Category Archives: iPad the Productivity Tool

Utilizing Your iPad for Productivity in 5 Steps

The Future is Yours!

Congratulations, you own an iPad! Now . . . what are you going to do with it? Are you familiar with any Apple products? Do you know how to adjust the brightness or connect to a wifi network or bluetooth accessories? How do you check the free space?

  1. Take It Slow.
  2. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by new technology. If your tech experience is limited to Microsoft products up until now, you should know that there is a learning curve, even though it is relatively shallow. If your long-term goal is to use the iPad as your primary device, then try using it for just one extra task per day. Start with something simple and easy like checking email, and each day just add another task.

    Here are some great articles to get you started on iPad usefulness:

  3. Do Your Homework.
  4. Most people can figure out how to take pictures, use Facebook, and play games with relative ease. The iPad was designed to be simple and intuitive from the inside out. However, tasks like exporting files, App-specifics like creating 3D objects, or even the occasional mysterious basic task (like copying text) can be remarkably difficult to figure out on your own. Don’t let frustration win: take steps to educate yourself. Go to Apple’s Forums or even search on Bing or Google. You can start here, if you like:

  5. Design Your Pipeline.
  6. IPad Apps tend to be more specialized than programs on a PC. So you might need to use one App to write out text, another to mark it up in HTML, another to check your code, and yet another to actually publish the blog post (if you’re using it for blogging, like I am!). The key to iPad mastery is working with these Apps regularly so that you get a feel for their strengths and weakness. Always use any given App for its strengths, and find another App to cover for other tasks.

    Most of us do this on a PC without ever realizing it. For example, you might write out text in a Word Processor, use email to send the document file to your co-worker, who then proofs it and makes it into a PDF using a two-step process. Creating content with an iPad might use more applications than a PC, but it will take the same amount of time (or less) when you understand how your Apps work.

    Tip: Step 1 can easily be incorporated into the process of learning a new App, just learn how to do one new thing on it each day, while practicing what you’ve done before. If you can, I highly recommend learning any new tool gradually, and that includes the iPad.

  7. Take Notes
  8. Studies like this one have shown that the act of writing something down helps your brain to better absorb the information and remember it. I recommend using an App like Evernote or MagicalPad to record your thoughts and also help you improve at App-switching.

    Tip: Don’t just take notes on what you’re learning – include thoughts of how to apply whatever App you’re studying to other areas of your work. You may be surprised at the results, but I have found more than a few happy surprises in several Apps which are useful for more than just their basic purpose.

  9. Make time for Play.
  10. I’m not recommending downloading Angry Birds and playing it for hours on end. You’re welcome to do that if you like, but I’m talking about the type of play that leads to greater learning.

    For example, while I was learning how to use Procreate, I would often use a single brush to slather different colors all over the page and then go nuts with the Smudge tool, just to see what kind of result I could get with simplicity. I ended up with some pretty cool-looking paintings, not perfect, but pretty good for about 15 minutes work. And more importantly, I learned how to better use the brushes and smudge tool to create better artwork.

Whether your new iPad becomes an overpriced toy or an investment on which you see a return is up to you. And if it is a work-issued device, learning how to better utilize it for productivity may just catch the attention of your boss and lead to greater opportunities.

Like these tips? If you have questions, email me at editor[at] . I rely on your questions for creating content that is useful for you, so don’t be shy – email me!


Preventing iPad theft in Coffee Shops

The iPad’s physical portability and practical versatility makes it perfect for doing a little out-of-office work at your favorite coffee place. Unfortunately, these same traits also make it an ideal target for thieves.

Here are a few tips for keeping your iPad from getting stolen while you’re out an about:

  1. Keep it by Your Side.
  2. Most coffee shops call your name when your drink is ready, and in those seemingly short seconds when you are getting your order, someone could easily grab your tablet and walk out the door with impunity. So, remember the iPad’s portability when you go to get your drink and take it with you.
    Also, don’t be afraid to take the iPad with you on a bathroom break. Sorry if I’ve just given all you mysophobes nightmares for the next week. Try wrapping your iPad in paper towels and laying it on a secure, stable surface (like a changing table) if you’re in an open-door restroom meant for multiple customers at once. I’ve found that most coffee shops have the one-at-a-time variety with lockable doors, in which case you can just lay the tablet on some paper towels covering the sink or other dry flat surface.

  3. Forge Alliances.
  4. If you become a ‘regular’ at a coffee shop, it won’t be long before you get to know the other regulars as well. I know quite a few regulars at my local Starbucks since I’m here all the time, and we all trust each other to watch our stuff if we need to step out for a phone call or use the facilities.

