Getting an iPad might seem like an obvious choice now that iOS has developed quite a bit more on the software side of things with iOS 11.

iPads can be great devices, but they have their limits, and knowing where the limits are and if they will add enough value and utility for your office is an important question. This is especially true if you are looking at using an iPad over a laptop or getting an iPad in addition to your laptop, and forgoing upgrading your laptop.

Let’s take a look at how powerful iPads can be on their own. iPads on their own can be extremely power if you keep the limits of what an iPad could and should do in mind when you are using it.

First, iPads can be extremely useful as offline-use devices, especially when compared to a laptop in some situations. Many todo lists these days run in your browser in the cloud (not allowing for offline use) and then live on your mobile devices as well. My todo list of choice is Asana, so currently offline use is fairly limited and basic, but if you use something like Todoist, they offer full offline functionality.

A few other applications that work great offline are Pocket, read-it-later app, Kindle, Blinkist, Pocket Casts (you need to set it up to download first) and of course, your email can usually have a full or partial sync setup. Syncing content for offline use is usually easier on a mobile device compared to its counterparts.

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Next, you can create art, or at least sketch things out. I am not much of an artist myself, so I tend to prefer an application that will assist in mapping things out and keep things looks good, while still working at a decent pace (not having to fight with settings during the brainstorming process). Depending on the app, you can usually have the split screen view open to reference a document or some other source while you work, without having to utilize another screen like your phone or laptop at the same time.

BUSINESS SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS

There are many applications built for certain types of businesses. I work with clients in the fitness industry who use scheduling software that allows purchases to signup for classes or sessions and almost all major scheduling software programs offer an iPad app to sign-in attendees or have the client sign themselves in, potentially reducing the need for staff. You can even use a teleprompting application to read scripts for a video, eliminating the need for a big expensive teleprompter which can cost thousands of dollars.

WHAT CAN AN IPAD DO AS A PERIPHERAL DEVICE

Depending on what you are looking for in an iPad as a peripheral device, it can really start to look like a good investment. There is a lot of software on the iPad but you will begin to see very quickly that things are faster and more reliable in a desktop PC environment over an iPad, and some things are just not possible or do not make sense for the form factor. iPads tend to take more taps than it would take clicks to do the same action on a PC. Thus, we will take a look at using the iPad as a peripheral device rather than a dedicated device.

You can use an iPad as a second monitor, for note taking (as you work through getting work done but need to reference your steps to complete the task again in the future), you can use it as a reading device and take notes at the same time, you can keep different tracking applications open to monitor your business in the background, you can use it to assist you in keeping track of certain notifications that you don’t want to miss and more.

iPads over laptops tend to be a easier to protect from damage. You can easily purchase an Otterbox case so you can throw it around, hand it to a client without being afraid of them dropping it or leave it in the same room as your small child while you grab a quick snack from the kitchen.

If you use a popular brand of laptop you can get a laptop skin, but they tend to not protect from drops as much as just make it look better and protect it from small scratches. There are purpose built laptops better made to survive difficult situations.

iPads and mobile devices in general also tend to have more active 3rd party support, letting you add additional functions to devices. You can add-on a case that includes a keyboard, turn it into a POS, make it a dedicated viewfinder for video production, hook into various USB devices with a dongle to do things like type using a mechanical keyboard, add storage etc, with various different little gadgets and doodads.

Not to say a laptop isn’t better at some of these things, like fairly easily adding a massive amount of storage or accepting a larger number of USB devices with additional controls and settings. But it may be easier to add something on that is purpose built of an iPad.

BEST USE CASES

So we have taken a look at some of the things we can do when using the iPad as a dedicated device and as a peripheral system that can help with a pretty diverse set of workflows. From an excellent reading device to a huge viewfinder for your video production and you can switch between these types of tasks very quickly, making it versatile over a wide range of uses.

As I mentioned earlier, once you start to use the device you pretty clearly and quickly begin to run into limitations. As an example, if you decide to use a keyboard with your iPad, it will bring it closer to the weight of a laptop, decreasing portability. You can't become as much of a power user from the start with a more limited set of available shortcuts compared to a PC and have a potentially comprised typing experience compared to your laptop, decreasing your total output potential.

As a secondary monitor, it can serve pretty well but your laptop has to drive the power behind it and sometimes it just doesn’t work all that well. if you think this is your primary use of the iPad, I would suggest just getting a dedicated secondary monitor.

A point of sales system can make a lot of sense, but then you may not be able to use it for other tasks because it is a hassle to install and remove from a protective case.

A great use case is just a dedicated note taking machine. My iPad Pro finds itself right by my production machines, screen always on, ready for note taking and quick reference. When I'm on the phone, I want to have a method ready to take notes down quickly and without having to open up a new program on my main desktop, especially of I am only using one primary monitor.

Of course you could just use a pen and paper (you won’t need to worry about battery life or the device becoming unresponsive for some unknown reason) but I love the ability for my notes to then sync automatically to my desktops, and the OCR can read my writing, making my text searchable later if I need to find something I wrote down but can’t remember where exactly.

Monitoring is another excellent use case. You might have your company Slack open and Google Analytics. Or maybe you have your social media queue open for reference. Maybe all your monitoring is done via Slack integrations and that is all you need open.

For presentations you can have a powerpoint synced with your iPad on a lectern and naturally scroll through your slides, make notes on the fly for everyone to see.

Having another device on hand can also be nice just to switch things up, see something in a different format and just having a consistent experience with what is available. You can do a lot with a desktop, but with that power, you can also make mistakes. Mistakes like deleting a file by mistake, or your entire OS.

You can hook up more monitors, but how do you manage all the tabs and windows you have open, especially when Windows moves them all after the device wakes up. If you haven’t added a huge Otterbox case like I have, it can be lighter and easier to bring around.

DISTRACTIONS

The iPad can be distracting since it is so well suited for content consumption, especially over creation of content itself. Doing work on it can seem limited, depending on what environment you are used to, while content consumption can really seem as natural as reading a book does… If you have a productivity problem this could exacerbate it.

EASE OF USE

You can’t beat an iPad in the ease of use category. you do not need to worry about updating applications, the software is usually pretty stable and because it is limited overall, the reliability can be higher with a reduced learning curve overall.