Thoughts on construction law from Christopher G. Hill, Virginia construction lawyer, LEED AP, mediator, and member of the Virginia Legal Elite in Construction Law

iPad Apps for Business Types

Martha Sperry of the Advocate's StudioFor this week’s Guest Post Friday at Musings, we welcome Martha Sperry. Martha Sperry (@advocatesstudio on Twitter) is an attorney with extensive experience in the insurance industry. Martha also maintains a research and writing practice, AdvantageAdvocates with emphasis on research and written product for professionals and web consulting. Her blog on law, research, writing and technology Advocate’s Studio. Martha also has let Musings invade the Studio today, so please check it out!

I truly appreciate the opportunity to steer the ship here at Construction Law Musings at Chris’ invitation once again. For the record, Chris is no Luddite when it comes to social media and tech tools. I was thrilled when he accepted my invitation to share his social media experience with Studio readers. Chris is one of the few attorneys that I have had the pleasure of connecting with on-line who really gets it – he can communicate both his professionalism and unique personality in an engaging way, as his growing follower counts, meaningful web conversations and interesting content attest.

My last contribution to Musings was a two part article on insurance coverage for green construction / building exposures. Today, I am contributing an article that is closer to my usual blogging topic and is quite timely – iPad apps for business types.

Getting professionals to embrace new tools is not always easy. Who has the time to learn a new trick? Still, no one can deny that smartphones have won over lawyers. The Blackberry remains the number one business smartphone, and with good reason – excellent security, top-flight email integration with the enterprise, relatively stable OS and hardware. For some time, email has been the main motivation for smartphone use among lawyers. But these devices can be so much more.

It doesn’t end with smartphones. Tablets are the new smartphones, fueled by mobile operating systems and expanded hardware features. They are still portable enough to easily lug, while offering a broad view. They bridge the divide between smartphone and laptop, particularly for the consumption of on-line content. Just Tuesday, I was sitting with Senior Vice President watching him struggle with his laptop, all the while grumbling about how he wished he had a tablet because it fit his mobile needs more effectively.

When people think tablets these days, they invariably think iPad. In fact, that Veep said “iPad”, not “tablet.” Apple products, including the ubiquitous iPhone, however, are not usually thought of as the “go-to” devices for power professional users. I personally disagree with that sentiment, but I do understand where it comes from. Apple generally has lagged in addressing the features enterprise IT departments look for when deploying mobile hardware. This lag is changing as new iterations of the OS add security and remote functionality. The Blackberry’s market share may dwindle accordingly, as evidenced by a recent news story reporting that British bank, Standard Chartered, is replacing its Blackberries with iPhones.

Still, for some, however, using an iPhone or iPad for business is a bit like using a Lamborghini for a police car.

Lamborghini Police Wrecked Lamborghini

Set your prejudices aside, dear reader, and consider just how effective an iPad can be to address your business-related needs. App developers have jumped quickly into the gap to create single purpose tools that beautifully meet goals and even exceed expectations. For content consumption, fast becoming a key item on every professional’s to-do list, and even content creation, iPads are more than capable of justifying their space in the briefcase.

Take a look at a few of the great business-minded iPad apps.

Goodreader for iPadGoodreader

$.99

Document Reader

GoodReader is considered the best PDF reader for the iPhone. The iPad version is even better. It not only allows viewing of local files, using iTunes for transfer, but it also permits downloading files from a URL or via a web server. Accepts PDF, Word, Excel, PNG, TXT, JPEG and more,

Goodreader can handle really large files extremely well and can even unzip files if it has to. Goodreader also connects to Google Docs – download your Google Docs files for offline reading or to open in another application for easy editing. It’s a steal at $.99.

Things for IpadThings

$19.99

Task Manager

This one is pricey, but many consider it the best task manager app for the iPhone. This is the iPad-optimized version and it is getting great reviews. The only downside for Windows users is that it is a Mac-based app, so syncing is with the Mac OS.

Bento IpadBento

$4.99

Database app

A database program aimed at home or small business users who want to have a powerful database system, but don’t want to have to deal with the complex database syntax. For Mac users, Bento integrates well with iLife and iWork.

Bento for iPad can be used stand alone or with Bento for Mac and Bento for iPhone. Like Things, Bento for iPad is closer to the Mac version than the iPhone counterpart. You can use the built-in templates or create your own and perform tasks such as manage expenses, complete address books, take on projects and much more.

