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Bright spark for dim iPad users
Published on Friday, 24 Feb 2012
Book: iPad At Work
Author: David Sparks
Publisher: Wiley
Illustration: Bay Leung

Last year, one of my Facebook pals posted the "news" that she had become so fed up with her pre-teen daughter's demands for an iPad that she had simply bought her one. Nice humble-brag, lady.

But to keep up with the DBJs (Discovery Bay Joneses) and the zeitgeist, I bought one too. Quite handy. Useful for work, I reckoned. And, indeed, it has turned out to have plenty of applications for my myriad means of making a buck. As I was figuring out the best iPad practices for my small business empire, it occurred to me that someone should write a book on this subject.

Well, someone finally has. And that someone is David Sparks, a Californian lawyer and a self-confessed geek. According to his blog, he is also "a podcaster, blogger, and author who writes about finding the best tools, hardware, and workflows for using Apple products to get work done."

Evidently, Sparks is the man for the job, and he has delivered such a profoundly useful manual here, that we can forgive the cover-art, which looks like it was designed by a secondary schooler for a class project.

Let us not forget that it began just 22 months ago. Others swiftly followed Apple's ground-breaking tablet-computing initiative. Nevertheless, Apple iPad still commands a large chunk of market share in this niche.

iPad At Work seems to have been penned with the newbie and the relatively inexperienced in mind. No bad thing at all. Sparks, with a clean, lucid style, reveals to readers both the context and the finicky nuts-and-bolts of how this revolutionary gadget can enhance one's business profitability. And it can do this, he posits, if one is sufficiently mindful of the "time equals money" truism. Indeed, the most salient lesson of this book is that iPad is a time-saver of Wall Street proportions.

Many of us view iPads as a portable vector of infotainment and gaming. But Sparks demonstrates the new possibilities that the iPad presents for the way we handle our business habits, and he also shows us - in ways we might not ever have imagined - how the iPad is akin to a Star Wars-style light-sabre, for slicing through work.

The biggest favour he does for his readers is to guide them - at warp-speed - through the constellation of over 100,000 supernova apps, the ones that can best be utilised by interconnected professionals, over a wide range of industries.

Mind-mapping, file-handling, presentation-making, and cloud services such as iCloud, Dropbox or iBox - all get the stellar Sparks treatment. This means lovely clear prose, minimum geek speak, and a sense of unstoppable passion in whatever topic or app Sparks is addressing.

Even the simple stuff, Sparks dwells on with infectious enthusiasm. Explaining how the iPadder in the departures lounge can manage IMAP and other e-mail and calendar protocols effortlessly from the device, the author shows how one can get away from that awkward airport laptop boot-up - forever. Yes! Just turn on your iPad and go.

Every now and then, one happens upon a gem, something that makes the iPad-user think: "I wish I'd read this book as soon as it was released." One example of this describes how best to employ the PDF-and-document management software, GoodReader, whose interface is somewhat unapproachable, but which belies a huge amount of practicality contained in the software itself. Sparks shows us around the GoodReader maze on iPad with his customary élan.

A few lucky people absolutely love their work. Evidently, professional supergeek Sparks is one of them.

Anyway, seeing as Sparks beat me to writing this book, I'm going to start work on its inevitable companion volume - iPad For Slackers - for which this gizmo provides an infinite universe of low-stress pleasures. All work and no play, makes the iPad-user a dull boy (or girl).