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iPad for Carpenters

I suspect we’re seeing an early preview of what the future holds for carpentry: laser measures, automatic digital miter saw fences, Bluetooth, iPads . . . .”  Gary Katz, THISisCarpentry, July 30, 2010

iPads? Really, Gary? I think that’s going a little too far. iPads are Apple products and Apple computers are for long-haired, tofu-eating, poetry-reading, and otherwise useless people who use them to design wine bottle labels, right? We meat-eating, boot-wearing, beer-drinking, hardworking types need real computers that can crunch numbers, run drafting programs and surf the web for—wait, it will come to me—yes, search the web for discounts on tools. Who needs an iPad, I say.

So, a few months ago, my brother Mike gave me an iPad in return for work I had done on his house. My first reaction was that I would have been happier with a case of Belgian ale. In fact, I gave it to my kids to play games on. Then one snowy night, out of boredom, I started playing with it. That’s when the light went on. This thing can do a lot more than show videos and play simple games. It can email, perform document management and data management, track expenses, and perform calculations.

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With its handwriting recognition and emailing capabilities, I could see myself jotting down trim measurements on the third floor and instantly sending it to my cut man’s phone on the first floor. Then I looked at my brief case filled with catalogs, scribbled job notes, and receipts sticking out of every corner. My smart phone and laptop—those guys are getting benched. In only a week, the iPad found a very important place in my tool box.

The contraction of the local remodeling market has forced me to wear all of the administrative hats at the same time, as well as return to wearing my tool bag daily. This means that my office needs to be wherever I am. This tablet computer has really helped that happen. It has increased the efficiency of the administrative side of my business akin to the nail gun’s effect on the production side.

What is an iPad?

For anyone who’s been under a rock for the last few years, the iPad is the big brother of the iPhone—without the phone. Think of it as the missing link between smart phones and laptops.

iPad with OtterBox protective case (www.otterbox.com)

The iPad is based on the same technology as the iPhone—commands are entered via a touchscreen.

The same iTunes program that you use to control and organize your iPod also controls and organizes the iPad.

The iPad comes in two versions, each with different levels of memory. The cheaper version has a wireless modem that allows it to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi networks. The other version has a 3G card, like the iPhone, that you can use whenever you’re not near a Wi-Fi network. And, like the iPhone, the iPad runs programs called “apps” (self-contained applications), which you download from Apple’s App Store.

iPad vs. a Computer

When I picked up the iPad for the first time, I was struck by its size and weight—10″ on the diagonal, only 1/2-inch thick, and 1.5 lbs. The iPad is very simple; it has no keyboard or mouse, and just four buttons—power, mute, volume, and a command/home key.

Then I turned it on. It came on instantly, like turning on a light. I love my laptop, but it takes forever to come out of hibernation. (I was also happy to learn that the iPad lasts up to 10 hours on a single charge.)

The iPad is menu- and icon-driven by way of a touchscreen. With the addition of a stylish pen (sold separately), the screen can be used as a note pad (see “Note Taking,” below). It understands my scribble and converts it into text. This makes it the perfect tool for taking notes on the job site—unlike my laptop, which  is kind of awkward for taking notes while walking around.

For email and surfing the Web, the iPad is friendlier to use than my smart phone. I can actually read the text without a magnifying glass. And the touch screen makes it really easy to surf the Web.

But I had one major concern with the introduction of another computer device: how would I track information across multiple devices?

Sync information between all of your devices!

Now with four devices—a laptop, a desktop computer, a smart phone, and an iPad—avoiding duplication of information was critical to me. Every time I added a new contact to my phone, I did not want to also have to separately add it to my desktop, and then try to remember to sync that to the iPad.

Likewise, if I added an appointment on my iPad while in the field, how would I know if my wife had booked a different appointment on my desktop at home for the same time?

Then there is the problem of tracking documents. Say I start working on a proposal at night on my desktop. My wife might edit it in the morning on her laptop. And I might have to change it again in the field on the iPad. This could be a total train wreck with too many devices, each with their own version of the same documents. So, I decided to look for programs (apps) that I could use to share information across all of my devices. (Note: with the upcoming release of iCloud and iOS 5, syncing between devices will be even easier.)

