How I use my iPad and What Apps I use Regularly

I mentioned yesterday how I use Evernote to help keep all my paperwork, emails and ideas organised. I use it on the desktop as well as on my iPad and iPhone as well as the web based version from time to time. It got me thinking that I should create a list of apps that I use from day to day on my iPad and how I managed to achieve what I do thanks to a decent tablet device.

Some people use their iPad to consume data. That is read websites, read emails, read RSS feeds and browse the news. The iPad is extremely good for this as the light weight (ish) tablet form factor works well when being lazy in front of the TV. I tend to use my iPad for that as well as for content creation as well as keeping myself organised. To summarise it in a sentence or so, I guess I could say that it gives me access to all the information I need while out and about as well as the ability to get things done.

Which iPad model is best?

There are a few different variants of the iPad with the most distinguishing feature being that of connectivity. In this category there are two models. These are WiFi or WiFi+4G. Each of these comes in either black or white and also comes in either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage. All have a battery life of 9 – 11 hours depending on you using 4G (3G where 4G not available) and what you are doing with the tablet. General web browsing easily lets you reach the 9 – 11 hours between charges.

I personally opted for the WiFi+4G option. I call it 4G because that is what it is called although here in the UK 3G networks are what we have at the moment although 4G is coming any month now. The reason I opted for a 4G iPad was that I run a business and while on the road I like access to the web even if I am away from wireless. I could technically tether through my iPhone but I don’t do that for a couple of reasons. First, T-Mobile in the UK charge for tethering (quite a lot) and second, I quite like the seamless access to 3G or WiFi without having to enable tethering. I guess I could throw in a third in that I use my iPad on the Three network which means that between T-Mobile(and Orange) as well as Three, I get decent coverage in case I need to log in and fix a problem without having a WiFi connection nearby. I also like to avoid free public WiFi hotspots for security reasons.

As for other hardware, I use a standard red leather smart cover for the iPad and also have a Zagg Folio keyboard case (primarily for blogging and note taking if I plan to write lots). I actually use the iPad 2 version of the Zagg Folio on an iPad 3. It fits… barely but if I purchased it after my iPad 3 purchase, I would have gone for the iPad 3 Folio to let the iPad slide in and out of the case easier. Other than that, it’s essentially the same keyboard case.

With that in mind, let me tell you what apps I use regularly to read and get things done.

What iPad apps I use the most

I’ve never really counted before so decided to do a quick count now. I aim to keep all apps and folders on to a single screen and for that reason, I use 16 folders with various amounts of apps in each. Direct icons (not stored in folders), I have 8 + newsstand which cannot be put in to a folder unless you try trick it. I tend not to use Newsstand, so it sits in the bottom corner. Across the dock at the bottom of the screen I have my calendar which syncs up to my Gmail account. Following that I have Safari, Messages, Mail, Evernote and OmniFocus. I have toyed with the idea of switching out Safari for Chrome but not got around to that yet. Evernote is used a lot, as I mentioned yesterday, so I like having access to it down on the dock.

OmniFocus is used daily (not always on the iPad as I have it synced to my desktop and iPhone as well). I use it to track things that I need to do. My current responsibilities have me travel to 10 – 12 locations regularly, so for that reason I always have location based reminders enabled within OmniFocus. As I arrive at a destination both my phone and iPad remind me what I need to do while I’m there.

I mentioned my calendar is linked in with Gmail, as is my email which I use the general Mail app for. I do have the Gmail app installed but tend to only use that for when I need to search for some old obscure email as the search in Mail isn’t as good. I also have Gmail connected up to the iPad using the Exchange connector rather than the Gmail settings. The benefits of doing it this way means that all my contacts are synced over. I often see friends on Facebook that complain that they have lost everones numbers. As I sync, I can easily make a change to a contact on my iPad, iPhone or on the browser in Gmail and each device is immediately updated. Should I lose a device or upgrade, I simply log in under Exchange and the numbers almost instantly appear. Very handy!

