Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part 13 - KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid! - iPad as my main computer

With so many posts about the iPad many folks still don't trust me when I say working mainly on the iPad is a really fun and joyful experience and it makes my day... every single day. The promise of a simpler setup, consumer/creator device that switches from a computer to a reading/watching machine, easy flows that get the job done, better browsing experience and amazing portability... well, it's hard to convince everyone but I can say honestly I'm not going back to a traditional computer. It's the "zen" feeling again:

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I've simplified my wardrobe and home office

Seems unrelated, but I do like "zen minimalism" and I like the fact of having less stuff and less gadgets and cleaner workspace... I went down to less than 100 objects in my home office (and going further down now to about 70) and ~140 pieces of clothing and only 10 pairs of shoes (and going further down now to about 100 clothes total). It still sounds like a lot, but count yours. You'll be surprised :-)

The fact of the matter is that not only I have less stuff, but I'm more aware of what I really have, I know where the stuff belongs (I stopped asking "where did I put this?") and thus I enjoy it a lot more.

Now I've simplified my working machine

I kinda did. I still own a Mac Mini and a Macbook Air and I'm still struggling which to keep (I guess the Air will have to go), but I know where I do the work is on my iPad. Because I've set up many "flows" and "simplified" and "shortcut'ed" many things, I tend to do less of "administrative stuff" and more of "higher-level" stuff.

Focusing on doing the great work

The initial switch was hard, as you've seen over my last posts, I've invested lots of hours into thinking "how do I do that?", "how do I simplify this?" and eventually I found the way. Now I'm in the moment where I just take my iPad and go - I do great work - I focus on the work and not on the "administrative" stuff like file management, document management, email management... I focus on writing, reading, posting, watching... you know, the stuff that actually makes a difference.

Would I be able to do it on my laptop? Of course I would. But because my laptop is so powerful, I was never inclined to make a radical shift of moving most of my stuff to the cloud, simplifying my setup, setting up more shortcuts... and of course I wouldn't have the additional benefits of the iPad like portability, the pleasure of touching things and much much more.

KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid!

Switching to the iPad forced me to simplify many things. Forced me to cut out many chores I was doing on my computer. Forced me to go "zen". And changed my computing life and... kinda forced me to enjoy it even more than I did before (c'mon, I was working on a beautiful Macbook Air, I shouldn't complain, right?). It forced me to simplify. Less is more.

When was the last time you have re-thought your computing setup?

I mentioned in the very beginning how exciting it was to go iPad only. I remembered back in late 2008 when I bought my first Mac and had to change and simplify many things I was doing on my Windows machine. It felt very similar now with the switch to the iPad. But even more so, as the iPad is the future of "simple" computing... but this new kind of simple computing that can do a lot more than you'd have thought. And what do you think?

P.S. As all of my posts these days, I sent it from my iPad (writing on an external keyboard and iPad in a vertical view)... but you knew that, right? :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Part 12 - web sites as apps (appification?) - iPad as my main computer

We've covered many aspects of my iPad-only journey in this series of articles but as they say, the deeper you go... Today I'd like to talk about another aspects of the iPad that makes it such a joy to use. It's the appification (is that a word?) of the web - meaning more and more web sites now have their own iPad apps - and it's really great. Why? Well, for a number of reasons:

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The apps are made-for and thought-about the iPad

Many web sites from established players just collected so much dust over the years that they really suck. I mean seriously, they look bad. Just go to IMDB, eBay, Amazon... and many others. They seem like they're stuck in the 90s enjoying the first Internet gold rush. We're in 2012 people, where's HTML5, CSS3, people, responsive web design? Well, it's not there.

But... they have dedicated iPad apps that rock!

I am a movie-freak so I naturally looooove the IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) but I hate their web site... but I love their iPad app. It's sweet, high-res and lets me learn all about the movies I'm about to watch, the actors, see (and queue) the trailers and much much more. Same applies to Techcrunch - I no longer subscribe to their RSS channel, I just fire up the app and read a few trending topics. Great job there. And recently I was searching for a flat to rent for some friends so instead of firing up the web site, I checked if the company had an iPad app and they had, and it worked with my GPS position and the browsing experience of the flats was just amazing. A lot better than on their web site.

Here are some advantages of these apps:

  • iPad-like navigation - swipe, scroll, tap... perfect browsing experience on the iPad. Although I'd love all the web sites to adapt responsive web design (like we do at Nozbe) they usually don't - but their apps do :-)
  • retina-ready - unlike their web sites, the graphics are already retina-ready for my new iPad and look completely stunning.
  • one-tap access - no bookmarking - they are on my home screen, with easy access, usually even support app-switching very nicely. Great stuff. Use them more and more.

There are mediocre examples, too, but they keep getting better

Yes, I'm talking to you GoDaddy! I have lots of domains with you and the premise of managing them directly on my iPad is great but your app doesn't support app-switching, doesn't remember my password, doesn't support retina and is darn slow - get it fixed, please.

Appification is good for you

If you're stuck in a laptop land, you don't get the benefits of these great apps and it came to me as an additional incentive, simplification and surprise. I just love it and hope many more web sites come on board and follow suit. Keep them coming! Let's appify (again, not a word) the Internet :-)

And which iPad apps do you use instead of their web sites?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Part 11 - Docs and Spreadsheets (and Mountain Lion) - iPad as my main computer

OK, now that I've been working on my iPad for many months now, it's time to evaluate it as an "office computer" - can it be used for "real" Office work, the documents heavy-lifting? The spreadsheet cranking? Well, yes... and no. Here's why:

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First off, I don't use "Office" apps anymore that much

In the 90s and beginning of the 21st century the basic productivity suite on each PC was the "Office" bundle from Microsoft. We used to produce Word documents for nearly every type of text processing and Excel for every type of more complicated than 2+2 (how much is it anyway?) results. And Powerpoint for those pretty (kidding!) presentations. That was the standard, right?

I don't do office anymore. I use plain text files to write stuff, I use email to write stuff, I use Numbers to do spreadsheets stuff. It's pretty (prettier than Excel) and flexible (in a "design" kind of way). I run my own company with my own product so I don't need those things. And I love Keynote for presentations much more than Powerpoint.