Programs for the iPad

Email and Scheduling: Microsoft Exchange Server

Last summer, I changed my email delivery platform to a Microsoft Exchange server. Exchange provides instant synchronization of contacts, email, notes, tasks, and calendar across all of my devices—phone, both computers, and iPad. An appointment entered on my phone instantly appears on the desktop and laptop computers, as well as the iPad. New customer contact information entered into the office computer now appears in the laptop, phone, and iPad contact lists.

Setting up the Exchange account was a snap. I simply went to my Web host’s control-panel Web page and pressed a button to transfer my email to an exchange server. (They charge me an extra dollar a month for this, which is totally worth it.) The instructions on their Web site walked me through the settings that I needed to change on all of my devices. (See additional information on setting up the Exchange service on the iPad: http://blog.fosketts.net/guides/ipad-exchange-activesync/ ) What a great relief and time-saver it is to have all of my devices sharing the same e-mails, contacts, etc.

Task Management: TaskTask HD (Exchange Tasks)

The iPad doesn’t come pre-loaded with work tools. But the iTunes App Store has a wide array to choose from. And many are free. The first thing I needed was a “task” or “to do” program.

Task management

After some research, I settled on TaskTask HD ($4.99 in the App Store) for outlining and tracking all of my job tasks. Since this app integrates with the Exchange server, it syncs with all of my devices.

If you are like me, you know that a lot of time is spent each day making and managing lists—projects lists, project task lists, material lists, customer product selection lists, punch lists, pending estimates, etc. I even have a list of lists. My phone is great for viewing lists but is poor at creating or editing them, mostly because I can’t work on its tiny keyboard. On the other hand, my laptop is great at managing lists but not very convenient on the job. The iPad is perfect for doing all three—creating, editing, and viewing. And it’s always at-hand and amazingly responsive.

Sharing documents across your systems: Dropbox

Dropbox

To share documents across all my devices, and with suppliers and subcontractors, I downloaded Dropbox. With this free service you create a virtual password-protected folder that allows you to consolidate all of the files on all of your devices to one central “cloud” location, and each of your devices connects to this “cloud.” Anything added to a Dropbox folder on one device automatically appears in the Dropbox folder on your other devices. Essentially, with Dropbox, you’ll never lose or forget a folder again. Even if your phone dies, the same file will be available in your Dropbox folder on your computer or iPad in your truck, or your desktop at home. I’ve set up a folder for each of our active jobs. All documents—from estimates and plans to job notes and purchase orders—are kept in that folder. What a game-changer this application has been for me. When a question comes up, I no longer fumble for files, or try to remember if the document or drawing is on my laptop or desktop computer. And, it no longer matters on which device I last edited them, they are always available for viewing on whatever device I have at hand.

Document Management: neu.Annotate PDF and Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad

The next thing I decided to do was to download all my catalogs to the iPad. Since most catalogs, from hinges to molding, are available on the Internet in PDF, I went to the iTunes App Store to look for apps that would allow my iPad to view PDFs. Many of these are free. I selected neu.Annotate PDF which allows me to make notes on the documents. Now, I’m no longer lugging around a box of catalogs, or misplacing them. And the iPad is no heavier for all the catalogs it now contains. Adding new vendor catalogs, or updating existing ones, is as easy as a couple of quick taps on the iPad’s touchscreen.

The Quickoffice app ($14.99) allows me to view and edit Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PDFs. So, now I can perform word-processing and spreadsheet functions on my iPad. But, don’t expect the same level of functionality on the iPad that you have on your computer. For example, as of now, Quickoffice cannot work with Office 2010/2011 documents.

Spreadsheets

Over the years I have developed several types of take-off spreadsheets (and in most cases, by “developed” I mean “stole”—thanks, Gary). The spreadsheets were fine for sitting at a desk with a computer looking at plans. But today, a majority of the work I do is in existing residential homes, not new construction. This means take-offs have to happen on-site, walking room to room. A laptop does not do that well, and I found myself going back to the paper pad. The problem with paper is that it gets lost, and, quite frankly, sometimes I just can’t read my own writing. The whole reason we use forms is to remove error, so writing the information in a notebook and then re-entering it—sometimes days later—on the computer is counterproductive. The slim iPad is perfect for walking around with, for and working on forms.

At this point, my laptop is getting jealous.

Note Taking: WritePad

 

Write in freehand and the iPad will convert it to typed text!

