Are you thinking about snapping up a new iPad? The post-PC lifestyle is especially intriguing for business owners who travel on a regular basis and want to travel lightly. It's easy to forget that the tablet, for all of its shiny tech and workable native apps, is still a blank slate for business. Luckily, that can be solved with a few quick tips – and the right apps. Here's a round-up of what you need to maximize your iPad's capabilities and ensure that you're getting the most out of your new workhorse.
How have you optimized your iPad? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Invest in the cloud
Everyone in the tech industry has been buzzing about the cloud for years – and for a good reason. Whether it's through the Apple-sanctioned iCloud or third-party option like Dropbox, the cloud is easily a businessperson's best friend. At a moderate cost – $9.99 a month for 50GB on Dropbox – the memory and capacity of your iPad increases dramatically. Not to mention the benefit of the ability to maintain real-time sync with other computers and devices. So, if you're cut off from a project at the last-minute, and you're rushing out of your work office to catch a plane or meet with a client, you can just drop your files into the cloud and pick up where you left off once you get to your destination.
If you're looking to forgo your laptop in place of a tablet altogether, you simply can't do it without a functional and helpful cloud. Even at its highest price point, the iPad alone only comes with as much standard memory as a regular MacBook Air. There's no better way to keep your iPad running smoothly than to store all of your files online rather than within the tablet itself.
2. Make sure you can go offline
A lot of what makes an iPad slick and sexy is its seamless browsing design. But, the iPad is not the iPhone: Unless you're willing to scale up a ways to get unlimited 4G access (not to mention the cost of the contract), you're likely to only have access to the Internet when you're Wi-Fi enabled. That can be a huge time-suck for those who are looking for ease and accessibility when they're onboard a flight or simply without a hotspot.
Enter Instapaper. This app serves as the ultimate bookmark: Just click the "Read Later" bookmarklet on your browser – or email a link to your Instapaper account – to add item to your Instapaper account so that you can view it any time on Instapaper, even while you're offline. The best part is that you can bookmark nearly anything, including long emails and online PDFs, so you'll never have to kick yourself for being unable to respond to an important business document because you're indisposed.
3. Mix and match the functions of an office suite
There are two truths about simple office suite software on the iPad: They can be some of the most expensive apps you'll buy for your tablet, and the inexpensive alternatives can feel, well, lacking. That's why it's best to analyze exactly what you use your office suite for the most, and then pick the app that does those things best.
For example, a simple writing app like CleanWriter would be ideal for someone who relies heavily on docs for simple writing duties like blogs and emails. However, those who are looking for bells and whistles, such as photo placement, should spend the extra cash for Pages. Same thing for spreadsheet apps: If you're looking at spreadsheets rather than creating or editing them full-time, you may be better off sticking with an annotation app like GoodReader instead of spending double for Numbers. The nice thing about the iPad is that it lets you pick and choose – don't be afraid to tailor your app set to suit your needs rather than loading up on a bunch of "just in case" apps.
4. Splurge on an industry-specific app
The best time to spend money is when you're getting top-shelf products to help make your business run more smoothly. There are multiple industry-specific applications that can be invaluable to your iPad suite, and it's best to pick the absolute best option out there – even if it means digging a little deeper into your pockets.
For example, independent freelancers would do well spending the extra money on an invoicing app like Invoice2Go that would help keep track of time and clients. If you deal largely in contracts or reports, then a PDF manager like PDF Reader Pro will be a must on your list.
Everyone is different, and every work style is different. So optimization, in the end, comes down to personalization. The more you think about what you need to run your business, the more useful your tablet will be to you.