Help me make my iPad work for work
September 20, 2010 4:26 PM   Subscribe

So, iPad, huh? Help me make it work (for me).

I managed to convince my boss to let me buy an iPad, so now I need to show (mostly to myself) that it will do what I want it to do.

My main goal in buying one was to be able to use it to carry around documents to read at meetings and while travelling and to be able to make changes to the documents, in addition to using it for 'net/e-mail. I can do both of those with myiPhone of course, but it's not really useful for anything other than a quick message or short-term 'net stuff. But, seeing as work paid for it, mostly I want to make my work-related 'stuff' more accessible when I'm on the road and where a laptop isn't the best option (it's been a long time since a laptop was useable in a plane unless you fly business class and the battery life is always a killer anyway).

We use MS Office at work, so I bought QuickOffice Connect after reading some reviews and it seems like a good start (although it doesn't work with PowerPoint docs, but that's not such a biggie). I'm still getting to grips with how to get documents stored on the device, but I think that's mainly a matter of getting away from the Windows Explorer way of Doing Things.

Most of the documents I need to work with come via e-mail, but there's lots of stuff that I'd like to keep as reference and I think I'm going to get sick of having to e-mail things to myself to 'save' them. Is there a better way? I thought about the camera adaptor, but wasn't sure if that would allow me to transfer things like .pdf files from a USB drive.

I did buy the keyboard dock, which makes it a delight to use when actually typing (although touch-typing on the screen keyboard is not as bad as I feared) and an Elano case, which means I can sit it at an angle on a desk or table for working without the keyboard. Something I didn't realise before unpacking the keyboard was that it's not flat (has a little thingie sticking up at the back to support the iPad), so it's somewhat cumbersome to carry in a backpack, although I could carry it in my luggage for use in hotel rooms etc. But then, it also works with my iPhone as well, which I didn't expect.

Something that I would dearly love to do, without having any expectation that it's possible, is to connect to work via Terminal Services so I can access our (Windows-based) database and electronic records management systems. I know that's a reach, but a person can dream, right?

Any and all suggestions considered gratefully.
posted by dg to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: On the terminal services angle, there's plenty in the app store. This one is actually free, and reviews seem good. Try searching for 'remote desktop' rather than 'terminal services' and you'll get more choice
posted by derbs at 4:55 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

(I don't have an iPad, but I plan go get one, and have done some reading about it, etc blah blah).

For File Storage, I think Dropbox would serve you well.
posted by antiquark at 5:01 PM on September 20, 2010

Best answer: My academic friends use iannotate to read and mark up PDF files.

Dropbox is essential.
posted by mecran01 at 8:08 PM on September 20, 2010

It takes about two weeks of daily use to get the hang of things. Stay on top of the app store and grab the Maclife app. It has plenty of good ideas surrounding the devices itself. My fav has been neu.notes (free) as it allows me to write pretty damn good with my finger. I bought a stylus and it really helps out. As a test, I have removed all pens from my desk to see how dependent I can be on the iPad exclusively- so far so good.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2010

Also, you might get some additional tips here.
posted by mecran01 at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2010

Dropbox for file sanity, Goodreader for easy document integration with Dropbox, and I keep all reference stuff in Evernote, since it synchs with all computers, web, etc.
posted by furtive at 8:55 PM on September 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everyone!

Does anyone have any experience with using the camera adaptor to do things other than connect a camera? I know you can connect peripherals, but I'm more interested in the possibility of transferring files via a USB drive.
posted by dg at 10:16 PM on September 20, 2010

I found the camera adapter full of FAIL. For SD cards, almost any non-image data on the card and suddenly the ipad would start refusing to open any content from it. My experience with trying USB flash drives was equally frustrating. Your best bets are dropbox or a computer w/ iTunes installed. The key to using multiple iTunes is to set all your iTunes libraries to use the same ID.
posted by nomisxid at 8:27 AM on September 21, 2010

Best answer: I've found Noterize more flexible and powerful (and in fact also cheaper) than iannotate.

Yes, Dropbox is essential and free and there's an excellent (also free) iPad-specific client.

A note on Dropbox: this isn't well-documented, but in the cases where you need to share a file with another person, Dropbox are fine with your appending ?dl to the public link to force it into being a direct download (for example, if you're sharing a PDF or MP3 or any file that the other person's browser might otherwise just display inline and not let them download).
posted by kalapierson at 5:00 PM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

And if nomisxid didn't make this explicit enough: if you are willing/able to sync with a machine that has iTunes installed, an iPad works perfectly well, natively, as a USB drive. Many third-party apps are allowed to transfer files directly (for use in their own local filesystems), and globally you can use an app like the excellent and free USB Drive.
posted by kalapierson at 5:03 PM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Dropbox is, indeed, pretty awesome and is the solution to managing files for me, I think - once I got my head around not doing things the way I always have, it works perfectly.

I was very uncomfortable with the idea of purchasing iannotate, given the on-going issues identified in the developer's forum and lots of bad feedback, but noterize looks the goods and is cheap enough not to matter if it doesn't work out anyway. I've installed it and had a play - it also looks awesome, although I've yet to test the ability to retain notes on .pdf files outside noterize itself.

Our IT people are 'unofficially' looking at the remote access issue - iPads are not on the list of hardware that is formally supported, but I got onto one of the high-level techs who is interested in the challenge of getting this to work (our techs are often cool that way, if you get the right one). The biggest hurdle is likely to be accessing systems from outside the network, as it's hard to ensure a trusted connection in that environment and IT are (understandably) risk averse in that area.
posted by dg at 7:26 PM on September 21, 2010

To me it looks like the way Noterize retains edits reliably is that it actually flattens all layers -- original PDF and your edits -- and saves the result as a high-quality image file.

You can tell if you zoom way into the resulting file; you see slight jpg-like jaggies rather than PDF-like curves.
posted by kalapierson at 10:09 PM on September 21, 2010

Response by poster: Well, a couple of months on and the iPad has been a dream. Unfortunately, the IT people have decided that Dropbox puts the network at risk for some bizarre reason, so I've lost the ability to sync files that way (because I can't sync through the proxy on my laptop and can't get 'net access if I bypass the proxy). It was a fantastic solution while it lasted, though.

Mostly, I've been using Noterize and QuickOffice Connect and they cover almost all of my requirements. I've found that the in-built Notes app is as good as anything for just keeping notes at meetings. One issue I've found with QuickOffice is that it doesn't always cope well with tables in Word documents - it has no capacity to create them and, if you start with a document that has tables, it doesn't like the table row going beyond the bottom of the page and the result is text that is still there, but you can't see it unless you send the document out and open it on a PC.

I still haven't been able to get access to the corporate network externally, but didn't really expect to anyway.

Thanks everyone for the help!
posted by dg at 11:57 PM on November 18, 2010

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