Vol. 37, No. 4

What can you do with an iPad? Probably more than you think

by Dan Kittay

The iPad’s rising use in the legal profession has been well documented, and anecdotal evidence from meetings of the National Association of Bar Executives shows that a fair number of NABE members are using the devices as well. The full room at the “Getting More out of Your iPad” program during the group’s Midyear Meeting in Dallas this February offered more testament to the device’s popularity.

For many business professionals, the iPad is not yet a full replacement for a laptop computer, said Tom Mighell, a senior consultant for Dallas-based Contoural Inc. He sees it as a supplement, but he also said he could foresee a time when it might be all you’d need when going mobile.

Mighell offered attendees a wide range of tips, app suggestions, and resources for making good use of the tablets. Below are some of his recommended apps, available through Apple’s App Store.

Are you taking notes?

Mighell is a fan of apps that allow for handwriting recognition, as well as those that use typing for note entry.  His favorite app is Notability, which allows for typing, handwriting, and audio. The audio records while the user enters notes, and the app keeps track of what was being recorded as a note was being entered. Later, when the user taps on a note, the relevant audio portion plays as well.

For those who just want to handwrite notes, Mighell recommends Noteshelf, which allows users to create virtual notebooks and store them on a bookshelf. You can email notebooks and export them to PDF. There is a magnified area at the bottom of the screen to write in, and you can control the size of the font that appears on the screen, as your writing has been recognized and turned into text.

You can use your finger to write, but Mighell recommends using a stylus for clarity. He favors the Wacom Bamboo and the Adonit Jot Pro.

Using Office while out of the office

Working in the bar association world means working with Microsoft Office documents, and there are options for doing that on an iPad. There are rumors of Microsoft releasing an iPad version of Office, Mighell said, but until and unless that happens, these alternatives will do a good job.

Quickoffice Pro HD is Mighell’s favorite. It allows you to create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and synch them across devices using services such as Dropbox (a web-based service for synchronizing, storing, and sending large files). It can’t read every font or exotic formatting feature of a document created on a desktop version of the apps, Mighell noted, but it can handle enough of them to make it a viable alternative to Office when you’re on your iPad.

Mighell also likes Documents To Go Premium, although he prefers the interface on Quickoffice. Cloud On, which allows you to run a cloud-based copy of Office apps on your iPad, is also worth checking out, he said, but it requires you to have an Internet connection.

Working with PDFs

Being able to read, edit, and sign PDF files is another business requirement these days, and Mighell has favorites among those iPad app offerings, too.

For basic reading and annotating of PDF files, GoodReader is a good option, he said. The app is able to read a number of document formats, Mighell explained, but it probably works best for PDF. It allows you to highlight text, insert text boxes, attach notes, and draw basic shapes such as lines and rectangles. It can synch your work through Dropbox and other similar services, he added.

For more advanced PDF functions, such as signing documents and filling out forms, Mighell recommends PDF Expert. In addition to what GoodReader can handle, PDF Expert allows you to sign documents, use strikethough text, stamp “DRAFT” on a document, and use numerous other advanced formatting techniques. Filling out forms that have been created on a desktop computer is also easy through PDF Expert, Mighell noted.

Presenting . . . presentations via your iPad

Presentations are a part of many NABE members’ professional lives, and the iPad offers a number of ways to display them.

While Apple has an iPad version of Keynote—Apple’s answer to PowerPoint—Mighell prefers SlideShark, which allows you to show PowerPoint presentations that you’ve created on your desktop, on the iPad. He showed his slides for the Midyear program on his iPad using SlideShark, and believes it gives the most accurate rendition of PowerPoint slides of any iPad app. For those who use Keynote on their desktop, he added, the Keynote app is good for displaying presentations on the iPad.

Apps are an important part of showing presentations, but getting the iPad hooked up to a projector is also part of the equation, and Mighell spent some time talking about hardware connections for this and other functions.

For basic connections to projectors, Apple makes a number of adapters that plug into the iPad’s port and have video connectors on the other end. Standards such as VGA, DVI, and HDMI all have available adapters, Mighell noted. In most cases, he said, it’s a matter of plugging in the adapter to the iPad and plugging in the cord from the projector to the other end, and it’s ready to go, as is the case with most laptops.

For those who want to have some mobility with their presentations, Mighell offered a tip on how to set up a system that allows you to walk around the room with your iPad, while displaying its contents on a projector, using an Apple TV, a wireless router, and your iPad.

You connect the Apple TV—not an actual TV, but a small device that displays content on an HD TV or projector—to the projector using an HDMI cable, Mighell explained. Then you set up a network with the wireless router. It does not need to be connected to the Internet, since the network will be used only to connect the iPad to the Apple TV.

Once both the Apple TV and iPad are connected to the wifi network, Mighell continued, you use the iPad’s built-in Airplay feature to project what’s on the iPad screen to the Apple TV, which in turn feeds it to the projector so everyone in the room can see it. You can then use your iPad to show either a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation, or any other app—such as the web browser—as you stroll around the room.

Typing a lot? Invest in a keyboard

Also in the hardware arena, Mighell said that for extended typing, he prefers to use an external keyboard, rather than relying on the iPad’s built-in virtual one. The iPad can work with both Bluetooth and USB keyboards. His favorite is the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, which he said attaches to the iPad magnetically and displays it at a good viewing angle for typing, with an adequately sized keyboard. Mighell also likes the Apple wireless keyboard.

Other assorted apps

Evernote is an app that “tries to be your memory,” Mighell said. It allows you to create notes by typing, recording audio, creating photo and video, and even reading PDF files and using optical character recognition (OCR) to turn them into text. Users can create notebooks for different projects and can get versions for Windows and Mac computers that synch everything with the iPad version. Evernote also has a feature called Web Clipper, Mighell said, which allows you to take an image of the web page you’re viewing in the browser, and save it to Evernote for later viewing.

Mighell also mentioned Flipboard, a news-gathering app that allows you to subscribe to numerous websites and blogs and view them in an attractive, magazine-type interface. You “flip” through pages by swiping your fingers.

Want to work with photos on your tablet? An iPad version of the ubiquitous photo-editing software, Photoshop Express allows you to edit your photos using a number of features found in the more expensive desktop version, Mighell said, and then share them with colleagues and friends.

That was a lot to absorb in just 60 minutes. But judging from the comments in the room—not to mention the sound of typing on many iPads—attendees left with some ideas that will let them do more on their tablets and give their laptops a break.