Business-like, isn't he?



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    iPad apps now getting down to business

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business in Vancouver July 27 - August 2, 2010 issue #1083

    High Tech Office column; reposted on Low End Mac

    In issue 1076 (June 8-14), this column proclaimed “Alan gets an iPad; neat but not ready for business.”

    Apple’s touchscreen tablet is not going to function as your only compute. Too many things – getting documents on or off, connecting to printers, scanners, projectors or more – are at best limited compared with even a low-end laptop or netbook.

    But don’t despair. You can still justify an iPad as a business expense. Here are several software add-ons – apps – that let you use an iPad for more than surfing the web or watching downloaded video.

    Typically, you’ll get documents in or out of these programs using iTunes on your computer. With the iPad connected, open iTunes, click on the iPad icon on the left then on the apps tab in the main window. Scroll down to a list of “file sharing” apps, clicking on each to upload, download and delete documents for that app.

    Apple offers a trio of productivity apps, iPad versions of the programs in its (Mac-only) iWork suite: Pages word processor, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote presentation program ($10 each). All let you create, view and edit their respective types of documents and import files in the corresponding Microsoft Office format.

    You can export or email saved work as pdfs or in iWork formats. Pages also supports Microsoft doc file exports, but Keynote can’t export presentations in Microsoft’s popular ppt format.

    For work with Microsoft Office documents, a better choice might be Dataviz’s Documents to Go ($15 for the premium edition.) The company has versions for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and more.

    While the program started out as a way to view documents on a PDA or smartphone, it’s grown in abilities and can now be used to edit documents. The iPad version makes good use of that device’s large screen.

    Instead of iTunes’ file sharing feature, users need to download and install a free Mac or Windows utility to transfer documents. Optionally, it lets you set folders on your computer to automatically sync with the iPad. Alternatively, DocsToGo supports multiple online file sharing repositories, including DropBox, Google Docs and Apple’s Mobile Me. Like Apple’s apps, you can also email documents directly from the program, and you can set it to automatically open email attachments received in the iPad’s Mail app.

    Also nice: if you already have a copy on an iPhone (or iPod Touch), the more capable iPad version is free. (And it includes a word-count feature – a must-have for things like this column.)

    While an update to Apple’s free iBooks now works with pdfs, I find GoodReader ($0.99 – also available for iPhone) a better tool for viewing those and a variety of other file types – pdfs, text files, Microsoft Office documents, photos and sound files.

    Like DocsToGo, it can import files stored online at DropBox, Google Docs, et al, and can read email attachments. It can also read pdfs online or stored on local servers (via a Wi-Fi connection).

    When viewing a long document, it can be set to move directly to, say, page 128. (As a musician, I find that handy to jump around fat e-books of sheet music). Maybe Apple’s iBooks can do that too, but I haven’t found how!

    Mocha VNC Lite is free and lets me connect to a Mac (with Apple’s screen sharing enabled) or Windows or Linux PC (with any of a large number of programs making use of the free VNC protocol installed); doing so gives me my computer screen on the iPad and lets me pop up a keyboard to control the remote computer.

    Finger movements on the iPad screen translate to the mouse on the other computer awkwardly, but with practise, it’s possible to run programs remotely that lack iPad equivalents. Favicon

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. Follow azisman on Twitter to receive regular notifications of these columns.  E-mail Alan
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