Productivity on the iPad


Recently I found myself in hospital and once again my iPad was a godsend. Yes, it allowed me to watch some TV and movies and read a book or two but it also allowed me some pretty good productivity.

So what tools do I need? What tools are useful and what tools are nice little frills?

The Essentials

The two essentials were Dropbox and Evernote. I have a huge Dropbox folder and an Evernote database full of useful files and information. (So the Specialist wants to know exactly what medication I take, when was my last hospital admission, what’s my GP’s address and how have my peak flows been for the past month? Guess where that information’s stored? I even had a copy of my last discharge summary.)

I’m a coding junkie, I just can’t help myself. Never a week goes by when I don’t find some excuse to write something, an AppleScript, a shell script or a bit of Python. I’ve even been known to play around with HTML, CSS and JavaScript to write little web apps. So bored in hospital was the perfect time to play with those. How? I’ve found a great little text editor that deserves a big wrap. Textastic is almost perfect as an iPad editor. It will sync files between itself and Dropbox or an FTP site and even comes with a built in WebDAV server so you can easily get your files to and fro. It even remembers the path to the file and will sync it back with a single touch. To help with your coding you get syntax colouring for more than eighty languages, including all I ever use with the exception of Logo (nothing seems to offer syntax highlighting for Logo). You get next line auto-indent and adjustable tab stops. Even more useful when you don’t have your Bluetooth keyboard along you can set it to add an extra row of keys along the top of the iPad built-in keyboard that include quotes, brackets, parentheses and a tab key. The feature list goes on further.

I could use Textastic for writing my prose and journalling, it does support Markdown syntax  and offer a soft wrap but Pages is not that expensive and is, of course a fully featured word processor so I’ve got a copy of that.

The other thing I like to do is diagram. Well, like might not be the right word, I do find myself doing it a lot and doing it by hand looks atrocious so I do it on the computer. On my Mac I have Eazydraw, a fairly well featured piece of software. On the iPad I use TouchPad, which cost me less than ten dollars and has more features than you can poke a stick at. It has layers, libraries, figures, bezier curves, freehand tools, alignment tools and more. It is  more than I’ll ever need – I couldn’t recommend it more. I actually find myself doing diagrams on the iPad rather than my Mac as shifting things with my finger seems easier than the mouse.

The Useful

The first of these is TextExpander Touch. Cheaper than the Mac version, which I also own, it allows for quick entry of text snippets in supported applications or in its own little note pad. It is supported by Textastic and Plain Text at least. From its little notepad you can Send By Email or send the note to Twitterific. I don’t use  it a lot on the iPad since the snippets don’t work everywhere as they do on the Mac but it is still handy.

Then we get to lists. It doesn’t matter if it is a task list or just an item list, I like to have them. I also like them as an outline so that items can have sub-items. For this I have CarbonFin Outliner – this excellent outliner even syncs to a website so that you can edit the outlines on your computer. It supports outline items as checkboxes so that you can make a to do list and if an item has a number of children the dot turns into a circle filled in according to the amount of the tasks completed.

On the “keeping up with the world” front there are the three essentials. Reeder, my favourite RSS reader, the new Zite news application and Instapaper for all those long form articles I come across while browsing and want to get back to.

I like the interface for Reeder, it is clean and simple, and the ability to sync with my Google Reader account is nice so that’s my RSS reader of choice.

Zite is amazing. A news aggregator that seems to find a good selection of interesting articles every time I open it. When it was first installed it asked to have a look at my twitter feed and Google Reader settings. from that it made some intelligent guesses as to the categories of news i might be interested in. I then added a few others. Since then I have made a point of marking the articles I liked and now it does a good job of finding things I want to read.

Instapaper is another great idea. As  I browse the incoming news stream from both Zite and Reeder I can quickly mark the longer articles for later reading. Instapaper also looks good, often making the articles easier to read.

The Others

Then I need a calculator. A spreadsheet would be overkill but a calculator with a tape is fine for almost everything. since I like to have hex and binary on my calculator you just can’t go past P2. Not that dear and it has every function you might ever want and a nice list of constants.

I also use iSSH, a nice SSH terminal client. Not everyone needs a terminal client but if you do want one then this is inexpensive and fully featured.

I would also like to recommend Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. I carry mine around in the box it came in and it doesn’t weigh much or take much room. When travelling it can go in your check-in bag easily. I find it can even slip into a corner of my briefcase.

All those apps taken together turn my iPad into an incredibly useful and productive platform. What are the apps that allow you to be productive on your iPad? Drop me a note and tell me.

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