We've covered the iPad's usefulness as a digital sketchbook in some depth, but how does it stack up for the rest of the tasks you'll want to do on the move -- from client presentations to day-to-day admin tasks?

Strange tool, missing apps
But the main problem I had with the iPad was that it wasn't the tool I'm accustomed to using.

I kept getting tripped up while performing everyday tasks. Here are a few examples:

  • The iPad doesn't have a file system like the Mac, where you save documents from different applications in a single pile.
    Instead, you mostly save documents inside the particular app that created them - Pages documents in Pages, for example - with some limited sharing between apps.
    It's a completely different way of storing and managing documents, and it takes some getting used to for people who are accustomed to doing things on a desktop computer.
  • In the iPad's web browser, you can't open a whole folder of bookmarks all at once like you can with desktop browsers.
  • When I do online banking or shopping, I like to save PDFs of receipts to my desktop. You can't save PDFs on the iPad.

More important, I have about a dozen applications on the iMac that I use all day, every day, to get things done.

Many, like Textmate, aren't available on the iPad. Others, like Things, are available but they work differently.

I do most of my work in plain text files. Before my trip, I wasn't able to find a decent text editor for the iPad.

There is one now - Simplenote for the iPad shipped in the US on April 26 - but that didn't help while I was travelling.

Most users have similarly indispensable tools that they use every day on their main computer but that aren't available on the iPad.

All five days I was relying on the iPad, I found myself reaching for programs and keyboard shortcuts that didn't exist on that machine.

And the syncing! The syncing will drive you crazy.

I used Dropbox and a thumb drive to make sure I had all the documents I needed with me. Getting all of that configured took hours before I left.

Hopefully, that's a one-time effort - next time I go on a trip, all of that will have already been configured - but I wouldn't have had to do it at all if I'd had a laptop computer as my main computer.

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