iPad Air in the office: Better than you think

iPad Air in the office: Better than you think

Summary: The race to get iPads in the office has become a focus for Apple with the alliance with IBM. What makes this interesting is how well the iPad Air performs in a work environment.


My office is not typical by any means, home or otherwise. My work requires me to keep up with current mobile technology, and that’s done by having tablets and laptops everywhere. With all of these systems at my disposal, I find I often use the iPad Air even while sitting at my desk because it works so well.

JK Office
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

In the past, working at my desk meant I’d be sitting in front of a MacBook, Chromebook, or a Windows laptop of some kind. I needed heavy lifting and that meant the iPad or Kindle Fire HDX would be turned off. While the mobile systems work fine when I am out and about, at the desk I wanted a “full” computer to get work done.

I need to work with Office documents regularly, but Office for iPad handles that with ease. It’s not full Office, but it’s the best version of Office for handling what I need, by far.

Recently I’ve noticed that has changed. Often I find myself working at my desk, sitting in front of the iPad Air in a keyboard case. I do everything I need without thinking about it, the mark of a great work tool.

This change has crept up on me. Once I realized that my work habits had changed, I thought about why that happened. I determined that it started gradually due to the apps I use for my work. Three in particular are better on the iPad Air than any other system/platform I use to get real work done.

I realize that this is pertinent to the work I do, and in the end that’s all each of us is concerned about. Others won’t find this to fit their needs, and that’s OK.

Covering mobile tech for ZDNet means I must stay plugged into the breaking news in the mobile space. I spend hours online each day checking the happenings in real time in the mobile space. I primarily use two methods to do this.

The main method I use for research is following hundreds of sources through web site RSS feeds. I scan thousands of news items daily to keep up with what’s happening in mobile. I use the Feedly RSS service to do that, as it keeps everything in the cloud so all of my devices are in sync. Once I see a news item anywhere, it’s marked as having been read on all of my devices. This prevents duplicating my efforts when I change devices.

Mr Reader
Mr Reader (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Scanning so many news items a day requires a great tool to streamline this effort. I have apps on every platform to help me do that. On the iPad Air I use Mr Reader, an app that is better than those on other platforms. It is lightning fast, even with the thousands of items it handles for me, and designed to make working with news as easy as possible.

I can scan hundreds of news articles in minutes using Mr Reader, and that’s significant to the way I work. The interface is logically laid out, and the operation of the app is fluid.

That’s not true of the apps I use to work with RSS feeds on other platforms. While those apps work fine, they aren’t as good as Mr Reader on the iPad Air. I like Nextgen Reader on Windows 8, gReader Pro on Android, and ReadKit on the Mac. They are the best apps for working with RSS feeds I’ve tried on those platforms. Even though these apps are good, over time I have come to prefer the iPad solution because it’s better.

Zite (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I also use the Zite app heavily for following the mobile segment. I have it customized to provide the news that is important for my work, and the interface on the iPad is wonderful. Zite is only available on iOS and Android, and the Android version is terrible.

Zite does the same thing on Android as it does on the iPad, but the interface is so bad it is embarrassing. I can do the same thing in Zite on the iPad in a fraction of the time it takes on Android. Time is money, so working with Zite on the iPad is much preferred over Android. There’s no web version of Zite, and no apps on Chrome, Windows, nor on the Mac.

Zite has become such an integral part of my work day that I am cringing at the announcement most likely coming at some point that it is going away. The company behind Flipboard, a similar app that I use but don’t find as useful, bought Zite a while back and I’m certain they will kill Zite.

Evernote on iPad (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I do other research for my writing work in a web browser, and that’s fairly even on all the platforms. I do find Safari on the iPad to be faster than browsers on the other platforms. Since I spend hours daily in the browser, over time that’s a significant advantage to me on the iPad.

Evernote is my main app for writing, and it’s available on every device I use no matter the platform. I do find the iPad version of Evernote to be better for my writing work as it's feature rich and tends to get updates before the other platforms.

I also like the single focus nature of iOS. Having a blank slate in front of me facilitates the creative process for writing, and that’s exactly what I get on the iPad. Distractions are removed due to the limitation of iOS, and in this case it’s a good thing.

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As for the inevitable argument that you need Windows to run full Microsoft Office, I say that’s not an issue for me. I need to work with Office documents regularly, but Office for iPad handles that with ease. It’s not full Office, but it’s the best version of Office for handling what I need, by far.

That may change soon with rumored versions of touch Office coming for Android and then Windows 8. 

My work is unique, but many of the tasks I regularly perform are likely done by many others. The iPad Air works so well that I often reach for it at my desk over other options.

Due to the good apps I use, a lengthy part of my work is turned into a streamlined process with the iPad Air. This is changing the way I work in the office, for the better.

Yes, I use the iPad Air with a keyboard, usually the ZAGGkeys Folio, but that’s no different than using a bulky laptop, or strapping a Type Cover to a Surface tablet. I still have the option to use the iPad without the keyboard, something I do all the time.

Using an iPad Air may not work for you, and that’s OK. I am only sharing what I do and why it works so well. Use whatever works best for your work and you’ll be happy. That’s the beauty of having so many choices. It’s worth noting that I do what I do even having all of those choices right in front of me in my office.

iPad Air
iPad Air, ZAGGkeys Folio (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

I can hear other complaints now, especially that this isn’t real work and that’s why the iPad works so well for me. I would counter that this is real work to me, and I suspect once Apple and IBM get lots of iPads in the enterprise quite a few will find that it works better than expected for them, too. You have to try it to like it, and I believe many will do just that.

