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Five Essential iOS Digital Rulebook Tools

Welcome to the new! Our first article is all about wrangling your digital rulebooks with some great iOS apps and tools.

5 - A Good Cloud Storage Strategy

Don't rely upon local storage for your digital rulebooks. After all, you want to have access to rulebooks across platforms and at your fingertips wherever you are! I read my rulebooks at lunch, in line at the bank, waiting for my son to be done with rehearsals, and in the evening before bed.

I use Google Drive, but honestly, the platform you choose is totally up to your preferences and I've also used Box and DropBox before. They work great.

The biggest thing is keeping your rulebooks organized because sometimes you have LOTS of files that are related to a game. I keep each game in its own folder as a result. I also nest that folder inside a singular "Rulebooks" folder so that I can "subscribe" to a single folder in a tool you'll see later in this list and get every game.

Rulebook file organization

I put all series games in a parent folder for the series so that they're all in one place. This makes it easier for me to quickly hop between rulebooks.

Battalion Combat Series focus

I then archive older ruleset versions within the series folder and keep the games in their own folders while placing the series rules in the root folder for the series.

File listing inside of Batallion Combat Series

The most important thing you can do is develop a strategy that works for you and then stick with it! There's nothing more irritating the seeing a bunch of unorganized files. Sometimes I find great articles or support files and want to quickly organize them. As your collection grows, the digital file structure will need to keep it clear which file belongs to which game because free content is great...but the filenames often stink.

4 - Apple Pencil

Okay, I hear your groans out there, but hear me out! The Apple pencil is pricey, but it offers a great set of features that are tuned to your iOS device. There are alternatives that are "smart styluses" and some apps even support those with first-party support. Typically though, you can only guarantee support for the pencil.

I like the pencil because it's much more precise than my fat fingers. Anyone who has even seen me fumble with a large stack of counters knows that I have zero business making precise movements with these sausage fingers.

The pencil works great with the rest of the apps on this list and is the perfect compliment to annotation depending on your level of interest.

3 - Paper Textured Screen Cover

If you want to increase your enjoyment of working with your iPad, then a paper textured screen protector is a must-have. It transforms the too slick surface of the glass into something much closer to a traditional writing medium.

I use this one: (no affiliate link buy it how you want and from where you prefer...just make sure you get the right size for your iPad).

Paperlike example image

There's just enough resistance to make writing easier and the finish is matte but doesn't ruin the color clarity of your fancy screen. It's a great combination. The only drawback is that when you swipe, it makes a little noise because of the texture. It's durable as well. I've used mine for about 2 years at this point and haven't had to replace it.

2 - Good Notes 5

When it comes to treating your PDFs like genuine printed paper rulebooks, nothing compares to the features within Good Notes 5!

Good notes can't take the top spot in my list for one reason only...every document you want to bring in must be individually imported and organized. Then, when you're done with need to export it to a PDF which flattens the file. So, those edits you made are no longer editable in other applications.

I know that seems like a major disadvantage, but it's worth it. Good Notes 5 is an essential learning application. For those games that need notes in the margins that you're really struggling to learn - this is going to make your digital life infinitely better. I keep the games I'm constantly playing in Good Notes because I know where to find the culmination of all my notes. I will export it back and throw it into Google Drive which automatically syncs with the next app on my list.

1 - Documents by Readdle

I've tried A LOT of PDF annotation tools and readers over the years. Documents by Readdle, however, remains at the top of the heap because it's just that solid. Let's talk about features. I need a pdf annotation tool to:

  • Sync with my cloud files

  • Show me the full directory listing from the cloud service(s) I use

  • Locally store my files on my iPad

  • Automatically sync changes

  • Resolve conflicts with synchronized changes if there are conflicts between devices

  • Load large documents quickly

  • Allow me to highlight and add text quickly anywhere within a PDF

  • Give me the flexibility to open multiple documents in separate tabs (useful for reading rules and switching to Player Aid Cards or CRT charts in another tab)

  • Be responsive to different ways I browse a document (search, page-turning, and direct to page jumps)

  • Allow me to swap between night mode and full-color mode

Documents has ALL of these features. They work great. I've had the Electronic ASL Rulebook open in this thing and it doesn't even break a sweat despite having to load in my highlighting and when I have other documents open in other tabs within Documents.

Documents is nothing short of a pleasure to use!

There you have it...five essential iOS Digital Rulebook Tools. Did I miss one? Throw your comments below and tell me what you do and what apps you love for your digital rulebooks!

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