Replacing Your Laptop With An iPad: The Ultimate Guide

Would you like to replace your laptop with your iPad?  You may have been reading a lot about the iPad and the iPad 2.  You may have also read that it’s mainly a consumption device and not really something you can use as a laptop replacement.  Well, here is how you actually can replace your laptop with your iPad.

Get Rid Of Your Laptop And Replace It With An iPad

Ok so you got your iPad or your new iPad 2.  You may have purchased it so that you could use it for business or for school.  Once you started using it, you wondered if it would ever be a good replacement for your laptop.  It’s a great question because the iPad is light, very portable, has long battery life, and it is perfect for doing most of the things you need to do.

But somewhere between making that leap over to using the iPad and getting rid of your laptop you may have realized that there are limitations.  Not everyone can actually do this but if you want to benefit from the small size, lighter weight, and longer battery of the iPad, then here is how you can get rid of your laptop and replace it with your iPad or your iPad 2.

Accessories

KeyboardFirst of all, you will want to get yourself set up with some accessories if you are going to fully replace your laptop with your iPad.  If you are comfortable with the on-screen typing of the iPad then don’t worry about a physical keyboard, but, inevitably you might run into a situation where a “real” keyboard makes sense.  The Apple keyboard dock is a great accessory to have as it holds up the iPad with it’s stand.  Some people don’t prefer this, however, and instead they actually prefer to get the Apple Wireless Keyboard because it does not have a dock attached and because it is definitely more portable.

Either way, if you plan to replace your laptop with just an iPad then getting a good keyboard should be a consideration.  There is no way to connect a bluetooth mouse to the iPad without some form of jailbreaking trickery so for now you will have to get comfortable using your finger as a mouse.

Apple AV AdapterYou will also want to get two more accessories to replace your laptop with an iPad.  The first one is the Apple VGA Adapter (click here to buy it).  This allows you to share what is on your iPad’s screen such as a Keynote presentation or show a video up on a large screen such as a TV or via a projector.  The TV and/or projector must support a VGA connection for this adapter to work.  However, if you have an HDMI-capable projector or TV, then you will want to get the brand new Digital AV Adapter (click here to buy it).  This accessory also offers video mirroring when used with the iPad 2.  That means you can actually see your entire iPad Home Screen up on your TV or via a projector.  This can be a huge use in business, school or at home (by using Facetime and showing it up on your TV).

You will also need an iPad Case, iPad Folio, or iPad Bag to protect your investment.  If you are going to have accessories then you might want to check out some of these great iPad Bags.

Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations (iPad Office Suite)

Replacing your laptop with an iPad means that you will need to find a solution for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.  This should not be a big problem since there are some great iPad apps that will help you make the transition from laptop to iPad.  Probably the most popular are Apple’s own iWork apps.

For word processing you have a variety of choices.  Choose wisely here because one of the questions you want to ask yourself is if you will need to edit and work with MS Documents.  Most people do, so the best Office Suite you can get for your iPad is Documents To Go® Premium – Office Suite – DataViz, Inc. ($16.99).  It offers a ton of great integrations, features, and ability to work with all kinds of file types.  If you don’t really care about working with MS office docs, and you want a clean, simple word processor then you can pick up a copy of Apple’s Pages.  This is a great solution and it’s one of the top selling word processors for the iPad.  Want to get really simple?  Then check out the award-winning iA Writer ($0.99).  This is less than $1 and it’s a very minimal word processor for those that like to keep things very basic.

For spreadsheets you can go with Documents To Go Premium or you can get Numbers ($9.99).  Numbers is the recommended app here as it has some great templates and it really re-defines how spreadsheets look and behave.

Next you will want to get an iPad presentation app.  The two best solutions are Documents To Go Premium (for working with Powerpoint) and Keynote ($9.99).  Keynote is probably the best solution unless you really need to work in Powerpoint.  Just be aware that you will run into some issues if you want to use the desktop version of Keynote and then try to import it into the iPad.  There are a few compatibility issues so the best advice is to create your iPad keynote shows right within the Keynote app but you certainly are not restrained to only doing it that way.

