Is an iPad the best candidate for my stepdad's work computer?
August 30, 2010 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Is an iPad the best candidate for my stepdad's work computer?

Hello Everybody,

My stepfather needs some information about whether the iPad can fulfill his needs for a work computer. Since I haven't used on except for in the stores, I came to you all for your sagacious input!

Basically, he meets with people who have made insurance claims or are in need of a new insurance policy and takes digital photos of their house and fills out these printed out forms and has them sign it. He then either hand delivers or sends via snail mail the signed papers and photos to his main or local office.

He now wants to stream line his work by using an iPad to do this electronically.

From what I can tell he will need:

An iPad. (I don't know which one would be best since he would most likely not getting the 3G model with the extra expense of 3G wireless service…he is kind of frugal and most likely will get the least expensive one possible.) He’ll send a day worth of files when he gets home to his home WiFi network.

A stylus. These are so the clients can sign and date the pdf file. He’ll need several of them, since he losses pen all of the time.

A template pdf file. It would have the blank space on the forms enabled fill in. And to have the clients be able to sign the document with a stylus. What application would he have to use to make the existing files become 'fill-in-able' either with the stylus or typing it in? He mentioned he would prefer it if the pdf file wouldn't be editable once he is done with it.

Is the iPad a good candidate? If not, then what would be? And if it is, then what applications would be needed to get this workflow done effectively? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


Ps. Keep in mind he is not interested in using the iPad for anything else but work. He isn't into technological gadgets or anything, he just has a laptop at home that he rarely uses.

Oh, and he went to the Apple store to speak to the employees there, but he told me he didn't get very far with them. Apparently he received lots of conflicting opinions from them.
posted by MiggySawdust to Technology (16 answers total)
Response by poster: ...and I forgot to mention he would like to attach the photos and the pdf file together and send them using regular email app on the iPad. And he wants to save the photos and pdf files locally in independent folders on the iPad incase he needs to view/edit/amend the file.

Thanks again.
posted by MiggySawdust at 7:50 PM on August 30, 2010

I think that iAnnotate should do quite nicely. I know that it's $9.99, but it's worth every penny in my opinion.
posted by antgly at 7:51 PM on August 30, 2010

I hate to be a naysayer here, because I love my iPad, but I don't think this is going to be a very good solution for your stepdad.

The main issue I see him running into frequently is that there is no file system on the iPad. That means no "folders." To transfer a file onto the iPad you have to have an app ready and waiting to recieve it. For example you MUST have Pages or a similar document editor/viewer on the iPad to be able to transfer a document to the iPad, and most apps can only handle one or two types of files. The files themselves are stored WITHIN the app, and unless they are specifically designed with a "send to OTHERAPP" type button there's no way to move files from one app to another, apart from copy and paste.
Also, the iPad makes it fairly difficult to bring photos/other elements from several apps together into a single app. With no multitasking and very little in the way of inter-app document or file sharing, getting any real work done on an iPad is really pretty frustrating. He's going to be using a lot of apps that are a SMALL PART of what he wants and sort of cobbling together a solution from there. It's doable but not for the feint of heart or easily frustrated.
Another big issue is that there is no capability to print from the iPad. There are some apps that get around this but once again, they are third party apps and it's going to be an inconsistent and cobbled together experience. Create a document in one app, copy and paste photos from another app, find a way to get that document into a third app to do the signature, then maybe pull that document into a fourth app to print or email it. And each step you're going to be making another copy of the document, because with no unified file system you can't MOVE a file from one app to another, you can only copy.

Now if he were wanting it for web browsing, games, video, ebooks, or any of the other things the iPad excels at I'd be all about him getting one. I've loved mine, but it's definitely a toy, not a tool.
posted by raygan at 8:20 PM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

Disclaimer: I work at an Apple store.
posted by raygan at 8:22 PM on August 30, 2010

What your dad should really look at would be a MacBook, a Pogo stylus, a copy of Pages or Word for Mac, and this software.
posted by raygan at 8:24 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Echoing raygun. I love my iPad your stepdad would not, unfortunately.
posted by supercres at 8:30 PM on August 30, 2010

Heyoo run-on sentences. I blame my iPad.

(Only halfway tongue-in-cheek...)
posted by supercres at 8:32 PM on August 30, 2010

Actually, I would point him at the Windows world and a tablet computer. Specifically a convertible laptop where the screen can spin around and lay flat, becoming a touchscreen tablet. I worked on a project where a customer company had a fleet of trucks that went around to jobsites and did various tests and that's the solution that was used for gathering signatures and signing off the various paperwork electronically.

Something like this, or for the more budget minded, a netbook version.

As for software, Adobe Acrobat allows you to make forms with signature fields, so he could make his templates there, fill in the data, have the customer sign, and then save off a password locked (locked from change) PDF.
posted by barc0001 at 8:34 PM on August 30, 2010

The iPad is a toy; it's like a television. It's like buying and watching a television. Or a clock radio. It's not for work. Do not wreck your stepfather's business by getting him messed up with an iPad. Jeez.
posted by gum at 9:12 PM on August 30, 2010

An iPad just won't work as a primary computer.
posted by k8t at 9:12 PM on August 30, 2010

The main issue I see him running into frequently is that there is no file system on the iPad. That means no "folders."

Well that depends since some apps like GoodReader and Air Sharing Pro seem to have file system-like functionality in them.
Also it could be a good idea to wait for iPad OS 4.0 to be released since Apple might add features and conveniences that could make it better for your stepdad.
posted by antgly at 9:50 PM on August 30, 2010

An ipad is not a replacement for a computer. Or anything, really. Dont get me wrong, its a fun toy, but.... no.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:52 AM on August 31, 2010

I think it's doable if you can figure out the workflow. Which programs to use for each step, whether they can send files to each other, etc. The problem is that you need an iPad to figure that out, and it's quite possible it will just be impossible to do what you want. For instance, the PDF editor may not have a way to lock a PDF so it can't be edited. So you need to switch to another PDF editor, or give up on that requirement.
posted by smackfu at 5:34 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think this will work -- and I'm speaking as a 3G iPad owner. I think an iPad is much more than a toy, but his workflow needs sound very specific, and adapting them to the iPad way of doing things would be a challenge to say the least. Square peg, round hole, bad fit.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:22 AM on August 31, 2010

Typing from my iPad. Unless the new OS is going to be stunning the present set up is not good for work. It is great for certain things but it is not ready to be a work machine. I speak as a person with multiple machines for both OSX and Windows. I have been experimenting with my iPad as a certain level laptop replacement and it is not completely there. It is, however, fabulous for media consumption which was what it was designed for. It is good for doing some light email and other light work such as, reviewing spreadsheets with modest changes BUT not serious crunching.
posted by jadepearl at 6:30 AM on August 31, 2010

I am very happy with my iPad, but the workflow issue smackfu alludes to is likely to be a significant impediment. I think it's possible to figure out some way to get it to work through a combination of apps, but there are probably better, easier solutions. If the objective is to streamline the process for your step-dad, then the current version of iPad software/hardware is likely to make things less streamlined.

At present, it really is best suited for non-file based purposes. Surfing the web, reading email, watching movies, playing games, etc. It can do some word processing and file management in a pinch but that's not its strength.
posted by cptspalding at 7:09 AM on August 31, 2010

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