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Using the iPad as Your Main Computer

One question I have heard asked by many people considering a purchase of the iPad is whether or not the iPad can be used as a main computer.  What people usually mean by asking this question is they want to know if the iPad can do everything they currently do on their current computer and do it efficiently enough to make them not miss having their laptop or desktop computer.

The simple answer to this question is, yes, an iPad can function fairly well as a “main computer.”   If you are not an extremely heavy computer user and mostly use your current computer for editing documents, surfing the web, and writing emails, having the iPad as your main device works very well and can be a very workable solution.

If you plan on the iPad being your main computing device, there are some accessories that you will want to seriously consider purchasing to make this the most efficient setup possible.  The accessories in the following list are strongly recommended if you plan on making the iPad your main computer.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

While the touchscreen keyboard of the iPad is tolerable for shorter emails and for web browsing, most people will find that they type significantly more slowly and less accurately on the iPad than they do on a standard computer keyboard.  If the iPad is going to be your main computing device, you will want to purchase the Apple Wireless Keyboard.  The wireless keyboard is very quick and easy to set up and use with the iPad when the time comes to pound out longer emails and documents.  If you own the original iPad, you may also want to look at the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock.  (Because the iPad 2 is a slightly different shape, it doesn’t fit and sit quite as nicely in the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock.)

The Apple Wireless Keyboard is available now on the Apple online store for $69.00.

Apple iPad 2 Dock

When you need two hands available to type on your wireless keyboard, it is nice to have an effective solution for keeping your iPad propped up.  The Apple iPad 2 Dock will hold your iPad in a propped up position while simultaneously charging your iPad.  The dock also includes an audio line out port for connecting speakers so you can let everyone hear your prized music collection.  If you own the original iPad and opt to purchase the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock, this is an accessory you won’t need as the Keyboard Dock will prop up your iPad while typing.

The Apple iPad 2 Dock is available now on the Apple online store for $29.00.

Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit

If you are someone who likes to take digital photos, the Camera Connection Kit is an accessory you will want to consider purchasing.  The Camera connection kit includes two attachments that connect directly to the dock connector port on your iPad.  One attachment has a USB port that allows you to connect your digital camera to your iPad through your digital camera’s USB cable.  The other attachment has an SD card reader that will allow to load photos to your iPad directly from your camera’s SD card.

The Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit is available now on the Apple online store for $29.00.

A Printer with Air Print Support

If you will be using your iPad as your main device, the time will come when you need to print something.  There are a few ways to set up your printers at home to work with your iPad.  However, by far the easiest way to set up the ability to print from your iPad is to purchase a printer that has Air Print support.  These printers are built to allow you to print from an iPhone or iPad right out of the box.

Printers with the Air Print feature are available now on the Apple online store for prices starting at $149.99.

Apple iWork Apps

There is a good selection of document editing programs available for the iPad.  Nothing, however, can beat the reliability and familiarity of the iWork Apps available from Apple for the iPad.  Make sure to download the Pages app for word processing, the Numbers app for working with spreadsheets, and the Keynote app for designing presentations.  As an added bonus, if you purchase these apps for the iPad, you will also be able to download them for free on your iPhone.

The iWork Apps are available on the iTunes store for $9.99 a piece.

Apple Composite AV Cables, Apple Digital AV Adapter, or Apple VGA Adapter

For those times when you need to give a presentation or when you want to display your photos and videos on a larger screen, you will need the Apple Composite AV Cables, the Apple Digital AV Adapter, or the Apple VGA Adapter.  The Apple Composite AV Cables allow you to connect your iPad to a T.V. or projector with AV inputs while the Apple Composite AV Cables will allow you to connect your iPad to a T.V. with an HDMI cable.   The Apple VGA Adapter allows you to connect your iPad to a T.V., projector, or computer monitor with a VGA input.

The Apple Composite AV Cables and the Apple Digital AV Adapter are available on the Apple online store for $39.00.  The Apple VGA Adapter is available on the Apple online store for $29.00.

