2013 in perspective: Doing real work with the iPad

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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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