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Three Common Productivity Tasks That an iPad Performs Better Than a PC

By Neil J. Squillante | Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Can the iPad perform productivity tasks? Obviously. But can it perform them more efficiently than a PC? This is the more important question, which we continually research. In this issue of TL Research, we explain three tasks that the iPad performs better in terms of both functionality and speed than a PC. The accompanying video demonstrates two of these tasks.


In a recent episode of the A16Z podcast Andreessen Horowitz partner and mobile computing analyst Benedict Evans described smartphones as "way more sophicated than a PC" thanks to their camera and sensors.

He's right. It's relatively easy to build your own PC. However, you cannot build a smartphone — or a tablet — in your den. The mobile operating systems that run these devices likewise outclass their desktop counterparts. Look no further than installing and uninstalling apps as proof.

Sophistication Versus Utility

Of course, sophistication is just one aspect of a tool. A Tesla is more sophisticated than a Toyota Camry, but the latter will serve you better for most driving tasks thanks to the plethora of gas stations. While Tesla has a long road ahead, what about the iPad? It's the most popular tablet among TechnoLawyer members and all lawyers for that matter.

Over the past few years, lawyers have debated whether you can use an iPad for so-called "real work." While enjoyable, this debate sidesteps the more important question — should you even if you can?

For example, most lawyers can type faster on a PC than on an iPad. And despite my high hopes for taking handwritten notes when the iPad mini launched (our most tweeted article), I'm now more bullish on smartpens that write on paper and transfer your notes to an iPad.

On the other hand, the iPad bests the PC (and Mac) at certain tasks. Below are three that the iPad performs better in terms of both functionality and speed than a PC based on our research.

1. Sharing Web Articles

Email remains the most common way to privately share articles you find on the web with clients, colleagues, and friends.

Most people share articles by copying and pasting the URL into the email message they send. Recipients must click the URL, which means they cannot read your message and the article in the same place. And what if the article resides on a website that requires a subscription?

On an iPad (and iPhone), you can easily send the entire article inside your email message.

In Safari, tap the Reader button on the left side of the address bar (it's an icon comprised of four horizontal lines). This eliminates all the surrounding cruft, leaving only the article. Next tap the Share button to the left of the Reader button. Finally tap the Mail button. (If the article spans several pages, start with the printer-friendly version if one exists.)

This three tap sequence places the URL and the entire article into a new email message. Write whatever you want above the article and send the message.

The above video demonstrates this feature. Try sharing this article.

2. Adding Contacts From Unstructured Data

A number of Outlook add-ons such as Gwabbit and Copy2Contact exist that can recognize email addresses, street addresses, telephone numbers, etc. in the body of email messages (e.g., signatures) so that you can quickly create new contacts.

That's nice but the Mail app in iOS recognizes this unstructured data without having to buy any extra software.

You probably know how to tap an email address to start a new message, a street address to view that location in Maps, and a telephone number to make a call (iPhone only).

However, if you tap and hold you'll see an option to create a new contact or add the information to an existing contact.

The iOS Contacts database syncs with Google Apps, Office 365, and Microsoft Exchange in addition to Apple's iCloud. If you use one of these services (if you don't you should), the additions and changes you make on your iPad will appear in Outlook on your PC (or whichever application you use to store contacts).

Watch the above video for a demonstration of this feature.

3. Replacing Paper

A growing number of lawyers already use their iPad as a paper replacement, but it's such a powerful use case that it bears mentioning. The iPad offers an excellent reading experience while offering much better portability than paper once you get beyond 50 or so pages.

First, using any number of apps such as Adobe Reader, GoodReader, Notability, NoteSuite, PDF Expert, etc., you can store PDF documents on your iPad and annotate them. The sync services that these apps support make it easy to move documents from your PC to your iPad. There's no reason to lug reference books to court anymore. Or for that matter to save paper user guides when you buy a new whatever (most companies make their user guides available online in PDF format).

Second, consider taking paper replacement further. For example, hand your clients your iPad to show them a document. If everyone at a meeting has an iPad, use an app like Slingshot to share your screen with them. Finally, consider reviewing depositions on your iPad using an app such as TextMap or TranscriptPad.

The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

As Yogi Berra's quote teaches us, new technologies inevitably surpass old technologies, evolving from toys to necessities. The iPad has already proved its potential. iOS 8 — especially extensions — will add to the number of productivity tasks it can perform better than a PC.

Neil J. Squillante is the publisher of TechnoLawyer.

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Topics: Business Productivity/Word Processing | Document Management | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | Practice Management/Calendars | TL Research
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