Did you buy an iPad for Business? Do you have a boss that wants an iPad? I hear two things all of the time and most of them are “what apps do I need to make the iPad useful at work”, and “what apps should I give my boss?” Since the iPad was released, here have been several business apps that have proven very useful and I am going to show you exactly how you can put together your very own iPad business toolkit.
The Ultimate iPad Business Toolkit
When you want to use the iPad for business then the next question really comes down to “how?”. There are several ways and some of them are using the iPad to give a presentation or a very specialized use that is happening in industries such as retail. But for the general business use and for someone trying to figure out what to put on the iPad for their boss who might want one, then here is your iPad for business guide. Think of this as a toolkit you put together for maximum productivity! We are not going to do a full review of all these apps, rather, we want to show you what they are, and why they will prove to be useful for business. Here are the categories we will cover:
- iPad Office Suite
- Book Readers
- File Storage
- Taking Notes
- PDF Markup
- Task Managment
- Business Utilities
Before we show you your toolkit, it would be a good idea to consider an external keyboard. Here are a few you can check out in our store. The reason is that it will be much easier to type long documents and edit spreadsheets while using a real keyboard.
The iPad Office Suites
Let’s start out with the basics. You will want to have some word processing, spread sheets, and presentation abilities. There are 3 main “office suites” you can get for the iPad and each one has it’s pros and cons. We will lay out a few of those so you can make a sound decision. Ideally, however, any of these will work as it really depends on your needs.
The iWork Office Suite
The iWork office suite consists of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Each app is $9.99 and you can buy all 3 or just add each one when you need it.
Pages is the word processor that really packs a punch for the price. It has real layout controls such as the ability to designate page margins, set tabs, and add footers/headers and images. There are also some very impressive 3rd party Pages templates you can get for $0.99 each. Pages is a great iPad for business tool and contains all of the “standard” word processing features you will need for most document creation. It even has a great built-in search-and-replace feature much like the desktop version.
There are only two pretty big flaws with Pages. One thing it does not do is retain style sheets. This causes issues mainly if your documents go through subsequent publishing work flows. It will retain basic text formatting but it does not apply a style sheet that is editable by Pages or Word outside of the iPad. Second, Pages on the iPad does not work with any of the major cloud storage services such as Google Docs, Dropbox, or Box.net. So if you want to share your newly created documents you are limited to email, syncing via iTunes or sharing using Apple’s MobileMe service ($99/year).
With those two flaws in mind, Pages is by far one of the more impressive apps you will get in terms of iPad business productivity.
Here is a full-on spreadsheet editor that you can use to enter complex formulas, create charts, and have multiple worksheets. This is much easier to use with an external keyboard but the onscreen keyboard actually adapts very well to what you are doing from editing formulas to creating functions.
If you are used to working in Excel, Numbers will be a whole new approach for you. It take s little getting used to but once you have used it a few times, it is actually easier to use and more flexible than Excel in terms of presenting nice looking spreadsheets.
Keynote is a great presentation tool but it definitely has some drawbacks to its desktop counterpart. It is amazing for what you can do right on the iPad. You can create rich and powerful presentations and then use this guide for how to give a presentation on the iPad. There are a few minor drawbacks. One thing to know is that looping a presentation is not really possible unless you use some workarounds. Also, you cannot import videos and photos from the desktop version of Keynote so be aware of that odd incompatibility. Lastly, there are currently no good solutions for a remote. This means you will have to manually advance the slides.
Documents To Go is a great iPad business office suite. It is not split into 3 separate apps like the iWork Suite is and it also allows for editing of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents. There are two versions of Documents To Go but I would recommend the Premium version to get the full functionality. It has been priced at around $16.99 for the past month.
Documents To Go is the perfect office suite if you really are dependent on Microsoft Office Docs and you want cloud storage. This means that you can store and access Documents To Go files using Box.net, Dropbox, or Google Docs or even SugarSync. For some this is really a big deal because it makes it very easy to share your work and store it safely off the iPad (especially if you want to edit it on your desktop at a later time).
This is the third iPad business office suite. It is much like Documents To Go in that all of the functions (word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software) are included in one app. The pricing for Quickoffice is around $19.99. Quickoffice also has the ability to use cloud storage and it allows for editing of Word and Excel, but not Powerpoint.
This is a great tool to use but it would be 3rd on our recommended list simply because of the price versus the features. Because you cannot edit Powerpoint files, Documents To Go moves into second choice.
That’s it for the iPad Business Office Suites. So to summarize you have three choices: iWork, Documents To Go, and QuickOffice Connect. We recommend iWork if you are not dependent on MS Office applications but if you are then definitely go with Documents To Go (Premium).
iPad Business Books
You or your boss will definitely want to catch up on reading. That might be on a plane, at a hotel or even in the office. There are two iPad books readers you can choose from and each one is a great choice but one of them has far more options and titles.