As I mentioned before, I'm a heavy Evernote user so instead of writing yet another Word document I prefer to write a note in Evernote.

And there are some alternatives to the Microsoft kingdom anyway

Google Docs is one of them... and while it looks promising on the web on a traditional desktop computer, the web version on the iPad is bad. OK, you can type and paste stuff, but to do more complicated editing you have to switch to the "desktop" version anyway and it's painfully slow... and sharing is even slower... I have tried two apps to manage Google Docs locally on my iPad: iDocsHD Pro, GoDocs - both are OK to have local copies, but nothing more (certainly no document heavy-lifting there!)

But there is QuickOffice PRO HD

The app I actually use daily is the QuickOffice HD Pro - the only app to rule them all. Works both with Google Docs and with Word and Excel docs - I update my company's Excel sheet every week with this app. The app is really good... so no wonder Google bought them a few weeks ago - hopefully this means a better integration with Google Docs!

All I do is just put my Docs and Excels in my Dropbox and access them directly through QuickOffice Pro HD - I get the file, edit it... and it's being posted back to my Dropbox so that I can access it on my Mac if I really want to.

What about PDFs?

I'm a big fan of PDFs - if they are eBooks (or magazines) I usually send them over to my Kindle account and use the Kindle app to read them. An Amazon Kindle storage has 5 GB of space, plenty enough for lots of things to read.

So what about these Apple variants of Docs and Spreadsheets? Are Pages and Numbers and Keynote any good?

Yes, they are. These apps have been designed from ground up for the iPad's screen so I use them every day. And now that the Mountain Lion is there, I can actually put my documents in the iCloud and use them directly on my iPad. This is the sweetest deal of them all. All my presentations and spreadsheets (and Pages docs which I don't have that many) reside on the iCloud and I can access them anytime. Good the new cat is there. Before that I used to do a complicated WebDav to Dropbox kung-fu translation to be able to access my files. Not anymore.

All in all, is the iPad good for "Office work"?

Depends on you and your flow. If you want to review complicated Word documents and macro-heavy Excel sheets, you can try "OnLive Desktop" to have the real-desktop Office Suite virtualized on the iPad... but I think you're better off working on a desktop computer or a laptop. If you're like me, iPad is more than enough and the new apps like Keynote, Numbers and Pages are a joy to use with the touch interface. Meaning - office work is fun on the iPad... and what I've discovered over the last few months is that the "fun" part in work is what really drove me to go the "iPad only" route.

And your experience with "office work" on the iPad?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My iPad-only accessories vs Steve Wozniak's gadget bag

Here's my newest Productive Magazine Show video where I talk about all the necessary accessories I need to take when I hit the road with my iPad only. I tried to nail the list down to only the most essential ones, here it is:

Again, I tried to keep the list only to the essentials.

Steve Wozniak is less minimalistic than me

There is another geek who also likes to keep a cool gadget bag and likes retractable cables... but unlike me, he has a different idea of what "essentials" really mean - here's the bag of Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak (courtesy of Gizmodo):

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And what do you carry in your gadget bag? Would you travel with iPad only?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How I use Evernote

In my iPad-only series I highlighted time and time over that one of the main apps I use (besides Nozbe) is Evernote. This is true - I love this app (and Nozbe syncs with it because of a this love) and I can confirm what they say is true: "Evernote should be your extended brain". Here's why:

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I don't generate files anymore

Well, I do create files because the world seems to still like them and I have to use Dropbox to sync the files... but I don't generate as many files as I used to. Instead, I create "Evernotes", meaning, I create notes in Evernote.

The beauty of Evernote is that the size of things I store there is limitless and I can access my data not only on all of my Macs but also on my iPhone and (yay!) iPad.

1. Basic note-taking - no more MS Word

Whenever I need to prepare a spec for my great Nozbe developers, need to put a mental note for myself, need to comment on some design or some inspiration I got... anyway, need to make a note - I create a new note in Evernote. The cool thing is that notes there are "rich" meaning I can mix text and images.

So where I used to create "Word documents" I now just write in Evernote. The images I put there between the text are usually "Skitched" screen captures - meaning I use an app called Skitch on my Mac and iPad to annotate on a screenshot (add arrows and stuff) and paste it later to the note.

When I want to share these notes with my team, I either send it to them directly from Evernote or print to PDF and mail them like this. The original note always stays in Evernote.

Now that I'm working a lot more on my iPad I use Skitch for iPad and Evernote here as well. I store my all handwritten notes in one Evernote Notebook called "AllNotes" and that I'm an Evernote premium user (costs only $45 per year) I marked this notebook at an "offline" notebook so I have access to it on my iPad even when I'm on a plane without an Internet connection.

2. I scan business cards to Evernote

I have special Notebooks: "Contacts" and "ContactsJP" (for my Japanese friends) where I scan all the business cards. Here's a video showing you how I do it.

3. I scan documents to Evernote

I have a scanner on my desk which directly scans to Evernote - I put the scanned documents into their appropriate Notebooks:

  • Papers (quite important documents - like certificates, passports, IDs)
  • Bills (utility bills - both personal and business - I share this notebook with my father who is also my accountant)
  • Stuff (unimportant documents but for some reason want to keep them)

Why do I scan all these things to Evernote? Because they have this OCR technology so when I want to search for a phrase that was on the scanned document or business card, Evernote most of the times will find it. Brilliant.

As mentioned above, I can share a notebook with someone which can come in handy.

4. I send travel info there and boarding passes

All the travel info, apart from going to Tripit is also going being sent to a notebook in Evernote called (you guessed it) "Travel". This way should I fail to print something, I can always show my boarding pass to a lady at the gate on my iPad or iPhone.

Note: Evernote, as many other apps nowadays has a fantastic "email gateway" which is very useful. Now that I'm on my iPad most of the time when I process my email I just forward stuff to Evernote.

5. I clip shopping ideas there... and web pages in general

Evernote has a great clipper for the Mac on Safari and Chrome so I "clip" web sites to Evernote. When there is an item I'm thinking of buying (like a cool accessory for my iPad or something) I clip it to Evernote to my "shopping" notebook.