WritePad ($9.99) is a writing app that turns my iPad into a note pad. I can write directly on the screen with a stylus, or even my finger, and the app converts my handwriting to text (something which no human seems to be able to do). The text can be saved and emailed, or sent to Dropbox. It is so easy to pick up the iPad, jot down a note to a supplier, press a button, and off it goes. No more playing with the tiny screen on my phone or waiting for the laptop to boot up. This was the first program where I really went, “WOW.” This is the app I use to jot down those measurements for trim on the third floor and send to the cut man on the first floor.

Construction Tools

Calculator

There are a number of construction calculators designed for the iPad. Calculated Industries makes several of them. For $19.99 you can get the Construction Master Pro calculator. This calculator works just like the hand-held units we all rely on.

I tried several other construction specific calculators available for the iPad, but found them all clunky and confusing. I think I’ll stick with what I know.

Cad Program

cadtouch R3 ($19.99) is the current drafting program I’ve been using on the iPad. To be honest, the iPad is not that great when it comes to drawing anything other than doodles. When it comes to drafting I still prefer the power and interface of a full computer.

XpenseTracker

XpenseTracker ($4.99) is a great little application I use to track my receipts and job expenses. Let’s face it, even with the greatest of intentions, no one jumps into the truck and waits three minutes for their laptop to fire up just to enter the purchase of one sheet of plywood. Most of the time, that receipt goes in your pocket and through the wash, which means it’s never entered as a job cost (which means lost money). Now, I’ll jump in the truck, grab my iPad and enter the receipt, because that only takes seconds, not minutes.

Sales Calls

When it comes to sales calls, the iPad is especially handy. First, it helps me get to the appointment. The iPad has a built-in GPS and map program that is a hell of a lot easier to use than the old 3×4 GPS that sat on the dashboard of my truck. Since the address and contact information is already in the iPad, I just tell it to take me there. No fumbling with the little GPS screen keyboard.

Easily present portfolio pictures and presentations

I used my Microsoft Publisher software to create several brochures of my work—kitchens and bathrooms, custom cabinets and millwork—and loaded all of them onto my iPad. I’ve also used that iPad on two recent customer presentations. The brochures are a great way to show off my work. If, at any time during the presentation, I want to show a specific photo on another project, I just navigate to the catalog on my iPad containing all of the project photos I’ve ever taken.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the iPad contains all my product catalogs. Now, instead of sitting at the homeowner’s table with a bunch of paper catalogs and photo binders spread all over the place, my presentation is neat and clean. I also think the iPad has helped me appear both organized and professional.

The Future

We’re just beginning to touch on the functionality of the iPad. I’ve read that a thousand iPad apps are added to the iTunes App Store every day. Surely, more construction-specific programs will be developed for it. Here are my top picks for future iPad apps: I would love to see Intuit really beef-up their on-line “cloud” version of Quickbooks and make it worth the price. Then I could enter my expenses and checks on the iPad and have them sync to Quickbooks. I would also like to see suppliers make virtual catalogs and pricing systems geared towards the iPad format. PDF catalogs are okay, but they could be better.

I predict that, as cloud computing systems continue to develop and expand, the iPad and its like will become the main form of computing.

Conclusion

For a new tool to make it into my tool box, I have a few requirements. It must either perform a function that no other tool can do, or it must perform that function better than any other tool. It must make me more productive, and the increased productivity must justify its cost. I prefer my tools to be multi-taskers; I don’t like single-taskers.

The iPad surpasses all these requirements. Although many of its functions can be performed by my laptop or cell phone, neither can perform these functions as well. The iPad has replaced my binder of catalogs, reference books, calculator, and piles of scrap notes. It has almost replaced my laptop on the job site. If it saves you just two hours a week in organizing and tracking down misplaced information, the iPad will pay for itself in just a few short months.

But it is not just for construction. On long trips the kids use it in the back of the car to watch movies. Recently, my friend used his iPad with a marine app that has a GPS chart program to sail his boat from the Chesapeake to Atlantic City. And for the golfers out there, try the golf course GPS program—guaranteed to take a few strokes off your game. The list goes on.

This iPad has made me see the light; I’ve drunk its elixir and am a devoted fan. Now, I’m off to have some tofu ice cream and read Billy Collins’s latest collection of poems on my iPad’s iBooks app.

