Workflow and the tablet

Part of my doctoral study gear-up means reflecting on previous workflows and anticipating new ones. By workflow, I guess I mean the day-to-day processes involved with accessing, consuming, documenting, archiving, and processing information from all things professional — coursework, exams, and the dissertation, just to name a few.  And since I have to return my Macbook to the Writing Program when I resign in August, I’ll soon be picking up a new machine that will need to last four years. And there’s the rub: which machine (or machines)?

Without belaboring this much, I know I’ll need a laptop and it’s going to be a Mac. I’ve considered the iMac and Mini, but they just don’t offer the portability I’m going to need. And part of the reason I’m quitting is to regain some of the agency I’ve missed since sitting at a desk 9-5. A desktop is going to (re)nail me to a chair.

Then there’s the question of reading. Most the texts from my latest graduate course were read from my laptop, which saved me both time and $.  And it worked, for the most part. But after a while (say, for example, page 300 of Hawk’s Counter-history) I would either get a headache from squinting at my laptop or a backache from bending over my desk to read my monitor. Frankly, I doubt I’ll ever feel as comfortable reading a screen as I currently feel reading print, but it’s gotten easier over the years and it’s not like information is shrinking. Software (RSS readers, “find” features) are obviously making this more possible.

But how about a tablet? I want one. Badly. But I’m trying to figure out if I need one. Some folks in the program have gotten away with reading on large PC screens, so I’ve considered getting a larger Macbook instead of the standard 13″. I still think a tablet would be easier to read than a 17″ Macbook, plus having two devices means having two places to store stuff (for better and for worse).

But the problem with the tablet, as I see it, will be of balancing reading and writing tasks (and maybe) keeping files current. Would I miss cutting and pasting quotes to Word, for example? Will exporting and organizing readings on multiple devices become a time suck instead of a time saver? I wonder how folks who have tablets have incorporated them into their workflow. Has it been an easy process? What apps or other peripherals make this easier or necessary? I know some have been using wireless keyboards or have downloaded apps that make annotating pdfs a breeze. Anyone?