6. I send interesting articles to Evernote

I read blog articles with my Google Reader account on the Reeder app on my iPhone or iPad or Mac (totally recommend this app) and later I've set up two IFTTT actions - when I mark an article as "starred" it sends the article to my Pocket account so that I can read it calmly later and sends the URL of the article to Evernote to a special "Read" notebook - just so that I never miss it.

Once I've read the article in Pocket, I decide if it's worth keeping for later and when I do want to "memorize it" then I send the entire article to Evernote to my other special notebook called "Articles".

7. All the rest of the stuff I want to remember...

Loose thoughts, quotes, numbers, IDs, coupon codes, emails with interesting info... you name it - stuff that I'm not sure I want to keep but want to keep it "just in case" is being sent directly to my "Stuff" notebook.

8. Other drafts and writing goes to Evernote, too

I've also set up my Mac mini this way that when it detects I've added a new note to Simplenote, it gets sent directly to Evernote just in case, too (notebook: "Writing"). The same applies to my Dropbox folder where I keep blog posts and essays (just like this one) that I write using Nebulous Writer. All goes to Evernote automatically.

Evernote has become my external brain now

I have it running on my Mac mini and Macbook Air all of the time, as well as on my iPhone and iPad... and even on my Google Nexus S phone. This way I have access to my "external" brain anywhere I like.

Going Paperless now... step by step

I try not to store paper anymore. I scan and later shred all the receipts (I wish I could do that with the invoices but I need to keep them for the next 5 years), documents sent from different institutions or companies. I still keep originals which I really believe I need "on paper" but most of the stuff goes to Evernote and then straight to my shredder. Now I'm in the process of revising all of my past documents and scanning them folder by folder to reduce the amount of paper to minimum.

The magic is also in the fact that Nozbe syncs with Evernote so when I start a new project, I very often "magically" discover all the notes that are related to this project. Sweet.

My stats for now: 2268 notes in 24 notebooks and 100+ tags

How do you use Evernote? Did I miss something? Or maybe you use something different as your "external brain"?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Part 10 - They Keyboard, or the lack of it - iPad as my main computer

As I started my iPad-only journey I didn't know what to expect and if I can really be productive on my iPad... What I have found out is that it's really great fun to work on the iPad and I'm less likely to use my laptop now... and actually less likely to use my keyboard. iPad is not a netbook, it's a tablet so you should design your flows in such a way that you don't use keyboard anymore as much. Here's how I work.

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The keyboard is an "addition" and not the "main part" of the iPad

The keyboard is still important, but with the raise of Siri (coming to iPad on iOS6) and dictation (improving with each iOS release) and gesture-based navigation, the keyboard is really only needed when you have to type something longer. Other than that, it's not really necessary. When using the iPad we need to forget the traditional "keyboard shortcuts" (Ctrl+Alt+Del anyone?) and all these PC-era things and focus on the new. It takes some time to get used to, but boy I love the new experience.

iOS Keyboard shortcuts

This is built into the iOS itself - go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts and define them there. I can't believe it's so hidden - it should be very prominent in the Settings. It works across all of my iPad apps, so when I type "hn/" it automatically changes that to "http://www.nozbe.com", when I type "m@@n" it types my email address, when I type "brm" it types "Best regards, - Michael" - it's that easy. The shortcuts are one-liners and I've added the most I use and I keep adding new.

Hopefully this will later sync with iCloud and push shortcuts to my iPhone, because it doesn't do it now and I need to define them from ground up again there. Fingers crossed for iOS6.

I also bought an app called TextExpander that allows me to define longer, multi-liner shortcuts. The downside is it works only in supported apps (it doesn't work in Apple Mail) but it does work in Nebulous writer which I use for typing this article, so it is very useful.

Clipboard History

What I miss on my iPad and I didn't see it was coming in iOS6 was the support of clipboard history. This would save me so much time of adding stuff to clipboard and later pasting it in some other app. For now I just need to stick with the "Clipboard History app" I found on the App Store. The app is great, but crashes a lot and doesn't save clipboard items in the background, but it's the best I could find. Multi-item clipboard is something I miss in the iOS and would love it come here at some point. On my Mac I was using Alfred app with clipboard history, that's why I'm spoiled in this sense :-)

Less conversation, more action please

When I process my Email Inbox to zero, I tap on emails and hardly ever use the keyboard... and when I switched to the iPad I learned to reply to emails quicker. I practice max-5-sentences replies (usually less) and move on to the next email message. I know I'm not being as polite as I used to be but over the years I've found out people preferred quicker reply than a politer one. With Email speed is what matters. I use shortcuts here as well to speed up answering emails (like "sfl" for "Sorry for my late reply.") - and I'm planning to define more.

Dictation

I haven't been playing with dictation as much yet. In fact I'm not sure if it's as fast as typing on the keyboard. Like dictating this paragraph takes me a lot longer than if I'd type it. And because English is not my mother-tongue my accent needs improving. But if you don't have a keyboard handy it's actually fun to talk to your iPad and see what it comes up with. Anyway I'm still getting used to it but I'm planning to play with it more over the coming months. By the way I dictated this entire paragraph.

What would be interesting for me would be support for other languages like Spanish and Polish. German support is already there but my accent is even worse in that language (but the Germans do understand me). What I believe though is that the dictation support will improve over time and I'll be using it even more on my iPad.

Physical Keyboard

As I mentioned in the past posts I'm using the Zagg Flex Keyboard and I love it. I'm using it mostly when I need to type the blog posts like this one or write a longer email. The keyboard supports dedicated keys to copying, pasting and other iOS-specific buttons and the keyboard also work with Android devices (haven't tried it with my Nexus S yet). It's very nicely laid out and I can touch-type easily on this keyboard. Again, I type faster than I dictate or even think, so a great keyboard is essential for me when I'm into writing.

What I really like about this keyboard is that its "cover" changes into an iPad "stand" and this way I can easily put the iPad in vertical mode. It's a great writing experience - having just a screen that looks like a blank sheet of paper in natural, vertical orientation and a keyboard next to it - it's a better typing experience than on the panoramic screens of the laptops. The writing is a lot more "focused".