A Computer to Back up Your iPad

If you plan on using your iPad as your main device, don’t get rid of your old computer.  Unfortunately, due to the limited space of an iPad and the current lack of ability to back up everything on your iPad in any other way, a computer will still be essential for an iPad owner.  Once you start loading up your iPad with photos, videos, and apps, the storage space of you iPad will fill up very quickly.  It is nice to keep older photos, videos, and music on another computer while keeping the files you will need most often on the iPad.  This will help keep you from running out of storage space.

Once Apple’s iCloud feature is released this fall, you will be able to backup most of the data on your iPad via the cloud.  This will help a great deal in making the iPad more independent from your computer.  Until this happens, though, you will want to regularly back up your iPad on a computer.

Is It Worth All the Extra Accessories? 

To legitimately use your iPad as your main computing device as efficiently as you can use a standard computer, it does take a willingness to invest in some accessories.  When you total up the cost of the iPad plus all the accessories that you will need, the price meets or exceeds the cost of  purchasing a fairly nice laptop.  For many people, this is a reason to pass on attempting to use the iPad as their main device.

The main area where the iPad does trump the standard laptop is in portability.  The accessories can remain stored away for much of your use of the iPad as the iPad, by itself, is more than sufficient for doing most of your light computing activities.  Nothing beats being able to pick up an iPad and use it all over the house with ease.  The iPad works equally well while lounging in bed as it does while sitting at a table or on the couch.  The fact that, with the addition of a few accessories, the iPad can transform into an efficient work machine really makes the iPad a versatile machine.  This flexibility and versatility is why more and more people are now choosing to use the iPad as their main device.





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  • 194roc

    In my opinion, would be great if you could connect the trackpad to the iPad, and use the first, together with the keyboard, to work and use the iPad as your main computer.

    • brad0885

      Agreed. While tapping on the screen works ok for document editing, it will never be as efficient as a mouse or trackpad.

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  • Hi, thanks for sharing this good article. I would like to add that today there are a number of really great additional iPad apps out there legimitely proving the iPad to be able to act as a business computer device. Such are Goodreader (all doc reader), Dropbox (free storage place on a cloud), Instapaper (download and keep files for later read w/out Internet access, Webex (conferencing app, very useful with iPad2), Skype (free videocalls over internet) and Evernote (versatile usable planning tool) – just to name a few.

  • Nick Essling

    Caution about the Apple Wireless Keyboard with teh iPad 2.

    I recently bought the newest version of the Apple Wireless Keyboard to use with my iPad 2. The newest version of the keyboard – the one that is optimized for use witht OS Lion – is not FULLY compatible with the iPad 2. For example, the alphabet keys work just fine, but the brightness, track, play/pause and volume keys do not work.

    If you want to find the Apple Wireless Keyboard that is in fact fully compatible with the iPad 2, you must use the prior version – the one where the F4 key looks like a speedometer.

  • N.Estley

    In my opinion the IPad is nothing more than a usefull coffee table fun pad. If you are going to lug around a keyboard, dock stand and camera dongle with you every where. And then save any text document and spreadsheet in a word/excel format before you can share it with your friends and collegues, you should really consider a slim line laptop, with word/excel, inbuilt wifi, 3g, usb ports cd/dvd player, inbuilt apps for any and every video format etc.. I own one, and it is great when traveling on short business journeys and on holiday, but lets take off our rose tinted, Apple hugging glasses and get real here!

  • Ron

    Regarding the coffee table fun pad comment…us a PC at work all day, have a Macbook Pro for home use, iPhone, etc and the one thing that the iPad has tought me is how little I truly need the Macbook. Yes, for Quicken and updating my Web sites, and truly long word processing or spreadsheets, I’ll truck upstairs, log in and use the laptop. But my go to for probably 80% of what I need is the iPad. Same for my wife. Haven’t had the need to add all the accessories yet, except for the card reader for my pics, so grab it and go is a whole lot easier than packing up my Macbook for most my needs. is it for everyone? Luckily, no…had to wait 2 weeks to get mine as it is.

  • Laura

    I have been considering doing this, but I keep getting stuck on iTunes. Is there any way to make the iPad the iTunes library so that I can move music around on my nano?