  5. Go Small.
  6. Without falling into the fallacy that smaller towns are inherently safer than big cities (statistically, they aren’t), using a smaller coffee shop can be to your advantage, especially if you slip up on step 1 and suddenly find yourself away from the iPad at the drink counter or restroom. Just keep your stuff in your eyeline, and try to park it within sight of a security camera. Smaller shops also make it easier to recognize your fellow regulars so that you can look out for each other.

Ultimately, theft prevention is about awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, know your fellow coffee-drinkers, and be safe out there.
Have any safety tips of your own? Email me – editor[at] .

MagicalPad Review

Brain Organization

Whether taking some simple notes or trying to organize a big idea, MagicalPad may be the App you’re looking for. If your brain is as scattered and random as mine, it may just save your life.

A Minimal but Powerful Interface

The in-App buttons are all found at the bottom of the interface, and they work like a charm. Basic commands are all there (Undo, Delete, Formatting), and a single tap brings up “Mind-Mapping” options, as you can see in this screenshot:

The Beautiful, Minimal Interface of MagicalPadIt really is just as simple to operate as it looks.

I really like how the “Mind-Mapping” menu stays on-screen until you tap it again – particularly handy when you need to switch Auto-Connecting and what type of note you want it to create. If you don’t like it hanging around, just tap it again to restore your screen real estate.

Each note edits with a tap and to move something, just hold your finger on it until it fades, then put it wherever you want. If it’s a connected note, the connecting line moves with it. And if you left a note unconnected and suddenly realize it should be attached to something? Just use “Connect Selected” in the Mind-Mapping menu and tap away. Ultimately, both editing and idea-connecting work exactly the way they should.

Intuitive Functionality and Evernote Integration

The value of making multiple notebooks is a huge plus, and is part of what made this App worth its purchase for me. I tend to have multiple projects at once, so being able to file each one in its own little home helps me stay organized, productive, and task-focused. Also, it’s easy to connect your Evernote account and export the workspace as a JPG, Note, or .PDF. I recommend either JPG or PDF, since you lose any of the “Mind-Mapping” if you export as a note:

Exporting as a Note: Bad Idea if you want to Maintain FormattingExporting as a Note looks like this. You’re welcome.

The notebooks themselves can be filled with lots of rename-able pages. The default system names each page after the date and time, so I recommend renaming right after starting a new page just to stay organized.

The Notebook Screen of MagicalPadKeep your ideas separated for greater productivity and less distraction.

The Price

The price point for this App may prove a little rich for your blood – $7.99 (at the time of this writing) puts it in a category of “over $5 Apps” which, in my opinion, means it better deliver. I can say without hesitation that this app has been worth more than the eight bucks I dropped on it, and I use it for everything from organizing this blog to making plans and modifying them during the execution phase.

If you’re the kind of person who likes being able to organize your thoughts visually, and you value both flexibility and intuitive design, then this is probably the App you’ve been looking for. If you’re just looking for something to take notes in, stick with Evernote.


Five Stars!

Standard Review Disclaimer

All of my reviews are done on the 4th Generation iPad that is about five months old. I can’t vouch for the functionality of something on an iPhone, an iPad Mini, an iPod Touch, older generation iPad, or a steam-powered spaceship. If you agree or disagree with any particular rating, please feel free to leave a well-reasoned comment, or send me an email: editor[at] .

How to Connect a Bluetooth Keyboard to Your iPad (Plus Basic Troubleshooting!)

Typing on the iPad

Touchscreen typing is a pain, unless you happen to be one of the five people on the planet who prefers it. Personally, I’m constantly hitting the wrong keys, forgetting that it automatically capitalizes the first letter (which is important when you’re typing in a password), or worst of all, getting terrible hand cramps from hovering my fingertips just microns above the screen.

Find the Right Keyboard

If you are constantly using your lap to support your device, consider a folio like Zagg or Logitech. I have not used either of these devices, so let the Amazon reviews be your guide. If you’re like me and you usually work at a table, the standard Apple wireless keyboard should do the job, though you should be able to connect any keyboard as long as it’s bluetooth. The key is to find whatever is going to work for you.

Turn Bluetooth On

Go into Settings and select “Bluetooth” from the menu on the left. If it’s already on, do nothing, if it’s not, just slide your finger to turn it on. Keep it on this screen as you follow the next step.

Turn Your Keyboard on and Set it in Discovery Mode

Consult your product manuals for how to do this, as it varies somewhat from device to device. The Apple wireless keyboard only requires you to tap the power button, which will cause a small green LED on top of the keyboard to start blinking.