I am a regular user of SimpleNote for taking basic minutes in meetings. I like it because it’s simple and easily syncs to my desktop (thanks Notational Velocity). When I finish editing the minutes, I can email them out and BCC my Evernote email address on it so that they get stored in my more permanent storage area (Evernote).

Instapaper is an app I use daily. I tend to quickly browse through various news websites and when I come across something and I don’t have time to read it there and then, I add it to Instapaper and read it at a later time or date. Instapaper formats text very clearly and is simply amazing to use.

Blogsy gets used regularly for writing blog content whilst on the move. As I can connect to many blogs, work with a visual editor and publish from the same interface I find it a very valuable tool. I also like the built in overlaid browser so that I can look up stuff I need while blogging and not have to close the app out.

I regularly use Easy Books for accounting purposes. Each day or every few days when checking bank accounts, I can quickly add in new business transactions and have them seamlessly sync to phone and desktop. Very handy for keeping the accounts in order!

Facebook gets regular use and even more so now that the iOS version is actually good. I hated the app until last week when they switched from HTML5 to native Objective-C code to power the app. It runs far smoother and is simple enough to use.

RightMove gets used weekly to look for houses. I quite like being able to zoom in on an area on a map and then click to search the area for properties.

iPlayer is used more by my children than by myself. They tend to watch cartoons on it although I have been known to catch up with some shows if I miss them.

TactioHealth is used weekly to track my weight progress. There isn’t much else to say about that. It’s just a convenience to be able to track where I’m at and see some fancy graphs going in the right direction.

Debt Free is used a few times a month to track where mortgage payments are at. I quite like the built in calculator functions that let me see how much interest I can save should I add another £100 to my monthly payments. Seeing 5 digit number savings and having a number of years knocked off the term is quite a motivation to pay off more. Note that we are on a variable rate and can therefore pay off extra without gaining a penalty.

Zite, BBC News, TechCrunch, Engadget and a few other news sites are also used from time to time. Zite tends to be the most popular of the bunch and is usually accessed daily.

I use iBooks but prefer to try buy a PDF version of a book where possible as I like the layout to be kept as it is in a book. The funky page turning of an iBook isn’t enough to get me to switch from a PDF with all the images and text layout in tact. I use iTunes U regularly as I enjoy watching lectures related to computer science to be more educated. I use the Kindle app as some books I have purchased have been from the Amazon site.

I use a number of image editing tools such as iPhoto, Snapseed although I generally do not take photos with my iPad as I think it’s just silly to do that. I tend to capture with my iPhone, sync with photostream and edit on the iPad.

I have many other apps installed with a number of them hardly used while others are used as and when I need them such as the VNC Client which might get used once a month to connect up remotely to a computer.

I have stacks of games on my iPad although generally don’t play games that much, maybe a couple of times a week and those sessions are generally short, perhaps 30 minutes. I just don’t get time but do enjoy relaxing from time to time.

iPad 2010 compared to iPad now

When the iPad first launched it was running iOS 3… no multi-tasking and I don’t even think it had folders at that point. When I first got an iPad it was a novelty although with apps like Evernote and being able to sync a calendar and being a great way of reading and sending email, it gradually knocked a laptop out of my life. Although I still prefer a fully fledged computer to do some things, the iPad lets me conveniently work whilst on the move. Blogging is simple (other than image editing which can be done but is far slower), keeping organised, being able to access information and all that being mixed with a long battery life of around 10 hours in a very slim form factor, very quick power on time (instant) it makes for a great device to sling in my bag and use while on the road. I no longer need to carry a power lead if out for the day as the iPad just goes and goes for a good 10 hours. It’s actually hard work draining the battery and I often go a few days between charges.

For some of you it simply wont work. If you do complex spreadsheet editing and want to sync up with Excel, there are options such as CloudOn, but it isn’t the same as having a decent Excel compatible spreadsheet editor built in to an app running natively. If you want to be organised it will work well for you though.