by Bill French on 20/04/10 at 5:00 am
It’s been ten days since my iPad arrived and eleven days since I used my laptop. To see if iPad was up to the task of displacing my Laptop, I purposely left the office every day for a few hours to see if I could continue to work productively with only my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard from time-to-time. The first day was the toughest since I hadn’t really planned ahead to download any apps. I figured if the iPad was able to thrive in the wild, it also had to have the ability to react to unanticipated challenges including times when needed apps were not installed.
Remote Desktop Networking
This was the first capability I realized was important and I was delighted to find LogMeIn had provided a native iPad version. Setting this up and configuring it to use my pre-existing account was quick and effortless making it unnecessary to reconfigure my Mac and Windows XT VM’s. In just three minutes I was logged into my PC and running Outlook and dealing with email. Important tip – the iPad has a screen resolution of 1024 by 768; make sure you configure this screen size in LogMeIn because it will reduce screen scrolling.
Let’s face it, most of us are Microsoft Office bigots and for good reason; we know those apps well, they work great, and they play with other critical apps such as Outlook. Brace yourself for a painful transition to a device without Word. Apple‘s Pages app (which I’m using to write this article) is nice, but it’s relatively sparse in terms of features. I’m struggling without a fully functional keyboard (and keyboard shortcuts) that can be used to instantly bold, underline and italicize selected texts. Furthermore, in landscape view, the tool bar is hidden, which necessitates a first pass to create the text, and a second pass (in portrait mode) to apply special formatting. But even that process is counter productive if you’re using the Apple iPad case which angles the tablet to a comfortable typing grade but only in landscape view. Switching back to profile view to apply formatting is fine if you only have a few elements of the document that need special formatting.
Pages vs Office Document Formats
It’s possible to create and manage all your word processing documents in Microsoft Word .DOC format with Pages. This is a required baseline feature since sharing documents in Apple’s native format would be untenable for business use. I’ve created about a dozen documents in Pages this week, each one is also blacked up to a .DOC version in the Pages file manager which is mexican pharmacy online also synced to iTunes. Many iPad users have missed the iTunes File Sharing and sync feature on the iTunes App tab. This feature allows you to freely move Office Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files to and from iPad. All Apple iWork apps allow you to import and view Office documents and the rendering is quite good even when there are fonts that don’t quite translate properly. I was unsuccessful getting PDF files over to iPad using the iTunes-based File Sharing feature with the Pages app. This seems odd since Pages’ own intro document is a PDF file. This forced me to use a very inexpensive app called GoodReader which does a great job of rendering PDF files on iPad and also registers itself with the iTunes File Sharing feature. What was a little annoying is that GoodReader allows you to sync Word .DOC document types to iPad but it can’t render them properly [see comparison screens above].
Once you create a document on your iPad, there are three ways to share your work with other people. This applies to all three Apple business apps; Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. Pages allows you to export your documents directly to PDF format, a key requirement when sharing with people that cannot read native Pages document formats.
- Sync your documents from the iPad back to your desktop computer via the File Share feature in iTunes.
- Email your documents.
- Share via Apple’s iWork.com cloud service.
- Copy-paste the contents of a document to another iPad app. (totally lame of course, but it works)
It would be nice if I could save directly to DropBox or another cloud service, but the iPad sharing features were adequate enough that I wasn’t severely constrained and my productivity remained relatively high considering the perceived barriers. While I use DocsToGo and QuickOffice on the iPhone, Apple’s lack of easier sharing methods has really inspired me to watch for iPad versions of these apps which also include frictionless integration with cloud services. I’ve also looked closely at Office2, and GoodReader as complementary apps that can support my voracious appetite for document authoring and access.
Skype and Multi-tasking
Skype for iPhone works fine on iPad, however, during a Skype session I found the need to use iPad for other extremely important tasks necessary and in context with the Skype call. Depending on your propensity to use Skype or other VoIP tools for business, this could be a show-stopper. iPhone OS 4 will make it possible to Multi-task VoIP sessions with other iPad apps, but for now, your only out is to use iPhone (or another connected smart phone) for Skype sessions, freeing up iPad for simultaneous collaborative tasks. One alternative (which I have not tested) is IM+ – a Skype client for iPad that also includes an integrated browser that would allow you to use collaborative web services and perform other browser-based tasks while engaging in a call. It appears to support some degree of multi-tasking in the context of its own app space. The lack of multi-tasking wasn’t such a big deal for iPhone; for iPad it’s critically important in some business contexts and OS 4 for iPad cannot come too soon.
Typically, my remote tasks don’t necessitate a lot of typing, but there are times when the Bluetooth keyboard from Apple has been very useful. I hate the fact that the integrated keyboard has no Ctrl or arrow keys – this is a huge factor in maintaining productivity in document creation and email tasks. The Bluetooth keyboard is better because it has arrow and command keys, so it’s highly recommended if you plan to use iPad for heavy typing use.
Presentations [Still far from perfect]
I’m hooked on Microsoft Office, specifically PowerPoint, so when I encountered a task that required a new Keynote presentation based on an existing PowerPoint slide deck, I started to sweat. Not only did I need to retrieve the previous presentation from my Mac, I had to convert it to Keynote, load it into my iPad, make changes, and present the new version all while away from my office. To start with, I needed to acquire a copy; I remotes into my PC using LogMeIn and emailed the PPT to myself via Gmail. I then retrieved it on iPad in the native email client and as soon as I tried to open it, an option to open in Keynote was provided; so far, so good. With the PPT imported and converted into Keynote with only a few incompatibilities, I was ready to edit it into a new version. This required only a few minutes. I ran it through a test run and all the changes looked fine. I plugged in the iPad VGA adapter, and did the presentation. Total time, start to finish – 16 minutes. I’m still not proficient with Keynote, but for basic slides, it seems to perform good enough to make the transition with relative ease.
Unexpected [But Noticeable] Productivity Gains
There were many times in the last ten days when I noticeably improved my personal mobile computing performance. Here are the high points.
- Dealing with client sales and support issues that I became aware of via iPhone, but quickly addressed with iPad. In some cases, just driving to a known wifi hotspot and tapping out
an email response was far quicker and more effective than if I had to boot up a notebook and precariously balance the laptop to perform a very simple task.
- One-on-one presentations went swimmingly better than with a notebook. Positioning agility and the simplicity of demonstrating my services with this device produced a far better experience for my prospects.
- Reading and responding to email is far quicker on iPad than a notebook. The productivity and personal performance gains from tapping and using finger gestures are significantly underrated. I can handle my typical email activity at least 20% faster – possibly 50% faster than using a mouse and a notebook.
- I started experimenting with various stylus products and I’ve found they can really improve productivity even if you’re not using them to draw with.
Summary These generally typical experiences are my initial reactions to leaving the laptop behind and attempting to make it with iPad only. I’m not sure I would recommend this cold-turkey, wholesale transition strategy, however, I was able to make it for ten days and presumably I can continue my quest for a lighter, leaner mobile device management strategy. There are many other experiences that I have yet to encounter but I’ll update this article from time-to-time as new information, new apps, and new tips come to light. Feel free to give us any tips and app recommendations you’ve discovered to help you leave the laptop behind.
- iPhone 4G: Killer Smartphone Will Change Mobile Business Collaboration – Six Apps To Watch in 2010
- Documents To Go for iPhone: (Almost) Microsoft Office in the Palm of Your Hand
- QuickOffice is First to Bring Copy/Paste to iPhone
- An Executive-style Mobile Document Library for iPhone
- iPhone File Sharing is in the Clouds