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, iPad, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • What race?

    What race? The consistency and volume of these really make it look like an ad campaign. Cook is really struggling to make Apple look like something other than the "iPhone company".
    Buster Friendly
    • Like your struggling to make a case that

      they are on the downturn?
  • its better than I think... No its not.

    Here's why. My thinking it based on my experience with using an iPad with and without kybd, an Android tablet w&wo kybd, a Surface tablet w&wo keyboard, a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Lenovo X1, T420, W530. Various OSes, Various desktop virtualization solutions... etc. From years of experience I know how users react and interpret user experience even when what they say isn't what they mean and they believe a problem is something other than reality. I know that sales and marketing spiels are to be taken lightly and most opinions are just that while others are not.

    So its not better than I think, its exactly what I think.
    • you haven't tableted until you s-pen

      Jobs was wrong.
      A tablet needs a good stylus to elevate it from just another tablet.
      You won't understand it until you s-pen.
      Watch this video and it gives you some idea of the capabilities
  • Don't need an iPad

    To me an iPad is just a giant phone, without the phone.
    I still need a computer to get what I need done.
    Right now the Surface Pro and it's bretheren are the only option available to me were I to go tablet.
    • The author begs to differ

      and explains clearly how his workflow works (RSS feeds and EverNote) and why the iPad makes that work.

      That wouldn't work for me (I'm a developer, and only computers can serve folks like me right now)... but it does work for him. And evidently anyone doing similar work - he did note iPad tends to see EverNote upgrades first.
      • Hey Mac_PC_Fencesitter

        Why don't you just change your name to MAC_Fanboi_PC_Hater
        • Because

          A.) iPads aren't Macs
          B.) I don't hate PCs (I own 5. I quite like PCs, and make my living in part programming for them.)
          C.) It's a username, not a mission statement. That you need to read more into it than that is your issue, not mine.
          • Re: Because.... @Mac_PC_FenceSitter


          • I'm impressed

            You can count to 1000.
          • Good answer!

            Humble pie is now being served.
      • James likes cute gadgets

        His whole point hinges on saying he needs Zite because it's better than gReader or other alternatives.
        What Zite actually does for him is integrate the functionality of 2 app views into 1 screen. Mainly because iOS cannot splitcreen 2 apps to give you that power and flexibility.
        If he had something like a Note 10 or Note Pro 12, he would be able to splitscreen up to 4 apps as well as float as many app windows as he needs to do all his feedblogscrapbookonenotejugglefest.
        • Each person defines 'Real Work' differently. Some looser than others IMO.

          "I can hear other complaints now, especially that this isn’t real work and that’s why the iPad works so well for me. I would counter that this is real work to me."

          I'd like to see James run some REAL data mining tools (SQL Server, Oracle, or Toad for Oracle) on his IPad 'Air'.

          Data mining raw data by writing your own code, as opposed to skimming the internet using an APP someone else developed or Goggling the internet, for stories other people have written doesn't seem like one would break much of a sweat doing their "REAL" work.

          Be realistic of how little your needs may be, if your effort could be replaced by an internet skimming bot/RSS feed.

          It's not a complaint. it's a fact that your needs are very limited
      • Have to question your post...

        The OP never suggested his was a universal case, or that James was mistaken. He was sharing his personal use case (You can tell because of the qualifiers: "To me..." and "I still need a...").

        While I disagree with the poster that suggests you need to change your moniker, this particular post does seem a bit contrary for the sake of being contrary.

    You need better ergonomics James Kendrick. That desk says carpal tunnel all over it. The Mobile devices are good for...here it comes..."mobile work". When your at a desk you should be using a large monitor to eliminated eye strain, full size keyboard and mouse to reduce carpal tunnel, and an ergonomic chair.
    Sean Foley
    • Though the ergonomics may not work for you…

      we cannot discount that it works for him. Also, "…When your at…", should read "when you are at", or "when you're at".

    • Ergonomics

      Sean is absolutely right. I'm not a techie. I read these articles and posts to try and keep up with the tech world, so I rarely post. I'm a chiropractor, and now you're in my wheelhouse.
      I treat you guys every day. Not for eye strain, and not often for carpal tunnel syndrome (you'll see someone else for those), but for upper back, neck pain and headaches, and even lower back pain (from your bad posture...).
      And I see a world of even more pain coming, especially for mobile device users. Teenagers and commuters slumped over their mobile phones make me shudder, not just from the real world social isolation they're creating but from the obvious strain on their spines and shoulders.
      For any serious long term work (more than a few minutes) you need to separate the keyboard and monitor- the top of the monitor level with your eyes when sitting up straight (that means no curved upper back and head forward posture, James, I can see it in your picture) in an ergonomic chair, arms by your side with your elbows bent 90 degrees or a little less (that's why underdesk keyboard trays were invented, and don't forget the wrist rest in front of the keyboard) and your feet on the floor. And no one position is good for long- get up and move! Unbend, stretch, walk, look around and move your eyes in different directions and shift your focus near and far and l (eyes have muscles, too).
      There. Glad I got that said. Time to get up and move...
  • Another "post PC" article

    Every author that writes these article about the iPad replacing their desktop/laptop seems to be trying to convince themselves more than that anybody else.

    The iPad sucks for most work; the screen is too small and by the time you add a keyboard, you might just as well use a laptop.

    I'm sorry... its just an iToy.
    • I don't sense JK needs to do a lot of convincing of himself

      the article makes it fairly evident he's long bought in.
      • Mac_Pc_Fensitter

        "the article makes it fairly evident he's long bought in."

        Yep, he's drinking the same koolaid as younare.