How business travelers can dump their laptops for an iPad

iPad, photo courtesy of Apple Corporation

Late last year, before a multi-week journey, I joined the myriad of travelers who use tablets on the road when I purchased an iPad. My books and magazines added too much weight to my carry-ons and checked luggage.

On long flights, lengthy train and bus rides, and in hotels, a tablet’s entertainment value is outstanding. Loaded with books, movies, episodic TV and a few good games a tablet can make the hours go by enjoyably.

The iPad’s a wonderful touring tool. On my recent trip to Argentina and Antarctica I loaded apps for Buenos Aires, and purchased and downloaded Lonely Planet’s Antarctica guide book.

Now that a tablet is becoming almost de rigueur for travelers, a question asked by many business travelers is, “I’m taking my iPad on my trips. Can I leave my laptop at home?”

In my opinion, the answer is a definite maybe.

A big problem for any tablet’s business use is their screen-based keyboard. In my opinion, they are too cumbersome, “touchless,” and lack navigation keys to do more than a few emails and a quick edit or two of short documents each day.

I recommend the Logitech Tablet Keyboard For iPad, rather than a keyboard case. Keyboard cases tend to be bulky. This keyboard’s cover doubles as an iPad stand, which is also useful for other purposes. This keyboard permits the use of keyboard shortcuts for such commands as copy, cut and paste, plus selecting text, unlike many other keyboards used with the iPad.

I also recommend using a stylus. I like Pogo styluses by Ten1Design. I’ve found my touch of the iPad screen is far more precise when I use a stylus, which really helps when creating and editing documents and spreadsheets.

“In-transit” power can be a major issue for prolonged use of any tablet. The longer the screen remains on, the more quickly the battery discharges. On some trains and planes you can “plug in,” but often power’s not available. I use the portable Mophie juice pack powerstation duo to charge my iPad when an outlet’s unavailable. With its 6000 mAh battery, it can add a 40 percent charge to the iPad’s 11,560 mAh battery.

While the addition of a keyboard, stylus and powerpack diminishes the size and weight advantage of an iPad over a laptop, if a traveler is already bringing a tablet, the addition of those items is still smaller and lighter than a laptop.

For business use, the iPad will need apps to permit travelers to achieve similar productivity to a laptop.

Email is crucial for business travelers to stay in touch with clients, colleagues, and staff. The iPad’s native email app is generally satisfactory, but to increase its effectiveness and to ensure critical messages aren’t missed, important client’s email addresses can be tagged “VIP.” The free app Groups! will eliminate the inability of the iPad email app to create groups. Its groups work for text messaging, too.

There is no Microsoft Office for the iPad. After a review of many “Office” products for the iPad, I recommend Apple’s recently released Pages, Numbers and Keynote, which can save documents in Microsoft Office file formats. You could use Microsoft Office’s cloud version, Office 365, but the Internet must be available to use it at all, and it’s often irritatingly sluggish.

A high quality PDF app is a necessity to view and store PDF documents on the iPad from various sources. In my opinion, PDF Reader Pro is the best PDF app available.

You’ll need a way to sign documents. I use DocuSign, with a free personal account.

Document scanning capability is a must for a business traveler. If for no other purpose, it makes receipt documentation easy. I recommend Genius Scan+, which enables you to scan documents straight to PDF files.

Storage capacity is a problem on the iPad and other tablets, especially if you’ve stored videos and other entertainment in it. Fortunately, the “cloud” can come to your rescue; however, there are many times the “cloud” may not be available, which is one of the downsides to using the iPad, instead of a laptop, for business.

There are three quality “cloud” storage products available for the iPad: Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox. My primary cloud storage is Google Drive.

Sometimes you might need to directly connect to your office or home computer when traveling. While in Antarctica, I hadn’t anticipated needing a particular file. Using the GoToMyPC app on my iPad, I connected to my office computer and transferred the file to my Google Drive. (GoToMyPC is a paid service of Citrix.)

With the hardware and software additions to the iPad I’ve discussed above, many travelers can successfully use the iPad for business, but that’s not true for everyone.

For some business travelers, the iPad and other tablets don’t have nearly enough internal storage, and “cloud storage” will not suffice. Others have devices which can connect to their laptops, but not the iPad and other tablets. Finally, for some professionals in fields like photography and architecture, the apps available on the iPad lack significant capability they use daily in their laptop computer software.