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4/26/2012
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LinkedIn iPad App: Plenty To Like

LinkedIn's new application for the Apple iPad serves as a hub for business connections, news, and social networking in one slick, though not perfect, package.

iPad Apps: 10 Hidden Gems
iPad Apps: 10 Hidden Gems
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
LinkedIn recently introduced its first application for the iPad. The free app brings together some of the best features of the iPhone/Android apps and mates them with a user interface that borrows a page from the popular "Flipboard" app to give it some visual pizzazz. Here's a quick rundown on the pluses and minuses of this new app.

First, a proviso. LinkedIn is one of those services that you get out of what you put into it. It you've tossed your contact info into LinkedIn just for the heck of it, but haven't really filled out your profile or made too many connections, the iPad app isn't really going to help you do those things. It works best if you've taken the time to complete your profile and build a community of business contacts.

The LinkedIn-savvy will find plenty to like.

The central home screen provides users with three options: All Updates, You, and Inbox. Let's start with You. The You portion of the app is where you can review your own profile, sort through connections, set your own status updates, as well as see who's recently viewed your profile. The section suggests other LinkedIn users, and sending invitations is way too easy (e.g., I accidentally invited someone to connect). The tool lets users see connections shared with other users, and it is a breeze to hit up connections' websites, send them emails, or call them.

Unfortunately, the You tool doesn't let LinkedIn users modify or update their own profiles. They can only view them, not change them. That's a bummer.

[ Get more from LinkedIn. See 7 Surprising Things You Can Do On LinkedIn. ]

Moving on, the Inbox is where you'll find messages sent by connections, as well as connection requests. It features a two-pane design, with invitations and messages in separate boxes on the left, with the content/details of those invitations/messages displayed in a large pane on the right. Responding to either type of missive is a cinch with the app's tools. Want to send a brand new message to a contact, or initiate a new connection? That can all be done with the Inbox tool.

The LinkedIn for iPad app's real magic, however, is in the All Updates section. Visually, it is eerily similar to Flipboard. It creates a magazine-style pastiche from the content you've subscribed to that's fun to, er, flip through. For example, some of my connections shared several news stories today. Those stories popped up front and center in the Updates feed, where I was able to read them. It also shows the local time, weather for your current location, and the Dow Jones Industrials current number.

If you've added Twitter to your LinkedIn account, your connections' Twitter updates will also appear on these pages, as will information about your connections' new connections, LinkedIn Groups activity, and so on. The content is laid out in pages that can be reached by swiping the screen back and forth. The Updates section also loads your LinkedIn calendar, though you can toggle this feature on and off. As far as tools go for this section, all you can do is sort through the different content types via a small button at the top of the screen.

As good as many of these features are, the app clearly needs a bit of work.

For example, I found the app was a bit erratic in responding to my input. I'd touch a button to access a feature, and the app would instead do something completely different.

The buttons used to access certain sections of the application are way too small. On a screen that's more than 50% full of blank gray space, why on earth is the most important button of the app just 1 square centimeter? The settings tool lets you adjust very little about the app's behavior. It is limited to turning the calendar on/off and notifications on/off. That's it.

The app doesn't remember your login details. If you remain logged in (even if you close the app) you can jump right back in without entering your username/password. If you accidentally sign out, however, you have to provide your full credentials again to regain access. Couldn't the app at least remember my email address?

Last, the inability to do anything with your own profile is a major disappointment. The read-only mode is a serious hindrance to the app's overall utility.

Even so, the application offers the basics and then some in a visually appealing package. I'd highly recommend that LinkedIn users check it out. It's available for free from the iTunes App Store.

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