Again, I didn't want to have the keyboard being a part of my iPad cover like all the "folios" pretend to be. iPad is not a netbook and I don't want it to be a "smaller notebook computer".

The keyboard is an accessory - it's not the iPad's main thing

Again, iPad is a post-PC device where keyboard comes up when it's needed, but in most cases it's out of the way. That's how I treat it and that's how I learned to work. And I love it. Switching to the iPad made me re-think the way I work and the amount of typing I did on the laptop because I could (the keyboard was always right there!) and because I was able to (I'm a touch typist so I can type plenty fast). Not anymore. Now I type less and enjoy computing even more. It's hard to take the switch but it's definitely worth it. Sometimes I'm slower because of the on-screen keyboard, but most of the times I'm happier, because I'm not typing as much as I used to.

How do you find iPad's typing experience? Do you use a keyboard on your iPad? Which one? Why?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Part 9 - Social Media - iPad as my main computer

Going iPad-only is pretty fun if you think about the social media. Most of the apps for that purpose are just done very well, much better than their web sites so the iPad is a perfect device for managing your social media presence. Here's how I do it.

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Twitter using Tweetbot and Twitter integration

First off, the Twitter integration is amazing on the iPad, I've added my Twitter accounts (both the company account and my personal account - you're following me, right?) to the iPad settings so tweeting from within Safari or any other place is just easy. Loving it.

As my regular Twitter client on the iPad I use Tweetbot - I like how it's designed and how powerful it is. And the integration with "Pocket" (formerly Read-it-later) is just great. I've divided people who I follow into lists and Tweetbot lets me browse my timeline through these lists and when I find an interesting article people tweet, I add it to my "Pocket" list.

I still go back to the Twitter client on my iPhone from time to time because for some reason only this app has the "Connect" tab where I can see who favorite'd my tweets or started following me. Hope this comes to the iPad soon (along with the Twitter's new logo) :-)

Facebook app

I'm not crazy-active on Facebook but when I want to browse it I use the iPad app - it has some bugs but most of the time it works really well and I don't remember last time I browsed the Facebook web site. On the iPhone I use the same app, too.

Instagram

I post my photos using Instagram, especially using the "Kelvin" filter. I use the Instagram app on the iPhone and I've set up the IFTTT service in such a way, that all of my Instagram photos automagically are added to my Evernote account. Sweet.

Buffer

I schedule most of my Tweets using Buffer application on my iPad using their bookmarklet (it works pretty well in Safari) and I mange my updates using their iPhone app (hope their iPad app is coming soon!). I try to post every two hours something useful to my followers (this is how it's scheduled in Buffer) and later throughout the day I respond to replies and RTs using Tweetbot.

Reeder

I sync my Google Reader account with Reeder app on my iPad and when I find an interesting article I'd like to share with my circle, I either do it directly from the app (tweet or buffer via email), or simply "star" it. Thanks to the IFTTT magic every "starred" item gets added to my "Pocket" reading list. This iPad app is one of the most polished apps I have on both my iPad and my iPhone - works every time and enables me to read stuff offline.

Pocket

Pocket (again, it used to be called "Read it Later") is where all the interesting articles show up for reading them later. From here I decide which articles I'd want to share with my circles, which I want to save in Evernote for future reference and which I just want to read (or watch in case of videos) and be done with it.

As I mentioned, the articles show up here when I add them from Safari browser (using a bookmarklet), Tweetbot (using its integration with Pocket), Reeder (using IFTTT or the Reeder's native integration) or Email (I also email myself articles sometimes to Pocket). That's why "Pocket" is my central reading place and it's the place that helps me decide what I do with what I just read.

Again, thanks to additional IFTTT magic, every article's URL I mark as "read" in Pocket is being added to a dedicated Evernote notebook so that I can find it easily later. Evernote is my external brain after all.

Pinterest

I just started with Pinterest recently and I'm learning more about this platform. For now I'm using the iPhone app and the bookmarklet on my iPad. So far I find this new social media platform intriguing.

Google+

Don't use it all that much, their API is closed so I can't post automatically from the services I use daily, so it's too much hassle for me at this point.

That's it - this is how I handle my Social Media activity from my iPad and iPhone - how do you do it? Do you have any tips for me?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Part 8 - The back-end magic - iPad as my main computer

After more than two months working mostly on my iPad I discovered gradually how different it is to work on this small device than to work on a PC. As I mentioned in my last post - iPad is not a PC. Which means many things need to be done differently... but they do make me more productive and make the process more fun. What I recently discovered is how I like stuff happening behind the back in the back-end when working on an iPad. Today we'll dive deeper into this concept.

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The sync - it's magic

First of all, the syncing with Dropbox, Evernote and iCloud (and even IMAP!) is magical. Not in all the cases (I still beg Dropbox to finally introduce an update to their iPad app to allow syncing of folders) but in most situations it just works. I pull out the iPad and have all the newest information at my fingertips. Many apps sync with either Dropbox or iCloud and Evernote has offline notebooks that sync automagically. Beautiful.

The email - it's even more magical

I already mentioned that I now regularly email my stuff to Evernote, Nozbe (and we'll be improving that even more!), Tripit and other apps and this stuff magically is parsed and prepared for me "behind my back" and appears in my apps.

Recently I discovered that there is a free service called SendToDropbox that allows sending files to your Dropbox account. Sweet! I've been using it for a few days now and it works as advertised.

Automatic feedback loop thanks to sync and email

Another suggestion I got was from Jakub Krzych - a friend of mine who initially inspired me to go iPad-only (when I saw him doing most of his work on his iPad on one of the conferences we attended). He sent me a great "flow" how he's working with his designer:

1) His designer draws something and saves the picture in their shared Box folder (Box is like Dropbox, but more for enterprise use).

2) He then takes this drawing directly into Noterize app (now it's called PaperPort Notes) from Box, takes a Bamboo Pen (a stylus used for drawing on the iPad) and draws his feedback directly on his designer's drawing.

3) When he's done he saves the file back and his designer gets an email alert that he changed this file. The designer can then improve the design and we start again... quickly and easily... and "iPad only".

Thanks Jakub for sending this in!

