Tag Archives: productivity

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]iPad4Life.net .


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.


Google Drive App Review

The Free, Cloud-based Office Suite

Google Drive was my primary word processing tool when I was using my laptop. The all-inclusive, browser-based application was so useful that it left Microsoft Office in the dust. Google Drive, then called Google Docs, restored my faith in free software, and allowed me to finally stop carrying around that pesky jump drive.

So how does the App compare to the regular browser-based version? Short answer, not well.

The Good

Proficient Google Drive users will feel right at home with the minimalistic interface, which is easy to navigate and organize. All of my files synced up without a problem, and I especially like the ability to save documents and spreadsheets offline and be able to edit them regardless of WiFi availability. Just make sure you select the “Make Available Offline” option while you have an internet connection.

The Google Drive App Interface

The App truly preserves the feel of the original Google Drive.

Documents have all of the same writing, editing, and formatting options that you’d find in the original, and while the interface is a bit more nested in the App, it’s nested intuitively, and all the options are easy to find.

The Spreadsheets are a little less evolved and are a LOT slower and therefore more frustrating to edit than Documents, but you can edit them, so that’s good. But if you need to zoom in (which you probably will because of how tiny the Spreadsheets can get), you will experience some lag in the App. Just take your patience pills beforehand and you’ll be fine.

A Sample Google Drive Spreadsheet

Just typing this took about 5 minutes, what with the column resizing and all.

With Documents and Spreadsheets, you basically have the same functionality as the original Google Drive, with a little bit of lag sprinkled mostly on the Spreadsheets. Lag is bad, but overall functionality is good.

The Bad

Presentations and Drawings are read-only, and the App has no way to edit them at all. To be fair, it does give a lot of sharing options for both, from PDF to JPG, but still – no way to create or edit Presentations or Drawings. This is a big minus, since I do throw together the occasional presentation or want to make a quick sketch in a Document.

Also, while you can edit Spreadsheets, I have no idea why you would choose this App for that function. Resizing the columns (which is a pretty frequent task) is like playing Operation: the resizing control is so small that my fat sausage fingers literally never grab it on the first try.

As I’ve already mentioned, this App is also a little temperamental and can occasionally be a little slow to respond. This is more frequent in the Spreadsheets than the Documents, but it is a problem nonetheless. How much RAM can these functions really need? The original version is browser-based for goodness’ sake!

Summing Up

Big-time positive points for offline editing and collaboration, big time negative points for general slowness and especially for the lack of support for Presentation and Drawing support. Here are the stars:

User-Friendliness: 4
Functionality: 3
Aesthetics: 5
Performance: 3.5
Honesty: 5

Overall: 3.75 Stars!

3.75 Stars!

Closing Advice For Google

Take a page from Evernote and specialize Drive’s capabilities. Make an App for Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations, and Google Drawing and link them to one another. That way, you’ll get maximum functionality and usability, while also giving your users a more stable and pleasant overall experience, which is after all, what iPad users especially are looking for.

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]iPad4Life.net . Thank you for reading!

The iPad as a Productivity Tool


Get Stuff Done

The iPad might be the most powerful productivity tool on the market today. I can say that sentence without any trace of irony or sarcasm for the following reasons:

  • It has limited realtime multitasking.
  • It is responsive and quick.
  • There are a huge variety of apps that get things done.
  • Limited realtime multitasking? Isn’t that a bad thing?

    This is what I used to think when I saw someone sitting down in Starbucks swiping their screens and tapping at the keyboard. How can you respect a device that can’t have music playing, a video showing, a ten-tabbed web browser, and a few documents open all at the same time? The question here is not about ability, but productivity. Does the ability to be doing so many different things at once really help you be more productive? On the contrary, study after study shows that so-called ‘multitasking’ results in less productivity, inferior work, and limited potential.

    I heard that the iPad is slow. And stupid.

    Well, I don’t know who you heard that from, but they’re wrong. I have found the iPad to be incredibly responsive. Those times when it wasn’t responding to my swipes or commands either I hadn’t actually touched the screen sufficiently or the app I was working in was trying to divide by 0 or something and was about to crash. I have put my iPad through its paces, but I have never had to restart my iPad because of a functionality issue.

    Yeah, but my industry uses special software that isn’t available on the iPad.

    Anyone who tells you the iPad handles every filetype is probably not to be trusted. It doesn’t. However, handling certain kinds of files is different from being able to accomplish a task. For example, if you are an engineer working on a certain part of a bridge and your boss simply needs a printout of your design, it doesn’t matter what program you used.

    That being said, the iPad can handle a lot of file extensions that are standard in many industries, for example: pdf, doc, jpg, png, rtf, and more. However, you are technically correct that the iPad may not support your specific software or have an app equivalent. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get the same work done faster, more efficiently, and more conveniently with the iPad than you can with a laptop, desktop, or good old paper-and-pencil.

    I’m not saying there isn’t a learning curve, I’m just saying that it’s worth it. Because there’s one more feature of the iPad that makes it an incredible productivity tool – it is fun to use! It might seem silly to say so, but the truth about humanity is that we love having fun. And if we can have fun while we’re completing tasks for work, it makes us want to complete more tasks for work.

    And if you can have fun and feel awesome while getting your work done, why would you work any other way?

    This site is my attempt to help others navigate the world of iPad productivity with tips, shortcuts, expertise, and advice. Whether you’re thinking of making the jump, a longtime owner, or ready to throw your iPad against the wall, my hope is that you will find something here that will help you use it more effectively to get your work done, no matter what you do for a living.

    App Review: Chrome

    The Google Chrome Logo

    Can Google’s Browser Deliver on an iPad?

