A Few Tools Can Supercharge Your iPad Productivity
I finally took the plunge and bought an iPad 2 last spring. Being a Mac-aholic, I eagerly read everything I could get my hands on on the initial iPad when it was first released over a year ago, but I told myself that I had to hold off and not jump on the bandwagon too early. Let Apple work the bugs out of the first generation iPad and then be ready to pounce when they introduce the new and improved version. Well, too my wife’s chagrin and my joy, Apple released the iPad 2. In my eagerness, I wanted to make sure that I outfitted my iPad 2 with all the best gadgets and gizmos and have probably spent almost as much money on accessories and apps as on the actual iPad itself. Some of my purchases, in hindsight were basically throwing money out the door. The iPad 2 is an incredible mobile computing device and with a few well chosen accessories it can make your life a whole lot easier. There are really only three kinds of accessories that I would categorize as “must have” accessories: a stylus, a protective cover, and a iPad specific carrying bag.
One of the worst accessory purchases that I made for my iPad 2 was a portfolio case with a built in bluetooth keyboard (which cost me $99). I had two problems with the keyboard. First, it is a compact keyboard (necessary to fit in with the portfolio) and so the keyboard was too small for me to actually type on it without making a ton of mistakes. Second, when the keyboard was fully charged, the bluetooth connection worked great, but I seemed to constantly have to have the keyboard plugged in and unlike the actual iPad which has a battery indication on it, I never new when the keyboard was going to die. Often times, this happened in the middle of meetings when I was trying to record notes or some other location when I didn’t have access to the power charger.
The easy solution to this was to buy a stylus. I bought a simple Targus stylus for around $10 and found it was easier to type with the stylus on the iPad keyboard than using the compact bluetooth keyboard anyway. For $30, I could have gotten a stylus that was also a pen as well, but I decided that went against the spirit of having an iPad and the concept of going paperless.
You are going to want to protect your iPad screen from dirt, dust, grime, etc. Again, I thought my portfolio would be provide great protection while also serving the duel job of having a keyboard. What I found, besides the limited functionality of the keyboard was that the whole portfolio aspect made my iPad heavier and thicker than I wanted to carry around. Although not as heavy as my laptop, it was much heavier and cumbersome than I envisioned the iPad as being. Because of that, I found myself leaving it at home and just carrying my laptop around as I had done before having the iPad.
Once I decided to ditch the portfolio and keyboard combo, I bought one of the Apple Smartcovers for the iPad and have never looked back. Using magnetic clips to look the cover in place over the iPad screen is a great design feature by Apple because the cover feels secure and always has an exact fit over the screen. The Smartcover is the very light weight and for all intents and purposes doesn’t add any more bulk to the iPad because it is so thin. My favorite feature of the Smartcover, however, is that the iPad is automatically put to sleep when the cover closes, but then is on when you pull the cover back. I know it seems like a minor detail, but it is so convenient to open the cover and have the iPad immediately turned on and ready for work every time you pull the cover back.
This was the last accessory that I purchased. After blowing $100 on the portfolio case, I was trying to cut corners by carrying my iPad in my laptop bag - either by sliding in next to my Macbook Pro, or by taking the laptop out and using the laptop pocket for my iPad by itself. Neither on of these situations worked satisfactorily. What was the point of having my laptop and iPad at the same time? If I was going to carry my laptop with me all the time, what was the point of even having an iPad. Also, I was beginning to scratch up the aluminum case of my laptop by constantly sliding the iPad in and out of the pocket. However, when I carried the iPad in the laptop bag by itself, it felt really insecure as I could feel it sliding around in the pocket that was designed to carry a 17 inch laptop.
After trying to grin and bear it for a few months, I finally gave in and started looking for a specific bag to carry my iPad around in. At my nearby Mac Store, they had STM Shoulder bags for the iPad and it was perfect. In addition to having a secure and well padded pocket for the iPad, The STM Messenger bag also has four additional pockets. The first pocket has built in sleeves for the stylus and another pen if I need it and two larger pouches for bigger accessories (I store my iPad camera connector kit in one pouch) Additionally, there is a zipper pouch which is perfect for carrying my point and shoot camera. Then there is a much larger pocket in which I store all of my iPad cables and AV connector. On the outside of the bag is a “document” sleeve, which is too small to carry anything other than letters or the like, but it still offers an excellent use of the available space. The canvas material of the bag is water resistant and the shoulder strap is well padded and comfortable.
The combination of these three accessories have made the iPad 2 a much more usable device. I wish that I would have had better idea of which accessories were the most important to purchase before I started spending a ton of money on them. However, through that experience I found that these three accessories: a stylus, a cover, and a bag designed specifically to carry the iPad make the iPad a much more useable.