Life without a computer

Welcome to the new look for Small But Kinda Mighty! It’s spring and my blogoversary is coming up soon so I figured it was time for a fresh new look. I hope you like it.

You may recall my mentioning in a previous post that my laptop was work-provided, so when I lost my job I was relying on a borrowed netbook. Well, the netbook had to be returned so now I’m iPad only. When initially contemplating this prospect I was feeling a lot like Janet Leigh looked in that Psycho shower scene: terrified and stabby. However, I have survived so far and I thought some of you would be interested in tips regarding an iPad-only computing life, of only because it might result in you getting more out of your iPad.

I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a keyboard case. I love the look of the Adonit Writer Plus but they sold out within seconds of launching and haven’t restocked since. I have read excellent reviews of the Zaggfolio and would love to buy one…if it was in-stock anywhere in Toronto. Some day soon I hope my case will come, because it’s impossible to type effectively on-screen. So, for now, my tips are app-only:

File Sharing

Dropbox (iTunes link) is a free app which, if you don’t already have, you should download.

It enables you to easily share photos, documents and videos. iCloud also does that of course but only for devices and computers that are linked by the same iTunes account. Dropbox allows me to access files from anywhere and share files with anyone. I like that I can share files by emailing a link to the document in Dropbox – no more having to add attachments to emails.

I haven’t done an awful lot of work with Google docs on the iPad but for the couple of documents that I do frequently access, I grabbed iDocs HD Pro (iTunes link) a few weeks ago when it was free. There is a lite version I believe, if you want to try that. I’m not sure how robust an app it is, but for the light use I need it for, it’s worked perfectly fine.

I have also downloaded SugarSync, another free app along the same lines as Dropbox, but I haven’t put it through its paces yet.

Multi-tasking

One of the downsides of the iPad is not being able to work with multiple apps open at the same time. There are two things I’ve found useful in combating this. One is the four-finger swipe: if you swipe your screen upward with four fingers, then you can scroll through and select an app that you have recently been working on. This feature makes jumping between apps significantly less time-consuming. The other multi-tasking aid has been an app called sling Note (iTunes link).

The app cost me $2.99 but I’ve used it enough that it’s paid for itself and then some. I made up a document to show you an example of the kinds of things you can do with this app. On the left-hand side of the screen is a fully functional web browser, but you can also import documents or photos as well. On the right-hand side is a workbook. You can capture sections of whatever is on the left-hand side and drag them over to your workbook where you can annotate your selections and make notes.

In addition, on the left side you can swipe down to access a calculator and on the right side you can swipe down to access a second web browser. I’ve found these features useful when doing online banking and paying bills. You can also save single pages or entire workbooks as PDF files in your Dropbox enabling easy file sharing.

For those times when I just want to grab a post-it note and jot something down, Sticky Notes for iPad (iTunes link) has been a handy little app and it’s still showing as free for me. Nothing fancy here, just the ability to write quick notes in bright colours and slap them on a virtual board. I’ve used it often.

Documents

I did a lot of research into the best app to get in terms of preparing and editing documents and spreadsheets on the iPad. One option of course were the Apple products, Pages and Numbers, but $20 for both seemed a pretty steep price and the functionality with Microsoft products just didn’t sound reliable enough for my purposes.

The first alternative I considered was OnLive which basically gives you a Microsoft desktop on your iPad and utilizes cloud storage. Unfortunately, the free app that you need in order to use this service isn’t available in the Canadian iTunes store. I did download CloudOn (iTunes link) which is free and enables you to work in Word, Excel and PowerPoint while storing the documents in Dropbox. However, I have ended up primarily using Office2 HD (iTunes link). I had this app, Documents 2 Go and QuickOffice Pro on my short list, so when I saw a temporary price drop to $5.99 for Office2 HD, I decided to give it a go. I wouldn’t want to write a Master’s thesis using it but so far I’ve been able to do what I wanted with very few problems.

Browser

Safari is not a great web browser. In a fit of madness I decided to splurge and try Skyfire which, for $5, promised me the ability to enjoy websites that have Flash content. It didn’t work.

One purchase I haven’t regretted though is the 99 cents I spent on Atomic (iTunes link). It provides full-screen, tabbed browsing with nice functionality and the ability to fool websites into thinking you’re using IE or Safari so that you see the full website rather than the mobile version. Plus… it’s called Atomic!!

It’s the default browser on my iPad.

Blogging

I had heard about Blogsy (iTunes link) from RacersMommy so I put it on my wish list because I had already tried the WordPress iOS app and knew it was awful.

I can fiddle with my blog using the Atomic browser (I updated the blog with the new theme from the iPad, slow work but do-able) but it’s not easy to actually write a blog from wordpress.com using Atomic and it’s completely impossible to do from Safari. I read some very good reviews of Blogsy and decided to take the plunge and shell out the $4.99 to buy it. It’s been money incredibly well spent. Blogsy supports many different blogging platforms including Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad and more and in terms of actual blogging, I will continue to blog from Blogsy, rather than use WordPress (even if I ever do get a computer). The app itself is easy to use, formatting and uploading pictures is a breeze and the How-to Guides within the app are both comprehensive and user friendly. Highly recommended!

So there you have it, the apps that have been the most use to me and that could be useful to you too if you want to use your iPad when mobile, instead of dragging a laptop around. Please do feel free to share in comments any recommendations you have for other apps you find useful. I’m also thinking of doing a second post going through some leisure and lifestyle apps that I’ve enjoyed using, so let me know if you think that would interest you.

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6 Comments on “Life without a computer”

  1. Anne Yates April 28, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    I love this review!….well, I need a word bigger than LOVE! Absolutely the best iPad productivity app review EVER.

    • OMum22 April 28, 2012 at 10:51 am #

      Thank you Anne! I’m so glad you found this useful. I’ve just starting playing with some other apps that look promising so I think there will be a follow up post at some point.

  2. Jean Hendrickson April 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Unbelievable review of iPad apps that increase your productivity. Currently use many of the apps but I had not heard of iDocs HD Pro. It looks good and I will be adding it to my iPad sometime this weekend. Thank you for pointing this out to me. Totally agree with you regarding Safari. I have tried out more web browsers that I care to admit. Currently I am using Rover but will take a serious looks at Atomic.

    • OMum22 April 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      Thank you Jean! Would love to hear what you think of iDocs. As I said, I haven’t given it a serious workout yet but it’s performed fine for me so far. I hope you like Atomic. It’s not flashy but it’s reliable, easy to use and its the closest thing to a desktop browser that I’ve tried.

  3. Jean Hendrickson April 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Forgot to mention you might want to look at Dual Browser. I have only had it for about a week but it does allow you to run two web pages at the same time. Right now I would have to say it it worth the free price tag.

    • OMum22 April 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

      Jean, funny you should mention it – I downloaded it when I saw it went free but haven’t played with it yet!

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