Mobility

Google Apps improvements could make it easier to go 'iPad-only' at work

If you once tried to get work done with Google apps on your iPad, but couldn't, it may be time to try again. Here's why.

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Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Every year, I experiment with going iPad-only for a bit. And every year, it gets easier as more services deliver websites that work on mobile devices and more vendors offer native mobile apps.

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I do the majority of my work in various Google apps. For example, I write my articles for TechRepublic with Google Docs. I also rely on Google Docs and Drive to share information with my clients. When I present, I use Google Slides. And, Google Calendar, Keep, Inbox, and Hangouts help me manage appointments, tasks, and messages. I use all of these apps on an iPad daily.

Over the past few years, I've written several articles to suggest workarounds to help people use Google apps on iOS devices (see the links at the end of the post). Sometimes, I needed a third-party app to complete my work. Other times, I had to take an arcane series of steps to accomplish a task. But now, thanks to the following changes, most of those workarounds are no longer needed.

SEE: Apple's enterprise tablet challenge: Does the iPad Pro measure up? (Tech Pro Research)

Many Google iPad apps support Split View

Google's core document productivity apps on the iPad finally support Split View. You can edit a Google Doc while you browse the web with Chrome, or adjust a Slide as you refer to information in Google Sheets. Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides all now support Split View.

Split View lets you see two apps at once. (Split View requires an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, or newer devices, such as the iPad Pro line.) To access Split View, open an app. Next, drag your finger in from the right side of the screen. You'll see several app icons. Scroll to the one you want, then tap it. That will show the app in Slide Over mode. Next, tap on the small white vertical line that displays to the left of the app and drag it to the center of the screen. When you lift your finger, you'll see your two apps side-by-side.

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The green dots illustrate which Google apps support Split View on an iPad. (To see more apps that work in Split View on your iPad, open an app, then slide your finger in from the right side.)

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Improved editing

The editing capabilities of Docs, Sheets, and Slides on iOS have improved, too. Auto-created document outlines make it easier to navigate long documents. Smarter offline settings sync files to your device so you can work offline. A new questions and answer feature in Slides helps you engage audience members. And, of course, you can create links, count words, and insert images in Google Docs—all essential features for writers.

The mobile apps include Office Compatibility Mode, so you can use Docs, Sheets, and Slides to make changes to Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents. Open the file, edit it, and save your changes. If you need to collaborate with colleagues on those documents, convert the file to a native Google format to share it with other people.

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Install the Gboard keyboard to add search and swipe-typing at your fingertips wherever you use a keyboard on your iPad (or iPhone).

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Search and swipe as you type

Gboard adds search and swipe-typing to a keyboard that you can use when you type in any iOS app. (Gboard supports image, GIF, and emoji search, too.) Tap the Google logo in the keyboard, type a keyword, search, then copy or insert the results with a tap.

Even if you don't have a newer iPad that supports Split View, the Gboard keyboard lets you search, then insert results, without switching to another app. Think of it as mini-multitasking at your fingertips.

SEE: Research: The impact of tablets in the workplace (Tech Pro Research)

Updates still needed

As of August 2016, a few Google iPad app updates would be welcomed. Gmail and Google's newer email app, Inbox, both lack support for Split View: It would be nice to be able to draft an email and refer to a document at the same time.

Also, the YouTube app supports Split View, but not picture-in-picture. (Yes, there's a workaround.) But, the app that may need an update the most is Google Calendar. It's an iPhone app: Tap the 2x button to see your calendar at an enormously odd size on your iPad—and only in portrait orientation.

iPad only?

For me, the improvements to Google Docs and the addition of Gboard make working "iPad only" feasible. Most importantly, I can add links and keep track of my document word count. And iPad-only travel means I don't have to worry about either the weight or battery life of a laptop.

If you tried at one time to use Google apps on an iPad but gave up, I encourage you to install the core apps—Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides—along with Gboard, and try again. Let me know how the apps work for you in the comments below or on Twitter!

What do you think?

Can you do everything you need to for work from an iPad? Tell us in the comments.

Also see

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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