The right office apps for the iPad at work
If you provide or allow employees an iPad, here are the productivity apps that you should install on themFollow @MobileGalen
Should you provide a keyboard and VGA connector?
The iPad's on-screen keyboard is surprisingly easy to use, especially in landscape orientation, where it's a full-size keyboard. You don't get the tactile feedback of a key press, but I found I adjusted very quickly to touch tapping without that feedback.
Apple makes a very nice Bluetooth keyboard, the $69 Apple Wireless Keyboard; other Bluetooth keyboards work with the iPad as well. You would think they make typing faster, but they don't unless you're in stenographic mode, transcribing a meeting or call as opposed to writing and editing. The reason is that there are few keyboard shortcuts available for iPad apps, so you're constantly taking your hands off the keyboard and moving them to the iPad's screen. That kills any speed advantage of the physical keyboard.
There are keyboard shortcuts for copy, cut, and paste, and you can Shift-select ranges of text. There are also top-of-document and bottom-of-document shortcuts. Plus, you can enter accented characters and other special symbols using the same Option shortcuts as on a Mac. But there are no shortcuts (or keys) for Page Up and Page Down -- two extremely common editing keys -- or for formatting such as boldface, italics, underline, and paragraph alignment.
[Updated 03/14/11] Apple also makes a VGA connector that plugs into the iPad's 30-pin connector, the $29 Apple Dock Connector to VGA Adapter. In April 2011 Apple also released the $39 Apple Dock Connector to HDMI Adapter for HDMI-based displays. Either is a worthwhile purchase if you're using Keynote to make presentations via a projector or TV. But note that most apps on the original iPad don't support these connectors, and Apple prevents it from displaying commercial video purchased or rented from iTunes; you can't use it to hook up an iPad to a monitor as you would a laptop when you want a bigger screen for your routine work. With the iPad 2, you can mirror your display over a VGA or HDMI cable.
Putting it all together: The ideal office "suite"
Given that no one suite does it all well enough, what is the ideal combination? That's a tough decision, but I've concluded the best overall productivity suite is Pages, Numbers, Keynote, GoodReader, and ZipThat.
If Pages' lack of style-sheet retention is a deal-breaker, your ideal iPad productivity suite is Quickoffice, GoodReader, Calculator Pro, and ZipThat. (You might make Numbers available as well for those who need to create charts and do more sophisticated spreadsheet work than Quickoffice can accomplish. Likewise, you might make Keynote available for those who need to create marketing-class slideshows on their iPads.) DocsToGo's spreadsheet editor is better than Quickoffice's, but the bottom-of-the-screen placement of DocsToGo's controls makes it too hard to use for text editing.
InfoWorld executive editor Galen Gruman analyzes the latest issues in mobile technology.
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Galen is author of iOS 7: The "Just What You Need" Book, OS X Mavericks: The "Just What You Need" Book, MacBook Pro Portable Genius, and iBooks Author For Dummies, as well as lead author of Exploring Windows 8 For Dummies. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen and at Google+.