How to Turn Your Tablet into a Productivity-Boosting Second Screen


How to Turn Your Tablet into a Productivity-Boosting Second Screen

Tablets are great entertainment devices, but they aren’t always as useful for getting things done. If you want your tablet to be more than just a fun little toy, it’s really just a matter of the right apps, attitude, and configuration. Here’s how you can turn your tablet into a handy, productivity-boosting tool.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, we’re revisiting some ways to make that tablet more productive.

We’ve argued why tablets are actually great productivity tools and how they’re great for offloading distractions, but never how you can actually optimize your iPad or Android tablet to boost your productivity. Your tablet is really great for grabbing quick, commonly used information whether it’s pre-defined in your calendar or dynamically updating online. In this guide we’re going to look at how you can use a few apps to offload simple tasks to your tablet to clear out the clutter on your desktop and free it up to handle your bigger daily tasks.

Step One: Download Some Work-Friendly Apps

How to Turn Your Tablet into a Productivity-Boosting Second Screen

For the most part, you already have a lot of the apps you’re going to need for keep you productive. Your calendar, email, address book, clock/timer, and calculator are all useful utilities you may want to have at the ready. These are all great apps for quickly checking information, setting an alarm, or whatever, but those apps are only so helpful. There is much more you can do. Here are a few suggestions.

Simplenote (iOS) or FlickNote (Android) are must-have apps if you keep a lot of plain text notes. While you’re probably typing them on your computer, when you’re doing work it can be helpful to have a particular note by your side for reference purposes. While you could look at a separate window on desktop, this eats up screen real estate. Bringing up the note on your tablet can keep your screen focused while still providing the reference information you need. If you’re handling lots of spreadsheets and other office-type documents, you may want to pick up an office suite for iOS or Android as well.

Dropbox (iOS / Android) is very helpful if you use the service to sync your files across computers (or just store them in the cloud). If you use a different service, just get their app instead. Many apps have Dropbox integration nowadays, however, so it’s become a great way to get your files on your device. The Dropbox app itself is handy, but apps that support Dropbox natively can grab files a lot faster. Either way, some sort of easy access to your files is vital if you need to bring anything up on your tablet quickly so you can look at it for reference as you work.

Skype (iOS / Android), or any VOIP application, can essentially turn your tablet into a phone. When you need to make quick calls it’s often a lot easier to just tap a name on your screen. You also have the advantage of Wi-Fi, which is a bit more stable than a cellular connection. While I use my phone to make calls on the go, Skype has been immensely helpful in keeping me connected when I’m working. Calls don’t drop and the connection is always significantly more clear. It’s also really easy to respond to incoming calls quickly when my tablet’s big screen is propped up and easy to access.

Step Two: Create Useful Bookmarks and Shortcuts

A lot of the work we do nowadays is online, and even if not there are plenty of sites that offer useful information and tools to aid us in our work. Whether it’s your company wiki, a project management tool, or just a helpful web site you can add them as bookmarks for super-quick access. If you don’t know how to do this on your iPad, just read these instructions (or watch the video to the left). Android can add bookmarks and other shortcuts for things like quick driving directions, by simply tapping and holding on an empty part of the home screen. This will provide you with options to add the shortcut you want.

The shortcuts you’ll need will depend on you, but chances are you’ll have a few and things will start getting cluttered along with all the apps. To solve that problem, just move on to step three.

Step Three: Create a Productivity Page on Your Home Screen

How to Turn Your Tablet into a Productivity-Boosting Second Screen

Tablets were designed to be consumption devices, for the most part, so it’s easy to get distracted when you have a bunch of games staring back at you from a beautiful, glossy screen. Additionally, if you mix your productivity apps in with everything else you’ll have a hard time locating the app that you need. For these reasons, it’s helpful to have an entire page on your home screen dedicated to getting things done. This way you can flick over to that page during the work day and flick back when you’re done.

You can organize the page however you want, but the idea is to keep it nice and clean. You’ll want to choose an organization scheme that suits you best, but here’s what I’ve found works well:

  • Create a top row of apps you use most often so they’re in the first place you look.
  • Create a second row of commonly-used apps if you need to. You may not have that many apps to launch so don’t worry if you don’t.
  • Create a third row of bookmarks to sites you visit frequently for quicker access. If you have a lot, sort them with folders. Android users who are utilizing a home screen replacement app like ADWLauncher EX can also create shortcuts to Gmail labels, notes, and other items for quicker access.

Obviously iPad users are a little more limited in the kind of organization they can do, so sometimes a multi-folder structure will work best. Only you’re going to know what’s best for you, but an organization scheme that prioritizes usage frequency should work well for most people.

