iPad tips and tricks for road warriors

It's the little things that can make all the difference in getting what you want from Apple's tablet

It's amazing what an iPad can do. And it's dumbfounding when something simple doesn't seem to work at all. As with any computing device, there are tricks to getting what you want with an iPad, at least some of the time.

I've pulled together the tips and tricks I find myself sharing with friends and colleagues repeatedly, the stuff that stumps people who aren't exactly technophobic. Maybe they stump you, too.

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Using Dropbox or Box with Apple's iWork suite

These two cloud storage services -- Dropbox and Box -- are becoming all but standard tools for road warriors, allowing access to work files from any PC, Mac, iOS device, and Android device. There are none of the platform limitations of Microsoft SharePoint, nor the hassles of using FTP. And practically every business app supports these two services, except Apple's iWork apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

Keynote is the best slideshow editor for iOS. Even if you favor Quickoffice for text documents and spreadsheets, chances are you're at least using Keynote of Apple's iOS iWork app family and, thus, encountering the Dropbox or Box gap.

It turns out that the iWork apps do support these popular cloud storage services, but through the standard DAV file-sharing protocol, not through direct access enabled by these services' proprietary APIs, which is how other apps make the connection. In the Documents window, tap + and choose WebDAV from the popover. Sign in to your Dropbox or Box account, and you're now able to open files from and save files to that account. The URL for Dropbox is dropdav.com (Dropbox charges a $5 monthly fee to activate this access), and for Box.net is box.net/dav (no fee!).

Watching Hulu and other restricted video sites on a TV

When you're away from home and want to watch a favorite show from Hulu, one of the network websites, or other site that disallows streaming of its video to an Apple TV-connected TV, you're stuck with the over-the-air offerings, right? Nope. If you have an iPad 2 or a third-gen iPad, you can get around the rights management restrictions for AirPlay very easily:

  • Use AirPlay video mirroring to send the entire iPad screen wirelessly to the TV (via an Apple TV, of course). Open the multitasking dock (double-press the Home button or use the four-finger up swipe), scroll to the left tap the AirPlay icon button, choose Apple TV, and set the Mirroring switch to On.
  • Use a physical VGA or HDMI cable connect to the TV; that automatically mirrors the screen. Apple sells the appropriate VGA and HDMI adapters, which I keep in my travel bag. Remember that VGA doesn't send the audio, so you'll need to rely on the iPad's speaker or use an audio cable if the TV is equipped with an auxiliary jack.

These same techniques also let you do big-screen gaming. On a related note, an Apple TV makes a great conference room addition, so users of the last two generations of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch can wirelessly present their screens for demos, presentations, and the like.

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