Lately, I have tasked myself with finding more than one iPad application in which to judge upon. I might add, that there are a lot of bad, really bad writing applications out there. Some of which, aren't cheap, and they do absolutely nothing... squat... nada... except allow you to script, erase, and save your file.
For the last couple of years, I have been using the Noteshelf application, which provides me with pretty much everything I need to judge, except one little teensy, itty bitty thing that has been irritating the heck out of me. No easy way to backup files and/or download notebooks onto another iPad. Being such an extensive writing application, you would have thought that the developers, Fluid Touch Pte, Inc., would have thought of this. It is almost as if they think that people only have one iPad. Sheesh. Okay, okay, maybe I am the only person who actually owns two iPads, oh wait, make that three... (okay, feeling a little embarrassed). Why three, you ask? That is a blog in, and of, itself.
So back to the task at hand. Finding another writing application that could do the same thing, but that actually had backup capabilities. So I wrote a list of minimal requirements for a judging application, but not just simple judging, like compulsories where you could just write on a simple blank page and every thing would be easy, but optional judging which requires a form (background), scrolling, landscape writing, etc.
1.) Must be able to import a .jpg file as a "background" image so that you can write on it and if you use the eraser, it doesn't erase the image. This is important since 99% of judges use either the USAG optional forms to judge on, or have created their own judging forms. If it can only be imported and inserted as an image and not as a background, if you write on the image (in most writing apps), and then have to erase what you wrote, it erases that part of the image as well. This is unacceptable in judging.
Also, if I am so busy writing, filling up the page with little symbols, at some point I am going to have to add a page. If the image is not set as a background, and you insert a page, the image does not follow you to that additional page. If it is set as a background, each page looks the same.
Many, many, many of the apps I trialed, did not accept backgrounds. I even paid $5.99 for one app, downloaded it, started working on it, and then realized it didn't do backgrounds. I emailed the developer and they said, "Oh yeah, no. Our app doesn't do that." I asked them if it would ever do that, and their response was basically, "Not in the near future." Bust. $5.99 wasted.
2.) Different pen styles and colors. To those of you who are purists, I know that basically you need three pen colors. Black, blue, and red. However, there are some, and I know a few of you (myself included), who just love to judge with one color, and then do the scoring with another. And not just the pen color is important, but also the pen thickness. I am a "fine" person myself. However, I am sure there are a few "medium" and "extra fine" individuals out there.
3.) Be able to export the page or the notebook with either email, text, Evernote, Dropbox or some other form of exporting capabilities. This is important for those judges who like to share their judging sheets, especially around testing time with either coaches or other judges. It is a very good educational tool. This also allows judges to judge on their iPad and then store their virtual notebooks on their laptops for far-into-the-future reference.
4.) Back up notebooks into a cloud system (whichever kind) and then be able to download/restore/edit on another system. This is such a pet-peeve for me. As a "used to be" technical engineer, the #1 important thing in the computer world is backing up. Back up, back up, back up. Now, for some, that may not be important for judging, especially compulsories, but many judges use their sheets as study material. To be able to back up, and then download notebooks onto another iPad (if I was silly enough to go out and buy #4 ...) without having to rebuild all my notebooks, is important to me. Not just on a new iPad, but some people have lost data on their tablets when they have installed updates, had their tablet stolen, or in some cases have basically had to rebuild from the ground up.
5.) Allow landscape mode. I know there are a couple of you out there, you know who you are, are saying, "What is landscape mode?" There are two page views in the word processing world: landscape and portrait. Portrait is making the page narrower from left to right, and longer from top to bottom. Landscape is making the page wider from left to right, and shorter from top to bottom.
This too, is important in gymnastics judging. It give is more room to write the routines, without adding more and more lines to a single routine. Of course, sometimes that happens anyway while judging a gymnasts who has 20+ skills in her routine.
6.) Wrist guard protection. Basically, I find those writing apps that don't have automatic wrist guard protection enabled to be quite irritating. Auto wrist guard is when the application allows you to rest your wrist on the iPad, without it sensing that the wrist is actually "writing" something, hence, the app will now not write what your pen is scripting. I want my iPad writing to be almost as realistic as writing on paper. If it doesn't feel this way, then I won't buy. Worse case scenario is that you are judging a routine, look down, and there is nothing on the page because there was no wrist guard protection. The things judge's nightmares are made of.
So, I have run out of space, and run out of time. Next blog will be on my application trials! Don't forget to check it out!
By the way, here is a quick video on Noteshelf. You decide.
Kathi Blazek is a National Judge in the state of Colorado.