I was meaning to write this blog in March 2012, one year after ditching my laptop and moving to the iPad2 for daily business use. With the passing of the amazing, iconic, heroic, innovative (stick in your adjective) Steve Jobs, now seems like a good day to accelerate the timeline and get my thoughts out there. When I walked into work this past Wednesday morning, our COO had placed a huge picture of Steve in the office inside a 10 foot tall iPad 2 frame we have. It wasn’t the picture from his biography that is everywhere now, it was the one of him in his younger days holding a Mac in his lap as he’s sitting on the floor. I definitely got emotional seeing it and it was really interesting to see the same reaction from almost everyone who walked into the office and looked at the huge picture of Steve that they weren’t expecting to see.
We’re all obsessed with Apple and Jobs of course…As the “mobile guys” within the salesforce.com world (as we are frequently called) we worship Apple and Jobs and all their products. The fact that we are a 100% Apple shop is one of the keys to our branding and culture and has been a huge help from a retention and recruiting perspective. It also makes us look far more innovative than competitors when we walk into a client with shiny white iPads and they walk in with dusty old Dells… When the iPad 2 launched, I figured it was time to see if I could ditch the laptop and go 100% iPad. It’s been enormously successful while forcing me to change some habits as well. It’s not quite possible to do so completely… here’s what I’ve learned along the way, sectioned out by core needs:
Email is great on the iPad, I find it easier to use than on a laptop. We use Gmail and the standard mail client on the iPad presents it perfectly. You can also open up the Gmail web client and use that as well, but I find the experience far less efficient. Sometimes search doesn’t work well on the iPad email app, so I do sometimes go to the Gmail web client to search and find things. Same with Exchange. For those using Outlook, it is fantastic on the core iPad email client.
A keyboard is a must. Either of the two Zagg keyboards I find the best (roughly $100 on Amazon). New keyboards are of course coming out all the time, hopefully they’ll beat out the Zagg and force Zagg to continue to innovate. The first Zagg keyboard that is marketed by Logitech is a nice silver case that sits on top of the iPad 2. It is very light, the keyboard is good, although not great, it’s pretty cramped for typing. Zagg has since come out with the Zaggfolio for iPad 2. The keyboard is phenomenal, I’m using it now to type this entry, but it does weigh a bit. For traveling, the first Zagg could arguably be better due to the weight difference, depends how much you need to type. In general, trying to use the iPad2 digital keyboard I find to be painful. Buying the Zagg keyboard changed everything for me. I type fast and just can’t do it on the digital keyboard. Now I’m used to the compressed Zagg keyboards. When I go back to a MacBook Pro 13 with a larger keyboard, it seems huge and uncomfortable. I’ve also tried the pens with the iPad 2. Some people at the company use them along with an app called “NotesPlus” or various others. I’m just not fast enough with the pen though. Some people do like it.
- Note taking
Awesome on the iPad. Evernote is a great application, it’s great to have all my notes on my iPad 2 and also available on my iPhone and via the web as needed. There might be other apps that do the same thing, Evernote isn’t fancy, but it works great.
- To Dos
Wunderlist is a great application for tracking To Dos. Like Evernote, it’s available on your iPhone as well as the web. Separating To Dos away from general notes in Evernote has been really efficient for me. I create various categories such as “Work, Personal, etc.”
- PowerPoint/Keynote and Excel/Numbers:
Our company analyst who puts together tons of presentations and excel docs is super annoyed with me since I began this experiment, even though he never admits it or shows it. I used to be an expert in Excel and PowerPoint and do a lot of stuff myself. Now if I want to change something, I’m pretty much incapable of doing so. I’ll send him emails that say things like “Can you change cell C18 to the following on the Excel doc?” and “On the Keynote, can you adjust slide 6 to say…” Content creation in Excel and Powerpoint/Keynote is pretty much impossible except for the most basic use cases. We do some pretty serious Excel stuff and have cool Keynote presentations with all sorts of cool pictures and stuff flying around the screen. Not going to happen with the iPad 2 from an authoring perspective. Editing is OK and should get a lot better over time. If you need to author a lot of stuff, it must be done on a laptop or have a great analyst like we do to work with.
