Mobile magic: Pulling a gadget out of the bag

I am a multi-platform, multi-gadget kind of guy, so any given day, there's no telling what gadget may come out of the gear bag. Here's what I use and why it works.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

I use the excuse of my profession for having gadgets of every size, color, and platform. That's true, but I have to admit that I am obsessed with these little gadgets just a little.

Four horsemen
iPad, Chromebook Pixel, MacBook Pro, and HP Envy x2 (left to right).
Image: James Kendrick

I love to keep up with all the major mobile platforms, and that drives me to have many devices, making it difficult to choose one each day. My major daily workhorses represent the Windows 8, OS X, iOS, and Chrome OS platforms. That's quite a range of OSes, which means a selection of gadgets driving them.

Main systems

Each day I need one system to use for all my work stuff. Currently, the lot I have to choose from include the 13-inch MacBook Pro (Retina display), Chromebook Pixel, HP Envy x2, and the iPad (with keyboard). I grab one each day to throw into the gear bag; each device handles my work needs without problems.

What makes this all work are two things: Multi-platform apps and the cloud.

Most days, I slide my iPad mini into a thin pocket on the bag as it serves double duty. I use it for reading ebooks and other leisure tasks when I'm not working and sitting at a table. Most importantly, the iPad mini serves as a 4G LTE hotspot for the two systems that only have wi-fi, the MacBook Pro and the HP Envy x2. The iPad mini is a great hotspot that can provide 20+ hours of hotspot duty.

If I take the Chromebook Pixel, I still carry the iPad mini for non-work functions, even though the Pixel has LTE. I need a tablet for leisure activities. and the iPad mini adds so little to the bag. If I take the big iPad with a keyboard case, I leave the mini at home. My iPad has LTE and can be also be used for ebook reading and other leisure activities.

Software and syncing

The primary reason it doesn't matter which system I grab is the Chrome browser. I use it on all of these gadgets, and it handles all of my work needs nicely. I am on the web all day researching articles and writing them, and Chrome is my champion for a lot of that work. Chrome is more than a browser, it's an ecosystem that keeps all my bookmarks and browsing history synced on all the systems.

I keep my important files stored in the cloud with Google Drive, which is accessible from all of the devices I use. While a lot of my work is using Chrome, I save some files to Google Drive so I can reach out and grab them from any platform, device, and app. I also use it to get photos I take for articles, using the Galaxy Note 2 camera. Uploading photos using Google Drive is extremely fast over wi-fi and LTE, and has become my favorite way to share those photos all around the mobile arsenal I use.

For note-taking and offline writing of articles, I use Evernote. It has its own cloud system, so I can access this information from everything, too. I use native apps for Evernote for everything but Windows 8, as the Metro app is pretty bad. That's not a problem, as I have installed the Windows desktop app on the HP Envy x2, which works well. I am writing this article using it, matter of fact.

Tip: Evernote auto-saves work very often, so no matter what happens, I never lose my work.

The cloud and platform independence

You can probably tell that what makes this all work are two things: multi-platform apps and the cloud. The key apps for me are Chrome and Evernote, which work on all of the platforms I use.

Even if Evernote didn't have an app on all of the platforms, it has a stellar web presence that can easily stand in. I can access it from any browser, and especially Chrome, which is on every device.

Three of the four systems I use represent the main platforms for typical work systems: Windows 8, OS X, and Chrome OS. It's no surprise that they handle my work needs well.

The fourth system, the iPad, also handles my needs just fine. I have all of the apps I use on the big systems, access to my Google Drive files, and all day battery life. I am not compromised in any way using the iPad with a good keyboard.

It's worth noting that if I am heading out with no plans to get work done, I will usually bring the iPad mini in the Zagg Mini 9 keyboard case. While the iPad mini display is not adequate for extended work sessions, it is sufficient to take advantage of unplanned opportunities to write.

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