The iPad – what can make it a tool as opposed to a toy!

Just this past week I heard again on the radio that the iPad is still a ‘toy’ from a presenter who had spent all of 5 minutes with it.  I think it’s a real pity that some so quickly take that view and dismiss it.  Many of the same people admit its ‘cool’ but conclude that you could not really be productive on it.  This comment made me think about what I use and how I use it that helps me form such a different opinion.

I had a post already about my favourite apps which is somewhat out of date now but some still hold true such as Star Walk or the Formula 1 timing app.  However I can go weeks without being in them – months even as e.g. when there is no Formula 1 season there is very little reason to use the Formula 1 timing app.  Also these apps don’t help me be productive.  They are nice even great to have but they don’t help me do any work.  People talk about the thousands of apps available but realistically there are a small number that you will be using frequently and an even smaller number that you will be using daily.  So I am going to highlight the apps that help me to be productive.

Yes the list of daily used apps will be different for each person but its an effort to show the versatility of this tool for practical purposes as opposed to just passing time or ‘playing’ on it.  Just before I get into that I wanted to point out that I don’t sit in front of the iPad all day.  It doesn’t replace your laptop or PC or essentially your normal computer working environment.  However it does significantly improve your ability to be productive when not at your desk (that said I am finding myself reading documents, reports, articles more and more on it as opposed to on my computer even when at my desk – and reading in my job as many others can be considered productive as we research new tech or trouble shoot issues).  Yes you could use a laptop but in many cases the iPad suffices and is faster, less intrusive and just nicer to use in those mobile or non desk environment type situations.

  • Mail – I use the email app every day.  On the train to and from work, at home, in the office and at meetings.  Yes I could use a Blackberry or iPhone but with the large keyboard it is so much nicer and faster to type on especially for longer emails compared to those small devices.  Reading on with the large screen is also a lot nicer.  Of course a laptop has a proper keyboard and a large screen I hear you say but I still prefer the iPad for these short times and its significantly easier to carry around with a much greater battery life.  It’s the app that comes with the device so no extra cost.  I have five email accounts setup within it covering my work and personal life and its super easy to flick between them.  There are a few things that annoy me such as lack of Flags on emails as I normally use that feature to keep track of mail I need to follow-up on but that will be added in iOS 5 in a few months.  For now I mark as unread and then flag when back in the office.
  • Penultimate – As discussed in previous posts this is the app I use to take all handwritten notes and thus has enabled me to abandon my paper notebook in favour if it.  You can maintain multiple notebooks and easily change between them.
  • GoodReader – Used for reading pdfs/documents. I can add notes to these pdfs in this app and I can carry them ALL around with me and thus have access anywhere.  Gone are the large pile piles of paper that used to sit around my desk and generally never have near me when away from the office when I really had time to sit down and read them.
  • Sign and Send – I only have this app a short while but find I have used it almost every day.  I get quite a few invoices/contracts attached to emails that need a signature.  With this little app I can sign it directly on the iPad and send it back.  It means I can do it wherever I am.  I don’t have to wait until I get back to the office or home to print, sign and scan it in. (A stylus helps here but you can sign with your finger! And thanks to Andrea Altenburg who pointed me to this app in a comment on a previous post)
  • Safari – I like the Safari app for web browsing, the ability to keep up to nine different web pages ‘active’ and I like how easy it is to switch between them.  Yes there are other browsers but I haven’t felt the need to go looking for more features.  I also use Safari to access our work Sharepoint sites.  Either on the wireless network in our office or using the iPad VPN facility to access the Sharepoint sites when at home.  It means I can access our Helpdesk tickets and also our project lists and tasks and update and review as needed all from the iPad (for accessing internal websites, intranet, sharepoint you may need to contact your IT team for details as you possibly need specific information to be able to connect to it).
  • Winadmin – A remote desktop application.  I can access any of our servers globally to work on them.  Not as easy to use as a remote desktop session from a laptop or PC but definitely great to have and saves me carrying a laptop with me everywhere especially when heading off for a few nights.  I use it regularly when on the couch to jump in a check a system, restart a service or reset a password and saves pulling out the laptop.
  • Citrix App – Like many others our organisation delivers applications and access to corporate systems via citrix.  Through this app I can access ALL those apps which includes Dynamics, Word, Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. (it will depend on what your company delivers via citrix)
  • Flipboard – This is one of the nicest apps out there.  For many of us trying to stay up to date on latest news and developments in our area of work can at times be laborious. Flipboard offers a way to simplify this and build your own personal magazine with all your favourite internet sources.  It makes the aggregation and consumption of the information you want super easy, even effortless.  It has the added benefit of being very very cool in a Jean-Luc Picard type of way as you relax in your chair and flick through pages of information that you can easily mark and share.
  • Amazon Kindle – So paper books are a thing of the past.  I don’t buy a book anymore if it’s not on the Kindle (part of my effort to go paperless!) I wait until it is but I have to admit I have bought less of late as with all the material I get on the web I don’t find myself looking for books on particular topics as often.  The vast majority of my reading would be work related and on technology, project management, social media and the reason I have listed it here.
  • WordPress – Yes I use it most days now to keep an eye on the blog and often start or edit some posts (many of which never get published!)  And yes my blog is personal so it’s not really productivity for work but many use blogs in their work and business which is the point I am obviously trying to make.
  • Twitter – Yes I use the native Twitter app.  It’s not perfect but after trying a few I found myself going back to it each day.  Twitter I use for news, updates and more.  The amount of information relating to my job on new products, issues or solutions is hard to quantify but it really is a benefit and not a waste of time as some might have you believe.  Once you follow the right people and companies!

