Using Your iPad for Work
Easier than you think
Using Your iPad for Work.
Since it came out, the iPad has been an amazing computer. There have been a few problems holding it back from being a truly productive machine for a lot of people:
- the keyboard
- data sync
The keyboard on the iPad was incredibly difficult to use and adjust to when it first came out. As the hardware has become better, the operating system has improved, making it much easier to use. At the same time, external keyboards have exploded onto the scene and they have been improving at a rapid pace as well. Small, lightweight, backlit, full-size, all configurations of keyboards exist now, making entering data or writing on the iPad a much better experience. Apple has even designed their own keyboard cover that connects directly to an iPad Pro.
Apple has done wonders in improving the syncing ability between the devices they make: iPad, iPhone, and Macs all can work with the same data now, using the same applications for the most part too. Syncing is effortless and happens automatically now over your WiFi or data signal. All sorts of data can now be sent to iCloud, which has made it a much powerful system to use. Other syncing services also exist, but the only reliable and integrated ones have been iCloud and Dropbox.
The applications for iOS have improved immensely over the years, as well. Almost every function you can imagine using your Mac for has a counterpart on iOS now. Writing, photo editing, film editing, coding, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. The iPad has grown from a device used for consumption into one that is used for producing great work.
Text editors for iPads were one of the first apps that started to be developed. There are a variety of editors to choose from, but I will highlight two of my favourites.
Ulysses is a professional writing environment. It is designed for writers who work on longform pieces, novels, articles, but serves the general writer working on blogs, as well. It is not well-designed for anyone working on code or HTML, however.
The way Ulysses is designed makes it incredibly easy to use. All the files are stored in the app, which makes it easier to organize your work. Groups, smart folders, and regular folders help you keep things tidy in the app. Files can be written separately and then magically joined with only a few clicks of a mouse or presses of the iPad's screen.
Other neat features of the app include a word/character count goal that is visible in the writing space the moment you enter in your goal. When you read it, the circle changes from a progress bar into a solid green circle letting you know you've reached your goal. A sidebar, that can be hidden, holds all your notes, images to use, and tags of the file so you can find things easily. Text editing is done in markdown, which is a powerful way to write. Once you use it once, there is no turning back.
There are plenty of features with this app. It is available on iPad and Mac, with an iPhone version coming out in the spring of 2016. Everything syncs together magically. It's really worth looking at their website to see what else you can do with it.
Byword is a text editor for iPad and Mac, that allows you to sync your work either through Dropbox or iCloud. There are no fancy controls here and the work environment is very minimal. The preference settings for the application are also very limited. The app is designed to get you working right away without having to worry about setting everything up. The text editing is done primarily through Markdown, which is a writing style that can be exported easily to HTML. If you do a lot of writing, you will definitely want to check it out.
Byword also allows you to publish directly to different services, including Tumblr,Wordpress, and Medium. When you hit publish, it will give you the option to fill in the tags, date, title, and so forth. One of the best blogging editors out there.
Numbers, Pages, Keynote
Apple released a suite of applications to get work done on the iPad a few years ago, and they come free with new iPads. They get regular updates through the year, and major updates when new iOS updates are released in September. All three of their apps for work sync with iCloud, allowing you to work on documents with your iPad, iPhone, or Mac without losing any work.
Numbers is the equivalent of Excel on Mac and iOS. It is equally as powerful as the native app for Macs, and provides you all the functionality of the functions to create complex formulas in the cells. Easily create new sheets, export the file, create graphs, and more.
Pages is the Word equivalent on Mac and iOS. It isn't as powerful as Word is, but it's far easier to use on both platforms. Easily import photos from your iPad to make slick documents, change fonts, the layout, and export it in many ways when finished.
Keynote is like Powerpoint. It's the tool that Apple created for their own presentations when announcing the new iPhones or OS updates. All the tools you would expect from transitions, importing photos into your slides, and being able to export in a variety of ways.
