I posted this before, but I guess it did not make it onto the forum. An iPad2 is really a major time-saver. It's no CAD station and certainly not a Laptop, but it does an incredible job of running all sorts of other information in background freeing me up to do my work - but only as long as you use cloud services that is. There are five quintessential web services that make the iPad2 worth it's expense for an architectural practice, without them you just have a really big iPod Touch. As for the device being too big to be portable, its the same size as my note pad and even fits nicely into my aluminum clip board forms holder (which used to hold my note pad). As far as it being too small to be functional...well, read on.
Regardless if you use the 3G or WiFi model (I preferred the WiFi model for specific reasons), if you are not using Apple's MobileMe from MobileMe.com, Evernote from Evernote.com, Dropbox from Dropbox.com, LogMeIn from LogMeIn.com and Quickoffice from Quickoffice.com you are not using the raging built-in horsepower of an iPad2. Here is how I use these quintessential apps in my practice.
MobileMe connects the iPad2 to all of my Calendars, Contacts, Email, and Notes which are subsequently used by all other apps on the iPad2 for communication to the rest of the world.
Evernote provides a secure online database for anything that can be scanned, printed, posted or zapped into a computer - including full size working drawings, CAD files, PDF files, snaps shots, renderings, specifications, mood boards, etc.! If you can produce it, it can be put into Evernote and be toted anywhere your iPad2 goes.
Dropbox is the mother of all instant online storage (in my opinion). Just about every app on the iPad2 can write directly to Dropbox.com and every Mac/PC sync's automatically, seemlessly and transparently with Dropbox. I have entire project files on Dropbox - CAD files, SketchUp files, BIM projects, Construction Administration logs, etc.- in my Dropbox and they are simultaneously synced across all of my computers (Mac, PC, iPad2 and even my PalmPre Smart Phone!) So if I am in the field, a remote office or at home, my "office" is immediately available via Dropbox on my iPad2.
LogMeIn is absolutely necessary for access to those files that should never leave a specific PC. The interface is almost like you are right in front of your machine. I have worked endless hours from remote machines though LogMeIn, including my iPad2!
Quickoffice is both a staple and an absolute necessity for basic iPad2 functionality. Don't get me wrong, I use Pages, Numbers and Keynote as well (and they are really nice to work with), but the rest of the architecture world works from Microsoft Office and QuickOffice is the mobile equivalent. It will not only read native MS Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, it will produce them as well with no data loss or translation required!
The best part of these five apps and services, is that four of the five are absolutely free. QuickOffice Pro comes with a price tag, but it is definitely worth the price.
My other essential apps (but very close to the quintessential apps) are as follows:
1. Print n Share - it is the equivalent of having Adobe Acrobat on your iPad2 and it is the only proven solution for guaranteed printing from your iPad2 to ANY printer.
2. PDF Expert - it is everything you need to deal with PDF's. From mark ups, signatures, stamps, etc. This app can mark up full E size drawings with ease and deliver them back via DropBox, iDisk or Email.
3. Penultimate - with a stylus, this is the closest you'll ever get to an architectural sketch book.
4. UPAD - like Penultimate, but with highlighting markers and text features. Excellent when moving sketches into greater detail, but not quite out of concepts yet.
5. iDraw - the ONLY VECTOR BASED DRAWING TOOL available that actually performs well for drawings. Great for generating details in the field and sending them to the contractor or back to office (via Dropbox) in real time.
6. ShowAnytime - turns your iPad2 into a Powerpoint /PDF Projector presentation tool. Very cool and useful for client presentations.
7. CM Pro Calc - the benchmark of construction calculators, enough said
8. Measures - the visual way to respond to unforeseen site condition RFI's. The measuring and annotation tools are major time savers, especially when you can send the annotated pictures in real time to the contractor while you are still on site.
9. AutoCAD WS - this is an ok service, the tools to mark up CAD files are good, but the upload and downloading process is cumbersome and the tool set is limited. You cannot generate CAD drawings from this app, you can only mark up CAD files that have already been uploaded to the service.
10. Recorder - because we can't all remember what was said at that meeting or job walk. The iPad2's built-in cameras are fantastic for documenting as-built conditions, but when it come to scribbling down stuff at a meeting or mult-tasking with the iPad2 - the camera stops, but Recorder just keeps doing it stuff in the background allowing you to move freely about your apps and screens. Its recordings also save directly to Dropbox.
There are a dozen or so other tools that get serious architectural practice mileage out of my iPad2, but they are dependent on computing platform and on a desktop application counterpart. I mentioned the iWorks apps, which work great if you have a Mac, but lose formatting when save to MS Office. All of the apps I mentioned here are platform independent as both Mac & PC can open these standard file formats with their own native software.
But please understand, this is NOT a laptop or desktop replacement. Most of our time on laptops is consumed by Email, file updating, web surfing, project management and data gathering - all tasks that could be handled by lighter more efficient devices (Smart Phone is some cases). While on the other hand, most production machines focus on the heavy lifting required for running CAD, GIS, BIM and rendering programs the need tremendous hardware resources. The iPad is analogous to a motorcycle, whereas a laptop is a sedan, a desktop is a truck and a server a freight train. The ability to deliver key information in real time from remote sites to the heavy production guns back in the office, the laptop at Starbucks, or the server room over the web is where the iPad2 excels! There is NO "boot up"
time or system loading required, and you don't have to leave it in "standby"
mode for you to get back into what you were doing quickly. You simply whip it on
, grab, snap, record, update, read, present or send what you need from your cloud services/apps and turn it off
...just like that...and go then just about your business.
But if you are just trying to make or change airline reservations online, you'll find most of those web sites are flash dependent and will not work on any web browsers not equip with the latest flash player or proprietary plugins that makes their databases work - regardless if it was on a laptop, desktop or iPad2. Next time I would suggest using your phone, human beings are so much better at taking care of that sort of stuff.
Enjoy and feel free to email if you have any questions.
Ricardo Ramos Assoc. AIA, LEED® AP, CSI
Alpha Analysis, Inc.
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