- Instant messaging
Skype finally released an iPad client a couple of months ago, which was huge. Before doing so, I had to use a variety of clones that hooked to Skype, none of which functioned well.
- Live meetings
We use GoToMeeting and their app works well on the iPad. You can’t host meetings though, only watch meetings, which is a big issue sometimes and one of the reasons you might have to go back to your Mac. There are a few applications like ZigZag that allow you to share your screen, but it’s not the full view of the iPad, it only allows sharing of a whiteboard application like ZigZag (which is a great application for white boarding).
- Content sharing
Dropbox is the leader and works well. I can post files from my laptop or from my iPad and view them on either. There are lots of clones to Dropbox, but might as well stick with the leader.
- Opening up files sent to you via email
This can be a bit frustrating. If anyone has any ideas on ways to do this better, please let me know. Depending on what type of file is sent to you, you can easily open them up on the iPad and view them, but each file type pretty much gets opened within a separate application. So going back to find already opened files is difficult. As an example, PDFs I open up in iBooks, Word documents I open up in Pages. Powerpoints and Keynotes I open up in Keynote. There are some apps like QuickOffice that can open up multiple file types within the same application, but I find I like the specific application that is meant for each file type a little bit better than using a general app like QuickOffice.
- Booking Travel
Kayak’s iPad app is amazing and crushes any travel site on a laptop, including Kayak’s.
Amazing application, wish you could show the iPad 2 screen somehow as well… See comments on GoToMeeting up above…
We use salesforce.com’s Chatter application of course. It’s awesome on the iPad.
A little complex on the iPad 2, although it works well. I have Gmail hooked to the primary iPad 2 calendar application. This works great to view calendar events and create them if I don’t need to invite anyone else or book a room. To invite others and book rooms, I have saved two versions of the Gmail web client calendar as separate apps. The first is the mobile view of Gmail calendar and the second is the desktop view. The mobile view is great for viewing one specific day at a time, but I still can’t book rooms on it and it’s more difficult to invite others to it (but is possible). The desktop view allows booking rooms and easily inviting others and seeing their calendars. There is a negative to this view in that you can’t scroll up and down through a specific date to all hours though, it gets stuck in a six hour band around your current time.
- Remote Desktop Apps
I don’t use these just as I find them too difficult to use and you have to leave your laptop open and connected to the web back at your office or wherever. I find it easier if I need to access a file or something on my laptop to just open up my laptop. I got the 11 inch Air, so I can travel with both that and the iPad2 and it’s still not too heavy. It would be nice to travel with just the iPad, but that last 10% of usage is still a challenge. Day trips I just bring the iPad. Anything longer I take the crutch of the Air with me…
Salesforce has a great dashboard app now available for iPad 2 in addition to the Chatter application that is awesome. We build all sorts of amazing custom iPad 2 apps (native and HTML5) that leverage Salesforce, but our apps are a conversation for another day. Salesforce and the iPad 2 definitely go great together. Soon Touch.Salesforce.com will launch which is an HTML5 application for core use of the app on the iPad. We’ve only seen demos so far, but it will be awesome. Major props to the team over at Salesforce that I know is working hard on this.
- Presenting from the iPad
Buying a dongle enables full screen sharing to a projector. I find this works well, but I don’t find it to be as reliable as presenting from a laptop. Sometimes the dongle pops out of the iPad a bit, especially when switching between vertical and horizontal views if you need to do so. Keynote and Powerpoint also run a little bit slower on the iPad, so transitions you might have created on a laptop might come across as a little slow. If you’re going to present from the iPad, definitely create transitions specifically for the iPad, not all are supported. That being said, it does wow people when you present directly from the iPad, just take into account the risk factor involved with speed and the dongle. Presenting from iBooks also works well. We sometimes just fly through presentations that are PDFs and placed in iBooks. It doesn’t have the wow factor of Keynote and the cool transitions, but it’s low risk and works and is fast. Of course presenting to a small group or 1 on 1 without a projector is fantastic from the iPad and far better than a laptop as it’s so easy to share with others and there is no wait time to start, etc.