Having had the iPad for well over a month, and as we are into the second day where Apple’s new tablet computer is available internationally, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the productivity and getting-things-done type applications that I’ve been using to keep my life in order.
Everything is after the jump.
One of the trade-offs Apple made in designing the iPad was to do away with the traditional file management system that we’ve become familiar with when thinking about computers, and create a much more simplified way that each application manages its own files. As such there’s way to just throw files onto the iPad for later review. Yes you can email things to yourself and open it via email, but that’s an inelegant solution and a pain in the ass.
Enter the Dropbox application. Dropboxis an online storage and file syncing service that works with pretty much every computing platform out there. Running on your Mac, PC or Linux machine you can drop files into your “dropbox”, have them stored in the cloud and then access them from a wide variety of mobile devices or any other Mac, PC or Linux box. 2GB of cloud storage is free, though there are paid upgrades to 50GB or 100GB, and so is the application. Thus if you’ve got a PDF you want to read on the go, throw it into your desktop’s dropbox, and you can access it via the iPad’s Dropbox application.
The Dropbox app does need access to the internet to pull the documents up, so on my Wi-Fi only iPad I can just bring things up when connected to a network. However once brought up you can “star” important documents that you will need for off-line viewing and they will be saved in the apps memory.
Addressing the same basic problem as the Dropbox app, GoodReader could in fact be considered Dropbox Plus. Essentially a document reader app, GoodReader allows users to access files from a wide host of cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox, iDisk, Google Docs, box.net, POP3 or IMAP mail accounts and basically anything that’s a WebDAV Server as well as locally hosted files on a Wi-Fi network. Files can be downloaded to the iPad for off-line reading, so you can take what documents you want with you when you’re out of network range.
GoodReader allows users to perform a wide variety of actions on a document once it’s been downloaded to the iPad, including opening it with another installed application (allowing, for example, the editing a Google Doc with Pages), copying it or emailing it onto someone else. While I’ve used Dropbox for a few weeks now GoodReader is something I’ve recently started using, on the advice of Merlin Mann making it his pick on a recent Macbreak Weekly.
Even the amount that I’ve used it it’s clear that it’s a deep application and quite useful. It’s well worth the 99 cent cost of the app.
I started using Evernote in the early days when it first debuted on the iPhone. For those who haven’t been using it as their online information storage unit for the past few years, I’ll explain. Evernote is essentially an online database where you can throw pretty much every bit of information you want to at it, and it’ll store it in an easily seachable database. It’s remarkably flexible and very cool to boot.
Here’s an example of how I use Evernote. I hate it when people give me business cards. What is this 1978? I didn’t like getting business cards back then either, but mostly because as a newborn I’d just stick them in my mouth and they tasted awful. These days it’s 2010 and what am I going to do with a business card? What happens is it’ll stay in my coat pocket for a month or two until it gets destroyed in the wash. Since Evernote came out losing a business card in the wash has not been a big deal. I can take a newly aquired business card, snap a photo of it with my iPhone and then email that photo to Evernote. Evernote has photo-text recognition software that will then make any text in that photo searchable. I can then either browse my virtual business card collection visually, or search with a text search.
With free desktop applications for Mac and PC, iPhone and Android apps Evernote is cross platform. There’s also web page access to allow access on a computer that’s not yours. It’s quick, easy and free (there is paid upgrades to expand some services).
Most of the services that I’ve covered have a lot going on. Sometimes it’s simplicity that a feature, and that’s where the aptly named Simplenote shines. It’s a note taking application, and that’s it. That’s all you do with it. You take notes.
A clean interface, and the ability to synchronize with an online web-interface, that allows you to add notes on any computer with a web browser, Simplenote does what Apple’s Notes application should but doesn’t. It syncs everything great. Start a grocery list on your iPad and open it on your iPhone. Add a few things, delete a few things and all those changes are reflected. Each time you open the application it syncs (as long as you have access to the internet) and updates.
Why Apple’s own note taking application does not have this syncing ability is beyond me. I’ve long since replaced the default notes app with Simplenote on both my iPhone and iPad, simply because it works so well.
It’s impossible to over-emphasize how important Instapaper is to how I read the internet. I would have to say that probably about 75% of everything that I read online these days is read via the Instapaper application on either my iPhone or my iPad.
How it works for me is that I will come across something that I know I want to read while surfing the web on my Macbook, iPhone or iPad. Since I prefer to read things on my iPad over any of my other electronic devices, I’ll send the article, blog post or what ever to Instapaper where it’s stored. When I launch Instapaper anything that I’ve shunted over to it will be downloaded, and I can simply sit and read.
Most of the formatting is stripped out of the articles, instead leaving the text and graphics against a simple white background. It makes reading easy, and eliminates the distraction of all those punch-the-monkey ads that accompany a lot of online text.
A number of better RSS readers and Twitter clients include a “Read Later” or “Send to Instapaper” option, allowing users to throw anything they come across in their RSS or Twitter feeds over to the application for later reading.
Since I have the Wi-Fi iPad I don’t always have constant connection to the internet. With Instapaper I can load up everything I want to read later, so I can read internet articles and posts while I’m off-line.
Other iPad applications to look into for the Getting Things Done / Productivity angle of things? For RSS readers I’ve loved NetNewsWire which links to a Google Reader account. For a to-do list style application I’ve recently started using ToDo which syncs with an iPad application as well as with iCal on my Macbook.