How To Travel Using Only Your iPad

Need to stay productive while on the road with nothing but an iPad? Here are the apps you'll need.

Boonsri Dickinson, Associate Editor of BYTE

June 5, 2012

4 Min Read

I packed my iPad for a weekend in New York. I left my computer at home. That was a big mistake.

Well, I had the right idea anyway. But I didn't come as prepared as I should have.

The iPad is literally that: an Apple-branded notepad. But it has a lot of potential. If you want to take meeting notes, write general office stuff to apps like iWork, or sync up content to the cloud, you can.

Working from home doesn't always mean you have to be indoors. Somehow, sitting at a pool in the Hamptons, using my iPad to write blog posts, and using my iPhone 4 for personal calls, and my work-issued iPhone 4s for interviews, felt like cheating. Was I really working?

I enjoyed touching the screen, rather than using a keyboard and mouse. It was a more interactive experience. You're probably thinking, "Jeez, she's late to the game of testing out a tablet." Sure, consumers have been using iPads for a while, but IT has balked at accepting them in the workplace. No one has really lead the way in helping consumers figure out which apps they need on an iPad to make it a good PC replacement.

When I arrived in New York, I connected my iPad 2 to my personal MiFi Internet connection. I used my iPad for basic note taking and sending emails, so I did not take full advantage of the iPad's abilities.

If I had wanted an actual keyboard, I could have used the iPad case with a keyboard. But that's not the point of a touch-sensitive interface. Is it?

I turned to fellow BYTE contributors to find out which apps they have, so the next time I pack my bags my iPad will be armed with the right apps. Larry Seltzer, BYTE's editorial director, argued for a keyboard and said that I should set up a strong passcode.

BYTE writer Chris Spera agreed. "You aren't going to get anywhere productivity wise without a keyboard. If you don't use a case like Larry's, you're going to need the iPad stand/dock that Apple has for sale."

Spera also thinks iWork, or some other iOS-compatible office suite, is a must have. You'll also want to make sure you have Evernote or MS OneNote for iOS. Meeting notes are the number-one reason why people take the iPad to meetings, Spera said. I agree--I love taking notes on my iPad.

BYTE writer Todd Ogasawara said he has to have these iPad apps for doing work:

  • Apple Pages and Numbers. "I wrote a chunk of a RFP response while at my daughter's track meet using this combo."

  • Gmail app if you forward email (actually import via POP3) from "real" email addresses to Gmail. That way you respond with the correct email address

  • Camera+ or iPhoto if you need to work with images.

  • eWallet GO! to manage passwords and other sensitive information.

  • Evernote, Springpad, or both.

  • Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive, or some combination of them.

  • MySQL app for remotely managing databases.

  • for iOS

BYTE contributing editor Ben Gottesman also is a huge fan of note-taking apps: "One of the most important things to me is that the apps sync with the cloud or some other device. I'm too paranoid about accidentally losing content. Lots of apps integrate with Dropbox and some with Google Drive and Docs. I like Evernote and Dropbox for real note-taking though both are frustratingly limited compared to their desktop counterparts."

You can also remote control via Splashtop or another app that lets you control your desktop from your iPad; that is, as long as your IT department allows that.

Gottesman also recommends a good sketching app. You can use Noteshelf or Adobe Ideas.

Remember that producing content on an iPad is one use of the tablet's power. Consuming content on it is another. If you want to be able to keep track of what you discover while browsing in Safari, try Instapaper.

"I'm still waiting for my TouchFire: The Screen-Top Keyboard for iPad to arrive via Kickstarter. I love the idea. Hopefully it will be as good in execution," Gottesman said.

Informationweek's Editorial Director Fritz Nelson said "One app that has saved him is DocScan Pro. It's for faxing signed documents, using the iPad camera.

Fritz also recommends the following productivity apps:

  • Fuze Meeting, "great videoconference tool and whiteboard."

  • Skype and Evernote.

  • Roambi for business intelligence and dashboards.

I"ll have to download these before I take off with just my iPad. Do you have any suggestions?

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About the Author(s)

Boonsri Dickinson

Associate Editor of BYTE

Boonsri Dickinson is the Associate Editor of BYTE

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