These days, I find myself using my iPad more and more as my main computing device on the road. Some recent OS & app updates brought some killer improvements that have let me leave my laptop at home more often. Here’s my favorites these days:
Be social with the Twitter app – The official Twitter app runs in the background, and whenever you’re mentioned in a tweet or you get a direct message, a notification pops up. Just like a full-blown laptop, you can switch over to Twitter, reply, and then switch back over to your app, right where you left off. This was the biggest thing I was missing at conferences – I wanted to take notes or work on my blog, but get alerted when someone asked me a question on Twitter.
Give better presentations with Apple Keynote – This is the Apple equivalent of PowerPoint. It opens PowerPoint files, and when combined with the VGA dongle, it can display PowerPoint slides on a projector. Just like PowerPoint’s presenter view, you get a presenter view on your iPad too! There’s two serious drawbacks. First, writing slide decks from scratch in Keynote on an iPad is hell, and second, while the VGA dongle is plugged in, you can’t plug in the charger. This isn’t a dealbreaker given the iPad’s excellent battery life (usually 8-10 hours), but it’s a bummer. At conferences, I spend most of my time running around like a SQLChicken with my head cut off, but I present for at least an hour a day. That would be the perfect time for me to plug in and recharge the iPad, but no dice.
Read everything with GoodReader – this file viewer on steroids lets you read PDFs, Office documents, and much more, plus syncs with a file server, cloud server, FTP server, and even Google Docs! I keep all my reference material with me on the road so I can answer questions faster.
Sync thoughts with Elements – I’m old school, and I keep all my notes in text files. I use Elements as a text editor on my iPad, and it automatically syncs all my text files across my phone, laptops, and iPads via Dropbox, a free cloud file share service. Elements does one thing, and it does it extremely well.
Manage my blog with WordPress – the best blogging platform has an app for writing posts, doing quick fixes on the road, and moderating & responding to comments. It works on both iPads and iPhones, by the way.
My favorite other apps for traveling – I use Night Stand HD as a beautiful alarm clock while my iPad or iPhone is plugged in (and it never locks the screen), the free TripIt to track all my travel plans in one place, and Ambiance as a white noise generator.
My favorite iPad cases – Ladies in the audience, I probably have more bags than you have purses. I looove bags, and I’m not ashamed to say it – although I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve got more than a dozen laptop or iPad bags in rotation right now. Here’s my favorites:
- Small – iPad-only messenger bag – Booq Push – when I want to take only the iPad and nothing but the iPad. It’s extremely minimal, but the construction is just awesome. Top-notch quality. Leave your power charger behind, though, because the only thing you can bring with this is a USB cable, headphones, a VGA dongle, and airplane tickets. Available at Amazon. (But not Prime as of this writing.)
- Medium – iPad shoulder bag – Booq Taipan XS – slightly larger with pockets to bring chargers, a small digital camera, and more little goodies. Available at Amazon. (But not Prime as of this writing.)
- Large – iPad, DSLR, and more – Tamrac Rally 5 – I recently picked up a more serious digital camera and a couple of lenses, so this bag has become my leisure-trip carryon. It houses my iPad, Lumix GF1, lenses, chargers, and whatnot in a smaller case than a typical laptop bag. Tamrac makes a whole series of laptop + camera bags, including the Rally 7 for 15″ laptops plus DSLRs and lenses.
I know what you’re thinking, though. “Brent, I don’t have an iPad, and I don’t want to hear any more about your cool toys.” Well, I’ve got good news – make that great news. I happen to know somebody who’s giving away ten iPads plus software to monitor your SQL Servers just in time for the holidays. Watch this space!