Introduction To Our New Guest Poster – Dean Duke

Dean Duke -

Introducing Dean Duke

I would like to introduce someone very special to all of you. Dean Duke is a very knowledgeable colleague of mine who shares a similar kind of passion with me – productivity through the use of iPad and tablet devices. I was surprised and happy at the same time when Dean expressed his interest in doing some writing for this site. Naturally, due to my other hobbies (bike riding) and commitments, I welcomed the extra help!

I met Dean at an Apple event that was hosted in October Last year. For those of you who have never been to an Apple event, I STRONGLY recommend it! They are amazing and full of cool people. You can find the stream to the one I went to here

Other than the fact that we look similar, it didn’t take long for us to get to know each other and our similar passion in being productive on tablets. In fact, I was surprised (and a bit disappointed) he hadn’t heard of with what he knew on the topic. He has never written on a blog before, so I can show you none of his previous work. He is hoping to make this his platform to the online world and really make himself known.

With the help of Dean, it is my hope that you will get more of latest news, stories, and blogs related to iPad and Tablet Productivity. Not only that, he just so happens to know a thing or two about Android devices as well. This blog requires a dedication and passion that is hard to find. I have read some of his work and I am sure you will all find it informative and enjoyable.

You can find a list of his blog posts here (although, at the time of writing this, he has not published anything to the blog as yet)

Any feedback on his writing would be greatly appreciated in the form of blog comments.

If you are reading this and think that you would also enjoy contributing to this blog, please don’t hesitate to email me Or via our contact form.

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How to choose an iPad Keyboard

Bluetooth Keyboards

I thought about buying a keyboard for a long time. I am fairly fast at typing on the iPad but there are still times that I would like to have a physical keyboard…to be able to feel the keys on my fingers. Over the past few years I have written 95% of my blog posts on my iPad using Byword, Drafts, and/or Blogsy and have also grown very fond of QuickOffice Pro HD. For these apps a dedicated physical keyboard is much more efficient.

As with all things iPad, the decision on the right keyboard is not an easy one. When I am traveling with the family I generally take my simple and elegant Apple Aluminum keyboard, which works great; but is not as portable as some others. I have seen many people using the Zaggfolio keyboard (picture above) which seems nice enough, but it only has one viewing angle and completely encases the iPad. Call me a design nerd, but sometimes I like the idea of interacting with a non-encased iPad without the trouble of a difficult removal process.

At the other end of the spectrum are the minimal keyboards like the Logictech Ultrathin. Seems cool, but in doing some research it appears that the keyboard only supports one viewing angle and there have been reports that it is not durable enough for people like me.

As you can see, the decision to buy the right keyboard is not an easy one. In fact, there really is no perfect keyboard for all uses and users. This is why the best way to pick a keyboard is to take a look one each of them in person and try them out if possible. Here is a simple mind map I created that lists some of the decision points and tradeoffs of the various keyboard types. This map was largely researched via this excellent post on Macword which can be found here.



The good news is that Best Buy is starting to carry a wide assortment of keyboards and does carry most if not all of the Logitech Options along with the Zaggs. And, what Best Buy does not carry seems to be carried by Brookstone where I have seen many of the Belkins (pictured above) well as some of their Brookstone-branded units.

Another cool keyboard I have run across is the Brydge. This keyboard originally came out of a funding campaign on Kickstarter and delivered late in 2012. I am not sure how much I like the Brydge yet not having seen or interacted with the keyboard, but I can say that I am very intrigued. It appears to be a cross between clam-shell-like keyboard and the Logictech Ultrathin but without the limitations of each. May be an interesting option if you want the flexibility of multiple viewing angles, portability of a minimalist unit and the convenience of the Apple Smart Cover.

What if you could have a keyboard that is there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t, that didn’t weigh anything nor take up any space when not in use, that was so small that it could stow away on the Apple Smart Cover? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it really isn’t…sort of. What I am describing is the someday to be released TouchFire, yet another KickStarter Project. This “keyboard” is a simple piece of silicone that sits on top of your iPad keyboard and provides just the type of tactile feel that the iPad screen keyboard is missing. I have to say that I love the idea of this product and would surely own one if it was actually available. Read here if you want to learn about why this excellent idea is still in “production”.