On your Settings>Bluetooth screen, you should see the device listed under the Bluetooth on/off switch, like so:

The iPad Bluetooth Menu
You may see more than one device listed – make sure you know which one is your keyboard!

Make sure you know which device is yours, and if it says “Not Connected,” tap it. You should see a progress wheel as your iPad and keyboard shake hands, and after a few seconds it should say “Connected.” The keyboard is now ready to type on the iPad, and you’re ready to go!

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Keyboard is connected, but nothing happens when I type

While I don’t know the specifics of this problem, I can tell you what has worked for me – go back into your Settings>Bluetooth menu and switch the Bluetooth off on the iPad itself. After it has finished turning off (when the device menu underneath disappears and the small Bluetooth icon in the upper-right corner turns off), turn it back on and reconnect your keyboard.

Also, make sure you know your keyboard’s broadcast name. Don’t guess. If you connect to an unknown device, you are compromising your iPad’s security, and potentially invading someone else’s privacy. I work in various coffee shops around where I live, and I am constantly seeing other peoples’ unconnected (but active) Bluetooth devices in my device menu. Always make sure you know what device name your keyboard is using, you can usually find it in the documentation. If you can’t find it, email the manufacturer’s support department.

I need to use a special character letter, like this: ü

For this, it’s best to use the onscreen keyboard. How do you get it back without going through all the rigamarole of disconnecting the keyboard, using the onscreen, and then reconnecting? If you’re using an Apple keyboard, simply press the “Eject” key on the top right. This will pull up the onscreen keyboard, but still allow you to type with both.

To get the special character in mind, hold your finger on the base letter of the onscreen keyboard (in our umlaut – ü – example, this would be the letter “u.”), and after about a second you will see an assortment of alternate version of that letter. Keep your finger on the keyboard (don’t let it off!) and slide it to the character you have in mind. To get the onscreen keyboard off, just press the button again.

My Keyboard is typing in a different language

This will happen if you have multiple languages installed on your iPad, like me. The shortcut command (if you’re using an Apple wireless keyboard) is “Command + Spacebar” to switch between keyboard language layouts. Hold down on the Command button to keep the language menu onscreen. If you’re using a different keyboard (one that doesn’t have the Apple “Command” button), pull up the onscreen keyboard and press the key on the bottom left that looks kind of like a globe. Keep pressing that button until it gets to the language you have in mind.

Summing Up

Using a physical keyboard with the iPad helps prevent hand strain and frustration, and is a great way to accomplish large writing tasks as well as exercising faster and more intuitive control over the language input.

Copy Text with the iPad

Deceptively Simple

Copying text is pretty simple on a regular computer – just click, drag, Ctrl+C! The iPad, however, had continually frustrated my efforts with its tendency to highlight entire paragraphs when I just wanted a sentence or two, leaving me to delete several lines of text. But then I discovered a simple technique that for some reason never came up in any of my searches.

Keep in mind that this works in Chrome and Safari, but your mileage will vary in other apps (like the Kindle App).

Step 1: Select One Word

First, press your fingertip against the first word in the chain you want to copy. This will select the word, turning it blue, and you should notice a blue circle at its top left and bottom right. For my example, I have chosen President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, copied from Wikipedia.

Gettysburg Address via

Step 2: Drag The Circles

Now, press your fingertip onto the bottom right circle and drag your finger over the rest of the text you want to copy. If it’s a big block, you can move your finger straight down, as the selection will follow the text just like it would with a mouse. When you lift your finger off the screen, the text should still be highlighted.

Gettysburg Address with text selected

If you find that you selected the wrong first word, you can likewise drag the top left circle and move the selection to the left to grab that sneaky word.

Always Grab the Blue Circles to Extend Your Selection

Step 3: Copy

This varies a little depending on the browser you’re using. In Safari, a simple Command+C will copy the text (assuming you’re using a keyboard and not the touchscreen). Chrome seems a bit finicky about using a keyboard, so it’s best to tap on one of the blue circles to bring up a menu (similar to the right-click menus in Windows). Tap “Copy” and you’re good to go.

Step 4: Paste

When you’ve copied the text, switch apps (or tabs, if it’s meant for something browser-based) and use Command+V if you’re using a physical keyboard. If you’re using the touchscreen, or if the App in question doesn’t see to like taking orders from a keyboard, press and hold your finger for a few seconds (or double-tap with your finger) on the space where you want to paste. A little “Paste” button should pop up: select it and the text should paste. Now you can format it, blockquote it, or just celebrate a job well done.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

If you are among the “fat-fingered” variety of people like I am, you may find this process has a bit of a learning curve. Keep at it! Practice it and be patient with both your device and yourself. It will get easier – within a few days of discovering this method, I had mastered it and haven’t lost a selection since.

