Working with documents on the iPad requires a decent office suite. Unfortunately, there is no single suite of apps that can serve as a complete replacement for the one on your desktop. Apple’s $9.99 iWork apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—have a slick UI and are easy to use, but they have a tendency to mangle formatting, especially when collaborating or moving documents between the iPad and a computer. Documents To Go Premium ($16.99) makes collaboration easy by syncing with Dropbox, Google Docs, SugarSync, and more. This suite is better with Word doc formatting, but advanced PowerPoint slides sometimes just break. Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite ($9.99) recently added PowerPoint support and power editing tools, but it doesn’t allow printing from the app.
Printing your documents from the iPad is not always a simple task. Apple’s AirPrint functionality finally arrived with the iOS 4.2 update, but is limited to compatible printers. It also requires either an existing wireless network that both the iPad and printer can connect to or a computer as an intermediary. At press time, there were 17 AirPrint-capable models available from HP. Note that not all apps are AirPrint-ready.
Unlike a Mac or PC, the iPad doesn’t have a central file system that users can access. That means working on the tablet requires a change in the way you think about files, and this resulted in frustration. On a computer, accessing a list of all your files is as simple as clicking on one your drives. On the iPad, each app has access to a file subset associated with it in some way. The Photos app can only see images, the Notes app can only see notes. Files downloaded via a syncing service such as DropBox or SugarSync are visible from within the app, but not from an office app. And you can’t attach files to outgoing e-mails from within the Mail app.
To access files in different, compatible programs, you’ll have to use the “Open With…” command. Tap the icon that looks like an arrow inside of a rectangle and a list of options will appear, usually including “Open With…” At times a default app will appear on the subsequent menu. However, if you have multiple apps that can open or edit a given file, you can choose from a list. Often when you open the file with the correct app, the app will be able to find the file internally and you won’t need to go through the “Open With” dance again.
Problems can arise when apps aren’t programmed to communicate well with each other. In my testing, either an app didn’t show up on the list you can use to open a file, or the app had no option for sending files elsewhere.