2013 in perspective: Doing real work with the iPad

2013 in perspective: Doing real work with the iPad

Summary: The end of the year is fast approaching and it's a good time to turn thoughts to how mobile devices have served me over the past year.

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TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
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ZAGGkeys Folio profile
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

This year has seen the tablet explode, fueled by the appearance of many models running Windows 8. The iPad mini arrived on the scene followed by the iPad Air, both of which kept Apple's tablets front and center. With PC sales dropping into a tech sinkhole, the tablet has assumed a bigger role in both work and play for many.

This doesn't surprise me as a long-time tablet enthusiast. I've long used tablets in my work, both with and without keyboards. As someone who makes a living with my writing, the keyboard is an important accessory.

In the recent past when I mentioned using one iPad or another with a keyboard for my work, I was flooded with responses that claimed having to use a keyboard with an iPad pointed out a major flaw with tablets. Then Windows 8 arrived, along with tablets that attempted to break into the main tablet market.

Those Windows tablets are often used with keyboards, and comments have changed as a result. Now, when I cover my tablet use, I no longer hear how using keyboards with tablets is a failure of the genre. What I hear instead is that Windows tablets with keyboards are "real computers", and thus better than iPads for work. Even Microsoft has pitched that in its ads for Surface tablets.

Working in 2013

This is true for some but my own experience is different. I have used iPads with keyboards heavily in my work, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I open the case and get to work in seconds with my iPad and keyboard.

In 2013 I have written over 250,000 words on my iPads with keyboard attached. That is a lot of writing, and I haven't regretted a single word.

Most of that work in 2013 was performed with a previous generation iPad, followed more recently with an iPad Air. The latter is what I use currently, I'm using it now as a matter of fact. It is nestled in a ZAGGkeys Folio keyboard case.

This works well for me in spite of the assertion I hear all too frequently that it is not optimal. The fact is it works nicely for my work, which is all the matters to me. How well does it work?

In 2013 I have written over 250,000 words on my iPads with keyboard attached. That is a lot of writing, and I haven't regretted a single word. The entire system (iPad, keyboard, and apps) works without compromise, and lets me do what I'm paid to do — write (hopefully) compelling content.

Just as I am doing now, the iPad and the apps I use let me focus on just the writing without distractions. I fire up the editor and start writing no matter where I am or what is going on around me. I just write.

In addition to the iPad and keyboard, the apps I use play a significant role in my writing work. There is Mr. Reader ($3.99), the app that I use with Feedly to keep my RSS feeds up-to-date. It is a fantastic app, perhaps the best mobile app on any platform. It is a big part of my online research for writing projects.

See related: How to: Writing with Evernote on mobile devices

Then there is Evernote (free), the app I use more than any other. It is where I stash reference material for later access, and my primary editor for writing articles. It is cross-platform so it's on every tablet, laptop, and phone I use. I can read reference material on my phone when time permits and write on the iPad or other tablet when the time is right. It is the best cloud app I use.

Web browsers also play a huge role in my work, and Safari on iOS7 is the one I use. I still use Chrome on most devices, but on the iPad it's always Safari. It is fast and clean, and similar to the way Chrome syncs things to the cloud, Safari syncs everything to iCloud so my iPad and Macs are the same.

I use other apps, e. g. Tweetbot ($2.99), but the ones I've mentioned are the software tools I use most. The process I've adapted is smooth, fast, and seamless. I pull the iPad out of the gear bag and I'm working in seconds, no matter what I need to do.

The main function I need is where the iPad with keyboard really shines. I can and do write better on this system than on any other. That blows people away but it's true. I have a better writing environment on the iPad than any other tablet. Heck, it's even better than my expensive MacBook Pro for writing.

You may not agree with me that the iPad with keyboard is better than other options. That's OK, but I'm talking about my work and needs and this is definitely the best.

I've used lots of tablets including those running Windows and Android, but the iPad outshines them all. I've come to think of my iPad and keyboard as the ultimate writing machine, and that's priceless to me. Contrary to what Microsoft would have you think, no Office is required for my work.

The iPad may not be the best choice for others, I always recommend using what works best for you. Windows tablets and Android tablets are certainly good fits for some and that's what those folks should use. Just don't tell me what works best for me, I already know.

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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112 comments
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  • great now that Windows 8

    tablets are catching up on portability and real work usage you have to come out with an article about iPad and "real work".... then just get an Windows 8 with Office and a keyboard, the Asus T100 and the Dell Venue Pro 8 are good and inexpensive tablets with full Windows for real work....
    pepe-el-Toro
    • Read the article

      Quote: "Windows tablets and Android tablets are certainly good fits for some and that's what those folks should use. Just don't tell me what works best for me, I already know."
      JamesKendrick
      • Like most media articles we see ..

        A misnomer of a headline.
        You should have added "for me" to the tail of your headline for accuracy.
        I've tried some of your suggestions. As an engineer I ended up with a Transformer and Surface Pro for daily use. My iPad is primarily a consumptive device.
        rhonin
        • That's your choice... not a limitation of the hardware

          rhonin: "My iPad is primarily a consumptive device."