IWork IpadiWork:

Each module $9.99

Pages – Word Processor

Numbers – Spreadsheet

Keynote – Presentation

This series is getting mixed reviews, but it is the only closest option for native office-type applications. Pages works best when when paired with a bluetooth keyboard or the Keyboard Dock. Numbers isn’t quite as talented as Excel, but but gets the job done, particularly for viewing charts, graphs and spreadsheets. Keynote brings the best presentation tool to the iPad – create and edit slides and use the app to show presentations. Syncing is the main complaint – the process is somewhat cumbersome and relies on iTunes sync. Nonetheless, these apps open the door to true office tools on the iPad – a door through which other developers will enter and innovate.

Office2 IpadOffice2 HD

$7.99

Word and Excel

Open, edit, or create Word or Excel documents on your iPad. Office2 integrates with Google Docs and MobileMe iDisk cloud storage. You can effectively employ this app to store, carry and transfer files between desktop computers E-mail or upload to the cloud. Slightly buggy according to reports, but at least it formats in Office. It can be mounted as a drive from MacFinder or Windows Explorer or a web browser. Although it won’t give you all the bells and whistles of your desktop versions, this is a great mobile alternative for hardcore Word and Excel users.

Ipad PrintcentralPrintCentral

$9.99

Print utility for the iPad

View, store and print email, attachments, documents, photos, contacts, web pages and copied items from iPad apps. Print locally or over 3G/EDGE. It can handle any document type and any printer available for Mac or PC. Print Central will show up in the “Open in…” popover that appears when you tap-and-hold on a file in compatible applications, such as Mail. Receive a file by e-mail and immediately send it to PrintCentral either for printing or storage and transfer. PrintCentral also permits sending a file to other applications on the iPad using the same mechanism

PrintCentral supports the ability to sync documents both to and from your computer via USB through the “Apps” tab in iTunes, just like the iWork apps do. It also can open files from certain cloud storage sites, like iDisk, directly into Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, without having to download them first. That’s a lot of app for $9.99

Ipad WebexCisco WebEx

Free

Web Conferencing Tool

Attend WebEx meetings on your iPad, wherever you go. This free application allows users to join and participate in WebEx online meetings. View and share slideshows and other content via the chat utility. Users have access to Cisco WebEx VOIP audio directly from the iPad or can request a call back by phone. It doesn’t get any more space-age than this (until they work out the front-facing video camera).

Instapaper IpadInstapaper Pro

$4.99

Off-line Article Reader

I love this app on the iPhone and the iPad version is even better. Instapaper can save a Web article for later reading, which is especially useful when you come across an interesting article that you don’t have time to read immediately, or that’s too long to read comfortably on your iPhone, or that you just want to keep around for reference. Features include Folders, automatic updates, saved positions, dictionary look-up, tilt-scrolling and pagination, adjustable fonts and text sizes, dark mode for night-reading, and send to Tumblr or Twitter buttons.

Simply set up your account by visiting the Instapaper website. You can use Instapaper without an iPad, but I can’t think of a better electronic way to read your saves.

Mimeo Connect IpadMemeo Connect

Free

Google Docs

This app simply allows you to sync and read your Google Docs. Syncing is automatic. You can view all the file types including MS Office, Apple iWorks, and PDF, photos and videos. Scroll and zoom features afford easier reading. Offline mode keeps you productive on the go. Slick interface takes full advantage of the iPad’s best asset – its screen.

box.net ipadBox.net

Free

Online cloud storage

Box.net offers free 1GB cloud storage and the app allows you to connect to that storage from your iPad. The results are pretty impressive. You can view all of your files, monitor file activity on shared files, collaborate and leave comments and more. Work with Word, Excel, PDF, Powerpoint, images and Box.net docs. Share files and folders with others. Employs a file folder structure. Box.net also connects you directly with business-related services such as FedEx, Google, Autodesk, Zoho, eFax and others.

In the future the ability to open files with other programs and integrate with other services will be added. Box.net isn’t at full speed yet, but it’s a great start.

evernoteEvernote

Free

Note-taking and Clipping

I use Evernote on my desktop and on my iPhone. The iPad version is all that and more. This app lets you clip audio, video, text, images – whatever you can think of – and save it to a central web repository. You can assign tags to notes and notebooks for easy collections and organization. The search function is amazing – it uses some kind of OCR so that you can even search for words in pictures, like the name of a wine from an image of its label.