Which one did I pick you ask? Stay tuned for a review next week on my chosen keyboard!


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Is it really possible to go iPad Only???

title photo

Photo courtesy of

Is it really possible to go iPad-only for the average professional? This is a question that has been circulating around the Internet since the beginning of the iPad and most recently discussed in detail in this excellent post on asianefficiency (AE). Some argued then and still argue now that the iPad is best for consumption and maybe light email work. Others argue that the iPad can definitely replace PCs for many professional workers. My feeling is more nuanced. I believe some professionals can go iPad only. However, I really believe that an iPad can help almost all professionals be more efficient overall. What follows is a summary of why I will likely continue to have both my iPad and my Windows laptop in my brief case.

  1. I am not iPad only nor do I plan to be iPad for all that I do. However, I am iPad only for all aspects of this blog including writing, editing, maintenance, etc. I am also iPad only for writing and editing the upcoming major update to my iPad Productivity eBook. However, for the day job I am far from iPad only.
  2. I love the idea of going iPad for all the reasons described in the AE post. Its wonderfully small form factor and instant on capabilities make the iPad one of the lightest computing platforms around. The Macbook Air 11 is of course similar in size, but I am Windows-only at work and I have never felt compelled to invest the additional dollars for the laptop, $599 for the iPad Air 32 vs. $899 for the cheapest Macbook Air 11. And, the process to mold the Mac to my Microsoft-based work environment would be almost as difficult as it is on the iPad. So, why spend more dollars for a work environment that would only be marginally better than with the iPad, at least for my own work situation?
  3. For certain things that I do I appreciate having full versions of Word and Excel in addition to two large monitors. I do agree that the iPad can be more efficient in that there is never more than one application on the screen at any given time. However, there are times that having the real estate of two monitors and multiple apps is essential for some of the heavier business analysis that I do.
  4. I work from home between one and two days a week and when I go into the office I generally focus on being present to my employees both via one on one meetings and via office meetings and collaboration. For those meetings I am a copious note taker using my automated notetaking workflow. I am working towards keeping my heavy analytical work for the days I work from home and my lighter email/planning/light office work for those days that I am in the office. The motivation for this shift is so that I can leave my laptop docked in my home office with its multiple-monitor setup while only taking my iPad to the office for everything else. And, this could include interacting with and manipulating very large and complicated spreadsheets given the power of iPad Excel. However, I do not enjoy creating complicated spreadsheets from scratch on the iPad.
  5. I travel at least once per month and I have been fairly focused on using only my iPad during my last few trips. I have not left the laptop home yet, but I am close. Traveling with just an iPad knowing that I can do most things that I would ever need to do is a freeing discovery. I just need to take the leap and simply leave the laptop home.
  6. My workflow does depend on some key apps and processes which I will describe in a future post. However, I do agree with many of the ideas described in the Asian Efficiency post. As a preview, my key apps include OneDrive, Microsoft Office 365 including all three primary apps as well as OneNote, VMWare View to access a Windows virtual machine of my work environment, Drafts, Evernote and to a lesser extent Dropbox and Box. More on this to come.
  7. Others have said before that certain professions lend themselves to iPad only. Writing is certainly one of the professions that comes to mind. I bet there are also some clinicians that could be iPad only with the right electronic medical record. However, there is no way that a finance person whether it be a financial analyst or an accountant could go iPad only. Nor do a think engineers of any sort could go iPad only. These professionals are very dependent on sophisticated departmental systems and powerful computers.

There you have it, some of my brief thoughts on where my iPad sits in my day to day workflow. Yes, I do want to use my iPad as much as possible and I generally strive to do so on most days. However, like many have said in the past having a full computer with either one or multiple large monitors is simply key for some workers, myself included. However, the whole purpose of this blog is to write about ways that the iPad can be used to become more efficient. And this is where the fun is, finding new and fun ways to save time and become more productive.

Have you tried to go iPad only? If so, how have you been able to accomplish this feat? If not, why not?