If this then that

I already mentioned the service IFTTT called "If this then that" where you can set up different processes and different APIs to work for you "behind the scenes". Like whenever I "star" an article in Google Reader - it automatically adds it to my "Pocket" reading list... and when I've read the article in "Pocket" it automatically copies it to the Evernote... the possibilities are infinite!

There's more stuff happening behind the scenes

Recently I've been playing with my Mac mini (which is turned on all of the time in my home office) and setting up things there like "when I add a file to this dropbox folder, sync this to my Evernote notebook" and other things that are happening on either mac mini or on my company's servers. This is when real magic happens.

The iPad in these situations serves as a trigger for the stuff to happen behind our backs... and the outcome is prepared for us.

On a "normal computer" we are lazy

I know you can do similar stuff on a regular computer or laptop... but the thing is, we are lazy and when we work on a powerful computer, we don't set up these things as we prefer to do it all ourselves "because we can". When you're on an iPad you start evaluating how much of your work have you been doing manually and how much can be done "behind the scenes" and don't require your management.

That's why I'm enjoying so much my iPad-only experiment and I'd say it's a radical move between "PC-centric" work and "iPad-with-computers-in-the-back" work where you really feel the computer is doing stuff for you. And you get to carry this small device and you're just touching the results.

Sweet, right?

P.S. Yes, the illustration to this blog post has been sketched by yours truly using Paper app with a Bamboo pen - don't judge :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Part 7 - Simplifications and Annoyances - iPad as my main computer

As I mentioned in my last post about the "fun" aspect of the iPad, it's been a month since I really started using the iPad for most of my computer-related tasks and I've gotten some great feedback from all of you reading my blog and my tweets and shares. Now it's time to share the Good, the Bad and the Ugly about working on the iPad and how I've managed to simplify my work even more.

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My Dropbox setup

As I mentioned in my post about clouds, on of the main storage options for me on the iPad is still Dropbox and I use it like this:

I have a main Dropbox account where I store all of my data and I access it mainly through the Dropbox app and Good Reader.

I set up a secondary Dropbox account that shares all of its folders with my main account and I use this account for most of the apps on my iPad. I just don't trust all the apps to have access to my main Dropbox account and all of my files. Only the files located on the secondary account.

What annoys me: Dropbox app on the iPad doesn't actually "sync" with the iPad. I mean, if you "star" some files, they'll be offline but you can't "star" folders to have really a seamless offline storage on the iPad. There is a 2-year old thread on the Dropbox forums about it and they still haven't done it. Seriously? I have a 64GB iPad and cannot sync the 5GB of Dropbox files to it? Why not?

My Evernote setup

Because of what I mentioned earlier, I use Evernote as my main cloud storage now. It has "offline notebooks" and syncs them beautifully. I'm now emailing lots of stuff to Evernote (more than I used to) as I prefer to store the info there and have it offline on my iPad whenever I want. The legendary search and OCR of Evernote works great, too and their iPhone apps (together with Food and Hello apps) help me get more stuff to Evernote and let me have the information at my fingertips at all times.

Side-note: Nozbe syncs with Evernote and we're working on a tighter sync with them to make sure I can make any of my notes "actionable" and "sharable" with others. Can't wait for that to happen.

What annoys me: Their iPad app has gotten a lot better over the years and I love it... but "processing" notes is not ideal. I cannot easily "move" my notes from my "inbox" notebook to their corresponding notebooks - need to edit the note first and then change notebook. This can be done a lot better (and the Mac app is better for it). Hope they'll improve it on the iPad.

Nebulous for writing

I got rid of Simplenote. It was cool when it lasted but when writing a note in Simplenote it got "accidentally" deleted when I was typing it (due to issues with their sync) I decided not to trust it anymore. Now I just use Nebulous for all of my writing. It works seamlessly with Dropbox and has great searching capabilities. I wish it synced with Evernote, too. Dropping Simplenote let me focus on Evernote and Dropbox as my main clouds now.

I simplified my blog posting routine: Now I write all my blog posts in Nebulous where they are saved in Dropbox automagically. The app has a "full screen" view, spell check and preview of the Markdown code which I use for typing. I send my blog posts directly from this app to my blog. Sweet :-)

What annoys me: Not much, lack of Evernote sync and "focus" mode of AI Writer. Other than that, it's great.

Other apps I frequently use:

Textastic for coding - I don't do much coding these days but when I do, this app does the trick. Very cool indeed. Works fast, is very stable. Nice.

Clipboard History - it's not ideal, it crashes at times and I need to switch to it to save stuff from clipboard (I wish it copied everything I copy to clipboard in the background but I don't think iOS allows for this). I just wish iOS had a full clipboard history built in.

TextExpander - I use built in keyboard shortcuts in iOS but for longer text snippets I use TextExpander. Many apps work with it, including Nebulous and AI Writer.

A note on keyboard shortcuts

Many folks asked me about it. iPad is not a PC. It's a touch interface and one can argue if the lack of keyboard shortcuts is a problem or not. I just don't like keyboard anymore. Yes, I love it for typing (just like I typed this blog post) but I don't use it all that much when I use the iPad. I prefer to use the iPad alone, type short things on the on-screen keyboard and just use my fingers to navigate and move around. Keyboard is an "additional thingy" to the iPad, it's not an integral part of it. Some of you might not like it. I love it and I think that this is the future of personal computing. That's also the reason why I went with the Zagg Flex Keyboard instead of any "cover with keyboard" - I don't want a "netbook" - I want an iPad.

Next up: Office, Browsing and Social Media

In my next posts I'll focus on these aspects of my "computing" life and why iPad excels in these and why I love working on it even more... stay tuned.

How did you simplify your iPad life? Which apps help you simplify your workflows?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Part 6 - Portability and Fun - iPad as my main computer

I'm back from my holiday trip and back after a long and tiring week of work (we just launched new Nozbe Desktop and new Productive! Magazine issue! Yay! :-) and it's time to get back to posting about my workflow and my new toy, I mean, "work device" called the iPad. This time we'll focus on iPad's real strengths - portability and fun.

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A month has passed...

