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iPad at Work: The essential guide for business users

Apple's iPad is an impressive piece of technology. Here's what you need to know to get the most out of it as a business tool.

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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

iPad for Business Users

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August of 2010. It has been updated with current information.

Apple's iPad has become a huge hit with consumers as a content consumption platform, but for business users, it's been something of a hit or miss.

Apple hasn't provided a lot of guidance to the corporate or business end-user as how to correctly configure it for essential day-to-day use, and how to get the most out of the device in terms of sharing data with PCs and external Web services.

As an iPad owner from the day the first units were delivered to customers, and now an iPad Air user, I've spent a lot of time determining how to get the most out of its functionality.

I've assembled this guide, which will serve as a constantly updated work in progress, for those of you who may be new to the iPad and iOS platform and are looking for interoperability solutions.

Many of the tips, techniques and applications which I have listed for the iPad in this article also apply to iPhone. At the time of this writing the iPad system software was version 9.2, so this is written for that iOS version in mind.

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2 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Email, Contacts and Calendaring Integration

The iPad includes support for a number of different types of email accounts and calendars.

Most corporate users will want to use Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) connectivity to synchronize Mail, Calendar and Contacts on the iPad. At the time of this writing, the iPad supports multiple Exchange accounts with version 9.2 of iOS.

When using Exchange (ActiveSync) accounts on the iPad, your corporate systems administrator will provide you with the pertinent login information which includes your email address, the hostname of the Exchange server, the Domain name, as well as your username and password.

Once configured, your iPad will be automatically set up to synchronize your email as well as contacts from your corporate directory services and your personal address book and also permit synchronization between your corporate calendar in Outlook and the iPad's Calendar application.

Are you an Outlook.com or Hotmail user? You can also use the iPad's native Exchange ActiveSync in the Mail, Contacts and Calendars setup.

Companies which use Lotus Notes email and calendaring can download and install Lotus Notes Travelerwhich is supported with version 8.0.1 and above of IBM Lotus Domino server.

Alternatively, if your organization has enabled it on its servers, both Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes support web-based messaging and calendaring via Outlook Web Accessand IBM Lotus iNotes, and run in the iPad's Mobile Safari browser.

The iPad also supports standard IMAP4 and POP3 email accounts through its "Other" account setup wizard option and also supports LDAP-based directory services if your organization uses them for the Contacts sync.

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3 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Microsoft Outlook for iOS

For those of you who use Office 365 email and calendaring for personal or organizational Exchange accounts, you have a number of different options for getting access to your email and calendars. The first of course is Apple's native Mail and Calendar applications in iOS, and you configure it just like any other Exchange account.

However, you also have the option of using Microsoft's Outlook for iOS, which is a native application you can install from the App Store. It provides a comprehensive email and calendaring system which includes file view capability for Office 365 applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

One thing I particularly like about Outlook for iOS is that it allows you to use your corporate Office 365 email and calendars with MDM policies set by your systems administrator, including a numerical pin lock and remote wipe on the device itself.

Outlook for iOS also works with Outlook.com, Yahoo!, iCloud and generic IMAP email accounts as well, if you are looking for an all-in-one email and calendaring solution.

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4 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Email, Contacts and Calendaring Integration (GMail/Google)

Google Apps for Business users have the ability to use Exchange ActiveSync emulation if you want to use iOS's native Mail and Calendar. Unfortunately personal GMail users do not have this option.

All GMail users (including those with personal accounts) also have the option of using the native iOS client which can be downloaded from the App Store. The native client is useful for when you only want to retain a limited amount of email messages on the built-in iPad mail client and may want to search through your complete GMail archive using the service's native color coded labels.

Google has also recently introduced Inbox which is a streamlined version of the GMail client and is intended for inbox cleanup and optimization.

However, the native GMail client does not have an integrated Google Calendar, so you will have to use the iPad's integrated calendar instead.

Still, some professionals that utilize Google's calendaring service might find the iPad's built-in Calendar program lacking. I personally like to use CalenGoo, a 3rd-party application you can purchase on the App Store. This application syncs directly with Google Calendar over the Internet and has support for multiple calendars.

Another popular iOS application for managing Google Calendar entries is Readdle Calendar.

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Email, Contacts and Calendaring Integration (Yahoo!)

If you want to use the native iPad Mail application with your Yahoo! account, you will need to go through the regular guided email setup for Mail, Contacts and Calendars.

You can also just sync your contacts and your calendar using these instructions.

Yahoo Mail and Calendar users also have the option of using the Yahoo Mobile Web site which runs in the iPad's Safari browser, as well as the native Yahoo Mail application for iOS, shown above.

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6 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Adding Frequently Used Websites and Bookmark Synchronization

One of the nicest features of the iPad is the ability to bookmark frequently used websites directly to the Home Screen. FaceBook, LinkedIn and the mobile versions of Windows Live, Yahoo and the various Google sites are all useful to have as instant access shortcuts.

As shown in the screen shot above, click on the "Share" button within Safari and choose "Add to Home Screen".

For those users which use the native Bookmark, History and Tabs sync capabilities of the Google Chrome browser on the Windows, Mac or Linux desktop and want to sync them to your iPad, you can download Google Chrome for iOS.