Comments/Discussion

60 Responses to “iPad for Carpenters”

  1. Fong

    Welcome to Apple Fanboy-ism Bill. Glad you’re finally with the rest of us. I do applaud the thoroughness you’ve put forth in introducing this to those who may still be living in a sawdust-filled haze. Had you written this in the spring of 2010….well, you’re just a bit late. =) Just teasing.

    Reply
  2. Bill Hillman

    Fong,
    Well better late than never. I am guilty of being a little nervous about jumping on board with the latest technology. I still remember getting burned when everyone was convinced that the Atari PC was the wave of the future and “you just had to have one”.
    Bill

    Reply
  3. Skip Dodson

    I got an iPad shortly after they hit the market last year, and use it often for job-related tasks. A really organized guy can keep track of papers – the problem is the bulk. A less organized guy struggles to find stuff – wasted time (wasted money). The iPad can help both by keeping contacts, estimates, contracts, material lists, etc. right there in one neat, searchable package.

    Reply
  4. Craig

    You gave a good review of tablets. I use an android tablet and with google you can sync all your calendars, notes and contacts automatically.

    Reply
  5. Craig Savage

    Nice round-up
    I just found an App (built for iPhone, but at 2x works fine on iPad) called RentPro.
    There’s a free version that lets you do several inspections.
    Although, this might not be perfect for the remodeler, it really shows where checklists can be taken in our business….

    Reply
  6. al

    Bill,
    thank you for taking the time to write such a great article.
    My wife has been asking me what I want for my birthday.
    I finally have a response. LOL

    Reply
    • Bill

      Al
      You will enjoy. I have to admit I can think of better things from my wife for my birthday. … I don’t know maybe a new fishing rod? ROFL
      Bill

      Reply
  7. Benjamin Berk

    Omnifocus is a really top-notch talk management program available on the iPad. It’s based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” philosophy which I really can’t say enough about. I highly recommend Omnifocus, and Allen’s book. Omnigroup (the developer) also make project management and outlining software for the iPad.

    Reply
    • Bill

      Just looked it up on the google. Looks really cool. That is what I love about computers each day there is so much more.

      Reply
  8. Jesse wright

    Awesome article!! I’m assuming you meant ipad2!

    Thank you for the great read and timely piece. Let’s just say apple rocks! The iPhone alone has changed the way I do business, as well as… just living!!
    It’s hard to have a conversation with me with out me pulling out the phone to show pictures etc…I know it’s annoying but it’s 2011 :D
    Nothing like proof!

    Reply
    • Bill

      Jesse,

      I just got a job and the customer told me it was becouse I did the presentation on the IPad. They told me it gave the appearance of being well organized and on top of technology. God I hope they never look inside my truck.

      Bill

      Reply
  9. Brian Moloney

    It’s thoroughly amazing! I have the iPhone and love it. I have a laptop and a desktop but intend purchasing the iPad some day. I think the expense tracker and the wrIting app would be useful and I could show some large pictures to customers or online catalogs. I already use my iphone to accept payments, take photos,directions etc.

    Reply
  10. NYC carpenter

    i use it every day on my job sites and can’t figure out how I got by without it. i use it a lot for sending pictures to architects, email and looking up spec sheets for products while on-site.. I also use the app My Measures which is fantastic. I can go on and on….

    Reply
  11. Tobias

    I don’t have an iPad, but I have been using a program called Evernote that has proved to be very handy. It can be used for taking notes, storing pictures, pdf’s, etc. The best part of it is it syncs seamlessly between desktop laptops and smart phone (including iPad and iPhone). So, find something you need to jot down during the day on your phone, and it’s at you desk when you get there.

    Reply
    • Matt Follett

      Just started using Evernote as well. I’m not that well versed in Dropbox or Evernote but it seems they sort of work in a similar fashion. The sync is nice though. Snap a shot with my iPhone, wirelessly sync to my iPad to have a clearer interface, then it’s waiting for me on my computer when I get home. I see people wasting tons of time on technology every day, but in the right hands you can save yourself equal amounts of time and headache.

      Reply
      • Bill

        Matt,

        I with you. Anything that can give me more time to spend with may family and less time chasing my own tail is a good thing.

        I’m going to check out Evernote…..
        Just downloaded it …Good call.