          Like you, many people just use their iPads as a media consumption device. Those people are either uninterested in doing anything creative on their iPads, or like you, prefer to do their work on a PC.

          But that is a matter of choice. It is not a limitation of the iPad's hardware and software.

          There are innumerable examples to be read about on the web of people doing very creative, productive work on their iPads.

          In fact, 92% of the Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPad... and you can be sure it is not just to allow their employees to enjoy watching YouTube videos at work (although they may also be doing that ;-)).
          Harvey Lubin
          • Do you think any company is testing iPads for the capabilities of iOS

            or that it has a small portable form factor?

            I seriously doubt any of those companies look at iOS and see it as an expansion of functionality over any other operating system, but rather a "lets try to use what is readily available now".

            An example of the limitations of iPads
            Go replace every workers PC in those 92% of fortune 500 companies with an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard and see just how much "real work" gets done.

            Then replace all of those iPads with a Surface Pro, Transformer T100 or similar device and watch the work continue as normal.
            Emacho
          • Use an iPad and then argue against it, please

            Folks, the "get an ASUS" thing is pretty old.

            And I've heard "hardware and software are more limited" for ages as well. I'm chained to a Windows laptop for work - again - and I'm reminded how stagnant and clueless Windows software is. I am furious with Microsoft that PowerPoint today has all the limitations it had before the millennium.

            Walking retail floors making sales, or taking restaurant orders is real work. iPad is great for that.

            If you are doing photography or film, the iPad is a fabulous platform. Don't even think of a PC.

            If you are doing software development, it isn't. Now I just ordered my wife an iPad Air and I know she'll love it. But I don't think I could suit it for my style of software development.

            But apart from the real business needs of ctleng76 (and to clear the record, you actually can drive RS-232 devices through dock and headphone adapters for iPad) comments like "do you think any company" or "real work" sound like ignorance or parochialism.
            SchemaCzar
          • You are clueless

            "If you are doing photography or film, the iPad is a fabulous platform. Don't even think of a PC."

            This myth needs to end. All the high-end editing, compositing, and graphics systems run off Linux and Windows. Quantel, one of the word's leading edit and graphics systems uses Windows, and Autodesk is primarily Linux.

            Apple's proprietary junk is cutesie consumer trash that is barely a step above MS Paint and Windows Movie Maker. Adobe CS (the industry creative suite standard) runs better on Windows. Even Avid, who was in bed with Apple, now hates them. Final Cut is no longer pro, but simply iMovie with more options.

            You obviously haven't spent any time in the industry, and you spend your time reading only Apple blogs. Those of us who spend nearly 2 decades doing the work watching the platforms mature and fail, using everything from Premier to Smoke, know that Apple is not a player anymore, and really never was. It was a dream of the "creative" crowd who never caught onto the irony of wanting to buck the man, while walking around with a big shiny corporate Apple logo, making others ungodly rich based of a good PR team.
            Turismo
          • ..

            Of course Fortune 500 companies aren't looking to replace PC's (be it OS X, Windows, or Linux-based) with a tablet of any sort, including iPads for a majority of their work.

            The previous comment mentioned deploying/testing. What's to say they haven't deployed these alongside their own in-house apps and therefor making them productive. Maybe they're being used for presentations and boardroom meetings. Who knows?

            Your reasoning behind deploying the Surface Pro has no relevance. The ONLY reason switching to the Surface would make sense and be seamless is because it runs Windows. Going from PC's (presumably running Windows) to iPads running iOS would require a complete overhaul of apps and transitioning to a new OS/ecosystem...so of course keeping the same OS is going to allow work to continue as normal.
            GhettoMrBob
          • Really now if you need Surface Pro or T100

            If you need Surface Pro or T100 for the keyboard and mouse, then why on earth don't you just get a laptop. The iPad is a tablet --- tablets are different. Want a best typing experience get a desktop with a really good keyboard -- a real keyboard. That being said, my inexpensive Apple Keyboard is great for me -- just happen to like the touch of the short stroke keyboard. Others may not.

            A tablet excels in other ways than a desktop can. It is simply a different beast. I like my smartphone for what it is, the Mac Mini as a desktop and the iPad Air as a best in class tablet. The Surface Pro at two pounds is not a tablet. It is used with a keyboard -- think of it as a portable desktop - all-in-one with a tiny screen which can be hooked to a large monitor when required. How it is better than a laptop at this, I haven't a clue. They certainly have no special apps or anything.
            mytake4this
          • Hardware and software are limited

            My job specifically requires a PC. A tablet won't work for what I do. I am an electrical engineer that writes programs for industrial automation. The software I use won't even run on Windows 8. Some of the equipment I have to interface with still has an ancient serial port. The truth is that tablets may work as a desktop replacement for most people. But the hardware and software are more limited than a PC. You can't argue that.
            ctleng76
          • In they come and out they go...

            I am working with a lot of bigger customers who have been testing iPads for "real" work. All I can say is that my customers are dumping iPads in droves after they have tested Windows Tablets... "-a tablet and a REAL computer in one" is often the comments i get.

