Use your iPad to create a reference source for all your gear. It's easy, simple, and free!
by Craig Anderton
Although some people still like printed manuals, it’s great that so many manufacturers include PDF files with distribution media, or online as a downloadable file. The search function alone makes PDFs handy, but of course, they also save costs and are environmentally responsible (if you really want a paper manual, you can always print out the PDF). With the iPad’s ability to conveniently store PDFs in a library, you can gather all this material in one place for easy reference.
If you have an older piece of gear without a PDF manual, scan the pages, then download Open Office from www.openoffice.org—a free (and excellent) office suite from Sun Microsystems. You can insert each scanned image as a page within a text document, then export it as a PDF.
THE iPAD CONNECTION
Go the App store and download iBooks, a free app that’s a host for buying books, but also has the option to store PDFs. There are several ways to transfer PDFs into iBooks; with some PDFs you access online, you’ll briefly see an “open in iBooks” option (Fig. 1). If this goes away, tap the document’s top right to restore it, and tap “open in iBooks” This stores the manual in iBooks. This isn’t just a link to the online doc; if you have no wi-fi, you’ll still be able to read it.
Fig. 1: If you download a PDF document and can “open in iBooks” (see upper right), that automatically saves the file and makes it available for future reference.
If there is no “open in iBooks” option, or you’re grabbing a PDF you made, then email the file to yourself from your computer. Open your email program in the iPad, and download it. When it opens, you’ll see the “open in iBooks” option.
EDITING IN IBOOKS
You can move, delete, and otherwise edit how your manuals are arranged. You can also create “Collections” of a particular type of gear, manufacturer, etc. (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2: Tapping the Collections button creates another “bookshelf” you access by swiping.
For example, I created a category for documentation for the Casio XW series of keyboards, including the manuals, appendices of sounds, and MIDI implementation (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3: This collection consists of only Casio-related manuals.
Finally, here’s a shot of the main bookshelf screen (Fig. 4). If it’s too difficult to read the manual “covers,” you can also choose to show a list of manuals.
Fig. 4: This shows the pre-categorized manuals from the main bookshelf page.
Pretty cool, eh? But credit where credit is due: Thanks to engineer/producer Peter Ratner for suggesting this idea. I’ve found it to be really helpful to just reach for the iPad when I have a question about a piece of gear.
Craig Anderton is Editor in Chief of Harmony Central and Executive Editor of Electronic Musician magazine. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
PDF manuals on an iPad are great. Search is super handy, and my 50-year-old eyes appreciate pinch-to-zoom in on tiny type.
I keep my library of PDF manuals in a Dropbox folder as well as on my iPad. That way I can get to them when pad-less. And it is actually easier to get the manuals on to the iPad from a computer through Dropbox than it is using iTunes.