How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer

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Those facts help make up for one of the challenges of using the iPad for productivity: many tasks are at least a bit slower or more unwieldy than with a computer, and some things that can be done with one program on a Windows PC or a Mac require several of them on the iPad. When I started using the iPad as my primary device, for example, I thought that Photoshop would be simply irreplaceable. Then I discovered that I could do about 85% of the things I do with Photoshop by using several iPad apps together as an ad-hoc graphics suite, including PhotoForge2, TouchDraw and others. Photoshop remains the more powerful tool, and on the iPad, I only have access to the fonts that Apple provides. But I can apply fancy effects, layer together multiple images into a collage and dress up type on the iPad.

(Wait, how can you match the precision of a mouse and the efficiency of a big-screen display with the iPad’s touch interface and dinky screen? Well, … you can’t. But for most of my day-to-day needs I can come closer than I would have expected before I gave it a shot.)

As for writing and editing, I usually use Apple’s own Pages when I’m creating a manuscript that someone is going to expect to get as a Word document, like stories for TIME’s dead-tree version. Pages has maybe 5% of the features of Microsoft Word, and for the type of writing I usually do … that’s a virtue! It makes it easier to concentrate: all I really need is a white screen and a word count.

(PHOTOS: A Brief History of the Computer)

When I’m blogging at Technologizer, I use an excellent app called Blogsy, which I prefer to the official WordPress app for iOS. (I’d be even happier if I could just use full-blown WordPress in Safari, but it doesn’t quite work.) For CNET blog posts, I use CNET’s proprietary content-management system, which runs reasonably well in Safari.

Other iPad productivity tools I use every day include the splendid mobile-browser version of Gmail and the iOS versions of the IMO.IM instant messenger and HootSuite Twitter client. I use other apps from time to time and am frequently discovering new ones; most iPad apps cost only a few dollars, so you can explore the wonders of the App Store without blowing much money.

It’s true that there are things that don’t work very well on the iPad. (One of them, inexplicably, is Google+ — its iOS app is dreadful, and I have trouble with both the mobile-browser and desktop-browser versions.) There are also a few things I don’t do at all on the tablet, like manage my WordPress installation. (For that, I run Apache, MySQL and PHP on the MacBook Air.) But I can get most of the jobs I tackle in a normal day done — and the longer I do this, the more efficient I get at it.

At first, when I traveled out of town, I’d bring the iPad and the MacBook Air but use the iPad most of the time. Now I’ve started bringing only the iPad, unless I have specific reason to think I’ll need a full-blown computer. When I went to Chicago on a business trip last month equipped only with the tablet, it was the first time in two decades that I’d boarded an airplane for work purposes without a laptop on hand.

So would I recommend that everyone ditch their computers in favor of iPads? No, not at all.

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