Published on Let's Talk Development

Yet more on coping with information overload with an iPad

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Last year I wrote a couple of posts on coping with information overload using an iPad, one in July and the other in December. The iPad world continues to develop apace, so  here's a quick update, this one - as requested - complete with links to the apps. 

International development apps

In my last post, I covered three World Bank apps: InfoFinder, which allows you to search in the Bank's documents and reports database, DataFinder which gets you into the Bank's data vaults, and WB Finances which shows you what the Bank is doing in its operational work. The Bank's latest iPad app is the 2012 World Development Report which contains the text of the report plus various additional features. While not an iPad app, the Bank's Open Knowledge Repository is quite iPad-friendly and a great way to search for and access World Bank publications.

Across 19th Street (in Washington, D.C.), the IMF has been busy too, releasing an IMF News and Data app and an IMF eLibrary app; despite its name, the latter allows you to access both documents and data. The Economist also has a new data app: The World in Figures iPad Edition.

Keeping up with the academic literature 

There are a few apps out now that help you keep abreast of academic publications, though most are for the iPhone and neither look great on the iPad nor take advantage of its screen size and capabilities. EBSCOhost gives you access to databases like EconLit if your institution has a subscription. You can also get the PDF of the article you're looking for. iSSRN gives you access to working papers and other documents on the SSRN website. ScopusAlerts allows you to search in the Scopus database, where you can get the "metadata" for articles as well as citation statistics. You'll need an institutional subscription or pay for a personal one after your trial period has expired. Finally, SciVerse Science Direct gives you access to the Web of Science database; again, an institutional subscription is needed and even then it's not clear how to get access to the full text PDF.

Another way to keep up with the academic literature is to use RSS feeds from journals and stream them into Flipboard – see my July post on Flipboard. You can do this directly (search in Flipboard for your journal name and see if there’s an RSS feed), or indirectly via Google Reader (go to the journal’s webpage, click on “get RSS feed”, copy url to clipboard, go to Google Reader, click “subscribe”, paste url into the subscribe box - you’ll also need to set up Flipboard to pull from your Google Reader). Either way, you’ll get the title, author, and abstract of recently published articles in your favorite journals floating into Flipboard.


If you want a good-looking PowerPoint viewer for your iPad or you simply want to have your PowerPoint library close by, Slide Shark is a great app. You can also use your iPhone or iPod as a remote pointer using Mobile Mouse; there's a pro version that allows smoother navigation through a PowerPoint presentation. Don't have an iPod or iPhone? There's an iPad version, though the iPad is likely to get a bit heavy!

Following a presentation or a meeting via Adobe Connect? Or want to monitor one that you're giving? The Connect iPad app looks like it should do the trick though I haven't yet tried it.


If your institution subscribes to Factiva, the Factiva iPad app (h/t Jos Verbeek) is a great way to search for news stories on specific topics across a vast number of sources.

On the road, and at home

For travel, a new app (to me -- h/t Robin Horn) is Airport Zoom which gives you lots of useful stuff about airports including latest departure times, gates, etc.

I raved earlier about Pandora the internet radio app that generates a personalized playlist from the song or artist you start off with.

Last week saw the long-awaited launch of the Spotify iPad app. Spotify - a Swedish company, now owned by a British firm - is a legend among music-lovers. It's essentially a gigantic juke box. You can use it as a music library pulling out your favorite artists one by one. You can use playlists produced by other people including your friends but also people you've never met who have been generous enough to share their playlists. Creating your own – one song a time - is easy. You can also create a playlist from a tab-delimited text file of artist + song names using SpotMySongs. (Tip: paste the list into Excel to clean up – the @trim function is invaluable. Paste into Word to check you have only one tab between the artist and song name. Then paste into Notepad and save as a text file.)

Spotify also allows you to search for similar musicians to ones you already like. You can "subscribe" to playlists, and these appear on all your devices (though craftily Spotify allows you to use it on only one device at a time). On the PC version you can also listen to Spotify radio which is similar in spirit to Pandora. Unlike Pandora which works only in the US, Spotify works in the US (it launched in the US in July 2011) and in much of western Europe. If you're not in a Spotify country or away from the Internet, you can set songs to be available offline. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, Spotify on the iPad isn't free.

Looking to improve the sound quality while you’re listening to music or watching a movie on your iPad in your hotel room? The iHome recharagble mini speaker (h/t Benedict Wagstaff) is ultra-small yet generates an amazing sound. Alternatively - or as well - pack an iPad AV video cable and plug into your hotel room’s TV.


Adam Wagstaff

Research Manager, Development Research Group, World Bank

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