    As a PC guy, I was understandably reluctant about the iPad’s prospects for my life. One thing I especially loved about the Chrome browser on my PC was its speed and ability to open multiple tabs, something which is now standard among browsers. I was also curious whether I could sign in to my Google account and sync my bookmarks.

    As usual, Google did not let me down, and neither did the iPad.

    The App launches quickly and saves your previous tabs without a problem. I usually have one or two tabs open all the time (my Deviantart messages, blog analytics, etc.), so I found this feature useful. Also, I was happy to see that all of my bookmarks were synced automatically once I signed into Chrome, and I now have a new category – mobile bookmarks. To find my old bookmarks, I just had to look under “Desktop Bookmarks” and there they were.

    Just like its PC counterpart, Chrome for the iPad handles PDF’s, a good feature since I had quite a few bookmarked from my Desktop. It also gives a “Request Desktop Site” option in its drop-down menu right of the address bar, which is handy when I don’t want to download a token iOS app (usually just a dumbed-down and less-functional version of the actual website).

    In addition to its PDF functionality, Chrome also handles Youtube videos, but retains all of the video quality controls that are somehow missing from the actual Youtube App. One thing it can’t do, however, is Flash, but this isn’t really a point against it because there’s only one iPad browser I know of (Photon), which handles Flash with any decent functionality. Someday Adobe and Apple will resolve their differences or buy each other out or something, but until then, this is what we’ve got.

    Looks just like the Chrome we all know and love.

    Forms in Chrome work well, and I haven’t run into a website yet that it can’t load or any that render incorrectly. There was a period where Facebook was acting weird, loading with my messages, friend requests, and notifications all dropped down and no amount of tapping would hide them, thus rendering updating my status an impossibility. However, I haven’t had this problem in a few months, and I strongly suspect that this has more to do with Facebook as a webpage than Chrome as an App. Anyway, since the problem seems to have solved itself, I can’t really count it against the App.

    One thing to be aware of when you use Chrome for iPad is that it does not keep every single tab in active memory all the time. This is a functionality issue associated with the iPad – it only has 1GB of RAM, so it has to be careful not to use up too much at once and turn into a sluggish mess. So, Chrome seems to only really load the tab you are currently viewing, keeping perhaps a few others in its memory at a time. If you’re switching pretty quickly between two to four tabs, it shouldn’t be a problem (again, depending on the page). Just be aware that if you leave a tab unviewed for a while, it may have to reload when you look at it again. However, it does load pages very quickly, and I’ve never lost time because of this feature.


    1. User-Friendliness= 5 Stars
    2. Functionality= 5 Stars
    3. Aesthetics= 5 Stars
    4. Performance= 5 Stars
    5. Honesty= 5 Stars

    Overall Rating= 5 Stars!


    Final Verdict: If you’re a longtime Chrome user like me, you’ll find plenty of functionality on the iPad version. If you’re looking for a viable alternative to Safari, Chrome is worth a shot, plus it’s free. Fast tabbed browsing, efficient interface, and smooth operation.

    On the iPhone:Chrome – Google, Inc.

    On the iPad:Chrome – Google, Inc.

    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]iPad4Life.net .

    App Review Criteria

    All Apps are given ratings from 1 to 5 stars, 5 being the best. I take a weighted average of those ratings to give the app its overall rating. I review and rate Apps using the following criteria:

    1. User-Friendliness – Whether the App is easy or difficult to use and navigate upon first impression.
    2. Functionality – Whether the App would be easy to use and add to productivity on a daily basis.
    3. Aesthetics – How the App looks, specifically, whether its appearance enhances or detracts from the experience of using it.
    4. Performance – Whether the App is stable or crashes all the time or freezes up?
    5. Honesty – Arguably the most important aspect, whether the App functions as advertised.

    The overall ratings mean:

    1. 5 Stars – Easy to understand, highly functional, good-looking, fast and responsive, lives up to its claims. In other words, perfect.
    2. 4 Stars – A highly functional and well-designed app that has perhaps a few things missing or overlooked. Still a great app, just unpolished.
    3. 3 Stars – Functional App, but doesn’t do anything that can’t be done better (or cheaper) by something else. Probably also has some interface issues, but is largely stable and workable, just run-of-the-mill.
    4. 2 Stars – This App will launch. The odds of it doing anything more complicated than starting up, however, are not good.
    5. 1 Star – Technical difficulties. Either crashes, fails to launch, or otherwise damages the iPad experience. Avoid.

    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]iPad4Life.net .


    Why iPad?

    Back in January, my laptop was showing its age. Slow booting, even slower application launching, and the more-than-occasional crash all told me that the time had finally come. It had been a great seven years with the old girl, but she was ready for her viking funeral.

    A Viking Funeral
    The best kind of funeral, clearly

    Though we had enough money saved for a good high-end laptop, I had a different idea. Why not get an iPad? Could it perform the same tasks I needed to accomplish on the laptop, as well as support my hobbies? Was it reliable and useful enough to use as a primary device?

    I didn’t want the iPad to be an auxiliary device or a toy – I wanted it to be a true replacement. I wanted it to do everything.

    This blog is a record of my quest to use my iPad as my primary productivity device. Here you will also find tips on how to better use your iPad for productivity and make the most of its strengths – portability, versatility, and reliability, as well as workarounds for its weaknesses (no device is perfect, after all).

    If you’re new to the iPad, and new to Apple products entirely (just like I was and still am) I hope you find some of the help you’re looking for here. Check back often for new tutorials, tips & tricks, app recommendations and more, or subscribe so that you don’t miss a single post.

    If you are a veteran iPad productivity expert, email me your tips & tricks, testimonials, and app recommendations: editor[at]ipad4life.net.