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Isn't it nice to know that there are plenty of goodies you can get for free on you iPad? Sure, often these are “lite” versions of a larger, more expensive program, but it's an amazing way to test-drive the app for free before you invest a whopping $8.99 in something that may not work for you. After all, there are plenty of other things you can do with that $8.99 – like get two lattes from your favorite coffee shop.
 
All joking aside, here are some of the best small biz free apps I've found for the iPad. I haven't included ones I've mentioned in previous sections, just to avoid repeating myself:
  • HootSuite Lite for Twitter. A scaled-down version of the paid version, HootSuite will have you tweeting and RTing to your heart's delight. Send and schedule tweets and Facebook status updates, track clicks, and set up columns to manage custom searches. You can manage up to three accounts in the lite version.
  • Google Mobile. If you use any of Google's office suite (Calendar, Docs, Maps, etc.) get Google Mobile to easily view and access the desired info. You'll love the one-stop, one-click access.
  • Kindle for iPad. You know how every time you log into Amazon, it seems like the prices on their Kindles just keep dropping and dropping? Yeah, that's because of the iPad. The iPad does everything the Kindle does (pretty much) but you don't have to carry another device with you. All you have to do is download the free app and you're ready to read that stack of business books that had been piling up on your bedside table. (If you prefer Barnes and Noble – grab the Nook app instead. You can read free in store.)
  • Feeddler RSS Reader for iPad. If you're already used to reading RSS feeds in Google Reader, now you can access your account from your iPad. Fast and highly customizable, you'll never be far away from your favorite internet marketing blogs again!
  • PaperDesk Lite for iPad. If you're a multi-dimensional thinker, PaperDesk may be just what you've been looking for in order to keep track of your scribbles, typed words, and mumblings. You create notebooks with text, hand-drawn notes, and audio, and then you can email them to yourself as a PDF. This “lite” version restricts you to three pages per notebook.
  • Calculator for the iPad+. In the years that I've been out of school, I've forgotten all but the basics of math – thank goodness! No need to pull out the old algebra textbooks; I can handle nearly any mathematical need with my iPad+ calculator. In portrait orientation, it's a simple calculator, but let me just turn the screen on its side, and I'll be forcing even the most nasty differential equation into submission in no time!

 

Now that you've got the basics covered and you're no longer tethered to your desk, you're going to want a way to capture all of the fabulous ideas that pop into your brain when you're out and about, whether you're hiking the Appalachian Trail or just lounging, iPad in hand, on your back deck. Fortunately, the iPad seems to be custom-made for brainstorming. As it's been said before… There's an app for that! In fact, there are several mind mapping and/or brainstorming apps that are worth checking out, even if you're a linear-type. Here are a few apps that caught my eye:
  • iBrainstorm. (Free) Think of a huge corkboard with the ability to free-hand draw, stick on Post-It notes (in different colors, of course!), move, edit, and more… then you've got a good idea of what iBrainstorm enables. It's perfect for visual thinkers who like the ability to group ideas together, freely move and edit, and send the results via email.
  • iBrainstorm Companion.This is the coolest collaboration brainstorming app I've seen. You can work with up to four folks with iPhones to brainstorm ideas via iBrainstorm and “flick” them to the iPad for compiling, saving, and sharing.
  • Popplet ($8.99, free “lite” version available.) This is my mindmapper of choice. I love the ability to create flow charts and linked visual representations, including photos, text, and more. The linear bubbles and automatically linked bubbles appeal to my Type-A personality. And it's fun to change colors! Oh, of course you can email it to yourself.
  • Ideate. ($3.99)Ideate offers a ton of pre-designed templates, so whether you're designing a t-shirt, writing music, or planning the big defense for your five-year-old's basketball team, you've got a context to work within. You then free-hand sketch your ideas on the template, or on a blank screen, adding color, lines, text, and more. You can add clips saved from the Internet or sent via email to your iPad. And then you can share the results via email, the Ideate Flickr group, etc.
  • WhiteboardHD. ($4.99) Add free-form drawings or pre-made shapes and lines quickly and easily to this virtual whiteboard. Grid or lined backgrounds available, and colors and type styles add flexibility. A good basic brainstorming program.
  • Trout. ($1.99) If you're an advanced visual mapper, you may quickly adore Trout. You can capture your ideas in tons of colors, add icons and images, and record audio notes to your evolving creation. Then you can export as an image or PDF. 