            Wanna bet how many of those Fortune 500 companies will be running iPads one year from now?
            brhorv
          • Who's arguing?

            The article says, Quote: "Windows tablets and Android tablets are certainly good fits for some and that's what those folks should use. Just don't tell me what works best for me, I already know."
            oNutz
          • It is not a limitation of the iPad's hardware and software.

            Actually,

            You're wrong about that.

            Try doing AutoCAD, SQL Server or Toad for Oracle on an IPAD. Already running SQL Server and Toad on a Surface Pro.

            It simply depends on what your needs are, but don't lie to yourself and others thinking an IPAD can do more than it actually can.

            Best wishes with YOUR choice.
            GotThumbs
          • I use TOAD, but we are a MINORITY

            I'd love to develop a killer database designer/admin application for iPad, but no one else has either. This is because we are specialists and our software is specialty. Also, I stopped installing databases on portables because right now remote access is fast enough for me and I don't have to sync schemas and take backups.
            SchemaCzar
          • I agree that thin clients are the future but...

            The biggest feature that iOS is missing that ChromeOS, Android, and RT have is the ability to use a mouse. This is not just due to legacy desktop apps (on any OS platform) but the fact that certain applications are far better suited to certain types of user input. Using touch when I am walking between meetings and such is fantastic and a mouse or touchpad would be an inferior input method. But trying to do detailed CAD or other things, touch is inferior. Sames holds true with stylus usage; it has its needs and not supplying the ability to use it truncates usability.
            Rann Xeroxx
          • Once again I am reminded why I pretty much stopped reading the talk backs

            For the most part all you get is small minded morons that can't see beyond their own biases or personal preferences. Each OS and platform are going to have their pros and cons, no way around that. There isn't a single one that is a perfect fit for everyone or does everything best. Of course you can find specific software that won't run on an iPad, any idiot can do that with so many specified applications out there. Of course there is also Apps that run on an iPad which you don't find on a PC, so freaking what. If you just don't like a particular brand or OS and all you can add to the conversation is your own bias don't waste everyone's time, just remain quick. It's better to have people wonder if you are an idiot than it is to prove them right by posting stupidity.
            non-biased
          • Agreed

            I love the Win 8 hybrid solution for many things, but I also find PDF annotation on an iPad smoother than solutions on other platforms. I find storage limitations on iOS devices problematic (I am not willing to pay $100 for an additional 16GB), but some people don't mind paying an extreme markup for flash memory. I find stifled with the limitation of only displaying one app at a time, but I love the gestures for task switching on iOS (though I miss the 4 finger swipe up from iOS6 where you could actually see a decent number of apps on the screen at the same time sans eye candy). The iPad was previously wonderfully stable, though since the iOS7 update I have been dealing with some Android-style crashing.

            As someone who uses the 3 mobile platforms, they can all be quite useful, though I have had a difficult time getting Android to suit me on tablets. People who talk like there is only one reasonable platform to use sound juvenile.
            DaveJMo
        • Only Because You Choose To Do It That Way

          We have almost 100 engineers, do work for the Pentagon, US Army, Russia, China, Japan, India, Korea and so on. The engineers ALL use iPads when in the field, and at times in the office. They are very productive and happy with them, not because they are forced to use iPads, their other choice is the MS Surface, which itself is a good device, but for the sake of security and stability, they use the iPad.
          You can watch Netflix, Play Angry Birds, Create and edit native Excel, Word and Powerpoint files, view and edit AutoCAD files and so on on both devices, so it's strictly a choice on your part too. Not because of hardware or software limitations.
          cheydaddy
          • security and stability?

            Care to elaborate? Are u saying that iOS is more secure and stable to Windows 8.1?
            I hardly think so...
            ideleosaretin@...
          • security and stability?

            The security comes in where many consider to be a flaw for the iPad but the gov't considers it a huge plus. It's because the iPad does not have any removable storage, no USB ports or SD slots. I have worked for a few Gov't agencies and have been on plenty military bases and I can tell you first hand they scan your PC regularly and they don't like USB sticks at all. To be exact you need to get prior clearance to bring your laptop on base and it is scanned before you enter and before you leave, Any USB sticks found are immediately confiscated and returned when you leave. If you have a presentation on a USB it will be scanned then transferred to a secure USB that they will give you to use will on base. If your in one of the federal buildings on the network as soon as you plug in an unauthorized USB stick into your laptop the network security team is immediately notified and they start running scans.
            The Gov't likes iPad because there is no external ports for security breaches so to them that's security.
            Also Windows 8 OS has a lot of holes thats why the Gov't has not signed off on Windows 8 to be used in there internal network. They are just know moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, This is the reason why Microsoft had to support XP for the last 12 years because Vista was a nightmare and the gov't said no we are not moving our systems to vista. So know that they are moving their systems over to Windows 7 Microsoft is ending support for XP.
            So all of your Windows tablets run on Windows 8, and the Gov't will not allow them on the network.
            admills69