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iPad apps to the rescue


"Whenever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there." -- John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

The iPad is an overlooked hero. When you need it, the iPad will be there. It will be there to access data or connect back home. It will be there to let others reach out to you, or to let you reach out to others. With the right software, and the right ingenuity, the iPad can metaphorically leap tall buildings and save the day.

These are everyday rescues, not life-or-death scenarios. This post isn't about how the iPhone saved one guy's life after the Haiti Earthquakes. Here's how iPad applications can fix your workday with simple, helpful solutions that will free you from the laptop and live "la vida tablet." We've got five real world scenarios, including the iPad apps that will be there for you.

Getting Back To Your Mac The other day, I was stuck at the doctor's office and realized that I forgot to sync the PDF book I'd been reading to my iPad. With an hour's wait in front of me, I logged into the office's free Wi-Fi service and launched LogMeIn, one of several popular remote access apps that we like here at TUAW. Instantly, I could continue reading my book using Preview on my home Macintosh. LogMeIn Ignition is available for $29.99 on the App Store.

Nothing provides full desktop compatibility like an actual desktop computer. With remote access clients like LogMeIn and iTeleport, you can call home to your Mac, Windows, or Linux system and use native applications directly. The iPad clients are obviously not as intuitive or seamless as sitting in front of a real computer, but when you're on the go and away from your office, they can provide an excellent compromise that doesn't involve lugging a full-size laptop with you everywhere.

Entertain Me. I own an 16GB Wi-Fi iPad. Even if I had splurged for the top-of-the-line model, there still would not be enough room onboard to store my entire video library. In its default configuration, the iPad asks you to pre-think your viewing choices before you leave home and spend time syncing and managing those files.

Enter AirVideo. This simple application allows you to stream any video from your home media to your iPad. I personally use a 2 TB external drive where I store my recorded video. AirVideo transforms my 16GB iPad into a 2TB media center. With its live streaming option, I can select any video file in nearly any format (thanks to Perian installed on my Macintosh) and watch on the go. AirVideo costs $2.99 on the App Store but there's a free version for you to try as well.

Coordinate my files. I don't like having multiple copies of my files in different states of editing. Dropbox allows me to share and edit files from my Mac to my iPad and back. Dropbox-supporting iPad applications like Elements, Nebulous Notes and PlainText mean that I can open, change, and save my to-do list and know that I'm working on the same list regardless of whether I'm home or at the local coffee shop. Dropbox support also lets me synchronize and edit files across different iPad applications, so I can easily share data between apps.

With Dropbox, my data lives in the cloud, so it becomes less and less relevant which device and what software I'm using to edit it. That means my focus can remain on my files and their contents, not on choosing the proper application to work with.

Getting the Work Done. The right work applications can mean the difference between productivity and wasted time when I'm on the go. Titles like iAnnotate PDF, GoodReader, Docs Anywhere, Documents to Go, and Quickoffice Connect allow me to focus on reviewing and editing PDF and Microsoft Office documents on the iPad. Having support for the right file formats in iPad solutions provides me with a way to keep working while away from my desk.

I do sincerely wish that the Office-compatible apps would include standard reviewing tools that integrate with the desktop version of Office. That's currently a significant feature gap on the iPad, but between Apple's iWork suite and the PDF and Office tools that are currently available, you can get a lot of work done on the go.

Staying in touch. I carry a phone around, so my need for iPad VoIP telephony solutions like Line 2 are fairly limited. But that doesn't mean I don't need to keep in touch and coordinate with my colleagues throughout the day. IRC and chat clients like Colloquy and BeejiveIM are essential tools for my work. With them, I can coordinate and plan, chat and check in.

Like so many others today, I live in an internet-based, post-one-building-one-office world. We are scattered around the globe but working together on shared projects. We touch base, interact, chat and then return to our tasks. With IRC and chat, we can hop into a virtual office and create those meetings we need in addition to standard phone calls. Having these communication clients on my iPad means that these daily interactions extend to wherever I am, whether it's at home or away. I can still coordinate and check in.

And I don't have to carry a laptop with me. The light weight portability of the iPad coupled with the right suite of applications mean I can live a laptop-free life and still get the job done.

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