As the new school year approaches, the question I get asked most often is, "Should I buy a laptop or a tablet?" Apple's Steve Jobs has asserted that we are living in a "post-PC world". Is it really possible to replace a laptop with the smaller and, many would say, cooler iPad?
To test the theory, I traveled to Florida with my 2-year old, bearing my iPad 2 but no laptop. When an article needed editing, I realized that while it would be possible for the iPad to do everything I needed, it wasn't going to work for me straight out of the box. It needed modification.
If you are considering ditching your laptop, whether it's for a trip or for good, here's my guide to making it possible.
The touch screen is definitely my favorite feature of a tablet. After a few moments of navigating, I promise that you'll retire your mouse once and for all. But typing on glass takes some getting used to, and the first long email or document you try to create one pecking finger at a time will leave you yearning for your keyboard. The Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg (www.zagg.com) would have made my life a whole lot easier. This thin, lightweight case has an integrated Bluetooth keyboard that you can activate when you need it, but it won't weigh you down when you don't. The flat base lets you type on uneven surfaces, such as your lap, and function keys allow for easy music and volume control. The aluminum cover blends seamlessly with the iPad's unique look, letting you gain functionality without losing your cool.
With or without a keyboard, creating or editing a document or spreadsheet on your iPad isn't going to be easy unless you make an aftermarket modification. Microsoft Office isn't available on the iPad, but Apple's iWork suite will give you most of its functionality at a fraction of the cost. Pages, Numbers and Keynote handily replace Word, Excel and PowerPoint , and cost $5 each through the Apple app store. All the content you create in these programs is cross compatible, so if you edit a Word document on your iPad using Pages, you can open and edit it later in Word with no difficulty.
As much as we'd all love to be paper-free, there are inevitably times when you need to print something. You can search the iPad for a USB port, but to no avail. Printing something off your iPad will require accessing a printer wirelessly. To make the process as painless as possible, look for a printer that is compatible with Airplay, Apple's proprietary wireless application.
Finally, sometimes I need a particular program that isn't compatible with the iPad, or I need to transfer content to another device. The lack of a USB port or disk drive can make this challenging. But with Logmein Ignition ($30 in the app store), you can remotely access your home or office computer via the Internet. Install the companion app on your laptop or desktop and leave it running while you are away. Now you can access everything on your home or office system from your iPad, from World of Warcraft to your accounting software.
If you're still nervous about unplugging from your laptop or desktop, contact me at www.callnerds.com/andrea for more tips.
(Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, a multistate company based in Redding, Calif., that offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact her at www.callnerds.com/andrea.)