Combining Project Management with Task Management with Trello on the iPad

Trello has turned out to be one of the very few combined task management and project management systems that works equally well for the individual and for the small to medium sized team…all in the same app. Over the past several months I have transitioned all of my personal and business task management to Trello as well as transitioned my entire team. Combining both project management and task management in one system saves me duplicated effort required when tracking project/business tasks in different systems. Read on to learn how I am using Trello to manage all aspects of my productivity.

My company has historically used spreadsheets to track projects and tasks. The reason we have used Excel is because it is easy to use and approachable by all employees whereas real project management tools like Microsoft Project and others are lots more complex. Additionally, our projects have not been complex enough to warrant the extra capabilities of Microsoft Project. Historically I have struggled to move tasks between my Excel and my task manager because it is yet another task itself to synchronize the two systems. The tasks have to be tracked in both places and I never found a good way to efficiently connect the two systems without cutting and pasting.

Trello solves this problem by combing both a personal task manager and a light project manager all in one. I can have my own personal boards while also having work/project boards all in the same interface. This allows me to easily move tasks back and forth between the personal and the business boards. I still have not settled on the best way to connect the two systems, either via copying tasks between boards or by linking tasks between boards; Trello supports both. And, Trello supports a third method, querying for tasks assigned to me. This indecision is well supported by Trello because of the flexibility of the system and the interface. Additionally, following my automated task entry process as described in my recent post on DEGConsulting, I have the added benefit of linking my tasks directly to Evernote notes for even more documentation and context.

As I wrote in this post, Trello works just as well within a browser on my laptop, home computer and in a browser on my iPad. Additionally, the Trello app allows for most functionality necessary to fully manage my personal tasks and work projects. The iPad app just seems to lack the powerful searching functionality available on the web apps. I would also like to see some Evernote-like functionality in the iPad app where searches could be saved as folders for quick reference to imported workflow-based searches. Trello recently added saved searches in a recent update to the web version.

I have been using a combined personal and business project workflow with Trello now for several months with much success. I feel I am wasting a lot less time moving and tracking tasks across multiple platforms with Trello. I have even created boards for my blog as well as for the upcoming major update to my iPad Productivity eBook.

Have you found a system that combines project management for teams as well as personal task management? If so, what system are you using?

 

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REVIEW: Innovative Care Air Professional Case for iPad Air

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I have working my way through some of the newer case options available for the iPad starting with my TouchFire review a few weeks ago. The next review up is for the innovative care Air Professional Case. Having used the case for a few weeks I have been pleased with it overall and quite impressed with the quality of construction and usability. The case is extremely flexible and professional in appearance and provides a good bit of protection for your iPad. Read on for more details.

PROS:

  1. Professional appearance
  2. Durable construction
  3. Nice flexibility in viewing angles both for the lap top and on the desk top
  4. Interesting shoulder strap
  5. Cover that allows for picture taking even when folded back; eliminates the need to remove the iPad from the case to take pictures

CONS:

  1. I am not a fan of cases that cover the top of the iPad
  2. The case itself sometimes impedes access to to down swipes and left-right/right-left swipes.
  3. A bit heavy for a non-plastic case

The first impression I had when I un-boxed the case was the quality construction. The material the case is made from is a rubber-like canvas that feels durable and high-quality. Unlike the TouchFire and other similar cases, the Air Professional holds the iPad with a fabric enclosure and a flap that slides between the back of the iPad and the back of the case. This is definitely a secure design, but one that has the potential of obscuring swipes from top to bottom and side to side. This is because the case’s fabric is fairly thick, and cropped tight right up to the edge of the screen. However, after using the case for a few days I became accustomed to this issue and easily adapted.

case

An interesting feature of the case is the included shoulder strap which turns the case into a very small briefcase. Additionally, the strap provides a way to keep the iPad around your neck as you do other things. A potential use that comes to mind are for care givers or photographers that use their iPad while they move around on the go. Not being a person that uses my iPad while standing or walking, the strap does not seem as useful. However, I am confident that many people would find value in this unique feature. The strap is not really a surprise given that Innovative Care also sells some pretty cool tablet bags as well.