All three apps are simple to use, yet powerful to offer you full productivity.
Dropbox is one of the greatest apps available for the iPad and all devices. It's compatible with iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, Linux, Android, the web, etc. Dropbox is the easiest way to store your files in the cloud where you can access them regardless of where you are in the world and doesn't matter what kind of device you use to access it. It also doesn't matter what the file format is. You can store pictures, videos, Word documents, spreadsheets, ZIP files, PDFs, doesn't matter. If you can store it on your computer, you can store it in Dropbox.
Dropbox has its own folder structure, as well, which allows you to organize your files easily. You can share your files from the Dropbox website and email people a link so they can download the file. Dropbox also has team functionality where multiple people can access the same Dropbox folder and keep everything sync'd together.
The best part about Dropbox is how simple it is to get your files from your desktop to the Cloud. You have a folder on your desktop, drag the files into that folder, and they get uploaded automatically to Dropbox. If you make changes to that file, it will get changed in the Cloud server, too. It's nearly instantaneous, as well, allowing you to collaborate on documents without delay. Dropbox is also compatible with different apps, such as Byword, which will save the documents into Dropbox automatically. This is great because it allows you to focus on your work.
In terms of the iPad, the app allows you to open up files in an app of your choice. For example, a simple text file could be opened in Byword, Evernote, or Pages or any other text editor you have installed. Once opened in those programs, you can save it back into Dropbox. You can also upload your photographs or videos to Dropbox.
Dropbox is a free app, or you can pay to upgrade the space you have online. Your account starts with 2 GB of space, with a Pro account starting at $100 for the year for 50 GB of space. Team accounts can go all the way up to a terabyte. It's a great app to store your current files or to backup your important documents effortlessly. Check it out today.
Flipboard & Instapaper
Flipboard is an app that is great for reading RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, and more. It's layout is similar to that of a magazine that you flip through. For blog posts and Twitter statuses that include links, it pulls out the summary of an article, the featured image, as well as the date of the post and who wrote it. If the Twitter stream you are looking at doesn't have a link, it will show you a nice list of the statuses to quickly read through. With every Twitter item, you can always retweet, favourite, or share the link with Twitter. You can also email it, read it later, or open it up in Safari to bookmark. With a blog post, it opens up the link within Flipboard so you don't have to switch between apps. You can also tweet the link, send it to Safari or email it, as well. It's a great app to do some reading of your preferred news sources without getting bogged down with a lot of scan and clicking.
Instapaper is an app with similar functionality to Flipboard, but it is not for Twitter. Instapaper is for reading longer articles that you want to save for times when you are limited to your actions (i.e. a long flight or a commute on a train). Instapaper takes an article that you saved to read later (usually through a bookmarklet in a web browser), displays it within the app, but strips out all the irrevelant content (advertisements, comment boxes, etc) so you can focus on reading. You can also open up a webpage within the app, find the article you want to read later, and a simple press of a button will move that article into your Read Later folder. Even better, you can email items to your account for easy reading. One of my favourite features is the ability to change how you read articles - either a long scroll, or you can swipe left-right with a pagination-style.
PocketCloud is my preferred app to use for remote desktop connections. There are some nice features about PocketCloud that make it my go-to app, including quick setup of connections, a virtual mouse to help with selecting tiny menu options, and the keyboard activates automatically when a text area is selected. It is very stable and I have had zero problems with remote connections while using it. Another great feature is that you can easily setup connections to your own computers with it to access just the file system or control the computer like you do with a normal remote desktop connection. Taking control of the computer doesn’t run as smoothly as a connection to a Windows server, but browsing the file system is fast.
There are thousands of apps available in the iTunes App Store that make using the iPad for work easier than ever. It would take forever to go through the text editors alone, which are pushing a hundred different apps. With a bit of research and patience, you can easily transform your iPad from a device for consumption only into a powerful work station.