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The Business Ipad

You can pretty nearly run your business on your tablet

First things first: there are a few things that you just really can't coax an iPad into doing. If you, for example, need to make screencasts, you're in trouble. If you need to do complex video editing, that's difficult partly because the apps aren't sophisticated enough and partly because editing video is one of the few tasks most of us do on computers that really benefits from lots of processing power.

But for lots of other things, the iPad has fully arrived. This is in part because both iPad apps and cloud services are more versatile these days (and the Safari browser can handle more complex Web sites). And it's in part because there are quite serviceable Bluetooth keyboards out there that pretty well make your tablet into a notebook computer when you need it to be.

So here's a typical business day of activities, as performed on an iPad:

1. Writing an agreement letter. Notice that I'm doing this before checking my email. This is what is known as being extremely virtuous. I have a number of choices for basic Word Processing, including Apple's own Pages (the prettiest of the bunch and the one that will most make you feel like you're using an actual word processor), Documents to Go (which works directly on Microsoft Office documents but which dispenses with a whole bunch of niceties like margins on the side of your document as displayed to you), and Elements (which is beautiful and unobtrusive, but which allows you nothing but plain text, not even bold). It's also possible to do this sort of thing in Google Docs, but you have to be connected to the Internet for that to work. For most of what I do, I don't need anything fancy and I love the dead calm of the Elements interface, so that's what I tend to do. Oh, and by the way, Elements has spellchecking where DtG doesn't (which is ludicrous).

2. Checking mail. The built in Apple mail app handles multiple mailboxes and is generally absolutely fine. It won't let you do some of the nice things, like automated sorting, that Outlook will let you do in the native Windows format.

3. Surfing. The Safari browser seems just fine. Stuff that works in a browser on your desktop works in the Safari browser on your iPad.

4. Writing a blog entry. Here's a perfect example of the Safari browser handling a complex interface: my Drupal interface overlays an administrative control page over the top of the page that mere mortals see whenever I do things like write new entries. Occasionally the scrolling gets a little weird in the administrative overlay, but basically it just works.

5. Editing a picture. There are numerous options for various tasks, but not a bad one at all is the free Web-based image editor found at

6. Building a spreadsheet. The truth is, if you need complex spreadsheets, then the iPad probably isn't going to cut it. The Numbers app from Apple isn't bad, but if you're used to Microsoft Excel, you'll find yourself missing all sorts of small things that you wouldn't have said mattered but that kind of do once they're gone. If you need something simple--a list with costs that are totaled at the bottom of the column, then Numbers will do fine. Documents to Go also offers Excel support, but it's missing even more important details.

7. Making notes during a meeting. There's an app called Noteworthy that really shines for this, because you can record the meeting while typing your notes and then later, when playing it back, you can tap on words within your notes and the recording will jump to the moment in the meeting when you typed those notes. This can be an enormous time saver.

So, those are just some basics, but the iPad handles all of them quite competently, with the exception of the spreadsheet stuff.

Robert Richardson is the principle nomad here at the Mode.
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