One of the coolest features has to be the cut out on the cover. I think of this feature as the “why didn’t someone think of this sooner” feature. The benefit is that you can take pictures without having to awkwardly hold the iPad with the cover hanging awkwardly, with the Professional can you simply flip the case back and snap away. In addition to the cover cutout, the Professional has the expected viewing angle options including for both lap and the table-top viewing. The method for both of these angles is a small flap on the back of the case, exactly like the original iPad 1. Not sophisticated or creative, but simple and effective.

cutout

Overall the Professional is a solid case with some unique features. At $59.99 the Professional is a bit pricey given that the TouchFire Case is $10 cheaper at $49.99. However, the Professional is a different animal with its professional appearance, shoulder strap and unique top cover cutout. Are these features worth the additional 10 bucks? It depends on what you value; the Professional will look great in the board room and provides plenty of useful features that make it a productive addition to your iPad. Take a look at their site and make the choice yourself.

Next, a review of some of the cool products offered on http://www.everythingtablet.com!

 

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Onenote and OneDrive on the iPad, is Microsoft is chipping away at Evernote?

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/revdave/

I have made the transition from Evernote to Onenote at work! Because my new employer does not allow Evernote I struggled with using the web version to leverage Evernote's cool new Reminders functionality. As you might imagine, this got tedious so I devolved back to Outlook Tasks and added Onenote because both apps fully integrate with Exchange. I am happy to report that with new updates to Onenote (v2.3 as of this writing) and its seamless Microsoft OneDrive integration; I can achieve Evernote-like productivity with Microsoft on my iPad! Read on to understand why.

I wrote here that I was looking forward to the ability to seamlessly use Onenote across all of my devices like I can with Evernote. However, in this post I documented that the experiment failed with Box; Onenote and Outline+ simply do not sync in a seamless fashion. I was excited to find out that the newest versions of Onenote for the iPad support Microsoft OneDrive sync'ing, Microsoft Office 365 Sharepoint sync'ing AND simple Sharepoint URL sync'ing. This is very cool for people who use either Sharepoint with external URL access or Sharepoint 365. Given that my organization is now on Office 365 I now connect my OneNote to both my personal OneDrive account and now OneDrive Business for work files.

This allows me to keep my confidential work files in a respository stored securely behind the corporate firewall and all of my personal files and notes on my personal OneDrive account. This is really the best of both works as I have the same connectivity for all of the information in my personal and professional lives.

If the latest version of iOS Onenote only added the ability to sync to Sharepoint and OneDrive sites I would have been very happy. However, the improvements did not stop there. The new interface is a vast improvement and adds many features that Evernote has for the iPad like tagging, tables, inserting pictures, inserting hyperlinks (not note linking however, although Evernote still has not added this functionality) and many others. All of these new features work well and are very quick to use; the interface is even snappier than Evernote on my iPad Air.

All of this new functionality makes MS Onenote a lot more usable than prior versions and quite frankly better and more usable than Outline+.

All is not perfect on Onenote of course as Onenote lacks the amazing searching functionality that Evernote has and Onenote does not support native task management either. That said, Onenote on the desktop has completely seamless integration with Outlook Reminders; a user can flag a line in a note as a task with or without a due date. Then, a task/reminder is automatically created with a link in the task/reminder back to Onenote. The problem however is that this functionality only works on the computer versions of Onenote. As I mentioned above, Onenote also lacks the ability to create note to note links although as you probably know Evernote still has not added this functionality either, unless of course you are using CleverHD. Other annoying iOS functionality omissions native to Evernote include an inability to move a note from one notebook to another and an inability to email and forward notes via email. Yes, important features for some; but for me neither of these issues have been showstoppers.

There you have it, Onenote for iOS is a huge improvement for those of you blocked from Evernote on your work machines. In fact, Onenote continues to get better and better with each new version and is approaching a lot of the functionality that makes Evernote so killer. Give Onenote a try, you may be pleasantly supprised!

P.S. In case you are wondering Evernote is still my primary personal filing cabinet and is currently installed on all of my devices, including my wife's iPhone!