It's been more than a month since I picked up my new shiny iPad 3 and decided to do most of my work on this new device instead of my trusty Macbook Air. It was also the first time I went for a two-week trip without my laptop. Here are some thoughts on that.

iPad is very portable... duh!

It's not like I discovered something here. iPad is half the weight of my Macbook Air and half the size. This means I can put it into my man-purse and take it with me. No need for a full-blown backpack there. 10 hour batter life is exactly that - 10 hours worth of life - each 10% is one hour. Sweet and very long. On my trip (as I wasn't working a lot) I used to charge it every 3-4 days. When I'm back, I charge it basically every night. I don't use cables in between.

iPad is just more convenient when traveling

It's just not clumsy when I want to pull it up from my bag and use it. I take it in one hand, use the other to navigate and that's it. A lot more comfortable than using a laptop on a trip (try to hold a laptop on one hand and type with the other!). I don't need to sit. I can just stand (or walk slowly) and use it. Sweet.

iPad means more "fun" than "work"

When I pick up my laptop, I tend to think "work" and start opening up web sites, checking email, etc. When I pick up my iPad I firstly ask myself this question: "Is there anything I absolutely need to do now?" As I have my flows for work nicely designed on the iPad, if I don't need to work at this moment I simply open up Kindle app (for ebooks), Reeder app (for news) or Pocket app (for the articles I've saved) and start reading. And I usually use it in portrait mode, without keyboard and stuff. It just naturally transforms itself from a "work machine" to a "play machine" or simply a very versatile "reader device".

This was especially convenient on a plane. I'd use it at times with my Zagg keyboard to write things (i.e. "create") and then I'd just pick it up to read. A real Transformer :-)

I tend to use the iPad more now

This week has been crazy. We've been working a lot just to catch up, we've launched a few things and we've mainly succeeded. And the whole week long I preferred to just pick up my iPad to work instead of my laptop. I just enjoyed working on the iPad more... it's just more fun, I feel more and more productive on it every day now... and I hardly need my laptop anymore. We'll see in months to come, but I lean towards my iPad a lot more these days than towards my laptop. Strange feeling, you know?

Do you use iPad a lot these days, too? How do you use it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Part 5 - Traveling - iPad as my main computer

On Monday we landed in Los Angeles for our two-week vacation with my wife visiting West-Coast, Grand Canyon and other spectacular sites nearby. It's the first trip ever that I didn't take my laptop with me. Normally even though I wouldn't work too much (as I really want to spend this time with my wife), but as my laptop is (was) the center of my digital life (and I am a geek), I'd take it anyway. Now that I'm on my iPad only trial I just took my iPad. And nothing more. And I even planned the whole trip on the iPad. Here's how:

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iPad is ideal for traveling... because it's so small

First let me tell you that iPad as such is ideal for traveling. Weights a lot less than my laptop (which is already an ultra-light Macbook Air!), needs less accessories, holds 10 hours on battery without any problem and can be turned on really instantly which is seriously amazing. It's a perfect travel computer as such. And when I want to read something, it converts to an ebook reader in an instant.

Great apps for traveling help you plan the trip

Traveling with an iPad? There are apps for that! Here are the ones I used:

  • TripIt! - thanks to the suggestion by David Pogue of the NYT, this is the "mother of all travel apps". When I ordered our plane ticket, rented car, hotel... whatever, I'd always receive a confirmation email. Forward it to TripIt and it beautifully parses the emails and adds them to the app. Perfect. In my last post I mentioned why I love how the apps work with email.

  • Booking - I've been always using Booking.com for booking hotels and the iPad app works beautifully, too. I stopped using the web site, only use the app now.

  • FlightRadar24 and Flightrack PRO - both apps are great for following the airplanes, making sure we're not late and having up-to-date info about the flights. The latter syncs with my TripIt account which is really neat :-)

  • Navigon and Google Maps - I use navigation on my iPhone (Navigon in Europe and Copilot Live in the USA) by an extra view of the maps on my iPad helps me plan a trip. Google Maps app on the iPad is still a joy to use.

  • The Weather Channel - great app for watching weather forecast in various places at a time. Indispensable.

  • Evernote - as Evernote is my personal brain, I forward my travel confirmations there as well, just to make sure I can access and search them anytime. It's a backup solution for me, although I prefer the view that TripIt offers me. But I still have the habit of sending stuff to Evernote just in case.

  • Mercury Browser - I use this browser very often especially when ordering flights or cars as many web sites detect the iPad as a mobile phone and send me over to a crippled mobile site and won't even let me to go to their "normal" site. Mercury Browser has an ability to "imitate" I'm not on the iPad and it works.

  • 1Password - I use this to store passwords across all of my devices. Works beautifully and this app is one of the essentials on the iPad for any type of browsing, especially accessing different travel sites with my credentials. Or my banking account.

What's the journey going to be like? Should be fun!

I'm only starting my two-week trip so I'll be posting later how iPad worked, but so far so good. The planning and preparation on the iPad worked beautifully. Now it's time to see how iPad substitutes my main computer on this journey. Fingers crossed!

How do you find traveling with the iPad? Any tips or apps I missed?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Part 4 - Email, clouds and APIs - iPad as my main computer

The more I use the iPad the more I explore its "nuts and bolts". The more apps I try the less I need... and the more I appreciate the small, subtle things app designers have gone to actually make my new "productivity machine" better. In this part of my iPad-only saga I'm going to focus on several aspects of my iPad's apps:

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Email. To zero. Every day.

When I wrote my first post on the iPad two years ago I didn't know it'd be so true. Processing emails on the iPad to zero is so beautiful. It's really great. I'm "touching" emails and processing my inbox to zero every single day. I love it. The best part is that my Mail application is not "asking for attention" in the dock, it's there when I need it... and I use it several times a day and it's a great experience every time.

Email integrations work, and help.

When you're on a desktop is so easy to drag and drop files to other apps, to desktop and take it from there... here on the iPad I start appreciating how many apps have taken a great approach to Email integration and enable me to "forward" emails to them. Evernote, Nozbe (of course!), Tripit, Buffer, Kindle... and many others. I find myself emailing other apps a lot more often than before... thus processing email to zero even faster!

