When you work in IT, you learn an important lesson early on. Nobody wants to hear about your day. Down the pub, or out for a meal with friends, I'll often be asked about the latest gadget (usually the iphone) and I'm allowed to speak for a maximum of 30 seconds before I risk eye glaze - but I must never talk about my job. One mention of 'MSI based unattended installation' or 'Patch Management' is enough to have most people attempting to drown themselves in their own soup! I like it. I know it's not for everyone. So my plan to use my working day to explain how useful an iPad can be sounds like a good way to ensure nobody reads this site. Ever! Well, let me get one thing straight, the ipad is great at work as a productivity tool and that's the bit I'm going to explain. It organises me, it keeps me in touch in a way that is often more convenient than a laptop or a phone. This is something that can be useful to everyone, be it managing their working day, or managing the administration of family, or social lives. The ipad can be a great toy, but it can also be a great tool.
Before I got my ipad, the first thing I did when I got to the office was power up my PC and then wander off to get a coffee whilst it finished booting up. As my last article described (and I can't overemphasize how handy this is), the ipad has no boot up - so within seconds, I've glanced at my emails and am ready to react to any urgent ones before the Windows logo has even appeared my on desktop. The email experience is really nice on the ipad. When you hold it vertically, each email is displayed in full screen so its easy to read and any attachments are easily opened. Tapping on the 'Inbox' button brings up a floating list of emails waiting to be read and you can tap your way down. Turning the ipad sideways displays the inbox on the left and the contents on the right.
If you want to use your ipad at work, you'll need to check with your IT guys as there may be policy restrictions around using your own device to access the company network. If you use 'Outlook Web Mail' to access a version of Outlook via the web, then it is likely that the ipad will work just fine. If you want to use ipad to check your personal emails, then setting up is really easy - particularly if you use AOL, Google or Yahoo Mail as all it needs is your username and password. Other accounts will work just fine, but you'll need a bit more information from your provider.
Of course just because I don't have to wait for my PC to finish booting up, doesn't mean I don't still go for that coffee. The ipad may be fast and responsive, but at 08:30 I'm no good to anyone until I have that first one in my hand!
One thing technology has been really good at for me, is reminding me I'm supposed to be somewhere. My short term memory is poor by any standard and it's thanks to calendar reminders that people get birthday cards and that I turn up to meetings in the correct place. The only problem is I still have to remember to put the reminder in the calendar in the first place!
The ipad's calendar is not what I would call innovative, but in use that's actually turned out to be a good thing. As it's now with me wherever I go at work, at the merest hint of a meeting, or a place I need to be, or a phonecall I need to make later, straight into the calendar it goes. The calendar has four different views (Day, Week, Month and a list of your events) and it's presented in an attractive book form where you can quickly turn the virtual pages to scan through a days items, tapping on those that you want to see in full detail. The calendar can be made to synchronise both with your work calendar, or popular online ones like Google Calendar (which of course could be made accessible to your whole family).
My working day is generally a mix of periods at my desk doing problem solving or day to day administration, going to meetings or sitting in a Development Room working on a project.
I enjoy problem solving, but IT being what it is and my memory being what it is, if I face the same problem in six months time, it's likely I'll be starting from scratch! This is where I've come to rely on 'Evernote'. I'm going to talk more about Evernote in a future article, as it's an internet based service that's available across several devices, not just exclusive to the ipad - however it's on the ipad for me it really shines.
Evernote is like your digital post-it note collection, but so much better. Each time I come up with a solution, or learn an important little tit-bit of information, I create a new note in Evernote and type in the information. I then give the note a title and a 'tag' (Tags group things together, so for example anything relating to printing I can tag 'Printing' and it will group all those together when I come to look for it later). Once stored, I can easily search it back next time I face the same event and need the information to hand. I've been using Evernote for about 3 months now and have over 100 notes. It's so good we're now using it at home to keep everything relating to our wedding (next year!) for quick recovery. It couldn't be easier to use and is a real lifesaver! Have a look at www.evernote.com if you're interested. I'm going to write a full review and maybe some tips and how tos about this one over the coming weeks.
