDF editing program Bluebeam PDF Revu I can also handwrite comments on PDF files. I can handwrite annotations on my Powerpoints, which is really useful in class, allowing me to combine the benefits of a slide show with the flexibility of a blackboard—and then I can erase or keep the handwriting after! The handwriting recognition is good, though it’s faster to keep my annotations as images when that will suffice. I would recommend a stylus-enabled tablet for anyone who routinely reads/edits in transit or would like to be able to edit presentations while giving them.

Speaking of Bluebeam, I’ve also found it very helpful in putting together supplemental materials. I can cut and paste pages; I can edit bits out of pages when I only want students to read, say, a section of an article; I can “staple” a supplement together, add a table of contents in front and number the pages consecutively, and create a single PDF file for them to have, whether or not they want to print it out. Another useful-for-teaching application even without a tablet.

Probably my greatest productivity enhancer in the last year, though, is tabs for Microsoft Office. Why isn’t this a standard feature? Tabs are great for internet browsing; they are also wonderful for working on multiple documents—no more scrolling through that list, and often enough picking the wrong document. I’ve also made Foxit my default PDF viewer because it, too, supports tabs.


  1. Great tip on tabs for office - just downloaded.

  2. Rebecca Giblin6:50 PM

    I have the X61 too! Love it, though it's getting a little battle scarred now.