 

As with most technological investments, you can spend more on the accessories than you do on the original item. But there really are several fun and useful iPad extras that will make you even more productive (and hopefully profitable). Here are a few of my favorites:
  •  Wireless keyboard. While the on-screen keyboard is pretty darned close to full-size, if you do a lot of word processing, you may want to invest in a wireless keyboard to accompany your iPad. It turns your iPad into an almost full-powered laptop, particularly if you combine it with a case that allows you to prop up your iPad in the landscape orientation (see “cases” below). Apple's version runs $69.
     
  • Screen protector. Screen protectors are such a critical tool to protect your investment that I think all iPads and iPhones should be sold with them already on. But they don't, so you'll have to spring for the $5-$10 and buy one yourself. Applying the thin, clear plastic shield to your iPad should be the very first thing you do when you take it out of the box.
     
  • Case. Depending on your main uses for your iPad, there are a number of case options, from hardshell to soft-sided, from portfolios to flip-tops. There are tons of colors, logos, and styles, so you're sure to find one that fits your lifestyle. Before you invest in a case, though, figure out how you use your iPad the most, then find a case that supports that usage. Cases run from $20 and up.
     
  • Camera connection kit. If you blog from your iPad and don't want to go through the hassle of emailing photos from your camera to yourself and downloading them to your iPad, you can connect your digital camera directly to your iPad. $29 from Apple.
     
  • Car charger. Although the charge on the iPad battery is quite long compared to a laptop, you still might find your battery is low at the most inopportune time. How can you say you're an on-the-go mobile entrepreneur if you can't work from the driver's seat of your Chevy? Well, now you can! A cigarette adapter will have you up and running from Route 66 or the Autobahn (though I can't guarantee what the Wi-Fi reception is like in Germany). Around $25.
 
You probably already have a good idea of what accessories will make your life easier; just take a look at what you use for your current laptop computing needs and look for an iPad equivalent. One word of warning: avoid buying something just because it's there and it's cool. Instead, only purchase things that are going to make it easier to get your work done. Now THAT'S cool.
 

 

Your iPad isn't just limited to word processing and web surfing. You can turn it into a product creation machine as well by using it as a way to record audio. Now you can create a podcast, audio course or seminar wherever you are, without toting along your laptop or other equipment. While the internal microphone won't give the same sound quality as a $100 external mike, it can get the job done when you're traveling light.
 
Before choosing an audio recording app, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What am I going to use the audio for? Is it for products, for updating my blog, for podcasts?
  • In what file format do I need to be able to export my audios?
  • Do I want to send directly to iTunes?
  • Do I want to use just what comes with my iPad, or do I want to plug in an external microphone?
  • Do I want to be able to edit my recordings or just record and send?
  • How long will my recordings be? Less than five minutes, or significantly longer?
  • How much time do I want to invest in learning the software?
 
Once you've answered those questions, there's a selection of audio recording and editing software for you to check out:
  • VC Audio Pro. ($5.99 from the App Store.) This app is self-described as “a recording studio in the palm of your hand”. It enables audio recording and editing on the iPad (and on the iPhone and iPod Touch as well). You record with an external microphone that you plug into the headphone jack. Then save and upload to your preferred site for podcasting, products, audio blogs, and more, as .WAV, or M4A formats. CBS has used VC Audio Pro for professional-level broadcasts, however, reviews on this app are mixed.
     
  • AudioBoo. (Free.) This is an app that lets you record and share your voice or audio recordings of up to 5 minutes, and post to your account on the Web, and then share via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. While it's not great for paid products, it could be perfect for quick audio updates to your followers. It's more of a social networking app than a product creation app.
     
