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Pimp your iPad for Productivity

For many, the iPad has become their primary productivity tool.  The combination of a light weight computing device with excellent battery life and a wide range of productivity applications is an appealing proposition.  If you fancy joining the ranks of the iPad toting mobile workers, here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip #1 : Get an external iPad keyboard

If you are really serious about some content generation on an iPad you don’t want to be depending on the on-screen keyboard.  It occupies about half the screen real estate, leaving but a slither of working area left over.  Check out the screen shot below to see what I mean.  As you can see the on-screen keyboard and the menu bars at the top occupy the majority of the screen.  Having an external keyboard removes the keyboard from the screen, immediately doubling the available screen real estate.

Screenshot

The onscreen keyboard leaves little screen real estate for working

Fortunately there is no shortage of external keyboards.  You should select a keyboard to suit your particular working scenario.

Mobile Worker – Logitech BLOK

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If your iPad has to survive a bit of rough and tumble on the go, there is one choice that immediately comes to mind – the Logitech BLOK keyboard case.  This case is designed to survive falls of up to six feet which should be sufficient for all but the clumsiest of mobile workers.  Have I tried this personally with my own iPad Air, ah no.  But, the fine folks over at Logitech have and they have literally put their money iPad where their mouth is.  Check out the video below where they subjected it to such a fall and it still comes out ticking.

This level of protection comes at some price, both financially and in terms of the girths it adds to the anorexic iPad Air.  The current price on Amazon for the Logitech BLOK keyboard case is $98.99, currently on special offer down from $129.99.  The weight of the BLOK is 645g and as you can see from the picture below it is substantially thicker than the iPad with dimensions of 22mm x 184.5mm x 251.4mm.

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iPad Air 2 vs. Logitech BLOK Keyboard case

Here you can check out the full review of the Logitech BLOK.

Professional – Qode Ultimate Pro keyboard case for iPad Air 2

belkin-qode-ultimate-pro

I am fairly partial to keyboard cases with detachable keyboards. There are times when I don’t need the keyboard and just want to read some stuff on the iPad or browse the web.  In such cases, your forearms will thank you when the keyboard can be dispensed with and in doing so lighten the load that has to be held.  The Qode Ultimate Pro Keyboard case for the iPad Air 2 shares this feature with the Logitech BLOK but has several differentiating features.  First up, it is lighter at 490 grams.  Second, it has a backlit keyboard which is helpful for locating keys in low light.  Finally, the iPad can be oriented landscape or portrait.  These are all great features and have contributed to the Qode Ultimate Pro being voted a CES Innovation award winner

Chillaxing at Home – K480 Multi-device keyboard

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If your iPad roaming only extends as far as the kitchen, you may want to dispense with the keyboard case idea and go for a keyboard stationed in your house or office.  One solution from Logitech to enable that kind of working is the K480 Bluetooth Multi-Device keyboard.  This keyboard can pair with up to three different device.  So, you can simply stick the phone or tablet in the keyboard groove, select the device and type.  I can imagine this will also be useful for those extended Whatsapp sessions!

 

Tip #2 : Get tooled up with IOS productivity apps

Now that you have your hardware sorted out it is time to move onto the software side of things.  These will transform your iPad from a beautifully engineered paperweight to something that can be of practical use for mobile productivity.  Here are four tools that I would recommend.

MS Office for IOS

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When it comes to productivity apps, MS Office is the 800lb gorilla.  It is difficult to find any office worldwide devoid of the MS Office suite.  Since March 2014, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have been available on the iPad and for many, this was a milestone in making the iPad an indispensable productivity tool.  I won’t say too much about MS Office for IOS as most are already familiar with it but one key point to mention.  Not only does MS Office play nicely with Onedrive, Microsoft’s own Cloud storage solution, but also Dropbox – which I come to next.

