How I Use My iPad for Business

“The iPad looks like an iPhone made by Playskool.” That’s how one comedian characterized the iPad when Steve Jobs first unveiled the revolutionary device. And his sentiment held a lot of merit. At first glance, the iPad does look lot like the iPhone OS on a giant device that cannot even make a telephone call. What’s so revolutionary about that?

However, over time I warmed to the idea and even convinced myself that this device could and would help my manage my business better. I needed to be more productive and the iPad was just the tool to help me do that. So I bought one about a month ago with very high expectations.

Why I Needed An iPad

For years, I carried a nice moleskine made out of leather. I carried it everywhere. In meetings, I’d make notes. While working, I’d record my hours and accomplishments. At other times, I’d jot down ideas for blog postings or record items that I need to do. In Getting Things Done terms, the moleskine was my ubiquitous collection device. I even had a legend for flagging to-do’s, waiting-for’s, etc.

However, the moleskine was only where I captured incoming information. My daily work was driven by my electronic system. I use Omnifocus to management my projects and to-do’s; I use my calendar to management my schedule; I use EverNote to keep reference materials that I may need later.

So there was an inherent duplication of effort in my system. I’d initially record things in my moleskine and then transfer the information to my electronic system. I’m busy and transferring the information was a chore. So, I’d postpone doing it, neglecting it for a week or two at a time. It wasn’t uncommon for a deadline that I’d captured in my moleskine to have expired before I ever got it into my electronic system where it could be integrated into my workflow.

In short, I was dropping balls occasionally and I didn’t like that.

My Electronic Moleskine

I need a way to easily capture information, obligations, to-do’s, etc, no matter where I am. I want the device to be lightweight, instant on, not very intrusive, and fully integrated into my other electronic systems. The iPad promised all of that plus more. So, I bought one and it’s worked out very well for the most part.

I carry it wherever I carried my moleskin. In meetings, I can easily capture meeting notes directly into EverNote, add to-do items directly into OmniFocus, and add appointments directly into my calendar. I could do all this with my laptop but I’ve found two distinct drawbacks to opening my laptop in a meeting. First, the temptation to mentally check out of the meeting when it drags on and on is too much. I’ve written about that already. Secondly the laptop screen places a subtle barrier between you and the person on the other side of the table. It’s intrusive at times.

I always have the iPad have with me so I can record my hours, jot notes, and calendar appointments as they come up.

The Apps I Use Most

Since my primary objective for getting an iPad was to eliminate redundancy, every piece of productivity/business software that I consider for it must allow me to conveniently sync among my various devices – my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro. I’ve already mentioned several of the applications I use, but it may be worthwhile to put them all in one place.

  • Omnifocus. I use OmniFocus for my GTD implementation. There’s a client for my MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone and they all sync over the air using WebDAV. The only real drawback to OmniFocus is views each client as a separate stand-alone product. So buying all three can get expensive.
  • EverNote. I converted to EverNote a few months ago in preparation for buying the iPad, and I’m glad I did. EverNote can capture pretty much anything and index it to make it completely searchable for you later. I use EverNote as my repository for reference materials I may need later.
  • Mail. There’s a built-in mail client for the iPad. I have it configured for IMAP so messages that I read, delete, forward, etc, on my iPad appear that way in my other clients as well.
  • Web. Safari is the browser provided on the iPad. I don’t know if there are others available. The only issue I’ve discovered with Safari is that it doesn’t support Flash.
  • Calendar.  The iPad also comes with a Calendar application. I have mine automatically sync to my Google calendar over the air.
  • Contacts. I use Google to manage my contacts and the built-in Contacts application on the iPad syncs directly to it.
  • WinAdmin. At times I need to remote desktop into a client’s server to take care of an issue. I use WinAdmin for this. It uses the normal Remote Desktop Protocol and works well. There are other apps for this, too.
  • TwitBird Pro. The most popular Twitter application for the iPad appears to be TwitBird Pro. That’s what I use. It’s pretty good, I guess. It has FaceBook integration as well so your tweets can become status updates on FaceBook if you choose.
  • iBooks. I’ve been pleased with the iBooks app on the iPad. The graphics are nice and it’s easy to read.
  • Kindle Reader. I’ve also downloaded the Kindle Reader so I have access to a much larger variety of books from Amazon.
  • KeyNote. Presentations can be made from the iPad using KeyNote. It’s similar in many respects to PowerPoint. Actually I was quite surprised by the $10 app. It’s very, very, good. You can buy a dongle and drive a standard VGA device like a projector with your iPad.