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15 Serious Productivity Tips for new (and old) iPad Owners


I have come to a revelation lately, that most people have no idea how to use their iPads for things other than surfing the internet. Regular readers of my blog are the exception of course. I know this for two reasons. First, most professionals do not have the time to sit down and master their surprisingly simple yet truly complicated devices. And two, the iPad is a very different user experience than the PC most everyone uses for work. Yes, my iPad Productivity eBook will help those already comfortable with their iPads; but, what about those people who would not even think to search the Internet for iPad tips? Consider this post a prequel to my iPad Productivity eBook and a sequel to your first or second Genius Bar Session.

NOTES: The first step in getting efficient on your iPad is to get comfortable taking notes.

  1. My recommended option for new iPad people is Apple Notes. First, Notes syncs with your iCloud account. Second, Notes is very quick and conceptually (and visually) similar to using a legal pad. Once a note is done, you can email it to yourself for further processing. Or, you could keep your notes on your iPad and then access them from iCloud from your computers. Here is a great resource on iCloud on Apple’s Website.
  2. For those already comfortable with Apple Notes and the iPad the best solution for taking and storing notes on your iPad is Evernote. Mastering Evernote requires setup on all your devices and presumes that your IT department has not blocked your ability to install Evernote on your work computer. There are excellent eBook options that teach you how to use Evernote, specifically Daniel E. Gold’s eBook. The other reason to use Evernote to track your notes is that you can use any number of front-end apps to get information into Evernote including hand-writing apps and text editors.
  3. If you are not comfortable typing on your iPad give MyScript Memo a try. This is a hand-writing app that translates your writing to text. The free version works just as well as the paid one, but forces you to write in portrait mode. The workflow is that you write a note, convert to text and then send to yourself (or Evernote) via email.
  4. There are many other notetaking apps to try including Paper, Penultimate, and NotetakerHD; try any of these and choose the one that you like.

TASKS: Have trouble keeping track of your to-do lists? Your iPad can help!

  1. Just like Apple Notes is a great place to start with Notes, Apple Reminders is a great place to start with tasks. First, Apple Reminders syncs well between your iPad/iPhone using iCloud. Second, if you are an Microsoft Exchange user, Reminders syncs well with Outlook. If you are using Exchanges Tasks, turn off iCloud Task sync’ing and then default to Exchange. If you don’t use Exchange, Reminders sync’s reliably using iCloud to your iPhone. There are tons of other task managers out there, but using Reminders/Tasks is the simplest and cheapest (FREE).
  2. Evernote is a wonderful way to track tasks, but it used to be complicated until Evernote finally released its own Reminders functionality. If you are interested in Evernote for task management check out this post as it provides an overview of my own task management process as well as a few others. Some other resources including Daniel E. Gold’s eBook and The Secret Weapon eBook.


  1. There are two options for document access that I use regularly, iWork and QuickOfficeHD. iWork is Apple’s iOS productivity suite that is compatible with their own MAC-based Suite and iWork is also compatible with Microsoft Office Documents. That said, I have found issues editing large, chart and picture-heavy documents in iOS Pages. I can edit the documents in Pages but once I try to access them back on my work computer the formatting is often altered in negative ways. The most recent update of iWork has added track changes support which does work well.
  2. I find myself using QuickOffice a lot more than iWork as QuickOffice seems to do a better job with graphics-heavy documents. Another excellent feature of QuickOffice is that it allows you to save and access documents from different locations including Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Shareplus, etc.
  3. I have had excellent success with Keynote over the past few years including developing complete presentations from the ground up on my iPad. Keynote also allows for remote slide control using a paired iPhone which is very cool if you are presenting while standing up with your iPad connected to a projector.

Work Files

  1. I use Sharepoint extensively and have my own Sharepoint Site for all of my projects. This allows me to edit/access documents for work without taking the documents outside of my work network. I love cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox and Box, but for confidential work documents I prefer to keep files within my work network.
  2. As I wrote in this post Shareplus and QuickOffice are great tools to access corporate documents on the go.
  3. If you do not use Sharepoint at work, using QuickOffice alone is a great option for iPad document access. Check out this blog post for some instructions on how to connect QuickOffice to Dropbox and other document sharing services.


