The picture on the right is our portable office for short trips around Thailand and surrounding countries. If we don’t want to lug a laptop PC about, this is our favoured set-up.
The iPad (weighing 600g) goes everywhere with us, and can easily be thrown into a handbag or backpack (we have a neoprene cover for it, which we’d recommend other travellers invest in).
The keyboard is the standard wireless Apple keyboard, which synchs effortlessly with the iPad as soon as Bluetooth is enabled in the Settings menu. The keyboard generally stays in our hotel room, and only comes out of we plan a fairly lengthy amount on time online.
The iPad is a wonderful little device, but the touch-screen keyboard can be fiddly, and it’s hard to keep focused or motivated when writing long documents or working with spreadsheets. However, the Apple keyboard is as fine a keyboard as you could hope to use, and suddenly transforms the iPad into an ultra-light nearly-a-computer.
To work with documents and spreadsheets, we use the inexpensive Office2 HD, which also handles Powerpoint files. For email, the iPad’s own client, or web mail (such as Hotmail, Gmail, or as provided with your own hosting package) are fine.
This does not quite turn the iPad into a substitute computer. For example, the iPad doesn’t let you manage files easily, it can’t run heavy programs (like image manipulation software), Office2 HD is not nearly as fully featured as a PC word processor, and the iPad condemns you to use the mobile versions of some web software.
But if you want an ultra-lightweight way to do most office tasks – whether you’re genuinely keeping abreast of your company’s emails, documents, spreadsheets and presentations, or whether you are actually just writing blocks of personal text (be it your masterpiece of a novel, or website updates like this one) – then this set-up may serve you as well as it serves us.
Brand new, the whole setup, including software, cost us around $750/£550/€675 – this was with buying the iPad in Britain and the keyboard in Thailand; buying in the US is generally slightly cheaper than in the UK. In any case, the iPad and keyboard can both be purchased either in the West, or in Thailand.
But to find office space like that in the photo – a bamboo hut amidst jungle foliage, overlooking a tropical river and staffed by an attentive waiter bringing endless fruit cocktails… well, for that you’ll have to come to South-East Asia!