Tablets are great for 'consuming' content, but using them productively isn’t quite as straightforward. Windows PCs and Microsoft Office dominate the majority of professional environments, so moving documents between a tablet and Office file formats needs to be painless if you want to use your tablet for work.
We compare the iPad, PlayBook and Android tablets for office work
One of the simplest options is to use Dropbox. Some word processing apps on tablets such as iWriter for the iPad let you save your work directly to a Dropbox folder from your tablet. The document is synched to Dropbox's online servers and is then accessible from your PC and can be opened in Word.
Google Docs offers a different approach. This web-based office suite lets you create and edit documents (including spreadsheets and presentations) in your tablet's browser. The document is stored on Google’s servers, so is available from any internet-connected computer.
Things become tricky when you don't have an internet connection, though. Android has a dedicated Google Docs app that lets you mark documents for offline reading, but to edit them you need a live internet connection.
Documents To Go is a dedicated office file synchronisation tool. It lets you edit documents that are shared on your main PC directly on a tablet. This privilege will cost you £12, though.
Apple's iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote, £6.99 each) use iCloud to synchronise documents with the same programs on a desktop Mac, but iWork isn't available for Windows. Documents can be downloaded from the iCloud website, though, but another option is to email yourself the document from within one of the apps. You'll get the option of sending it in native format, PDF or Microsoft Office format.
Little is currently known of Microsoft’s plans for Office on tablets. We expect that Office 15 will easily synchronise documents between Windows 8 desktops and tablets, but it remains to be seen if there will be an iPad or Android version.
A tool that can make tablets a lot more useful is called Evernote. It’s a scrapbook of notes, images, clippings and pieces of text that’s stored in the cloud and shared between smartphones, computers and tablets alike. It can be used to share all sorts of files, and to quickly make information public.
Rather than replace your word processor, Evernote compliments it, providing a way to move information between devices, via the cloud. You can capture an image using your tablet’s camera and paste it into a note, or copy information from a web page. Once Evernote has synchronised with your other devices, that information is available everywhere.
Crucially for tablets, it lets you create and edit documents offline, if you upgrade to a paid account for £4 per month or £35 per year. You can still get plenty from Evernote without paying though, and since there’s a version for every platform we can think of, from the PC and Mac to Android, iOS, the Blackberry PlayBook and plugins for plenty of web browsers too.
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