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The Verge has an excellent roundup this week of the best keyboards and keyboard cases for your iPad.

About 9 months ago I had convinced myself I needed a full-blown laptop in order to be fully productive on the road, either on trips or on-site with a client. I was about to bite the bullet and get a MacBook Air when I came across a blog post by Harry McCracken titled, “How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer”. That post saved me $1200.

I ordered the ZAGGfolio keyboard case for my iPad, just to try it out, figuring I’d end up returning it for the real thing. Nine months later, my 3rd-generation iPad is now the best laptop I’ve ever owned, thanks to a $90 accessory. No other laptop has a 10-hour battery and blazing-fast Verizon 4G internet, wakes from sleep instantly, and can be detached from its keyboard for comfortable use in one hand, just to name a few of the perks.

Today, I recommend the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s thinner, more flexible, and snaps to the front of the iPad using magnetic clips instead of surrounding it in a bulky case like the ZAGGfolio.

For me, true iPad productivity requires a number of cloud services that sync my data between my all my devices. Enter something over here, and it automatically pops up over there. Here are the apps and services I use every day to be fully productive from my iPad:

  • Microsoft Office 365: Microsoft’s cloud-based Exchange service that we use ourselves and recommend for clients. It syncs my email, contacts, calendars, and reminders between all of my computers at work and home as well as my iPhone and iPad.
  • Simplenote: Keeps all my notes and to-do lists in sync and always available.
  • LogMeIn Ignition and Join.me: Allows me to log into any server or PC we manage from anywhere, thanks to Verizon 4G. If I’m out of the office and need to help a client with an issue, I can do so from my iPhone or iPad. If it’s a new client and we don’t have LogMeIn installed on his or her, I’ll start a simple screen-sharing session with Join.me to quickly jump in and have a look.
  • Dropbox: All my documents and files from my computer, everywhere I go. Lets me quickly view, save, or email any file from my iPad with just a few taps.
  • QuickOffice Pro HD: For creating and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Until Microsoft decides to release an actual iPad-ready version of Office, this is the best option available.
  • 1Password: I use 1Password to create and manage complex, unique passwords for every online account I have, plus all of my sensitive info like banking, credit cards, etc. Instead of using the same password for every account, I can have random ones like “SIf9Er[Fplts~MvcM>5H”. Their excellent iPad and iPhone apps puts that data at my fingertips at all times, while keeping it encrypted and secure.
  • Blogsy: A powerful blogging app that supports all of the most popular platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc), which allows me to post to this very site while on the go.
  • Reeder and Tweetbot: A big part of our day-to-day is keeping up with the latest news and trends in personal and business technology. Reeder syncs my Google Reader RSS feeds (see Macworld’s “Getting Started With Google Reader” guide) so I can catch up on the day’s news, and Tweetbot pulls in my Twitter timeline to fill in any gaps.
  • Instapaper: Interesting but too-long-to-read-right-now articles from Reeder and Tweetbot get sent to Instapaper for reading later. Some of these eventually end up on our blog and in our weekly email newsletter.
  • Square: Gotta get paid for all this productivity, right?

 

With this setup in place for the last nine months, I’ve come across very few instances where I truly needed a computer to get something done. Even then, they haven’t been emergencies and could easily wait until I’m back at my desk.

This is a game-changing development for the vast majority of our clients, who primarily need access to email, contacts, calendars, tasks, and their files in order to be productive. If you’re wondering why laptop PC sales are tanking, Ultrabooks are dead on arrival, and Apple has $120 billion in cash in the bank, look no further. In many cases, $730 for a 4G iPad + keyboard case will get you the best laptop you’ve ever had.

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