Email

You are going to want email and on your laptop you may have been using MS Outlook.  There are multiple options for you here.  If you are using one of the following Email services, then  the iPad already has built-in support for your Email:

  • Exchange
  • Mobile Me
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Gmail
  • AOL

You can also add POP3 and/or IMAP email from other services within the Mail settings right on the iPad.  There are other Email apps but since you are trying to replace your laptop with your iPad it’s probably best to keep it simple at first and use the default mail app before venturing out and getting confused.

Calendars

This is the one where things get a little sticky.  The iPad comes with a default calendar app. But the majority of people are not 100% thrilled with it and while it does a great job, it does lack a few things.  One of the things you will most likely want to do is sync your iPad calendar with another calendar that you use.  Perhaps it’s your Gmail calendar or your work Exchange calendar. Here are some articles to help you sync your iPad calendar with all your other calendars:

Contacts

If you are going to go all the way and replace your laptop with an iPad then you will also want all your contacts handy.  The iPad has a built-in Contacts app that works great.  But you can also sync your contacts with Exchange, Yahoo, or Gmail.  Here is how to do just that:

Taking Notes In Meetings

iPad Notes AppA large part of the process of replacing your laptop with an iPad is taking notes.  A lot of the time people are either in meetings or in situations where they want to jot down some notes for various reasons.  On your laptop there are plenty of applications to take notes with but on the iPad, the default Notes app is not the best.  For taking notes you will definitely want check out Notes Plus ($5.99). This is probably one of the best notes apps (although everyone has their favorites).  It does handwriting, note taking, shape drawing, and sound recording.  It’s all there.

Staying On Task

You probably have some sort of task management software on your laptop.  It allows you to write a todo list, keep track of getting things done and is often referred to as your “brain”.  Well, if you are going to replace your laptop with an iPad then you want the best task management software you can get.  There are hundreds of these types of apps but to start off with you should check out 2Do: Tasks Done in Style ($6.99).  It really does not get better than this.  This is a 4-star task management and todo list app that will make it a lot easier to wean off the laptop in no time flat.

Storing Files

You knew this was coming.  On your laptop you have a roomy hard drive.  On the iPad you have very little space comparatively.  In addition to size, the iPad’s iOS was not ever meant to be a true file system.  Thus you will want a storage solution.  To get the most benefit, it is recommended to go with cloud storage and use that big ol’ internet to store all your information.

There are two solutions you should check out.  Head over to Dropbox.com and sign up for a free 2GB cloud storage account.  They offer an iPad app, iPhone app and access to all your files from several apps and via the Web.

The next solution is called SugarSync.  There is a big difference with SugarSync and that is the ability to have hot syncing folders.  This means you can choose folders on your home or work computer, iPhone, and/or iPad, and they will all stay in sync no matter what.  SugarSync also gives you 30GB of storage for $4.99/month.  Check out SugarSync.com for more information.

Calculator

I am not sure why, but the iPad does not come with a calculator.  The iPhone has a great one and so does  your laptop.  So, if you are going to be replacing your laptop with an iPad then why not grab a calculator app.  It comes in handy more than you know.  Check out the app called Calculator ($0.99).  Appropriately named this is the perfect little calculator and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.  Once you need a more advanced one, there are literally hundreds to choose from.

PDF Management

Replacing your laptop with an iPad means you will want to manage PDF’s.  The iPad can read PDF’s and save them to iBooks but you will need it to do more.  So we have an article you will want to read.  This discusses three of the best iPad PDF markup apps that are currently out there.

Signing Documents

Last but not least if you are looking to replace your laptop with an iPad, then you might be wondering how you can work with specialized documents such as forms, legal documents, and any other document that requires signatures or other types of input.  This is a bonus, because you can’t actually do this on a laptop without some pretty expensive software packages.  As an incentive to make the switch to the iPad, give this app a look and you might be surprised at what it can do.  The app is called Sign Docs ($4.99), and it is one of the best digital signature and business document managers out there.

You can see another app for Signing Documents, click here.

