It’s only fitting that I’m writing this column on how using an iPad has changed my work practices over the past two years—on the new iPad. It is, after all, my go-to computing device, having replaced a variety of laptops and, to some extent, even my desktop. While the hardware is certainly nice, it’s the Apple operating system and the many gems in the App Store that has made my iPad indispensable.
Without the killer apps that enable me to work more efficiently, the iPad would simply be a rather pricey game and ereading device. So which ones are my mainstays?
A quick glance at my first screen of apps provides a pretty clear indication of how I use my iPad. Up front are Keynote and Pages (both $9.99), Apple’s presentation and word processing/desktop publishing apps. The incredibly powerful mobile version of Keynote is one of the main reasons I can now travel without a laptop. It’s a snap to add slides, make changes, and present directly from my iPad. The Keynote Remote app for iPhone and iPod Touch that turns the smaller devices into presenter tools via WiFi or Bluetooth are quite helpful, too. With Keynote and Pages, I can interact seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint and Word.
Perhaps my favorite app is Daedalus (The Soulmen, $4.99). A relatively new release, it’s become my text editor of choice. Beautiful design, a classic font (Goudy Bookletter), and flexibility through multiple-page documents makes Daedulus a joy to use. Like other writing apps, it provides a keyboard extension bar with direct access to a tab button and frequently used punctuation marks. That plus a subtle word count display make it perfect for professional writing tasks. This app, and not Pages, is where I do my real writing. The simple, clean design and limited options could also help students stay focused on the job at hand.
For more casual note taking, I still turn to one of the original handwriting notebook apps, Penultimate (Cocoa Box, $.99). This app was recently acquired by Evernote, another great tool, but one that I just can’t seem to get into using. With multiple notebooks and various features to make iPad scribbling easier, such as wrist protection and speed-variable line thickness, Penultimate lives up to its ranking as one of the highest-rated apps in the category.
A couple of utilities have also earned a permanent spot on my home screen even if I don’t use them every day. Although there isn’t a SMART Board app for the iPad, you can achieve similar results using a remote desktop app like Splashtop ($4.99) to take control of the computer connected to your digital whiteboard via WiFi. Students can still use the whiteboard, but the app enables you to make notes, handle menus, or other tasks on the fly via an iPad. It’s on my tablet for those lazy moments when I’m upstairs, but need to access a file on my desktop downstairs. I remote in, send the file to Dropbox, and keep working without disrupting the cats draped over my legs.
Finally, there’s Dropbox (Dropbox, free). So much more than simply cloud storage, Dropbox keeps files synchronized between my home and work computers and my iPad and iPhone so that I don’t have to worry about working on the latest version of a presentation. And I can easily share files with others.
Photo by Jared Earle.