Sure, the iPad is a great device for viewing videos and photos, playing games and surfing the Web, but it can also be an excellent addition to the workplace. Working on the iPad extends beyond connecting to a remote desktop, sending e-mails or drafting text documents. These are five of our favorite ways to use the iPad for business.
1. Filling out forms
The iPad isn't just a great document reader, it's also a great tool for filling out, signing, and managing documents.
There are a lot of great apps for displaying and annotating PDF, DOC, and text files. I'm a big fan of GoodReader for iPad, which is $4.99 but acts as not just a document viewer (for virtually any document type), but also as a fully-formed file manager.
For users who want an app for viewing, annotating, and e-mailing PDF files, PDF Reader Pro is fast and gets the job done for just $0.99.
One of my personal favorite uses of the iPad is in-lieu of a fax machine or scanner. I frequently receive forms via e-mail with a request to send them back signed. The problem is, I often don't have access to a fax machine or a reliable printer. Fortunately, thanks to apps like EasySign, I can e-mail a document, image or PDF to a special address and then affix my signature (either using one I have saved or signing the document fresh). EasySign even lets users designate their own text fields for adding dates, name and address information, checkboxes and more. The resulting PDF can then be e-mailed back to yourself or to someone else.
EasySign is free for the first three documents, and bundles of documents (in packs of 3, 5, 10 and 20) can be purchased within the app.
2. Accepting and processing payments
Startups like Square are turning the mobile payments space on its head, thanks to free or inexpensive card readers that turn an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad into a full credit card terminal.
3. Presentations, graphs, and charts
As a presentation tool, the iPad is tops. We're sure it's no coincidence that Steve Jobs decided to show off Keynote for iPad when he introduced the device to the world back in January of 2010.
With the VGA or HDMI iPad adapter, users can run a presentation directly to a TV, projector, or secondary monitor. Or, the device can be used as a one-on-one tool for guiding a client through a slide deck.
Keynote is still my favorite presentation app, and at $9.99, it's a great value. Still, it isn't the only player in town. Apps like Quickoffice Pro HD bring full office suite compatibility to the device, which makes it a great tool for making edits to a presentation before it goes live.
Web-based presentation tools like Prezi and SlideRocket can be viewed with app viewers or in the browser using HTML5.
If you just need an app that can create a great visualization, especially for charts and graphs, the excellent OmniGraphSketcher is worth a look. At $14.99, the app is extremely powerful for both free-form graphs and charts, as well as easily turning tabulated data into a great looking chart.
4. Web conferencing
Now that the iPad 2 is out and it has front and rear facing cameras, users can connect with others using FaceTime and other video chat apps.
5. Taking inventory and collecting data
For Social Media Day last month, one of my colleagues had a great idea of using an iPad as a digital guest book so that visitors could sign-in with their name and social media credentials to leave a fun greeting. Sure, we could have searched the App Store for a specific app to fit our needs, but I had a different idea.
Using Bento for iPad, I was able to create a new guest book project in under five minutes. Bento, which can be used as a standalone app or in conjunction with Bento for Mac, is a great tool for the small business or home user who wants an easy way to create manageable databases and projects. At $4.99, it's a great way to organize and collect data.
For users who need a more robust solution, apps like FileMaker Go for iPad bring in more support, more formats, and the ability to connect to various servers to make updates, download databases and share changes.
Other Web-based database systems like Salesforce.com and SugarCRM also have iPad apps that let users create customized views and access information from a mobile device. That means that users can create an inventory form to scan in barcodes, add an item description and note conditions from the storeroom and that data can be accessed instantly by someone in the home office.
Do you use an iPad for other business uses? Let us know in the comments.