The iBooks app is an excellent choice if you want to access Apple’s iBookstore and read the books they have listed. There are not as many titles (yet) but you can have PDF’s stored in your iBook’s library so that is nice. The reading is not the same as a dedicated device like the Kindle but it does offer up some nice features such as dimming the brightness, reading in Sepia, and bookmarking. This app is free and you will be prompted to download it when you open the App Store app the first time.
The Kindle Reader will allow you to access Amazon’s vastly growing list of digital books. It has a rich set of features so you can change fonts, colors, and brightness as well as the ability to place bookmarks. The advantage of this reader is that you can access over 550,000 books and if you own a Kindle you can share between that and the iPad app. The app is free as well.
iPad File Storage
One of the things you need to do is store your documents somewhere. The iPad does not have a direct file system as you have on a laptop or desktop but there are some great choices for storing your documents that make even more sense than storing locally on the iPad.
This is a great free app which you can use to store and access files right on the Internet. This is actually a really good way to store your documents because if the iPad were to get lost or dropped or worse just plain die, then you do not have to worry about losing one of the most valuable things you own which is your information. Dropbox is a free app and you have to sign up online for access to the web-based portion. You get 2GB free which is plenty if you manage it well. Not all apps work with Dropbox but the majority of them do.
Using Dropbox is very easy. Here is a typical business scenario. Let’s say you are working on a document at home in Word. You do a draft and then save it up to your Dropbox storage area. Then you want to continue editing it on your iPad. Using Documents To Go, you open the document right from your Dropbox storage area and continue working away on the document.
There are plenty of note taking apps for the iPad but one that we recommend you start out with right away is Evernote. Evernote is free and it allows you to do so much more than just take simple notes. You can capture web addresses, images and thoughts quickly and easily. The nice thing about Evernote is how it syncs so nicely with the online version. You can take notes literally anywhere and then access them right on your iPad or from the Evernote website.
There are multiple apps out there to read PDF documents on the iPad. But there aren’t that many good apps out there which allow you to actually work with PDF’s such as doing markups and adding sticky notes.
GoodReader is the best choice for not only reading PDF’s on your iPad but also for marking them up and adding notes, highlights, and even free-form shapes. GoodReader also has a great Wi-Fi sharing capability to transfer the PDF documents to the computer.
ToDo And Task Management
Every business person needs to say organized and on task. Before the Internet we all carried around those little day planners and those were great for keeping us on task and reminded of important events. Now we have an even better solution. And here is one of them.
There are literally hundreds of task management apps out there but we had to pick one to recommend and Things is at the top of the list. With Things you can effortlessly manage to-dos, notes, due dates, and projects. A smart today list and the scheduling feature allow you to work as effectively as possible each day.
Things is also arranged so well that it’s extremely easy to use without much instruction. Something you will appreciate. It is priced at around $19.99 but well worth it. Things also has a Mac version which integrates very well with the iPad version.
Additional Business Tools
Ok, so we have our Office suite, our business book reader, note taking, file storage, PDF markup tool, and task manager. Your iPad business toolkit is almost complete but there are a few utilities you will definitely want to add. These are just all-around a great idea to have in order to stay productive when using your iPad for business.
The iPad has no way to open zipped up files, so here is one of the best apps you can get for opening .zip files.
The iPhone may come with a calculator but oddly enough the iPad does not so you will want to get one. Calculator HD is simple to use, straightforward, and definitely capable. The great thing is that you get a full functioning calculator for $.99.
AirFiles HD is great tool. It lets you wirelessly mount your iPad as a drive on your computer so you can load it up with files. You can then view, share or print everything from PDFs to Excel documents and even Adobe Photoshop files. This is a must-have business app.
This is a hybrid app. It can take notes but the real benefit of this app is something I see a lot of people do: sketch out ideas. Sometimes it’s nice to just hav a clean sheet of paper to sketch and draw on. Penultimate is the perfect tool for that and you can quickly send those ideas via email so you don’t lose the thought.
The iPad Business App Toolkit
Putting this all together, you can turn the iPad into a power business tool. There are plenty of apps out there but this toolkit will get you (or your boss) started with the basics. Here is your final toolkit:
1. iPad Office Suite (choose one):
- iWork Suite
- Documents To Go
- Quick Office Connect
2. iPad Book Reader:
- Amazon Kindle Reader
3. File Storage:
4. Taking Notes:
5. PDF Markup:
6. ToDo And Task Management
7. Business Utilities
- Calculator HD
- AirFiles HD