 

 

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REVIEW: TouchFire integrated case and keyboard for iPad Air

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I purchased my first TouchFire Keyboard back in 2012 right after it became commercially available. When it arrived I was pleased with the increased efficiency it provided, but I eventually reverted back to my bluetooth keyboard;old habits die hard as they say. TouchFire is at it again with a new case/keyboard combination that I am sure will be nice addition to their sales statistics. In fact, with minimal use I can say that the new case is one of the best I have used and along with the silicon keyboard it may be a killer efficiency booster for the right user. Read on to learn more about this very cool case/keyboard combination from a cool little company in California.

To get the disclosure out of the way early, I reached out to TouchFire after reading about their July-released case for the iPad Air. I hoped that my prior review back in 2012 would be enough to score me a review unit. Sure enough, TouchFire quickly responded inquiring for my address. Within a week, my blue case arrived in a simple and understated package. Once opened I noticed that the case itself is made of some seemingly durable plastic rather than the cheap stuff you find on mall-cart iPhone cases. The second thing I noticed was the overall “tackiness”; of the rubber encasing the outside of the case. With this kind of grip your iPad will definitely not be slipping from your hand. The third thing I noticed was just how changed the keyboard itself was from the 1st generation version I bought when it was first released. As I found out from their site the 2nd generation was released in 2013 adding shinier keys, enhanced durability and a no-slip bottom; all of which make the keyboard itself seem more substantial. But, first impressions are not everything, so read on to find out how the whole package fared against my finicky opinions.

I received one of the more bold of colors with my case, but it also comes in black, light gray and red. Once installed, the total package is surprisingly svelte and very close in size and weight to an uncased iPad 2. TFvsiPad2 This adds up to really nice form factor and the whole package almost feels like I don't have a case at all. Integrated within the case is a very cool speaker cover that directs the sound towards you with wrap-around sound focusers. soundI found the sound quality much better than the iPad's normal sound. In fact, while working at home I normally plug a set of cheap computer speaker into the iPad for Skype calls, music and NPR. However, I found the sound quality almost better with the iPad alone.

The TouchFire keyboard is nicely integrated with the case and does a great job storing the keyboard when not in use. With early versions of the TouchFire coupled with a standard Apple Smart Cover, the process to attach the keyboard included gluing a couple of metal squares on which the magnets of the TouchFire connected which if not aligned correctly would not adequately hold the cover in place. This resulted in the keyboard often hanging down off of the case while not in use. This problem has definitely been solved with the integrated keyboard/case combination.

Another cool feature of the TouchFive case which sets it far apart from the standard Apple Smart Cover are the multiple viewing options. TouchFire achieves this flexibility via the use of strategically placed magnets across the case itself. Check out this photo from their site to get an idea of the flexibility you have in viewing. viewing

I am on the fence with the TouchFire keyboard itself. I can say with confidence that it in no way replaces my Logitech UltraFolio Keyboard and Case. I simply love the feel of Logitech's chicklet keys. Not only that, I am a vastly slower typer on the TouchFire. Part of this is practice; I know I would get faster with practice. However, I will never get the same feedback and sound that I am accustomed to. In fact, I am just as fast and accurate on my iPad/Logitech as I am on any keyboard attached to a computer. However, for those of you without an external keyboard the TouchFire is a huge improvement without the cost, weight and size of a bluetooth keyboard. My suggestion however is the give the TouchFire a chance as it will take you some time to get accustomed to the feel.

Overall I am pleased with the TouchFire case and I definitely think it is a good value amidst other cases on the market. In fact, a close comparison to the TouchFire is the marblue (formerly MarWare) Slim Hybrid case. I have been a longtime fan of the marblue having an earlier version of the Slim Hybrid on my iPad2. As you will see from their page the cost of the iPad Air version as of this writing is $49.99 which is exactly the same as the TouchFire case without the keyboard. I can honestly say that there is no comparison between the two; the TouchFire is a much better value with its increased protection, no-slip cover, enhanced sound and multiple viewing angles. And, for an additional $20 you can get the case and the keyboard in one package.

Have you tried the TouchFire Keyboard? If so, what are you thoughts?

 

 

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Is it really possible to go iPad Only???

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Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/vintuitive/

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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How to work with PDFs on your iPad

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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.

good

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.

PDFpen

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.

goodcombine

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+.

OCR1

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.

ocr2

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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