My wife got me a new iPad case that has an integrated bluetooth keyboard. The virtual keyboard on the iPad has always been one thing that has kept me from typing anything longer than a short email on the device. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I am using it to write a blog since the second week of owning it. I have used the case/keyboard for a few hours over the last couple of days and over all I am pretty pleased with it. It’s not perfect, but it certainly makes certain tasks more enjoyable.
The keyboard is the soft silicone type that may turn some people off right away. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but I warmed up to it especially when I realized the screen of the iPad lays on it. Since the keys are soft, the chances of the screen getting scratched are pretty low. It is also spill resistant, not that I want to spill anything near the iPad.
The case also adds some bulk to the iPad, which is completely contrary to what the iPad is all about. I guess that is just the cost of having a real keyboard. Even with the added bulk it is still a pretty lightwieght unit.
A few other people that have the device complained about the limited angles you can place the iPad at while it is in this case. While the options are limited, it seems to work for me. That being said, it is better to use it on a table than your lap.
While this device doesn’t really turn the iPad into a laptop, it does make it a lot easier to type longer documents. I don’t plan to write the next War and Peace using this device, but I am pretty sure I will be writing more blogs using the iPad than I did before I had it.
You can find the case at Brookstone.com for about a $100 or search around the web like my wife did and find it for closer to $60.]]>
I am currently using Office 2 HD to create and edit Word and Excel documents. I decided on this app mainly due to price. Apple has an app called Pages for documents and one called Numbers for spreadsheets. Both of these are fine products, but for less than half the price of these two packages, Office 2 HD offers similar features. If you currently use Pages and Numbers on a Mac, you may want to stick with those apps, but since I use MS Office, there just wasn’t enough reason to pay the higher price.
There are times when you simply need to use a PC for something. I deal with this by leaving my main work PC on at home and access it with Logmein. I have mentioned this remote access solution before. It offers basic free remote access to your PC via a web browser. To access the PC from the iPad, you need to purchase the Logmein app.
At first, it may seem pricey at 24.99, but it is about the best value app I have bought so far. I already owned it for the iPhone and was very happy to see they updated it for the iPad. On a side note, some developers are updating apps for the iPad and making you buy the iPad version even if you already own the iPhone version. Logmein did not do this. They upgraded the single app to work on both the iPhone and the iPad and did not charge their current customers to upgrade. I applaud them for that.
Remote file access
As I was on the plane leaving home, I realized that I had forgot to put a number of very important files on my iPad. No problem! When I got to my destination, I logged into my home PC (using Logmein) and copied them to my Dropbox folder on my home PC. Dropbox is a service that will allow you to access any files you have placed in your Dropbox folder from any PC with an Internet connection. And, of course, there is a Dropbox app for the iPad. All I had to do was fire up that app, and I had the files I needed. Dropbox also allows you to open the files in another app such as Office 2 HD. This allowed me to edit them and save them locally for future access.
When it come to read PDFs, I highly recommend an app by the name of Goodreader. It does a very nice job presenting a PDF in the proper format. However, I often have the need not only to read but also proof PDF documents. That’s where iAnnotate comes in. iAnnotate allows you to view and mark up PDF documents and offers a very clean and simple interface. Currently, you cannot send or receive PDFs via email so you have to install a small app on your PC so that you can send and receive files. They are promising an email feature in a future version.
Of course, all work and no play makes Jack very bored, so in the next article I will discuss the apps I use to help relax or just kill time while waiting for a flight.]]>
My goal was to see if I could travel without a laptop. Since I was not certain, I did pack my older (smaller) laptop just in case. I could make you wait until the end of the article for the verdict, but I won’t. While I did use my laptop once or twice, I didn’t really need it. I was able to do everything I needed using the iPad. I am sure you are wondering what “everything” really means, that is, what I was actually able to accomplish using just the iPad? I, of course, was able to do the normal tasks that you would expect the iPad to be capable of such as email, web surfing, and and listening to music. But, I was also able to proofread and markup PDF files, edit curriculum, attend WebEx meetings, and even make phone calls directly from the iPad. Just as any device, it is only as good as the software. I spent the week evaluating various apps to determine what ones are needed in order to travel laptop free. Here are a couple apps that I feel will allow many people to accomplish all of their job tasks from the road using only an iPad.
Email and calendar
The built in email client on the iPad is adequate, but could be better. It allows you to send and receive email as well as view certain types of attachments. It also allows you to open some attachments in other apps. The real weak part is the calendaring. I receive multiple Outlook calendar invites each day. While I can receive the invites via the iPad email app, I can not open them and they are not added to my calendar. I resolved this by using Google Sync on my PC at home. When my home PC receives an invite, it is added to the Outlook calendar and synced with my Google calendar. I also have my Google calendar set to sync both my iPad and iPhone.
I have to attend several Webex meetings each week. Cisco has created an iPad Webex app which is available for free on iTunes. I used this app three time and it works well. When you connect to the meeting, it asks if you would like to have Webex call a phone or use the iPad for audio. I tried to use audio the iPad twice and both times was informed that the feature was not supported on the Webex server. I suppose this is something that will be added over time.
Well, as I said at the beginning of this article, I am sitting in the hotel and it is getting late, so I will continue this topic in the next post. Make sure to check back because some of the most useful (and fun) apps are yet to come.]]>
One of the things that make working on the road easier is a single point for all communications. In an earlier post we discussed how Cisco’s Unity solution can offer this, but what about people that don’t have the fortune of using such a system? Don’t worry, there are alternatives for individuals.
I use is my Google Voice account. Let’s start with the bad news: it is still in closed beta so if you don’t have an account, you may have to wait awhile. There are other products that are similar such as 3jam. But these services are paid services whereas Google voice is free (at least for now). So what is Google voice? Its core feature is what I call single number reach. You are assigned a phone number. When someone dials that number, all of the phones you have configured ring. For instance, when someone dials my number, my office, cell and home phone all ring. The call is then routed to the phone that I answer. I can also setup rules that route calls based on who is calling. For instance, I may set it up so that if my family calls, it sends the call to my cell and home but not the office number. I can also create personalized greetings based on who is calling. Other features of the system allow me to transfers active calls to another phone; for example, I can transfer an active call from my cell phone to my office phone. If I am unable to take the call, all voicemails go to a single point. Gone are the days of checking my cell phone voicemail and then the home answering machine and then dial into the office to see if there are messages. I receive an email and an SMS message when I get a voicemail. The service includes the ability to transcribe the messages and include the text in the email and SMS messages. The transcription is still a bit sketchy at times, but often I can get the idea of what the message was about. There are other features, but these are the ones I use the most.
Another problem with working from the road is that there always seem to be that one file you left at home. This is where remote access comes in. Most of us have heard of GoToMyPC, and it is a good product. I, however, use Logmein. This service is very similar to GoToMyPC, but the base level service is free. I like free. They have paid plans that allow you to do things like remote printing and file transfer. I have little need for remote printing, and I just use my FTP server for the file transfers. It is a little bit more of a headache and if you think you will find yourself needing to transfer files, I would recommend going with one of the paid plans to make your life a little easier.
Life on the road isn’t always as exciting as some would think. As a matter of fact, it can be a real pain. It adds many new challenges to the job. Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas on how to make your life on the road a bit easier. Even if you never travel, I think some of these technologies can help make the day a little smoother.]]>