Remote Desktop

Since there will be things you simply cannot do on an iPad that you could on a laptop, either due to a software limitation (wordpress) or hardware then there is something that you can do in order to remedy this.  Install a remote desktop app and connect to a computer (at work or home) that can do the things you need.  Thus, you are still replacing your laptop with an iPad but you also have access to things that the iPad can’t do.

There are a few remote desktop apps which really stand out but for the price and features you get, Jump Desktop really is the one I recommend and personally use all of the time.  It’s easy. It bypasses firewalls. And it works reliably even over 3G!  The app is $19.99 but if you need to connect to your desktop in order to ditch that laptop then this is the route to go.  You can check out Jump Desktop right here.

Games

The laptop came with some games so why not play a few on  your iPad?  Replacing your laptop with an iPad would not be any fun without some ways to pass the time.  Instead of investing a ton of money into finding the perfect game for your iPad, we have a few suggestions:

Music

Of course your laptop has the ability to play music and you probably have iTunes or some other media player installed. You might also jump online and listen to Pandora.  Well the iPad comes with the iPod app but for a smooth transition from laptop to iPad, grab the free Pandora Radio app.  This connects you right up to Pandora and loads up your playlists for hours of entertainment.

So that is how you can replace your laptop with an iPad.  Now I realize there are probably a ton of folks out there that could not do this for various reasons that are beyond the scope of this article but for the general laptop user that want to make the transition then this guide should get you well on your way.

Have you replaced your laptop with your iPad?  What do you miss the most and what did you do about it?

Comments

  1. __AF says:

    Very well written piece. You have earned yourself a gold star…

    1. Shane says:

      Thanks a ton Adam!

  2. Danny Marks says:

    Nailed it Shane! ;-)

  3. Danny Marks says:

    Shane, with regards remote desktop is there an ability to hook up a mouse to your iPad (jailbreak I assume) that will work with your mouse pointer on the remote computer as that would be amazing?

    1. Shane says:

      Hey there Danny,
      How’s it going mate? Yeah, you would have to jailbreak to hook up the mouse unfortunately – - i’m surprised this is not more requested and I’d love it if Apple was working on it as a feature.

      1. Rachel Milne says:

        Very useful, am looking at the iPad 2 to offload my laptops eventually, but one simple thing prevents me, and that is you cannot add a mouse, which I find incredible!! I realise its a wireless device but surely you should be able to dock a keyboard which has a usb port for a mouse?!

  4. Grace Moss says:

    Thanks for the great post! Highly informative and easy to read!

    1. Shane says:

      Grace – are you are more than welcome. Thank you.

  5. Brett says:

    Very useful article, thanks Shane. I’m looking for an app that probably doesn’t exist…I have a project I am working on that involves pdfs, .docs, notes and mp3s. Is there some type of all encompassing app where I can have all these things available at once, or will I still need to switch apps?

    Thanks
    Brett

    1. Shane says:

      Hi there Brett. Well I took a second look at all of the major office suites and documents to go is the one that would provide everything except the mp3. So I looked at some others and they also do not provide the mp3 capability. It seems like they all do what you want except the mp3

      1. Brett says:

        Thanks for the further info Shane. I’m going to have a look at Bento and also Berokyo to see what they can do.

        1. Shane says:

          Hey there Brett – I have played around with Bento a little as I had a promo code, etc. It was very very interesting – mostly its a database like MS Access but its strength lies in the templates you get with it.

  6. Paul says:

    Well informed article Shane, your points help go some way to alleviate a few of the problems in the difference between iPads and Laptops.

    However for many people Apple will never replace a laptop until they open up restrictions on USB. My ideal setup would be an iPad2 which I can transport and use on the fly due to its small form factor and great useability. But I would need to come home and have the option of connecting to optical drives (for burning CD and DVDs) and to external storage devices (for an acceptable amount of storage space).

    I have a 10 year old iPod that could manage 60GB of music on it, and my Laptop has 5x the storage capacity of an iPad PLUS it is connected to a DAS unit with an additional 2TB of storage space for me to play with.