One advantage the ipad has over other devices with software like Evernote is when you come to read back the information later. The ipad really is a good document reader. At work for me this is case studies from prospective suppliers, PDF manuals for software or policy documents which I have to make sure my work conforms to. It used to be most convenient to print these out, especially when there was a lot to read. Whilst I find surfing the internet to be a nice enough experience on a traditional computer, "long-form" reading (like reading a book, or a 100 page document) has never been quite so comfortable. However on iPad it is fine and this has taken me a big step closer toward going paperless. I recommend anyone who buys an ipad should buy GoodReader. This is an excellent dedicated reading app and it has numerous ways to get your documents onto the ipad quickly and easily and store them in a document library for reading at your convenience. In this way, the ipad is a handy second screen when I'm working at my computer, as I can have a document open on that whilst working full screen on the computer, rather than having to switch between windows all the time, or print everything. Have a look at www.goodiware.com/goodreader.html if you're interested and again, I'll write a full review of this app down the line with some hints and tips that I've picked up. It's worth noting that even without additional apps, just emailing yourself a document and opening it on the ipad works pretty well.
The ipad is also helping me to 'go paperless' in meetings too. At the moment, I guess because the ipad is a new thing, the initial conversation with clients always turns to the ipad. It tends to go one of two ways. The most common is enthusiasm and basically I don't get to use it for the first 10 minutes because they want to play. The alternative is that look, you know the one, the 'you've clearly got more money than sense' one. I've immediately been judged and certainly my IT skills have been ruled out!
The ipad includes a 'Notes' function that presents you with a nice looking notepaper graphic and you simply type your meeting notes in and add another one whenever you need (all previous ones are titled and date stamped for future retrieval). This is fine in most situations, but due to the sheer amount of note-taking I do, I decided to trawl the App Store for another. At the moment, I'm testing 'AudioNote'. AudioNote sets itself apart by allowing you to record the audio of the meeting, whilst taking your notes along the way. Notes can either be entered with the ipad keyboard, or you can sketch with your finger. One nice touch is, after the meeting when you're reviewing the notes, you can tap on any word in your notes and the audio will jump to the time of the meeting where you entered that word. It's pretty handy. There's also a free 'lite' version which you can try for free before considering a purchase. I'll be reviewing this in the future but check out www.luminantsoftware.com/iphone/audionote.html for more information.
Throughout my day, be it travelling to a client, moving around campus or working at my desk the ipad has something to offer. Again that instant on and fantastic battery life mean my laptop often stays at its desk and my phone in my pocket - but also it's the way that I can use it. It's like a notepad that connects me to everything I need! In meetings, one thing I particularly like is that it lies flat on the table. Have you ever noticed that a good salesman will not place his laptop between you and him in a pitch? It's because the raised screen forms a barrier between you and them! Not good for rapport. Secondly, I tried notetaking in meetings with a laptop before, sometimes it's fine, but mostly it's just too loud. Nobody likes the constant CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! With the ipad I can tap away in near silence.
Of course with the app store, there are many other ways that you can increase your productivity using the ipad, or at least match some of your laptop functions and enjoy the opportunity to use them in a different form. I also use Skype from time to time. Skype allows me to make free phone calls over the internet with other Skype users. The ipad's speaker is excellent and the Mic seems to be really sensitive. I also like IM+ to have instant message conversations with friends and colleagues - however both of these are slightly hamstrung at the moment because the ipad can only run one application at a time. As soon as I close Skype to check an email for example, Skype is disconnected. Likewise with IM+, go to my calendar and the conversations are lost. Come Autumn's update from Apple, when these apps will be able to run in the background whilst I do other things, they will be used a lot more and my laptop perhaps a little less.
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Featured picture used under 'Creative Commons' license. Thanks to niclindh.