The Evernote iPad app syncs with other Evernote apps and the Evernote cloud. The app will sync with your cloud to permit edits to text documents. Clipping and research was never easier.

Desktop Connect IpadDesktop Connect

$11.99

Remote desktop connection

Do you really want to get productive? How about remote controlling your Mac or PC from your iPad? Desktop Connect is a full-featured desktop viewer made extra special for iPad. Works with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems – you will see your desktop screen just as if you were right in front of it. Or browse another’s screen. It automatically discovers all computers on your local network. Supports VNC and Microsoft Remote Desktop. There are too many features to count – just consider anything you can do from your desktop as doable on your iPad with this app. Including viewing Flash on the Web – one of the main complaints about the native iPad and iPhone web experience. Fully encrypted and secure. It’s too cool.

Wall Street Journal IpadThe Wall Street Journal

Free and Subscription

No Explanation Required

The only accessory that screams “Pin Stripe” louder than a Blackberry is a rolled up copy of the WSJ under your arm. How about loading it onto your iPad? The WSJ app is specially designed to maximize the iPad’s multimedia features. Videos and slideshows are free to view, as are market data, customized stock lists, and the “Now” section, featuring updated coverage throughout the day, with top article picks from Journal editors. Subscription service adds Subscriber-only content from business, markets, opinion and more, a 7-day archive downloaded for reading anytime, even offline, saved sections and articles for later reading and “My Journal” for saving and sharing articles across WSJ.com and mobile formats. No more fumbling with stubborn pages and messy ink fingers.

This is just a quick list of business-friendly applications that move the iPad from toy novelty into serious pro-tool territory. In the time it took me to compile this list, I am betting that dozens more business apps have been added and stellar examples pop up nearly daily. Given the overwhelming popularity of the device generally and the fact that Senior VP’s are already lamenting their lack of it a month and a half into distribution, I predict the iPad will quickly supplant other favored tech tools for mobile computing in commuter trains, airport lounges and business class seats everywhere.

Update: Check out Martha’s update for IPad 2 and beyond!

As always, Martha and I welcome your comments below. Please subscribe to keep up with this and other Guest Post Fridays at Construction Law Musings.

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27 Responses to iPad Apps for Business Types

  1. Good job Martha and Thank you Chris for making it happen!

    Getting professionals to accept new tools and technologies is not always easy—you got that right!

    I’ve experienced that in the engineering and building code enforcement fields in the past and still– but it’s changing.

    The Apps you pointed out are good ones and I’ve used most of them with a high degree of success. You will find soon enough their limitations for your individual case and may need more than one App to accomplish what you need depending on the circumstances–so test away!

    Depending on what your field of interest is, you may also want to use dedicated RSS feeds to gather and decimate the information…I like “NewsRack” and the “APNews” Apps.

    Another solution for accessing business files and documents on the Ipad, is Apple’s “iDisk” (although not optimized for the Ipad yet).

    Everyone needs a decent paint program (to manipulate pictures and sketches), and for the Ipad, I’ve been using “SketchBook”.

    One last thing! If you have electronic resources that you would like to use on the Ipad, one solution that worked beautifully for me has been converting my resources (usually PDF files) into “ePub” files and then synching to the Ipad via iTunes for accessing them through the Ipad’s “iBooks” App. It’s a couple of steps process, but may be well worth it for you. Email me if you need help, imad(at)bcodes.com

    The resources and files are “iBooks” with table of contents, navigation, bookmarks, etc. maintained. For me, this solution has eliminated logging around massive amount of code books and reference materials to construction meetings- all I take now, is the Ipad (it has all my resources in ONE place)!

    Apps are coming out everyday dedicated to business…we just have to stay tuned!

    Thank you again!

    Imad

  2. Thanks so much for the comments Imad and Tim. Imad, those are some great tips, really appreciate you sharing them. I will definitely keep those in mind and would appreciate any others that you discover. It’s new territory for all of us.

    And, thanks so much everyone for all the RT’s and shares – it’s been a really fun collaboration and a great time – Hey Chris, what are ya doin’ next Friday 😉

  3. Thanks for this. I already use my iPad for work, there’s a couple of things it can’t do but I’m sure there will be an app to sort those things out before long.

    PrintCentral is a great app by the way!

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