  1. There are many PDF document options with GoodReader and PDFprovider being an excellent combination. I use both of these apps constantly with my workflow documented here. Another great resource to compare PDF apps is this post on iPad4lawyers.
  2. In summary, Goodreader allows you to access/view/annotate PDFs that are sent to you via email, are stored on Dropbox or on some other cloud service. You can then access, annotate (i.e. sign documents) with Good and then forward the documents via email. As you can see in the ipad4lawyers post, there are many other PDF tools for the iPad, but Good is a great tool that has been around a long time and one that I use constantly. Good also allows you to view and access other document types and sync them via Dropbox.
  3. PDFprovider allows you to convert non PDFs to PDFs from your email and then access these documents on using GoodReader. Think of PDFprovider as the gateway app to allow you to leverage PDFs on your iPad whether you use Good or some other PDF app.

Do a search on iPad Productivity and you will see pages and pages of posts on apps to buy and processes to implement…kind of overwhelming really. If you want to use your iPad at work, ignore all of the noise and decide on your own system using the above categories. Everyone works differently, everyone has a different aptitude for technology, and EVERYONE is capable of getting more efficient with the iPad. At a minimum start taking notes and then evolve from there.

Are there other productivity categories you find important on your iPad? Have I missed some apps for the new iPad Business User? Let me know what you think.

DISCLOSURE: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy the app I earn a few cents. This costs you nothing, but helps me keep my blog running.


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Evernote Scannable, the killer app


Evernote is central to many of my productivity processes and I continue to find new ways to leverage it for business and for personal uses. I have used many scanning apps to get information into Evernote with my iPad and iPhone. There are many apps that work great for scanning and several of them are discussed in my new iPad Productivity ebook. However, Evernote just released their new app for scanning called Scannable. I downloaded this app on the day it was available and I have been using it almost every day since.

What sets Scannable apart from every other scanner is its simplicity. Scannable automatically recognizes the size and type of paper you are scanning and adjusts itself automatically. Additionally, Scannable is setup to scan one page after another with NO manual interaction, just place a page to scan in view of the app, allow the app to automatically crop and snap the picture and then replace the page with another page.


That’s it! With this app you can scan multiple page documents in excess of 10-20 pages in less than a minute. Of course the quality of the scan is dependent on how steady your hand is, but you get better at holding the iPad with practice. In addition to turbo capture mode, Scannable provides many options for storage in addition to scanning to Evernote. Scannable allows you to save scanned images to Photos, iCloud (including directories in iCloud Drive), Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. You can even email scanned images as well. Each of these options is easily accessible once you have completed capturing. Beyond these storage options, Scannable allows you to default all scans directly to Evernote in the notebook you chose. One other cool feature is that Scannable automatically notices when you have scanned a business card once the scan is stored in Evernote. Evernote recognizes the text on the card and attempts to find the contact in LinkedIn, just like old Evernote Hello. What’s different is that Evernote Scannable does this by recognizing that a business card has been scanned. Very cool!

Scannable is to document scanning as Drafts is for idea capturing. Drafts makes it extremely fast and easy to capture ideas on the iPad by eliminating all of the app fluff and allowing you to just type. Scannable does the same for scanning by removing all of the complexity so that the process of saving paper is extremely quick and easy.

An App like Scannable is just one example of the many apps and processes that are out there to help you improve productivity on the iPad. I write about many such apps and processes in my new iPad Productivity eBook.

Have you tried Scannable yet?

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How to work with PDFs on your iPad


PDF handling is one of the more productive capabilities of the iPad. Many PDF functions done on a computer are sometimes more efficient on the iPad. Some of the major PDF functions include Creating, Annotating, Combining, Scanning and Text capture. There is no one application that accomplish all of these functions well, but with a combination of several of the more robust apps you can efficiently handle all of these functions from your tablet. The above mindmap shows a few of the major apps broken down by function and as you can see there is no one app the crosses all of the major work functions. However, with a few of the better apps you can transition your PDF work to your iPad. Read on to learn how some of the major apps can save you some time and maybe even make dealing with PDFs fun.

