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How to turn your tablet into a mobile workstation

Here the kit -- software and hardware -- that allows one ZDNet writer to work effectively while he's away from his desk.
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1 of 10 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

The tablet

I do a lot of work on my iPad, but in order to work effectively I've had to assemble the right collection of apps and hardware to make it possible. Here I'm going to present you with the kit -- software and hardware -- that allows me to work effectively while I'm away from my desk.

I present this listing not as a blueprint for you to follow to the letter, but as a guide to inspire you to check out kit that might help you do the same.

I'm an iPad user -- I've just upgraded to an iPad 4 -- most of what I'm going to write applies to any tablet. Not all the apps I list will be available on every platform, and some of the hardware will be iPad specific, but if you search about you are likely to find alternatives.

Image source: Apple.

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Apps

There are just too many apps to mention, but I'm going to list a few that I use regularly, along with why I find them useful.

  • A good browser, such as Google Chrome;
  • Evernote: which is an excellent replacement to keeping things in my head!
  • iA Writer: for distraction-free writing;
  • Documents To Go: to allow me to open those pesky Microsoft Office documents people send me;
  • LogMeIn: to allow me to access my PCs and Macs remotely;
  • Skype, to keep in touch with others and collaborate;
  • Parallels Mobile and VMware View Client: to allow me to access virtual machines remotely;
  • Pocket Informant: to store all my appointments, tasks, and to-do lists;
  • Photoshop Express: to edit images;
  • pwSafe password manager: because VylN74^VVc91% is hard to remember!
  • Starbucks: not just for the coffee injection but also because it's easy way to find Wi-Fi in most populated places.

There are many more, some of which I've covered here. Bottom line is though, if you want to be effective when on the move, you're going to have to invest in the right apps.

Image source: VMware/Apple.

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A good case for the tablet

A good case is vital. Not only does it protect the tablet from bumps and scrapes, a good case can also double as a stand for your tablet.

I'm a big fan of the Snugg case with integrated flip stand. At $30, it's cheap, but it's also got some interesting features, such as an integrated hand strap, and it supports the iPad's "sleep" and "wake" modes.

Image source: Snugg.

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Smartphone

In my case, this is my iPhone.

You might be wondering what I'm doing with an iPhone while I'm using my iPad. The answer is simple: it comes in handy as a second screen. Rather than flip between apps on my iPad, I find it handy to week web pages or documents open on my iPhone while I work on my iPad.

It's a simple little trick that I find boosts my productivity tremendously.

Image source: Apple.

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Keyboard

I do a lot of work using the on-screen keyboard on iOS, but nothing beats the speed, accuracy, and feel of a real keyboard.

If you can find a keyboard-and-case combo that you like, then you might be able to combine the two, saving weight and improving ease of transportation. For me though, I prefer the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. At $69 these keyboards are not cheap, but you do get an excellent piece of kit of the money.

Image source: Apple.

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Battery pack

One of the major drawbacks of relying on portable devices like the iPhone or iPad is that you're totally reliant on the built-in battery. Once that hits empty, you're done for the day. Fortunately, there are portable battery packs that allow you to keep your iPhone and iPad topped up throughout the day so they're always ready for action.

One such portable battery pack is the New Trent iGeek. This offers 9,900 mAh of power and it compatible with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and the iPad 3, iPad 4 and iPad mini (as well as any other device that can be charged from a USB port, so long as you have the appropriate cable). It's fitted with two USB ports so you can charge two devices simultaneously.

It will set you back $65.95, but it will keep all your gadgets charged up and ready for use.

Image source: New Trent.

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Bluetooth headset

The Jawbone Era is the best, clearest, most comfortable, and easiest to use Bluetooth headset I've used -- and it only costs $99.

Call clarity is taken care of by the military-grade NoiseAssassin 3.0 noise-cancellation and wind reduction technology. The built-in 10mm wideband speaker allows you to listen privately to music, podcasts, YouTube videos, sports, phone calls, Skype calls, and more, all in full-spectrum, high-definition quality sound.

To top all that off, the Jawbone Era supports a whole range of downloadable apps and voices. 

Image source: Jawbone.

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Weather-proofing

One of the perils of talking electronics outside of the safety and comfort of the home or office is that there's a chance that it will get wet. This is where my trusty Aquapac comes in. I can throw my iPad in there -- along with the iPhone if it's really wet -- and it's safe. You can also safely use your iPad in the pool, on a boat, or even in the bath!

$60 is a small price to pay to keep a tablet safe.

Image source: Aquapac.

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In-car charging

If you spend a lot of time in your car -- like I do -- you need a way to keep your portable devices charged up while you're on the move. While chargers for smartphones such as the iPhone are plentiful, good chargers that output the 2.1A needed by tablets such as the iPad are harder to find.

Currently I'm using a dual USB-port Just Mobile Highway Pro that keeps my iPhone and iPad charged up. It's a little pricey at $40, but it's one of the most reliable charger I've come across so far.

Image source: Just Highway.

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A good old-fashioned pen

Sometimes I still need an old-school pen!

I like my Fisher Space Pen ($25), or, if I want something a little chunkier, I take my Tuffwriter ($95). Both take pressurized Space Pen refills, which give the pen superb reliability and a very long life.

Image source: Tuffwriter.

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