Cracking the tape on any new electronic gadget is always a thrill. Thanks to Apple elegance and ingenuity, opening a new iPad adds an extra little charge. The devices are potent, support many apps, and feature an endless range of potential experiences.
After joining the tablet to the Internet, users almost immediately begin downloading apps. Therein lies the fun. What applications should be downloaded first? Here are five contenders for business and productivity tools every professional should start out with.
Note: This article is also available as a photo gallery.
1: Your firm's vertical industry application
Business professionals live and die by the industry-specific applications their organizations deploy. Autodesk, Intuit, Salesforce, and other enterprise software manufacturers have all published iOS versions for their respective platforms. To ensure that your iPad offers optimal value and efficiency, make your organization's business application the first program you install.
My technology consultancy uses Connectwise as its professional services automation solution (Figure A). Its iOS app enables staff to perform critical functions, such as review calendars, respond to service requests, and close tickets. Those functions streamline our operations, just as similar proprietary enterprise apps do for other firms, making such applications among the most important for tablets.
Calender tracking is a critical component when working remotely.
2: iWork apps
The ability to create, edit, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations is critical to today's business users. Fortunately, Apple now makes its office productivity tool suite — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote — available free to new iPad customers (Figure B). In my experience, the applications are not present on Apple devices, however, and must be downloaded from the App store.
Numbers checklist helps make sure you don't overlook important information when performing field audits using an iPad.
Using the iWorks suite, you can email files or tap Apple's iCloud service to seamlessly share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Streamlined interfaces dedicate display space to content (as opposed to toolbars and navigational aids), so it's easy to create iWorks files on your iPad.
Penultimate (Figure C) lets you create freehand drawings on your iPad. You can draw organization charts, network diagrams, floor plans, and other shapes and objects, which comes in handy in numerous business situations.
Following a simple walk-through of a client site requiring an office expansion, this floor plan shows the proper location for new desks, data cabling, and a network closet complete with punch-down block.
Thanks to Penultimate's drawing capabilities, you don't have to create paper notes in the field. No more scanning, copying to a network, and distributing your notes via another method. Instead, you can share the drawings you make on your iPad directly from within Penultimate by email (or using Evernote).
I'm a fan of simplicity. In Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, authors Irene Etzkorn and Alan Siegel demonstrate the profound benefits that result when processes, forms, and communications are simplified. Professional workdays are full of meetings and conference calls, so you need a way to collect simple text notes in a quick and reliable format. Yet some applications add so many features, the utilitarian acts of recording and sharing basic information become unwieldy and unnecessarily complex. Not so with Evernote (Figure D).
The free Evernote note-taking application makes it easy to
create and share notes as simple text included within email messages.
While some advanced options are available, including the ability to automatically import Penultimate drawings, the application's strength is the simplicity it offers creating and distributing notes quickly and efficiently.
Twitter (Figure E) is a life-changing application, and it should be among the first things you install on your new iPad. How else can a business professional to effortlessly track industry news and announcements, product introductions, service enhancements, and similar information? And let's face it: Life isn't composed of just work obligations. You'll probably want to follow sports, arts programs, celebrities, financial markets, and so on.
Twitter's iPad app, in keeping with its brevity theme, favors information and ease of use over unneeded, unwanted features and interface complexity.
Twitter is similar to a fancy customized RSS feed in which you can also participate, while tracking other users' interests, favorites, and trends -- but its setup, configuration, and maintenance is far easier. Of course, the service has been used to post narcissistic messages. But it has also proven its value by allowing users to market companies, track opinions, alert citizens to civic issues and weather conditions, and much more.
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Other iPad apps?
Do you agree with this selection of essential apps? What's missing from the list? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.