The really nice part about these applications is that none of them require me to physically sync my iPad or iPhone to my MacBook Pro. All of it is done over the air. If I add a contact on the iPhone, it automatically shows up in the other two locations. If I delete an appointment on the iPad, it’s automatically removed from the iPhone and MacBook Pro calendars. All without syncing. That’s a big, big plus for me. I want all of my systems to be up to date all of the time.

No System Is Perfect

There are, of course some things I wish would change about iPad.

  • The Keyboard. The keyboard is, simply put, not a joy. When in landscape mode, it fits my hands well enough but there a reduced set of keys available. The biggest issue is the home key for my right pinky finger. On a traditional, full sized keyboard the home key is the semi-colon; on the iPad, it’s the return key. It doesn’t sound like much on an issue, but it happens more than you’d think. Additionally the reduced set of keys can be an annoyance when remoting into a client server using WinAdmin. I don’t have the control key available to me to use shortcuts.
  • Inconsistent Keyboards. One nice surprise for me was that iPhone apps work on the iPad. That’s really convenient at times. However the iPhone has a different keyboard layout than they iPad. They are both QWERTY, but the backspace key is in the lower right hand corner for the iPhone and in the upper right hand corner for the iPad. So the keyboard layout on my iPad changes based on whether the app is a native iPad app or one designed for the iPhone. That’s bad.
  • Single-tasking. I know studies show that individuals are less effect when they multi-task. They are even less effect when they try to multi-task on a system cannot multi-task. That’s the case with the iPad. It cannot multi-task. Supposedly there’s an update coming that will add that capability.

Parting Thoughts

Overall, the iPad has done exactly what I’d hoped it would do. It’s helped me to streamline the various inputs into my trusted GTD system. I can now enter information directly into the various applications and have it all available to me over the air to my other devices. That’s what I was hoping for.

It’s not perfect though. The keyboard leave something to be desired, however I found that with a little practice I can indeed keep up while taking notes. Also, since there is no multi-tasking, switching between applications (eg from EverNote to my calendar and back) does take longer than necessary. Hopefully that’ll be addressed in a future update of the iOS.


  • How do you use your iPad?
  • What applications have you found to be useful?

14 Responses to How I Use My iPad for Business

  1. Steve Jones says:

    How do you sync the Google calendar over the air, and do you do this with the iPhone? Haven’t seen a good way to do it, and have been using the Outlook integration for my iPhone. However that’s not great.

    • Lea Ann says:

      The only thing Joe talked about that I even know how to do is sync my gmail over the air. I have gmail on our desk top, lap top, and on my iPhone and it all syncs over the air. My husband and I can both sync to each other’s calendars. It just does it. Might be magic. Excellent article Joe. If I were not retired I’d buy an iPad but the apps on iPhone are powerful enough for personsal/church/social organization. Have just started using Remember the Milk app for to do lists since I am still learning the greater Shelby County area. By entering the addresses of things on my to do list I can sort by proximity when I am running errands. Some of my to do items are “Check out yarn shop in Vestavia Hills”, important stuff like that! Ahhhhh. Retirement.

    • Joe says:

      Hey Steve – Syncing with Google actually works really well. Here’s a link that may help.

  2. Buck Woody says:

    I don’t have one of those – haven’t given in to the hype.

    But you asked a question, and so now I feel compelled to answer. But I don’t hav one, so I really can’t. *Thanks for screwing up my evening with an existential crisis, Joe.*

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  6. MERLE says:

    Lea Ann – you go girl. I thought I was too old for this new technology, you have inspired me no end. Unlike you I want to retire but can’t – hate what’s on offer in the job market – so setting up my own business.

    I want an ipad – I want to know how to use it for my business and I want it now!

    Joe – great blurb – your question was “how do I use my ipad” Help me to get started with this itechno stuff and I’ll answer your question.

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  9. samialee says:

    Great articles and business applications!
    I also use my iPad at work for reading documents (good reader ) and taking notes (evernote, beesy)
    I recomend you Beesy which allows to save time from your notes in meetings!

  10. Evelyn says:

    This page certainly has all the information I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

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