I love the APIs of apps. They play so well together!

My favorite "content consuming" apps are Reeder, Tweetbot, Pocket (formerly Read-it-later) and well, Safari. Except for the last one, all are very tightly integrated with each other as well as my clouds like Evernote od Dropbox so this makes using them a breeze and making sure I don't lose the articles I want to keep or read later (for which the iPad is a beautiful machine, too :-)

Bonus - IFTTT = If This Than That

This service is like "one API to rule them (APIs) all" and I've already configured it to post all of my Instagram photos to Evernote, when I star an item in Twitter or Google Reader, send them to Evernote or Pocket... and other stuff. It's like an Automator for the web... and for my iPad. Works beautifully.

Bonus 2 - GoodReader - one app to integrate them all

I can't say enough about GoodReader - I thought wrongly that it's "only a PDF reader" but it's an app that integrates all the "files" on my iPad with my clouds and other apps. This is a must-have if you're serious about the iPad as your working machine.

Bonus 3 - Second Dropbox account

As I mentioned, one of my main clouds is Dropbox and I can't say enough about it. I store many files on my Dropbox account and need GoodReader to have access to all of them... but I don't need all of the apps to have access to my entire Dropbox account so I decided to create a second dropbox account which shares some files and some folders with my main Dropbox account. The second account is free with 2GB of storage but it's plenty enough for my needs and for the needs of the apps that sync with it. All of the folders I have on this account are being shared with my main account... so that I can access this second account from my main account but not the other way round (for all the files). This way I'm less "scared" when I give access to my Dropbox folder to all of the apps that ask for it.

The last bonus - iSMEStorage

To enable Dropbox to WebDav sync - which in turn gives me access to my Dropbox files directly through WebDav from the Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps, I needed to buy a $5 app called iSMEStorage - there is no subscription, just an "iOS only" plan where I can set it up to "translate" my Dropbox files to WebDav.

There are more tips coming

As I'm discovering my iPad only way I'm finding more and more subtle things that, once set up right, help me work more efficiently on my iPad and in many way more "focused" than ever before.

Do you have any tips for me? Do let me know!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 3 - Designing Flows - iPad as my main computer

Many people have asked me why I'm trying to go iPad-only when I'm so productive on the Mac and don't really need to go so far. Well, apart from being excited by the challenge and the new gadget, the other thing is to really re-think how I use my computer and why I do things I do the same way. I've already discovered in my last posts that I need to use different cloud services and also need to change the way I write which brings me to the real deal here: I'm really re-designing my "flows" or processes

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The work is not a place to go, it's a thing you do - was my favorite quote when I was writing my master thesis years ago about tele-working... and the "PC" is also just a machine that should help us get our stuff done... unless we are in the "PC-manufacturing/repairing" business where the PC is our job.

My iPad-only work imposes constraints that make me re-think how I use computer every day

As you have seen in my post about writing - I have to "design" the way I do writing on the iPad and the Mac. I have to make sure there's almost no friction there and I focus on writing and not on "setting up to write". I want to get my writing done as easily as possible.

There are more processes to come

What I'm saying here is that over the course of next weeks you'll see more "flows" or "processes" on this blog where I'll be explaining how I do stuff on the iPad with the apps at hand. I'll be posting how I:

  • do photo management and sharing with m family
  • do videos for my show and for my family
  • do coding
  • do feedback loops with my team
  • do email
  • do reading
  • do listening
  • do everything else...

These all are completely new processes for me and I'm studying them to make sure I finally get them right, with as few apps and services as possible but also in the most focused way possible, too.

My iPad became my ultimate flow-management tool

Thanks to the fact that the iPad is so small, so full of great, focused apps, I can learn new processes and optimize the way I use my computer. And because there are no windows on the iPad, there are no distractions. It's a different beast but my guess is, that even if I do get back to work on my computer for 20% of my time, I'll be working on it in a totally different way than before, thinking about these processes a lot more.

Which flows do you use? How do you design your "processes" on your PC or your iPad or iPhone? Have you thought about your computer this way before?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Part 2 - Writing - iPad as my main computer

It's been almost a week since I got my new iPad and decided to work iPad-only and I've been enjoying the experience very much. I started with setting up my 7 cloud services which not only help me keep only the relevant stuff on my iPad but also sync beautifully with both my iPhone and my Mac. Today I finished compiling the #12 issue of the Productive! Magazine entirely on the iPad and wrote several articles so I'll focus on how the iPad works as a writer's machine.

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The hardware: iPad + keyboard

Most of the time I type using the on-screen keyboard and funny enough it works pretty well. I can "almost" touch-type which is actually surprising. I can type pretty fast on this thing.

However, for some serious typing (like this blog post) I tend to use an external Bluetooth keyboard for two reasons:

1) I can really touch type and don't think about it at all
2) I can see the entire screen and actually use the iPad in the portrait mode which is simply designed for typing.

My keyboard of choice is the ZaggKeys Flex keyboard and it's amazing. I believe it's the lightest and the smallest Bluetooth keyboard out there and it has an amazingly cool "keyboard cover" which serves as an iPad stand. Brilliant and very useful.

Up on the picture you can see me reviewing the interview I did with Jason Womack - and both my iPad and my iPhone are supported by the Zagg's stand.

The other cool thing about the keyboard is that it doesn't change my iPad into a "netbook" just like other "folios" or "covers" do. I still prefer to have "just the iPad with smart-cover" and use the keyboard occasionally.

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When I check emails and process them to zero, I actually like to have my iPad flat on the table to "touch" the emails with less effort and have the keyboard handy in case I need to fire up a quick reply. Although very often I process to zero and write short replies with just the on-screen keyboard.

Writer's apps and the cloud.

Just like I mentioned in my last post most of my writing is done in Simplenote and stored in its cloud there. Simplenote is an elegant writer as such. However sometimes I need to write "richer" articles and this post I'm writing in "Markdown" so I decided to use a different setup.

