The tablet computer is revolutionising the way we work. But is it ready to replace your laptop as a primary work device? That’s what I set about to find out – with high stakes – by ditching my laptop completely for an iPad, a pinch and a zoom into the future of mobile computing.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010, he argued that there was space for a third kind of personal computer, between the desktop and the laptop. Back then, many, outside of the tech press, argued that there was no need, certainly not in business, for a tablet computer.

Three years later, and Apple have sold over 100 million iPads, and over 30% of Internet users in the United States own a tablet. Now, when you replace your laptop, buying a tablet computer in its place is a serious consideration.

That’s what I did.

But what software and hardware do you need to make your iPad work just as hard as your laptop? This is my setup.

Hardware

  • Apple Smart Cover. Apple’s Smart Cover doesn’t protect the back of your iPad, but it’s cleverly designed to snap into place, using magnets, and automatically wake and sleep your iPad on open and close. It also rolls up into a stand and a lift for easier typing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a quick and easy grab-and-go solution that you’ll value in your busy day-to-day life.
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard. For casual typing the iPad’s on-screen keyboard is fine. In fact, the more you get used to it and trust the software, it’s great. But for long-form writing a full-on hardware keyboard is hard to beat, and Apple’s wireless Bluetooth solution is excellent, and surprisingly easy on batteries.
  • Incase Origami Workstation. This simple accessory is really the thing that brings your laptop-replacement together. It perfectly protects your Apple Wireless Keyboard and quickly folds up into an iPad stand that works with the keyboard like a traditional laptop. What I love about it is you can keep it in your bag and decide, per job, whether you’d like to use your hardware keyboard or your iPad ‘nude’, and it doesn’t involve constant bulk, clipping or unclipping.
  • Boxwave Capacitive iPad Stylus. iPad styluses are never going to be perfect. The tablet wasn’t really designed to use one, so I don’t recommend splashing out on the most expensive. They’re not essential, but I occasionally use mine to sketch out ideas that are better visualised than written down.

Software

  • Dropbox. Working in iOS’s closed environment, Dropbox is very much my ‘file manager’. It also keeps files and apps in sync across my devices and is essential in my workflow.
  • iA Writer. This stripped-down word processor for iOS may be light on features but it’s certainly tough on distractions. It syncs with iCloud and Dropbox, so you can pick up where you left off on another device.
  • QuickOffice HD. Apple’s own iOS word processor Pages is feature-packed and pretty, but, when someone sends you a Word document, formatting and features are often lost in translation. QuickOffice keeps all of this in tact; it even lets you track changes and comment on Word documents, and it sync up with Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote and other services.
  • Archives. If someone emails you a Zip file, you can use Archives to preview its contents and open contained files in other apps on your iPad.
  • PhotoForge2. A decent Photoshop alternative for your iPad that offers a no-compromise suite of features, including layers and full resolution photo editing.
  • Paper. Not a comprehensive drawing app, by any means, but Paper’s limitations is its strength, in my opinion. It’s a great, quick and simple solution for those ideas that are better sketched out than written down.

What apps and accessories do you use with your iPad to make it more productive? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: felixbernet via Compfight cc