Step Four: Get Your Computer and Tablet Connected

How to Turn Your Tablet into a Productivity-Boosting Second Screen

While most of this guide concentrates on using apps and bookmarks/shortcuts to quickly grab useful information as you need it, sometimes you’re going to need to quickly pull up a web site, an image, or some other information that isn’t already bookmarked. There are lots of ways to do this, but Pushbullet is our favorite solution, allowing you to easily send links and files between your devices, plus a lot more.

Of course, when the time calls for it, you can just use your tablet as a true second display for your computer, too. We like Air Display best for this, and it works on Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS. You can also turn your iPad into a keyboard shortcut machine or use it as a remote control for your computer, which can come in pretty handy.

At the end of the day, productivity is all about how you use the tools at your disposal to make your work easier. Even if you use your tablet primarily for Netflix and comic books, it’s a great place to offload certain tasks so you can focus and get through your work in a breeze.



4 Surefire Ways to Prep for Mobile and Tablet Holiday Shoppers


Brace yourself. The holiday shopping rush is upon us. You’re rolling out discounts and bringing in extra staff to handle the influx of customers. You’re ready for traditional shoppers, but are you prepared for mobile buyers?

These days, shoppers can search for and order the perfect gift from their smartphones. They can be sitting in front of a Yule log without Jack Frost nipping at their nose. In fact, according to this year’s Deloitte Annual Holiday Survey, 63% of tablet owners plan to use their devices for holiday shopping, and 68% of smartphone owners will use their devices for holiday shopping. Yes, 68 percent.

To help you cater to mobile and tablet shoppers this season, we’ve created a few tips to make sure your business is attractive to smartphone-savvy consumers.

1. Check your website design
Is your website optimized for the mobile or tablet shopper? One of the best ways to optimize your site is to use a responsive website design.

By using responsive design, your website will look great on any device. If a customer is looking at your site on their smartphone, the site is modified to fit the screen and allows for easy navigation. If you’re already using a responsive design, you’re ready to go. If not, you may want to consider upgrading your site.

2. Send holiday deals via email
Shoppers are multi-taskers. If they come to your store, or before they make a purchase online, they may check their email for discounts to use at your register or during check out.

“Many times email marketing messages are only opened on mobile devices and, during the holidays, customers are typically looking at them in real-time to quickly spot offers while they’re shopping,” says Jennifer Sassen, senior vice president of marketing at Sage, a supplier of business management software.

Even if customers aren’t physically in your store, an email can still trigger a sale. When a shopper opens an email with a discount, enticing offer, event invitation, or donation reminder, they tend to be motivated to act on the spot. Whether they’re waiting in the grocery store checkout line or browsing through email while eating lunch, a well-timed email could boost your holiday sales.

Here are a few mobile and table-friendly tips to remember when sending email:

  • Keep your subject line short to accommodate a smaller smartphone screen.
  • If you’re emailing a holiday deal, say so in the subject line to encourage shoppers to open it immediately.
  • Your emails should have a holiday look. Whether you use festive holiday colors or select an image or graphic that’s holiday-themed, it’s important to get shoppers in the right mindset.
  • Create a clear call-to-action. Shoppers should be able to get the coupon or go to a blog post by clicking on the one, easy-to-spot call to action in your email.

3. Use social media to its fullest
Shoppers aren’t just reading email on their phones, they’re also scrolling through their social apps. According to comScore’s list of most popular U.S. mobile apps, 115 million people have the Facebook app on their phone, making it the most used app in 2014. Twitter is second on the list, with 34.7 million people users. These statistics are a pretty compelling reason to use your social media channels.

While most small business owners post a message about an upcoming sale or tweet a picture of an in-store customer appreciation event, there are many ways to utilize social media during the holidays. Here is a quick list of social media ideas that you can use to entice mobile shoppers to buy:

  • Share your emails on social media. It’s a good idea to dual-purpose your content. If you send a discount via email or a link to testimonials about your hot, holiday gift; share that information on social media, too.
  • Share useful holiday information. Create blog posts that help holiday shoppers. For example, create a gift guide full of fun products that your company sells, offer how-to articles about the perfect holiday meal and share local charitable events with your audience.
  • Offer killer customer service. Customers will reach out to you via social media for information about exchange policies, store hours and product questions. Respond to every post to show your audience that you’re on top of your holiday game.

4. Use Google My Business to increase visibility
Shoppers can use their smartphones to look up information about your business. When your business comes up in a search, you want customers to see your address, store hours and customer reviews. How do you make sure information like this pops up? Use Google My Business. With this free service, you can create a business listing that offers shoppers information in an instant. Here’s an example of what your listing could look like:

4 Surefire Tips to Prep for Mobile & Tablet Holiday Shoppers

If you’re new to Google My Business, here is a post that will walk you through the site.

How does your business prep for mobile holiday shoppers? Share your insights in the comment section below.

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