        Bill

        BIll

        Reply
          • Matt Follett

            Nice. I’m coming from using a PC and my most useful software for organizing all sorts of information was OneNote. I hadn’t found a suitable Mac replacement till I found Evernote. The cross format sharing is so helpful. I’m pretty novice at this but even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut :)

          • Joseph

            I’ve been using Evernote for simple lists – i.e. I just remembered that I need x part from “Plywood House” for suchandsuch job, so I add it to “Plywood House” note via my phone or my laptop.

            The OTHER THING I’ve been using Evernote for is to collect and organize interesting images for my use and clients’ inspirations.
            When I’m browsing the web, I save an image to Evernote and tag it with applicable categories (kitchens, tile, skylight, etc)
            THEN I can go through Evernote and see everything I’ve ever saved by tag categories.

  12. Codyincanada

    Awesome article, I am working on a commercial site right now, and it is fairly huge site walking sometimes 300ft+ to job trailler to find a dimension or a detail is kind of a pain, with an Iphone I take photos of the plans and the details and open them up when a question arises. Soon there will be an App for that….. full blueprints zoom in double tap cross section….boom detail right there…. soon cant wait GO APPLE GO

    Reply
    • Bill

      Codyincanada,

      Try a PDF program.
      I keep all my plans as pdfs and set up hyperlinks within them. It makes finding what yoou need really easy.

      thanks

      Bill

      Reply
  13. Trim guy

    Sounds like the same story I have heard many times….a lot people think it is just another toy until they actually hold and use one. It only takes a couple of minutes to realize what a powerful tool it can be. I use BalusterPro daily as and it works on my iPad as well as my iPhone and can’t even imagine my business without it.

    Reply
  14. Evita

    Thanks for a great article ! I have been using my IPad already , but you gave me some new take on it all !! Go Apple is right !!!

    Reply
  15. Mike Kennedy

    There comes a time in every generation of homosapiens to embrace a new technology. Our generation gets to do that every other day! It is sometimes hard to keep up. Articles like yours make it a little easier.
    good job!

    Mike Kennedy (a longhair who enjoys poetry and will gladly match his usefullness against any bud-light swilling bald redneck any where; any time ; )

    Reply
    • Bill

      Mike. Not much of a bud-lite guy myself but after the last few weeks my neck is kind of red—mind you, not of my own choice, but of a need to feed.. I’m glad you enjoyed.
      Bill

      Reply
  16. Phil Caponi

    Bill, I’m impressed. I didn’t know you could write! LOL! Great story.

    Reply
  17. Tom Park

    My kids got me a tablet for my birthday a couple of weeks ago; when I opened it I didn’t know what it was, its already become an opiate in my life. Thanks for the article, looking forward to digesting all of your applications.

    Reply
  18. David Tuttle

    O.K. this article is convincing me that the iPad may just have a use.
    Thanks for all the info, and is that a Otterbox protector on the pad?

    Reply
  19. Joe Stoddard

    Great article Bill
    That is a great overview of this new platform and how to use it. We work primarily with new homebuilders (and a few remodelers) and I have to say the iPad has taken off much more quickly than I initially thought it would. Quite a few companies we work with have pretty much ditched their PCs altogether in favor of tablets -if not completely , at least for anything in the field. There have been tablets in the past that didn’t put 2+2 together – Apple has taken the lead in making the platform actually useful for something. CAD and graphics are lagging behind, but I’m betting you’ll see solutions there too – maybe not running on the iPad, but in the form of better remote access from the iPad to something running in the cloud or on a PC on your network. The current remote desktop apps for the iPad aren’t getting it done — there’s too much difference between how you’d work with a mouse and how you’d navigate on an iPad..but I think you’ll see some CAD hybrids pretty soon that make better use of the iPad’s interface.

    Once again convenience and ease-of-use trumps pretty much everything else. iPads boot faster, and are less hassle, and more fun.
    -JLS

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Joe,
      Your last sentence and especially the last word really says it.
      I never thought I’d want one–always thought if I wanted to read a book and be free of business I wouldn’t want to be bothered by email or anything else, but actually, I’m finding a lot more time to read books on my iPad then I did on my Kindle because the iPad is always with me…always. It’s totally remote, whether I’m traveling, in my home, in my shop, or waiting in a doctor’s office. I’m looking forward to using Sketchup on my iPad…someday!

      I read an article somewhere about pilots now using iPads instead of paper charts. I think the same will be true for carpenters. In fact…well…more on that later.

