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New travel mate: Even airport security will be less fussy. Bloomberg

New travel mate: Even airport security will be less fussy. Bloomberg

Ahoy, business traveller, iPad calling!

Ahoy, business traveller, iPad calling!

Don’t listen to what the naysayers tell you. The Apple iPad is “open for business". Especially business on the move. In fact, the Apple iPad is one intense bundle of mobile computing and can often serve as a better travel mate for those shorter business trips than its chunkier sibling, the laptop. You only need to know how to make it work for you.

What makes it a better travel mate?

Tipping the scales at 600-odd grams, it is lightweight, super slim and easy to carry. And unarguably powerful, with—most importantly—a veritable plethora of software to harness that power. Browsing, reading, presenting, creating, note taking, editing, annotating, information gathering, digital personal assistance, videoconferencing, etc., are all possible on the little slate, using the 65,000-plus bank of tablet-optimized apps.

New travel mate: Even airport security will be less fussy. Bloomberg

And guess what? Airport security is far less fussy about iPads than it is about laptops. Most checkpoints don’t even require you to take it out of your bag and place it in a separate bin for your cabin baggage X-rays. So that makes clearing security not only less hassle-free and time-consuming, it also ensures that the device stays snugly ensconced in the padded safety of your bag, sans the toss and tumble of a conveyor belt.

Last but not least, the iPad’s intuitive and natural tap-pinch-zoom-flick gesture-driven navigation and interface makes it a convenient, idiot-proof gadget to pass around at meetings. It can even be handed over to clients and associates (who are first-time users) for perusing documents on their own.

Soft embellishments

Contrary to general perception, the iPad is not just about consuming content, browsing the Web, the occasional mail, and fun and games. It offers a whole range of very usable and functional office and business apps that allow you to carry on your workflow, virtually without a blip, while you are on the go—minus your laptop.

For starters, you can easily use an Office-like productivity suite. Fetch Pages (for word processing), Keynote (for presentations) and Numbers (for spreadsheets) for $9.99 (around 450) each and you’re good to go. Likewise, for creating and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, you can also download complete suites such as Documents to Go ($9.99), Documents ($0.99), and QuickOffice ($14.99). Now if the thought of having to type so much on a fiddly touch screen is making you frown, read on for the very usable hardware keyboard options available.

All these productivity apps have by and large been optimized for the iPad’s multitouch tap-pinch-zoom-drag-flick input approach. They boast of their prowess at importing-exporting, from and to Microsoft Office applications. And in some cases, synchronicity with Google docs and ability to create PDFs as well.

Talking of PDFs, GoodReader ($4.99) is a wonderful little app that allows you to view almost any type of document on an iPad from PowerPoint decks to Word docs and Excel spreadsheets. As a file manager it lets you create folders and organize documents and also syncs to Dropbox, the free cloud-based file synchronization/backup service.

Need to take notes? Just try SoundNote ($4.99) to savour some multimedia magic. This amazing app uses the iPad’s built-in mic to record sound and links your notes (typed text, scribbles and sketches) to the audio during meetings, interviews and presentations, etc. To play back what was said at a certain point, you only need to tap an associated keyword or drawing that you’d jotted to make SoundNote jump to that point in the audio. You can also save sound bites using the iPad’s pre-installed QuickVoice.

When it comes to plain vanilla note-taking, nothing can really surpass the simplicity of the SimpleNote (a gratis app which can sync instantly to other iOS devices as well as Notational Velocity, a free notes application on Macs). And then there’s Evernote (free), the much ballyhooed cross-platform, cross-device software and service that allows you to collect, annotate and sync information from all sorts of computing devices and phones. Dragon Dictation (free), an acclaimed speech-to-text voice recognition application, lets you “speak out" what you want typed. But unfortunately, this is not available on the Indian app store yet.

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty Microsoft Visio charting workalike on the iPad, get OmniGraffle ($49.99). For less complicated diagramming apps, mind maps, flow and process charts, there’s Idea Boards ($1.99), Corkulous ($4.99) or SimpleMind+ (free).

Accessories and more 

“I can’t type on a touch screen. I need a keyboard," is a fairly common refrain these days. Touch typists or two-finger peckers, a lot of folk don’t like using the virtual on-screen keyboard of a tablet. Well, to work around that, you can easily get yourself a nifty compact keyboard case such as the $100 Logitech Keyboard Case by ZAGG for iPad 2 (www.zagg.com/accessories/logitech-ipad-2-keyboard-case). Or, one of the more inexpensive (yet micro-fibre/faux leather and well-built) Chinese genre for about 2,500-3,000. These cases not only give you a full (albeit, a tad cramped) Bluetooth wireless keyboard—replete with dedicated function buttons for volume, brightness and sleep, etc.—but also double up as prop stands and protective cases for the iPad.

Of course, they add 280-350g of weight to the slate. A more clumsy (yet geekier) alternative is lugging along a skinny aluminium Apple Wireless Keyboard (Rs 3,890) or a Targus Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard ($47). And then maybe the chic, ultra portable Belkin FlipBlade ($30) stand as well. For Wi-Fi in places that only provide wired ethernet connectivity, you can carry the diminutive AirPort Express router and set up your own Wi-Fi cloud.

Want to make presentations to large audiences when you’re on the road? You don’t need a laptop. Plug in an Apple Digital AV Adapter (HDMI, 2,210; VGA, 1,700) and use your iPad for the presentation with an HDTV, widescreen TV, video projector, or HDMI-compatible display to screen everything from Keynote/PowerPoint slides to movies and photos. The adapter also takes care of the audio. Likewise, there are composite and component cables (Rs 2,400 each) available to view iPad video on a big screen with stereo sound.

The iPad is infamous for its missing USB port, yes. But you don’t have to mope if you want to dump or view images and video on the iPad immediately after you’ve shot them, without going via a PC or Mac. The iPad’s Camera Connection Kit (Rs 1,700) allows you to import Jpeg as well as RAW image formats along with hi-definition and standard-definition video formats, including H.264 and Mpeg-4 from an SD card—or even directly from your camera.

Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com

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