So it won’t cut down a tree, change the oil in the car and may not be best suited to typing up a 10,000 word report with embedded Excel charts and complex graphics that is collaborated on with 6 others.  Yes productivity is a relative thing.  However for many I think it can help find and communicate with someone to cut down the tree, help find out how or someone to change the oil in the car and provide a great tool for reviewing the final report and providing feedback on it.  And it can do all those things without the need to be chained at your desk or even in your place of work.  In my view it can do it easier and better via a design that is simply superior to anything else currently on the market.

I strongly believe that with some time invested in researching apps and becoming familiar with the devices strengths it could help many to see that this new tech can be just as good at being a tool as they say it is at being a toy.

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Apple, Apps, Technology


Another techie with another blog. Dad, husband and F1 fan.

Subscribe to this blog.....

Subscribe here to get all the latest updates from this techie .......

7 Comments on “The iPad – what can make it a tool as opposed to a toy!”

  1. July 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Great post! You are right, everyone has their favorite tools and apps. Personally I used to use Penultimate, but switched to NotetakerHD because it had greater flexibility and organizational tools. I am also considering trying out WritePad as it is supposed to do a decent job doing hand-writing recognition. I have never tried GoodReader, but I keep reading about it. I also love the idea of the signature app you mentioned. What stylus are you using?

    Thanks for the ideas!


    • July 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

      Chris, thanks. Using the Bamboo stylus and really liking. Initally tried the Pogo stick but prefer the larger pen like feel and quality of the Bamboo.

  2. July 31, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I was using the majority of the applications you listed on my iPad. I think my favorite had to be FlipBoard. It is such a clean way to read most web pages (especially news sites). Another I really appreciated was a note program that allows for password-protected notes as well as normal ones like the Apple Notes program.

    I understand that there will be a slit keyboard for iOS 5, but until then I am truly enjoying that feature with SwiftKey on my Android tablet, which has been my best application purchase ($1. 99) I no longer bring me bluetooth keyboard around with me.

    • August 1, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

      JM, yes the slit keyboard will be nice – and I am sure there will be a few of the best creative ideas from apps across the platforms incorporated into newer software releases :-) . I am really looking forward to iOS5 and the iCloud to see what it might bring to mobile computing.

  3. August 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Excellent post and a great rebuttal to those who are mostly down on the things they’re least up on.

    Can’t wait to have my own iPad!

  4. September 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

    Great post! What is your opinion on the Targus Revolving iPad 2 Case?

  5. Joey Richardson
    January 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    I really dig the folio style cases for ipad. Is anyone familiar with Portenzo? They have a gazillion custom options to design your cases. I’m looking for the right case for my iPad 2. Any suggestions?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: