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Life with my iPad, Part 4

Introduction

In previous posts in this series, we’ve talked about several applications, including Evernote, Dropbox and Instapaper. All these three apps are, to some extent, for storing information – Dropbox is a cloud-based location where you can synchronize files, for example.

Other apps that we will discuss in this post provide additional features – managing tasks and to-dos; a simple, but effective text editor; an app (specific to the institution) for accessing your bank accounts. In addition, we’ll discuss the case I ended up buying for the tablet.

OmniFocus

OmniFocus is a set of applications that run on Mac, iPhone and iPad. As is starting to become more usual, the iPhone and iPad versions offer different views, specific to the size of the devices. Omni Group, the publisher, is based not far away, in Seattle, and makes some really great software. OmniFocus is a task management tool, with synchronization between however many devices a user has it running on. It follows the principles laid out by David Allen in his Getting Things Done book (subtitled “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”). GTD is a methodology for managing tasks and creating buckets for storing items to be done, instead of trying to remember them. OmniFocus is an extremely well-laid out tool for helping manage everything from running errands to managing fairly complex projects. (The Omni Group has a project management application for larger projects).

I use OmniFocus primarily on my iPhone and iMac as it fits my work style; however, I do use it on the iPad too, and the developer has done a great job of making use of the larger display. If you want to move away from to-dos scribbled on sheet of paper to something a bit more structured, OmniFocus is a great place to start.

Byword

Byword is a text editor, developed by a Portuguese company called Metaclassy. Like OmniFocus, Byword also has a Mac application and, like many multi-platform apps, offers synchronization across the two platforms. In simple terms, this means that you can start writing on the Mac and pick it up later on the iPad, on the train, for example.

So why would you need a text editor? Well, there are several reasons – storing information in text format rather than a proprietary one or drafting blog postings (I’m writing this on a text editor on my iMac). Formatting (heading, bold text, lists, etc.) can be built in using Markdown, a simple way to “mark-up” the content. Now, I fully realize this isn’t for everyone, especially people wedded to Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages; however, if you do a lot of writing for the Web, a text editor like Byword, coupled with Markdown formatting, is a very powerful tool.

Vancity

I decided to include this app, which provides access to personal and business banking at Vancity, as an example of an app that could be so much better (For non-BC residents, Vancity is one of the largest credit unions in Canada). It’s clearly laid out and fairly straightforward to use but has a couple of glaring faults to my mind. One is that it doesn’t switch to landscape mode, which happens to be my preferred way of using the tablet(!). The second, which I came across recently when paying an invoice through the app, is that there is no way to “print” the receipt that is created when paying a bill or transferring funds. I wrote in quotation marks as clearly a user is not always going to be close to a printer, but printing to PDF, a build-in part of OS X on the Mac, is also a feature of many iPad apps. Admittedly, Vancity would need to build in sync’ing to iCloud or Dropbox, or even Evernote, so that the PDF could be saved, either for printing or to be stored in one of the named resources as part of a paperless office. Till the developer builds that functionality into the application, it’s not going to get much use from me, unfortunately.

Maroo

Maroo is a manufacturer of iPad cases. Also based in Washington, they have a range of cases with good protection for the precious iPad. I bought my case directly from them as they don’t have an official Canadian supplier (that said, I did see some cases in my local London Drugs after I’d bought mine).

My case, the Matau model, is one of their nylon fabric range. I like the way it holds the iPad secure, with absorbance for clumsy hands, as well as the smart magnet and two-way landscape view. The smart magnet has the same feature as Apple’s own case – it locks the iPad when closing and wakes it on opening.

There are seemingly dozens of cases for iPads – I came across this one and am pleased I did. It’s well designed and easy to use. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a protective case for yours.

About Des Dougan

I’m Principal of Dougan Consulting Group which is located in North Vancouver, B.C. I founded the company in 2000. In Parallel with operating Dougan Consulting Group, I served as Director, Information and Computing Services at Vancouver Community College from 1997 to 2007. Before arriving at VCC, I served as Manager, Administrative Application Services at Douglas College in New Westminnster. My Core expertise includes over 30 years’ IT management experience in various industry sectors, specializing in providing effective leadership, and with a background in organizations in Canada and the UK. Major Strengths include: Communicating well at all levels, including excellent written communications skill; focusing strongly on developing effective trust based relationships with clients and the provision of high-quality service. An analytical and enthusiastic attitude showing a high level of commitment, resilience and flexibility.

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