Keep in mind that Chrome for iOS really just re-packages Apple's Safari browser engine, and does not render like Chrome does natively on a PC or a Mac, nor does it support native Chrome apps.

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7 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Productivity (Apple)

Apple's own Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps as part of the iWork suite are also good productivity applications and they are also free when you buy a new iOS device. They are also free to install on older iOS devices provided you have purchased a new device (i.e., you have an older iPhone but you just bought a new iPad.)

The iWork applications are limited to using with Apple's own iCloud service for storage, so you can't use it with Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3 or any other cloud service for that matter.

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8 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Microsoft Office for iPad

Regular iPad users can download Office for iPadfor free and it permits editing of documents in OneDrive and DropBox, but editing of documents in OneDrive for Business requires an Office 365 subscription. Office for iPad includes native iOS versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

iPad Pro users must purchase a Office 365 license in order to use Office for iPad with any cloud service.

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9 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Web Productivity (Microsoft & 3rd-party)

The web-based Office Online applications can be accessed via the iPad's Safari browser by anyone with a free Microsoft account. That's not too shabby.

For direct access to productivity documents in cloud storage from the iPad, you'll want to check out the OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox and Box apps.

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10 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Data Exchange and Document Viewing (GoodReader)

One of the most difficult adjustments business users may find when getting accustomed to iOS devices such as the iPad is the closed nature of the device and how to get their documents and data transferred to it.

Unlike a laptop computer, you just can't connect a USB stick or a storage card into it and copy files en masse to a directory on the device that any number of applications can directly access.

On the iPad, each application maintains its own distinct database and is for the most part isolated from one another via a security layer known as "sandboxing". Additionally, the iPad has no native facility for networking with corporate or cloud-based file servers.

Instead, there are a number of programs which can allow you to add this capability in.

The most important of which is $5 application and should be considered a mandatory download, GoodReader.

GoodReader will be the best $5 you've ever invested in your iPad. With this seemingly magical application, you can view PDF and a myriad of other data formats including Microsoft Office, HTML, image files as well as audio and video formats.

Additionally, you can connect to several popular cloud-based storage services including, Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), DropBox(which has its own viewer app but is inferior to GoodReader) WebDAV servers and directly access files stored on Google Docs and within GMail itself.

As if this wasn't impressive enough, you can also directly transfer files to GoodReader wirelessly using a simple Web-based GUI from your PC or Mac, or via WebDAV-based drag and drop network share.

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Data Exchange and Document Viewing (Google Docs/Sheets/Slides)

Google previously had a multi-platform, cloud agnostic and MS Office compatible productivity suite for iOS and Android, QuickOffice, which after purchasing it in June of 2012 it shut down in 2014.

It has since released iOS native versions of Google Apps for Business, as the Google Docs. Google Sheets and Google Slides apps. If you use Google Apps for Business you'll want these to be able to edit your files on an iPad.

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12 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Document Printing on iPad

Even if you have a printer in your home or in your office, that does not mean you are able to actually print to it from your iOS device. In fact, you need a printer that is compatible with AirPrint, Apple's own wireless printing protocol.

AirPrint has been part of iOS since version 4.2, but many people are not aware it even exists or even how to use it.

Be sure to read our Missing Manual for AirPrint for more details on how it works.

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13 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Note-taking and Document Management

In addition to GoodReader, another must-download for the iPad is Marvin, which is technically an E-Book reader but is capable of viewing EPUB files which can be generated by using the Open Source Calibre program for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Calibre can read and convert many formats to EPUB which can be uploaded to Marvin.

Additionally, Calibre can act as an OPDS content server to host an entire EPUB library on your PC or Mac or even a cloud storage account, which can be remotely connected to by Marvin. This means you can have tens of thousands of documents stored and indexed on your PC (or your web server/cloud storage service) that you don't need to upload directly to your iPad,which could potentially cause backup problems.

For note taking and thought organization, by far the most popular application is Evernote, which is a cross-platform cloud-based service that works on Windows, Macintosh, Android and iOS. Additionally, the service allows you to "clip" web pages URLs to saved records on your iPad from all the popular desktop browsers.

Additionally, if you are a Microsoft OneNote user, the native iOS application is excellent.

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14 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Unified Communication and Collaboration

Chances are you probably use any number of remote conferencing and presentation sharing services. The good news is that the majority of them are supported on the iPad. Shown above isMicrosoft Skype for Business for iPad, which supports multi-party VOIP, video conferencing as well as remote presentation viewing.

Both Cisco's Webex and GoToMeeting.comalso have native iPad applications.

Cisco's WebEx, like Microsoft's Skype for Business multi-party video conferencing, but like any of these other solutions you'll need to have plenty of bandwidth going across your Wi-Fi connection to pull it off.

GoToMeeting has support for whiteboarding and presenting directly from the iPad.

IBM now has a native SmartCloud Meetings Client (formerly LotusLive Meetings) for iPad as well.

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15 of 15 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Remote Apps

Not all line of business applications will run on the iPad, so for that purpose, you've got remote desktop access clients so you can run Windows applications on your device.

These include Microsoft's native RDS client for iOS, Citrix Receiverand Azure RemoteApp,

Another interesting product I've been looking at recently is hopTo (pictured above), which uses a combination of a cloud service and RDS to present a highly tablet-optimized application experience for LOB apps originally designed for desktop systems.

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