Tag Archives: Apps

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I had a post already about my favourite apps which is somewhat out of date now but some still hold true such as Star Walk or the Formula 1 timing app.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.

The #F1 magazine – A digital edition disappointment

I am a huge F1 fan and enjoy the F1 magazine so when I recently heard that they were launching a digital edition I was delighted. The last paper mag I regularly purchase was about to go digital. This would mean all my regular reading material could now be downloaded onto my iPad.

I downloaded it tonight as soon as it became available. I expected to be immersed in it and looked forward to the added pieces that a digital version would bring. I pictured the BBC Focus mag that I get and envisioned that the F1 version would have to beat even that with interactive graphics, links, video and sound. After all F1 is the cutting edge of technology, it excels at sparkling, at giving that ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhhhh’ factor, at being polished and generally ahead of the curve!

How wrong I was! What I got was just a scanned in copy of the actual mag, where the print is so small I have to zoom in to try and read it and constantly move around the page to follow the text. Graphics and pics are split across what are normally paper pages and nothing is interactive. there is no sound, or video or interactivity what so ever. I think being called a digital version is misleading. In the strictest sense of the word yes it is but as a consumer I expected something more. Especially from the leading F1 magazine. A magazine I have enjoyed for a long time. A magazine that has let itself down. For now I will stick with the paper version.

Intelligent News delivered in an iPad app

Sky News launched their iPad app a little while ago and I really like how it delivers the stories. This is not about the quality of the news, balanced views or sensationalising.  Those are completely different issues.  This is about their iPad app.  Normally stories are delivered with just once piece of video or text.  This app attempts to provide some intelligence with each story.  When you click on a story other areas related to this topic fan out around the video piece thus making the story much richer and detailed than a normal simple video.  This is a better use of this type of tool.  I look forward to when these apps will auto link relevant text\pieces to other sites and resources of such as blogs, wikis, news, data to help provide background and even more detail if people choose to view it.

Sky News iPad App

10 of my favourite iPad apps

Flipboard – Lots has been written about this app and it was launched to much excitement.  It was justified.  It’s a superb app that actually sold me on the iPad.  Yes I got the iPad shortly after I saw a demo of this app from my boss @btazzi.  It presents your Twitter and Facebook streams and other feeds that you choose into a magazine type format that you can flick through.  You can share, comment, retweet all from within the application.  You could spend hours here browsing the different feeds and consume a vast amount of information almost effortlessly.


BBC News –  This is usually my first port of call for news.  You can select the news feeds to be displayed and place them in the order that you wish.  It’s easy to browse through the stories and it’s very easy to share them. 


TheJournal.ie – I like this app a lot and am using it more and more as it’s Irish based so local stories get more focus while also covering international. It’s a nice clean interface with simple facility to switch between news, business or sport.   Again its easy to post a comment or share the stories.


Focus Magazine – This is science and technology reading that is suitable for all.  I have been buying the print edition for years.  Have always really enjoyed it and love that I can now buy it on my iPad.  It’s not simply a copy of the static magazine but it’s created for the iPad with video, sounds and interactive articles which makes for a richer experience all round. Want to learn how things work and what new tech is coming? Then this is the app and magazine for you!


Kindle – So everyone has heard of the Kindle?  Download your books and read them on your Kindle (In this case the Kindle on your iPad).   They should try to simplify the buying process a little instead of bringing you out to the web page but once you get used to that its all good.  Download the book and then click on it to start reading.  Set the brightness, page colour, text size all to your own preference.  Yes some people complain they miss the feel and the comfort in holding a book and seeing the pages stack as you work your way through it.  Still an excellent app and a superb way to bring a few books when travelling.


Google Earth – Explore the whole world from your iPad.  As well as all the maps there are lots of excellent pictures and wiki information pieces on many places around the world.  All with a simple touch. Hours of browsing your possible holiday destinations await you.


Star Walk –  There are other similar apps out there but this is the best.  Great for star-gazers when you want to know just what you are looking at in the night sky.  Hold it up and move it around and the night sky image moves with you.  It shows stars, satellites, deep space objects, the solar system and highlights the constellations if you wish as you move around.  Really lovely app and a great demonstration as to what the iPad can do. 


F1 Timing App – So this is a little self-indulgent as I am a huge F1 fan but this app is one of the best demonstrations of the iPad and its capabilities.  Open this app at the start or during  a race and it shows the cars positions on the track in real-time. You can actually ‘see’ the racing.  See pic below.  You get a bird’s eye view of the whole track and where every driver is on that track in a continuous stream. I can see track positions at pit stop time and get insights into the race not possible from the race camera views.  It’s a 3D type view and a lot more colourful when the race circuit is not in the middle of a desert as the below demo is – Bahrain.  You can zoom in on areas of the track, rotate the track around, tilt it, follow a driver, replay and get detailed info and news on teams, drivers and races. At €23 its the most expensive app I have bought but honestly worth it for all F1 fans.


Twitterific – Yes I am a twitter fan.  This app is free and the best currently available in my view.  I’d like to be able to put more tweets in a screen as there is a lot of wasted space but it’s still the better of the twitter apps available.


TED – This is a non-profit that is about sharing ideas.  Technology, Entertainment and Design.  All recorded from the TED sessions given around the world.  Some very interesting and insightful pieces and a great way to pass some time easily while being educated and enlightened.

So that is it.  My top 10.  Noticeable absentee is a Facebook app.  That is because I can’t really say I have a favourite.  I usually end up back in Safari to do what I need due to the Facebook apps limitations.  I also didn’t include any games of which there are plenty but if you did want to look at what the iPad can offer in gaming I think Infinity Blade and NOVA 2 are good examples.  Also if you wish to pass hours then there is Angry Birds and for kids Talking Tom.  Although Tom is not a game more of an interactive app but kids love it.  And that is it.  Really enjoy the iPad and a great tool for research and keeping up to date on any topic of interest. Currently my favourite toy!

So am I missing something ground shaking in the app world? Dont hesitate to let me know.