Supercharge the Browser
Safari set a great standard for mobile browsing, but many alternatives reveal its missing features.
Starting with real tabs, Atomic Web ($1) adds many desktop-class benefits. Multitouch swipe gestures even toggle between open sites. But that’s just the beginning. Atomic Web Browser can optionally omit images to save bandwidth, identify itself as various desktop browsers, let you customize the search engine, search for text within a page, modify its buttons, and more.
Safari will unfortunately remain as the iPad’s default. However, you can create a bookmark that reloads a Safari page within Atomic Web Browser. In the Atomic Web Browser Settings menu, tap Install Bookmarklet. That’ll open Safari and explain the process.
Transfer Your Books to iBooks Reader
Apple’s eBook reader--iBooks--keeps all of your Apple-purchased books together, includes an iPad-specific interface, and interfaces with iTunes. iBooks uses the ePub file format, so while the iPad can read PDFs, you can’t store those files here with the rest of your books. You can, however, convert them to ePub first, and keep everything in one place.
To do this, try Calibre--an open source e-book library management application for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The software imports a range of formats, including PDF. After installation, click Add books, and select the PDF. Click Convert E-books. In Page Setup, pick iPad as the Output profile. For simple documents, you can even try online conversion through www.epubtogo.com. When finished, just drag the ePub files into iTunes, and you’ll sync them the next time you connect the iPad.
My results varied depending on the complexity of the PDF. When I tried converting a document with photos and margin sidebars, unrelated sections of text merged. However, the process worked for simpler, text-driven documents.
Print from an iPad
iPad printing might arrive in the future, but you can still print hard copies today. Several apps download network or online files to the iPad and can send them to a printer. Some apps even edit documents first, but many are difficult to use.
I had the best luck with PrintCentral, one of many printing tools from the same developer. (The vendor created a chart to explain all the different offerings, but it would have been most helpful to make a single, great app.) You’ll install a print server utility on a Mac or PC, and PrintCentral uses it to reach your local or network printer.
PrintCentral’s cluttered interface obscures many settings. But after troubleshooting, it worked. Give it a shot if you have to print today.
Browse Web Content Offline
Whether you have a 3G version or not, your iPad faces certain situations where it can’t be online: planes, train tunnels, and other network-not-found destinations. You can still keep up on all of your favorite Websites with Instapaper Pro ($5). This tool manages content you want to read later and caches articles for times that you’re offline.
Instead of directly browsing content you want to save, Instapaper interfaces with several PC and iPad apps. Within those tools—Safari, Google Reader, NetNewsWire, Twitterrific, Tweetie, and more—you’ll hit a Read Later button that sends details to Instapaper.
Load Instapaper once, when you have a network connection, and it downloads all of those stories. Then, you can dig deep into those articles from any location, with or without a network.
Remotely Control PC Applications
A keyboard-and-mouse combination remains the best way to control a PC, but those days might be numbered. What if you could use the iPad as an interface, changing PowerPoint slides while reading your notes, or even touching faders and dials to interface with pro audio-production tools? You can!
I have several favorites among the many different input-device apps. I-Clickr PowerPoint Remote for iPad helps deliver great presentations. TouchOSC ($5), DiddyMidiDJ ($5), and AC-7 Pro Control Surface ($10) control audio-editing tools. And Folabs makes several high-end virtual controllers, like ProRemote (shown above; $100), that let the iPad control audio production software like ProTools, Apple Logic, and Ableton Live.