Creating PDFs from office documents is an infrequent function for me, but I like appreciate having ability to do the conversion on my iPad. The app I have used for years for creating PDFs is PDF PROvider which I wrote about in this post. To convert you can “Open-In”; documents sent via email into PDF PROvider and then convert the document. However, PDF PROvider also connects to Dropbox for file syncing and provides for some basic annotation. The free version just supports “Open-In” functionality, which means you would simply email a file to yourself if you need to convert. Other apps that support converting PDFs include PDF Export and DocAS. PDF Export charges $2.99 which provides additional functionality like merging, splitting, cloud storage access (Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, SugarSync, etc.) and annotating. DocAS for $6.99 also converts documents to PDF but adds note taking features including typing and stylus writing. Additionally, DocAS provides a presentation mode for displaying content via a projector.

Annotating PDFs is by far the most common function done with PDFs. I am sure many of you receive PDF documents that you need to review and sometimes comment on. Most people print these out and write comments and then have to complete the additional step of re-scanning the document. With the iPad these additional steps are unnecessary. One of the first apps I ever bought for the iPad is GoodReader and it has been part of my regular workflow since my first iPad 1. With all of its functionality and capability, GoodReader does bring a lot of complexity as you can see from this screen shot.


Even after using GoodReader for years I still have to think about how to annotate a document. Because of this complexity I recently tried an app called PDFpen. This app does not have all of the functions that Good does, but PDFpen does a few things very well, specifically annotating as you can see from this shot; two clicks on the main user interface to get to the annotation tool.


Combining PDFs may be a more infrequent function for some, but for me it is a monthly occurrence as I create packets for my company’s board meetings. Even if you do not find yourself combing PDFs now, the function may be useful for those times you send multiple files within an email; combining these files into one larger file is a cool way to improve your recipient’s experience. And, the additional benefit of combining files is that the original document type become irrelevant once the original document is converted to a PDF. Of the apps I have mentioned above, GoodReader and PDF PROvider both provide combine functionality. The process in Good to combine PDFs is to open the multiple page layout view (button on the bottom of the screen with four boxes) and then click Append on the bottom right side of the screen. From here you simply navigate to the file you want to append within your cloud account.


Scanning documents into PDFs is an incredibly easy way to eliminate paper from your life at the entry point, i.e. as soon as it hits your hands. There are lots of scanning apps available for the iPhone and iPad and I have tried many over the years. My current favorite is Readdle’s Scanner Pro. However, there are plenty of great scanners out there not the least of which is Smile’s PDFpen Scan+. My recommendation is to try several of them starting with Scanner Pro and choose the one that is easiest and fastest for you as the quicker you get at scanning documents the more likely your home or office stays paper free.

Text capture is a function I don’t do much myself, but if you receive lots of PDFs via email from colleagues you may benefit from PDFpen Scan+’s capability of converting a PDF to text, called optical text recognition (OCR). To test this functionality I imported my free, 19 page Introduction to iPad Productivity ebook and hit the OCR button in Scan+.


After about 5 minutes of processing, Scan+ completed the process and I was able to paste all of the text from my ebook into Drafts. The scanning did include the screen prints in the book which resulted in some strange results, but overall I was able to access all of the important text from my document.


As you can see there is little you can not do with PDFs on the iPad. In fact, I rarely use my computer these days for PDF processing, even for combining many files into one document packet because it is just so easy and convenient to use the iPad. Try one of these apps for one of the major functions mentioned above and you may find yourself using your iPad a little more for productivity and a little less for watching videos.

Have you tried any of the apps mentioned above? Have a I missed a PDF that you really like?


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Free eBook: Introduction to iPad Productivity

As a busy blogger and iPad "expert", I get asked all the time about the tools I use to be productive on the iPad. So I decided to write a small book explaining some of the basics, the things that will get you using your iPad for work rather than play. This eBook is not a replacement for my iPad Productivity eBook, but rather an introduction for those of you ready to leave the laptop at work.

You can’t buy this eBook. There’s only one way to get it—by subscribing to my FREE email newsletter. Don’t waste any more time lugging that laptop around. Sign up today!

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