  • AudioMemos2. ($0.99) The Voice Recorder offers a simple, easy-to-navigate interface to record audio and export it via iTunes. There are a number of add-ons, such as voice activation, recording compression, and trim recordings that will make your podcasts or audio blogs even more professional. 

 

If there is a limitation on the iPad, it's the ability to store and retrieve files. Fortunately, there are apps in the App Store to address that problem. (Let's face it; there are apps in the App Store for just about everything!)
 
If you're on the go (and we've already decided you are), then you need an easy way to access and store files, documents, and other data, for retrieval from any computing device, whether it be your iPad or your desktop. Here are just a few of the options you have available to you:
  • Google Docs. (Web based.) Google Docs is part of the Google suite of office applications. A server-based application, it allows you to store files of up to 1GB in size for free. You can access your files from your mobile devices (including your iPad) as well as any computer with an internet access. You can save them to your device or computer in a variety of file formats, including ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, and Word. You can share access with other users, work collaboratively, and tag and archive your documents.
  • Dropbox. (Free app.) Dropbox is a popular file backup, storage, and sharing service that has free and paid versions, up to storage of 100GB. There's a free iPad app that allows you to view photos, videos, documents, and presentations from your Dropbox on your iPad, share and send files via email, and export Dropbox files to open in other iPad apps.
  • MobileMe. MobileMe is a service offered by Apple that will allow you to sync your desktop, laptop, iPhone, and iPad information (contacts, email, calendar, and files) together. Using the MobileMe iDisk, you can store your files online and access and download them anywhere, as long as you have internet access. You can also access and share files with other MobileMe users. With intuitive Mac interface, MobileMe is easy to use and quick to set up, but may not be the answer if you want to share with other, non-MobileMe users. $99 per year for 20GB of storage and 200GB of monthly data transfer.

If you're already using a file sharing/backup service, chances are, there's a way to use it on your iPad, and that's a great place to start. Why reinvent the wheel when you already have something that's working? Just do a quick search at the App Store and you'll see if there's a way to incorporate your iPad into your current systems. If not, check out one of the solutions above.

 

 

I've found that I tend to use my iPad for what I call “bits and pieces” tasks, in other words, things I can do with little bits of time because they don't require a long, concentrated period of attention. I've already mentioned how great the iPad is for Internet surfing, but another fantastic productivity boost came when I started to use it to manage my email while away from my desk.
 
If you're like me, you get a lot of important but not critical email messages. You know, stuff that you need to read and maybe even want to respond to, but it doesn't contribute to your bottom line or your customer care. Now, instead of using my precious desk-time for that task, I save those emails for when I have a few minutes here and there.
  • Email app. (Included on your iPad by default.) I've found the email app on my iPad to be perfectly adequate for handling all my needs.
 
Here are some of the basics:
 
You can connect easily with a variety of email services. It's plug-and-play when it comes to accessing your email accounts from your iPad. You can access Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, as well as others. You just need to enter your email account name, password, and maybe the server, and you're good to go. Want to adjust the settings? Simple. Go back to your main screen and click on “Settings” then “Mail, Contacts, Calendar” and you can adjust a number of features – including how many email messages you want to see at a time and the time periods for checking for new messages.
 
You can connect with multiple email accounts. Got a customer support email account, a new orders account, and a private account? No worries! Your iPad will allow you to add multiple accounts and view them all in the same screen or separately. You can also set one default account to keep things simple.
 
You can compose, read, delete, forward, and perform all the standard email functions on your iPad. Pretty much anything you can do on your regular email browser can be done on your iPad.
 
You might choose to create an iPad-only email account. Just in case you want an account just for on the go, or maybe to connect with your VA while you're travelling.
 
You can create a custom iPad signature. Although many people like the default “Sent from my iPad” because it shows how cool you are, you can change your default. Just go to Settings → Mail, Contacts, Calendar → Signature.
 
You'll soon find that working your email on your iPad is just like using a laptop or desktop. It's really that simple!