    Until Apple can offer that sort of functionality the iPad can only really replace the casual Desktop/Laptop user that only needs to type a few documents and save a small about of pictures, movies and music albums.

    Such a shame, I love the iPad2, but for a lot of people i know it will only ever sit alongside a Laptop as a luxury item, and couldnt even begin to challenge it as a serious alternative.

  7. l4urence says:

    Great read.

    You forgot GoodReader. Great for getting, holding docs and linking to dropbox (WebDAV). Using my ipad as replacement laptop for a while now. Only printing has caught me out but keeps carbon footprint down and very green – that’s what I tell people anyway.

    1. Shane says:

      Ahhh Yes, Good Reader! I was about to include it but then I remembered what a lot of people wanted was a good markup tool so I included those instead…but yes, Good Reader is at the top of my list as well!!!

  8. CIndy says:

    Thank you for the informative article! If I was to use sugarsync or some other online data storage, how does this affect (or not affect) whether I should get a 16gb, 32gb, or 64gb ipad? I’m confused about working memory vs. data storage in laptops vs. ipads, and want to make sure I have enough storage space, but not more than I need. Thanks!

    1. Shane says:

      Hi Cindy.

      Working memory is typically just RAM while the storage space is the 16, 32, or 64 gb. If you use sugarsync or dropbox it will help but typically the things that use up space are those you would not put on dropbox like movies, music, or photos. I say the most storage you can afford for what your are using it for. I have 32gb and am just fine :)

      1. CIndy says:

        Thank you, Shane!

  9. Peggy says:

    I am so impressed, pleased, and relieved to know that my pending ipad2 delivery and laptop transition is going to be almost pain-free. I was concerned that my new ipad was going to end up just a frivolous purchase, and that I still be ‘tied’ to my laptop. As 2 newly retired seniors, my husband loves my laptop for his pinochle games, and I had to be ‘preoccupied’ with other chores, till he was finished. Now, he can compete on his Yahoo pinochle and I can read my emails, the world papers, and surf. I’ve bookmarked several of your articles in preparation for the delivery, and I won’t have to pester my very technologic capable son with a million questions.

  10. John says:

    Interesting review but it sounds more like a replacement for a desktop than a LAPtop! It is not for nothing that they are called LAPtops! The ergonomic link between the machine and the platform created by the lap is an essential part of why LAPtops have been so handy, at least for me, and why he iPad has limited appeal for doing serious work with a computer. I actually use my laptop on my lap! I do that on the train, in the bus, in the car. The lap turns out to be a quite handy desk surface for the LAPtop. In bed, I prop up one leg and the machine just nestles perfectly with an optimal angle for touch typing and reading. It just sits there all by itself. Look Ma, no hands! I don’t have to hold it in one hand and type with one finger with the other. If I use it on a desk I don’t need to prop it up but simply adjust the screen to a perfect reading angle. Sure the weight and size and battery life of the iPad are appealing and it well might replace a full service PC for casual users. What is curious is that Apple has not opted to make a table version of the Airbook by either by putting the screen on a swivel or making the screen removable (as an erstwhile Lenovo tablet design was proposed to do). Anyway, the iPad is in no way a replacement for a good LAPtop!

  11. Peggy says:

    Great article, with lots of good advice for the novice iPad user. Until Apple “allows” some sort of Flash type app, ability/element though, I’ll still need my laptop for things like Sudoko puzzles found in various papers. Yes, I know there are several Sudoko apps out there, but old habits die hard. And strangely enough, my online banking can only be done on my laptop. That’s OK, I wouldn’t trade my iPad2 in a million years, it’s portability, ease of use, and speed are real magnets for me.
    Thanks again for a great, informative article!

    1. Ruth says:

      You can’t do online bankiing on the IPad2? Why not? Sorry if this is a dumb question but really want a IPad if I can do most things I do know with my Laptop. Online banking would be at the top of the list.

  12. sean says:

    very useful article, thank you. What is your total estimated cost then to add all of these recommended apps/accessories to the base cost of the device? Roughly it looked like $150-175 or so?

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