 

Dropbox

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If you want to get stuff done on the move it is great advantage to have your files accessible wherever the location. Two requirements for that are a data connection, either WiFi or from the mobile operator, and a cloud service to store the data.  For the latter there are many providers that you can choose from – Onedrive, Google Drive and Dropbox to name but a few.  I use Dropbox for a few reasons.  First, Dropbox has excellent support across many different platforms and other software suppliers also support Dropbox integration.  Second, the key IOS software that I use (MS Office, iThoughtsHD) can link and sync seamlessly with Dropbox on the iPad which makes my life easier.  Third I have always found it to be a robust and transparent cloud storage provider.  It has been around a long time with a free storage option that has remained fairly consistent over the years.  Finally, the ability to access files offline.  If you don’t have a data while mobile you can save a local copy of the files that you will need for later access.  To do this, select the file in Dropbox, then select the option “Make Available Offline”.  This will save a copy of the file to your iPad which will sync with Dropbox when a data connection is available.

 

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Offline working with Dropbox

iThoughtsHD

Ithoughtshd Logo

Mindmaps and Tablets are a match made in heaven.  The whole thing about mindmaps is the ability to dump the contents of your brain into some sort of a logical order.  And, when these inspirational ideas strike they are seldom at a convenient time when one happens to be parked in front of a PC.  At such  moments the method of capture is more likely to be a mobile phone or tablet.  There is no shortage of IOS apps for mindmap creation, but the one that stands out from the crowd is iThoughtsHD.  Elegant and feature rich, iThoughtsHD is a great choice if you use mindmaps for sketching out ideas or taking notes.  It also integrates well with many other forms for importing and exporting data such as Freemind, Mindview, PDF, Image (png), MS Word/Powerpoint, OPML and csv just to name but a few of the options.  You can check out a full review of iThoughtsHD.  The way that I personally use iThoughtsHD is in conjunction with Dropbox and Freemind.  So, I create a mindmap on my iPad, it syncs with Dropbox and when I go to my PC the mindmap is available to view and edit with Freemind.

MarginNote for efficient study

margin-note-logoIf you use your iPad for reading E-Books and pdf files and take notes from those then MarginNote may be the answer to your prayers.  Traditional note taking from paper books or E-Books can be a laborious process, but not with MarginNote.  With MarginNote, you can quickly highlight text and diagrams in E-Books as you read it and at the end it provides amarginnotes-quote summary of those annotations in either outline view or as a mindmap.  Both representations are great for digesting the key points of the book.  You can check out the MarginNote video below to see how it is used in practice.

It is even possible to view the notes as flash cards which is also great for memorization.  This IOS app comes at a price of $7.99 from the iTunes store.  Given, I tripled my study speed using MarginNote I think it is well worth the price.  MarginNote Pro is a killer application for the iPad – It revolutionizes the study process.

iPad Productivity Apps and Accessories

Tip #3 :  Be an IOS Hotkey Jedi

Now that you have an external keyboard and some killer productivity apps, you will want to maximize their synergy to make your work as efficient as possible.  One way to do this is to learn the hotkeys associated with the application.  The hotkeys enable you to do mundane tasks faster.  For example, in MS Word you are likely using cut and paste quite a bit.  Instead of stabbing at the iPad screen functions, the following keyboard commands can execute the cut & paste,

Command + X: Cut

Command + V: Paste

For a full range of the IOS and other App hotkeys you can refer to this list of IOS Keyboard Shortcuts.

Tip #4 : Utilise the Tablet form factor for productivity

There are certain productivity application where a tablet trumps laptops.  One such example is the creation and revision of bodies of text, such as me writing this article – weh hey!  When paired with an external keyboard you can use the tablet like you would a laptop.  The real magic though comes when reviewing the information you have just created or indeed reviewing any other information.  You simply pluck the tablet from the keyboard and read it as you would a book.  The tablet form factor is ideal for this purpose, where you can flick through the pages with a swipe of your thumb.

If you often find yourself working in this way it is certainly worth to consider a tablet over a laptop.

Summary

This is but a few tips for getting the most from your iPad but no doubt there are many other great tools and techniques that you guys are using.  Feel free to leave a comment below on how you maximize your productivity with the iPad.  Cheers!

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