After my recent post on how I ditched my laptop and went iPad-only I’ve received a lot of emails requesting more tips and tricks for the iPad. You ask, I write. So I came up with a list of 7 handy tips that will make you more productive on the iPad.
1. Re-order Apps Based On Landscape Rotation
The first tip is to re-order your apps so that they are easily accessible. When you plan to work a lot on your iPad, you’re most likely going to use the tablet in landscape mode (longest side is horizontal) with an external keyboard.
Assuming you’re right handed, you want to assign your most frequently used apps on the right side of the screen. Here’s a grid of my homescreen and as you can see my most used apps are on the right side.
When you have to open apps on the iPad, you have to tap and the shortest distance is the right side of the iPad. You don’t want to have your most used app on the top left corner as that takes more effort.
I know it might sound like a minor thing but if you are working a lot behind the iPad, these little things matter a lot more.
The flipside of this is that you put your other infrequently apps on the left side.
On top of that – you probably do this already but in case you’re not – put all the apps you’re using on the first home screen. Anything else should be on home screen 2 and up.
One thing I’ve noticed is that when it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. When I’m working from the main home screen all day, I tend to forget there’s other stuff on other home screen and thus those apps rarely get used.
If you’re planning to fiddle and experiment with apps (you shouldn’t most of the time) put them on the main home screen and on the right side of your screen. Now you can give your app a fair chance and see if it’s really worthwhile as a replacement for another app.
2. Embrace the Constraints
One of the main conclusions from my iPad-only experience was that you have to embrace the constraints the iPad provides. I want to emphasize this again.
Due to its multitasking limitations, you’re forced to focus on one thing at a time and that’s a good thing. If you’re used to using Launchbar, Spotlight and keyboard shortcuts to navigate around on a desktop, you’ll miss that on an iPad.
The side-benefit of not having that is that you tend to zoom in on what’s in front of you and you won’t get easily distracted. This is great when you need uninterrupted time for writing, coding or any creative type of work.
This is a subtle mindshift that you have to make but once you get it, you’ll love the constraints the iPad brings. It’ll also make you more appreciative of how powerful the desktop is.
3. Tweak Your Notifications Settings (It’s a MUST)
As I just mentioned, the iPad allows you to be distraction-free.
There is one caveat: it assumes you have set up your notifications correctly. If you don’t change these settings, you’ll get easily annoyed and distracted by all these (push) notifications.
It’s definitely worth spending 5–10 minutes setting up your notification settings. You do this by going to Settings > Notification Center.
From there, go through each app and adjust the settings per app. Yes… you’ll have to do this for EACH app.
Most of my settings look like this:
That’s right. No notifications for ANYTHING except to be appeared on the home screen. This allows me to work distraction-free. It’s the opposite on my iPhone where most basic notifications are turned on so I can stay in the loop, but I’ll turn off my phone when I’m working.
4. Get an External Keyboard
If you’re going to buy an accessory for the iPad – you MUST get an external keyboard first. It will make you so much more productive than tapping on the screen and you’ll be able to use certain keyboard shortcuts (see below).
The one I use is the Logitech Ultrathin.
Assuming you have an external keyboard you now have access to a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. The number of shortcuts available on iOS is limited but if you know the basics you’ll be far more efficient. The less you have to tap, the more efficient you’ll be.
With that said, here’s a list of keyboard shortcuts you should know:
- copy – CMD+C
- cut – CMD+X
- paste – CMD+V
- Browser back – CMD+[ (I use this all the time in Safari)
- Browser forward – CMD+]
- Jump to URL bar in Safari – CMD+L (so you can immediately enter an URL)
- SHIFT+CMD+D (Mail) – After composing an email it will send it.
- Home button – most external keyboards have a home button.
Also, when you are presented with your lock screen – use your keyboard to enter your 4-digit passcode.
5. Get an External Battery Pack
Another accessory worthwhile getting is an external battery pack.
It just sucks if you run out of battery while you’re working on something important. There were a couple times where I was forced to stop working on something major and that really killed my productivity.
Fortunately, this is really to address with an external battery pack. The one I use is the Limefuel 15600mAh. It can charge your iPad and iPhone (or another phone) at the same time.
The Most Battery Draining Processes Are…
It’s important to be aware of some of the processes that drain the battery. While everyone’s usage varies here are some things to pay attention to:
- Streaming music drains the battery pretty fast – I like listening to iTunes radio while working but I found out quickly that this quickly drains the battery.
- Turning on full brightness – you don’t need full brightness. Dim it as much as you can.
- Playing videos or games – obvious one.
- Quitting apps all the time – this one really surprised me and it sounds counter-intuitive (haven’t confirmed it) but it makes sense.
Random tip: you can charge faster when you put your iPad in airplane mode.
6. Use the Built-in Text Expansion Feature
When you’re used to using text expansion software such as TextExpander, you’ll really miss having that on the iPad.
While there is TextExpander Touch and lots of apps support it, not all apps do. Especially the default apps of iOS like Safari where you’ll likely want to use it the most.
But there is a compromise. As AE reader Graham Borthwick reminded me, iOS has a built-in feature. Their own version of TextExpander if you will.
Go to Settings > General Keyboard > Shortcuts. From there you can set your own shortcuts. It will also sync across your other iOS devices so you have that nice consistency among all your iDevices.
It’s not quite as good as TextExpander but it’s quite useful. For apps that don’t support TextExpander Touch, this is a great alternative.
What would you put in there?
- Email addresses – this is a MUST-have
- Home address
- Billing address
Anything you fill out frequently in a form should have a shortcut / abbreviation. If you also message a lot on the iPad, you might want to add your own abbreviations for frequently used phrases.
I would avoid sensitive information such as credit card numbers.
7. Take Pre-Cautionary Security Measures
Speaking of security, the iPad out-of-the-box isn’t particularly secure. You’ll have to set that up.
Just in case your spouse, jealous boyfriend/girlfriend, child or random stranger wants to snoop around, you’ll want to have a passcode lock enabled. It’s not by default but if you go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock you’ll be able to set one.
Install Find My iPhone
The second thing you want to do is install the app Find My iPhone. Despite the name, it works for the iPad too…
When you have lost your iPad (or iPhone) you can find and trace it using icloud.com or your Find My iPhone app on another device. Apple has a page with an explanation but the basic idea is that you can remotely control (with limitations) your iPad.
For example, if you can’t find your iPad, you can via the app or iCloud.com make your iPad play a sound so it’s easier to trace where it is.
Another feature is for when your iPad has been stolen. You can then set it to Lost Mode and you can trace the location of your device on iCloud.com. It also allows you to send a message for the finder to contact you.
If things really get bad, you can remotely erase your device.
For More iPad and iOS Tips
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