      Gary

      Reply
      • Todd Murdock

        As a pilot, I can confirm the story that Gary mentioned. Ipads are coming to the cockpit!

        If you think it’s a hassle to keep ‘up to date’ and organized with various change orders and new drawings from the architect. Try keeping up with over 5,000 US airports, as well as the airports in Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean. We have to keep current and detailed information about every possible airport that we may have to land. This includes the layout of the airport, and the approach procedures to each of the airport’s runways during inclement weather.

        These updates come fast and furious! They start as notes added to our briefings, and eventually are added to the printed charts that are published every 14 days. Every new chart must be manually replaced by hand. Not only is this a time consuming process, prone to human error–the shear weight of the required paper manuals is enormous. They can weigh as much as a single passenger.

        I’m looking forward to having an iPad in my cockpit. It is going to make my job easier and make more productive use of my time. I can also visualize what a great quick reference source it will be for me in the shop and out in the field as a carpenter. Information AND computation–always available at your finger tips!

        Todd

        Reply
  20. Kreg mcmahon

    Really enjoyed article! Thanks. Also there is an app called my measurements you take a pic of the room,wall etc then you can tap lines and add measurements to it and save it and email or print. Works great when scoping out a room for a job

    I get many jobs I have also been told due to the iPad and showing pictures of my work, detail pictures, different styles etc. Quick and pics look great! Another reason to get a good camera (thanks again Gary) Gary forced me! To get a great camera and the pictures look great on iPads. I also take pictures of details to show people what dental mold looks like or arches or even Bead board

    If you get one and you should get the 3GS built in. So you can Internet any time it runs about 30 bucks a month and well worth being able to g on line anytime and anywhere. It’s about. $650 or $699 for that one. Well worth the extra felw bucks

    Do it and do it now!

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Bill Hillman

      Kreg.

      Did you get you green the Festool green version of the ipad? LOL.

      True, the pictures look great and I love having a catolog of photos that I can show customers.

      Bill

      Reply
  21. MMR

    Good article, I think I am totally convinced that I need one of these.
    I had my roofer take a look at a job for me he didnt even get on the roof, there was even a small flat section that you couldnt see from the ground , he pulls out his Ipad and goes on google earth and estimates the roof size.

    Reply
  22. James Kilkenny

    I have been a long-haired, tofu-eating, poetry-reading carpenter for the past 30 years. I work damn hard for my money.

    I realize you were trying to make a joke. But carpentry is not the exclusive domain of “meat-eating, boot-wearing, beer-drinking, hard-working types”.

    [Edited by TiC staff]

    Reply
    • will

      [Comment removed by TiC staff. Please refer to our comment policy below.]

      Reply
  23. Bill

    I’m glad you see the humor. One thing I love about our trade is, all of us tofu eating, meat eating, long haired, short haired, poetry reading, John Wayne watching, tree hugging, gun toting, nail bangers can get together and learn from each other while having fun..name another occupation that can say that..

    Reply
  24. Glenn Moore

    Bill,
    With all the stuff you have going on with your Ipad, I’m curious as to which one you have- 3G or no, how many gigs?

    I run (not well) Office Word 2007. Will I be able to get away from lists and create folders for jobs?

    Great! Now I will have to learn all this stuff. The trade was hard enough for me to learn.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
    • Bill

      I have the 32g. I do not have the 3G. I use a wireless card so that I can still use my laptop on the road with out having two wireless accounts I also use office 2007 and do not have a problem with folders.

      Sent from my iPad
      Bill

      Reply
  25. jed dixon

    Can someone recommend a DWG viewer for Pad? I need to look at my AutoCad drawings at jobsites.

    Reply
    • Bill Hillman

      Turboviewer is free and seams to work ok. Honestly I just print my plans to a pdf so I can insert hyperlinks and add notes.

      Let me know what you think of turboviewer
      Bill

      Reply
    • Joseph

      Autocad WS is out now, with desktop and tablet versions. You can even edit and create DWGs.
      Autodesk has finally realized that it’s better for their platform to give more people free access to the format!

      Reply
  26. mark bisig

    I had thought about one of these for a while. My concern was how durable they were. Judging from the comments here they must be better built than I had thought. May be the next “tool” purchase I make.

    Reply
    • Bill Hillman

      Mark.