1) I set up Nebulous and AI Writer to use Dropbox and have a folder there called "MarkedTexts" where I save Markdown-powered text files.
2) I like to write in AI Writer 'cos it's more elegant than Nebulous and has the "focus-mode" which I love.
3) Later for final editing I switch to Nebulous because it also has a preview of Markdown.
4) Once the post is ready I quickly paste it to Pages to catch the spelling mistakes. Once that's done, the article is saved in Nebulous again (in Dropbox). From there I "email" the article to Posterous.
5) That's it. I've been typing it on my Zagg Keyboard having the iPad in horizontal position. Sweet.

As a bonus I paste all of my articles to Simplenote to be able to access them quickly with Simplenote's ultra-fast search.

Bonus - Scrivener

I'm currently exploring some ideas for books and have drafts for three books in Scrivener on my Mac. Thanks to suggestions from Augusto Pinaud I've managed to sync my Scrivener drafts with Dropbox and Nebulous to be able to edit them on the go with my iPad.

iPad is a pretty slick writer's machine

I'd say that after a few experiments iPad can be a pretty powerful writer's machine. It's focused interface, relatively big screen and full-screen apps... together with a good keyboard make it a very light and very portable writer's studio. Here's to me finishing at least one of the drafts and finally shipping my first ever full-blown book to you :-)

Have you ever tried writing on the iPad? What's your setup?

P.S. Here's one of the guys who wrote an entire book on the iPad without an external keyboard:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Part 1 - the Clouds - iPad as my main computer

Today is my first day of working entirely on the iPad. As I mentioned in my last blog post over the course of the next weeks I will try to make this very iPad my only computer, actually spending 80%+ of my time working on the iPad. The last two days I've been setting it up and made a few discoveries... about the clouds and the significant part they'll play in my "iPad only" journey. Here we go:

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Life in the cloud... and there are more clouds than we think

Lots of companies are talking about moving to the cloud and how it can be accomplished and there are many "cloud" services out there... and what I have found out is that in order for my ipad experiment to work I really need to use several cloud services and balance between storing data in the cloud and locally on my iPad. Luckily I have 64GB of storage so plenty to go by... but I need to go away from just storing everything here. It's not possible... and it's stupid. iPad is a post-PC device and needs a different approach. And it's very exciting :-)

7 Clouds to rule them all

Over the last few days I've been playing with different apps and setups and found out that there will be at least 7 cloud services involved in my iPad only setup, here they are in order of importance:

Cloud #1 - the iCloud for settings and some files

The default iCloud is of course the basis of my post-PC iPad - my contacts, calendars and other Apple-relevant stuff is synced via iCloud. Many apps (like "Day One" for journal) also sync via iCloud. We are using a common iCloud account with my wife to sync our contacts and calendar as well as our particular iCloud accounts for our personal needs. I'll talk about this setup sometime in the future. Oh, and my iPad will sync today for the first time with the iCloud. Exciting.

Cloud #2 - Dropbox for most of the files

Most of my "normal" files are synced via Dropbox - I'm a premium member but have found out that with about 10Gig of space I'm pretty much covered for most of my file storage. Many apps sync with Dropbox (like 1Password) which is great and helps me stay in sync with my home PC if I need to. Dropbox apart from the iCloud is the second storage space I will use a lot on my iPad.

Cloud #3 - Evernote for media-rich notes and stuff

I'm a big Evernote fan and I've been using them for three years now. That's why it was so important to me that Evernote synced with my Nozbe project management app. Thanks to Evernote I'm not "producing" so many files anymore (hence no need for a very big Dropbox) - I dump many things to Evernote, my sketches, scans, documents, I clip articles I find interesting thanks to the Reeder integration... basically I treat Evernote as my second brain. The cool thing is that Evernote does OCR of images and makes them searchable thus making it my ultimate "dump service" for media-rich notes.

Cloud #4 - Kindle for eBooks and... PDFs

As I prefer audiobooks, I tend to directly use Audible app on my iPhone, but some books are not available in audio so I use Kindle... and recently I discovered that Kindle gives you 5GIG of storage for PDFs... and as a Productive! Magazine editor I get lots of PDFs to read. I used to keep some of these in Dropbox and others in Evernote... now I've removed them from both and sent everything to my free.kindle.com email address. Now I can read them in Kindle on my iPad and it remebers my last-read position... and it's a real joy to use. Great iPad-friendly discovery.

Cloud #5 - Simplenote for text-only notes

I write this blog post in SimpleNote. I've been using Notational Velocity on my Mac (NValt fork by Brett) and it syncs beautifully with Simplenote on my iPad. This serivce is far superior to Evernote for simple text-only notes. The search is instant and saving to the cloud as I type. Syncs with NValt on my Mac and has full-page writing mode. As I write very often (blog posts, articles, esseys) this one is a killer writer's cloud for me :-)

Cloud #6 - Nozbe for tasks

Of course I use Nozbe on the iPad for task and project management. I the iPad app designed by Macoscope guys as well as plain-easy Nozbe web interface. We are currently tweaking the Nozbe desktop interface to use it for the iPad as a web app - this will soon be available with more iPad-friendly look and feel. Now that I've moved to the iPad my team is working overtime to make it happen. Thanks to Nozbe we (team of 12) communicate through tasks and hardly send emails to one another. Nozbe syncs with my desktop on my Mac (we just released our Mac and PC app) as well as my iPhone.

Cloud #7 - Google for Mail, Docs and Calendars

Although I don't like where "getting evil" Google is going, I still can't replace my Gmail account as well as Docs for collaborative writing and Calendars for collaborative scheduling. I've set up my Gmail account in my Mail.app as well as the dedicated HTML5 Gmail app. I'm actually paying Google for more space there.

7 Clouds to manage them, one iPad to bind them

These are so far my most important "cloud" services and I'm happy I finally got around to re-designing my computer setup. The iPad only experiment made me re-think the way I work and I love the results so far. No longer is my PC my "central hub" the 7 Clouds are and they compliment my iPad beautifully. The major difference between the iPad and say a "chromebook" is that lots of stuff is still happening locally on my iPad, I can work offline most of the time... and when I connect the stuff syncs right away (although I do have 4G model so I'm very rarely offline).

Do you use "Clouds"? How does your setup look like? Did I miss anything?

Stay tuned for the next episode of my "iPad only" journey by following me on Twitter and subscribing to my blog. Thanks!