If you stumble upon any time-saving tips like this, email me: editor[at] .

Free Apps: My Go-to Five

Five Great Free Apps

Why pay for what you can get for free? Keep in mind that some of these are free versions that have more functional pay versions, but you should always try before you buy, so they still make the list. I also appreciate App designers who are smart enough to offer free versions as a means of letting the user assess whether they can use the App or not – thanks, guys!

Also, I never endorse an App that I don’t use, and I use most of these on a daily basis.

  1. Textilus – I dabble in other forms of writing on occasion (I’m working on the nerdiest novel in history), and so I really wanted a full-featured writing App that had things like font control (font face and size), formatting, and exporting to universal formats like rtf. Textilus does it all, and its free version handles most of these things. I upgraded to the pay version, which was $5 well spent for a control freak like me.
  2. Evernote – Many people use this to sync notes between their iPhone/Android, PC/Mac, and their iPad. I don’t really use it on my PC too much, but it is the most useful note-taking tool ever on the iPad for me, especially with how easily you can drop in pictures, video, sound, or just type an outline for a post (like this one). It has some pay features, but the basic functionality is all I really need, so I stuck with the free version.
  3. Printer Pro Lite – Read this carefully: Printer Pro Lite will not give your iPad printing capabilities, but is a compatibility checker to be used with your PC or through a network to make sure that the full version of Printer Pro can talk to your printer and print stuff out. So again, if you want to see whether your printer is capable of connecting to your iPad, download the lite version and if printing from the iPad is workable and worth $7 to you, upgrade to the pay version to start printing. I did, and it works fantastically with my printer.
  4. Adobe Reader – For better or worse, the PDF is pretty much the standard format for important documents these days, and though there are some non-Adobe Apps that claim to enhance your ability to navigate and/or change the PDF’s on your iPad, my primary use for PDF’s is to read them, so I go with Adobe’s App, which works great.
  5. Chrome – I’ve written about Chrome’s features and capabilities before, so check that review out if you’re unclear on why I love this browser. I use it all the time, and the bookmark sync is particularly useful since it’s built into the browser and allows you to organize them into folders for easy access. The only time I use Safari is when I need to download something App-specific that Chrome doesn’t know how to handle (like brushes in Procreate).

So there you have it, five apps that I couldn’t do without, and all of them have free versions. Again, make sure you always read the descriptions of the Apps you’re downloading to make sure it does what you think it does. Printer Pro Free in particular has a lot of unnecessary negative reviews because people assumed it would help them print, something it never claimed it would do. Keep your objectives in mind as you App shop – reading the description is never a waste of time, even for free Apps.


Extend iPad Battery Life

Long Live the Battery!

The iPad’s battery life is one of the primary reasons I chose it as my primary digital productivity tool. I work on it for 8 hours straight and it still has about 30-40% power left at the end of the day, so my wife and I can enjoy streaming a movie, playing some games, doing some research, really whatever we want to do. The advertised battery life is “up to 10 hours,” but I’ve gotten more like 12 to 14 hours out of it using a few power-saving tips.

  1. Turn the Brightness Down! This tip alone will extend your battery life by hours on a single charge. Go into the Settings Menu and tap “Brightness & Wallpaper” on the left-hand column, move that slider to the left as far as you can handle. Don’t go too crazy: really anything around a quarter to a third of its maximum brightness should suffice.
  2. Turn Unnecessary Connections Off! If you’re planning on using an App that doesn’t require an Internet connection, turn your Wifi off in Settings>Wifi. Likewise, if you’re not using your bluetooth connection (e.g. watching a video or playing a game requiring only the touchscreen), turn it off in Settings>Bluetooth. Time-Saver:If you’re using something that requires neither Wifi nor Bluetooth, just turn on Airplane Mode, which is at the top of the leftside menu in the Settings.
  3. Unplug it! If your iPad is only down to 80% at the end of the day, there’s no reason to charge it back up to the full 100% overnight. The chargers are small and portable should you really need them, and it wears on the overall batter life to continually keep the charge up to 100% all the time. Charge it when you need to, and if you really need to continue working on it when it’s down to 5%, go ahead and plug it in. Otherwise, wait until it’s at 20% or lower before giving it the full treatment.
iPad: What Shall We Get Done Today?

Have you discovered any great battery life tips? Write them in the comments section, or drop me a line: editor[at] !