      Don’t be fooled. I use a VERY strong case for mine. I’m on my second Ipad. My son cracked the screen within the first few weeks I had it. I have not had a problem since I put an Otterbox on it. I can not imagine using an Ipad on site, much less riding in the front seat of my truck, without an impact case.

      Reply
  27. Emanuel

    Great article Bill. I’ll be looking into buying one soon. Your article was very informative and well written. Thanks for taking the time to share all your knowledge.

    Reply
  28. Joseph

    I’m also curious about others who are using iPads and smartphones.

    I pay so much per month for my Android phone, which now has a 3g hotspot option, that I wonder if I could get away with the wifi only version?

    Reply
    • Bill

      I use the wick only ipad with a 3g hot spot for internet access. It works great. Be aware the hotspot utility on the droid drains the battery. Make sure you have an charger handy

      Reply
  29. Lee

    Purchasing a new Iphone 4 on Friday. I would like to keep a daily log for work purposes. In school I was taught to keep a “field log book” with the important notes of the day. This would include at least the following:
    date /weather /trades present /manpower/ work in place for the day / phone log/ etc.

    Does anyone know if there is a “form” like this for the iphone? If not, whats the most efficient way to do this?

    Great article and Excellent site!

    Reply
  30. Joe Pavone

    Bill,

    This article has been very valuable to me. I recently got my girlfriend an IPad and didn’t have much interest in it. That wasn’t until I started preparing for the tax season and she came in and laughed at me. I was knee deep in receipts and contracts and most likely an elevated blood pressure. She opened up the IPad and quickly showed me the simplicity of life with a pad. I’m still green when it comes to using this contraption but you article has lead me in some good directions.
    Thank you,
    Joseph Pavone
    Ardmore,Pa

    Reply
  31. Joseph

    I am happily typing away on my two-week-old iPad right now!

    The two construction-related apps that are BLOWING ME AWAY so far are My Measures Pro and Penultimate.
    My Measures Pro allows me to take a picture, then quickly/easily draw dimensions and type notes right on top of it. You can even change the dimension styles, colors, and fonts for different dimensions. Of course it saves me a ton of time when I look at a new project, and a photo captures details you could miss when drawing by hand. I am ALSO using when I’m on the job site itself to prep layout. I use to make lists of numbers and notes when laying out a kitchen, for instance, but I would often forget to adequately notate or otherwise define certain pieces of information because of all the job site activity around me. No more.

    Penultimate is an app that allows you to write and draw by hand with a stylus, and also can integrate photos. I am doing a 5000sf t&g ipe job right now (exterior siding plus ceilings.)
    I’ve been using the program to take photos of all the question areas of the project as they come up, and quickly write out notes and draw out options. I can then clearly show the pages to others on my iPad or send them to the architectural team via email.

    The iPad is allowing me to communicate more clearly and efficiently, with all of my job info in one place.

    Reply
  32. Joseph

    I’m really interested to learn what apps others are using, too.

    I would love a note-taking app like Penultimate that allowed me to type text AND draw/write by hand on top of photos.

    Also curious what people are finding successful for time tracking and expense tracking. There are a ton of options out there, butw I want to integrate with my Quickbooks as much as possible.

    Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Saddlestrum

      Hi Joseph
      Have you looked at Skitch? You can superimpose text, arrows etc over any photo in you ” I ” device, including photos taken WITH your device. When used in conjunction with Evernote, it is indispensable. We use it on construction jobs. One example; when touring a finished job with the client, take a photo of the problem, use overlay text or arrows to identify and remedy, then hit a button to email to the trade in question. Saves time, saves confusion, and saves excuses from trades protesting they didn’t know about the deficiency.

      Reply
  33. Steven Harris

    My wife has taken over the iPad I got recently, but I rely on my iPhone 4 more, as I always have it with me.

    Apps I couldn’t do without:

    BuildCalc- Advanced Construction Calculator. Best construction calc.

    My Measures & Dimensions. Add dimensions to photos.

    TiltMeter- Advanced Level and Inclinometer

    Theodolite. Augmented reality Compass, GPS, Map, Camera and Range Finder. Hard to describe, check it out.

    GeniusScan+. Scan blueprints, signs and documents. Straighten them and OCR.

    DMD Panorama. Make panorama photos (up to 360 degrees). Great inside a small space.

    Evernote

    DropBox

    Steven

    Reply

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