iPhone and iPad

How To Make Your iPad a Laptop Replacement

Bakari Chavanu 09-01-2013

ipad laptop replacementIn an interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he no plans for developing an iPad that transforms into a laptop. But that certainly doesn’t keep many iPad users from using the device as a notebook computer. A friend of mine told me he actually prefers his iPad 3 over his laptop.


Due to the abundant productivity tools in the Mac App Store, and the various keyboard accessories for the iPad, the device can definitely be used as a laptop. However, you should be aware of the limitations you may encounter when using the iPad this way.

Keyboard Accessory

Generally, there are two types of keyboards for the iPad to choose from – a keyboard case for the iPad, or a regular, portable size keyboard such as the wireless one Apple sells.

With the keyboard case, it may be an hassle to install and remove your iPad from the case. And of course, a keyboard case makes it very difficult to use your iPad as an e-reader. However, a keyboard case is very useful if you intend to primarily use your iPad as a laptop or notebook computer, because you don’t have to keep the keyboard separate from your iPad. In addition, some keyboard cases include special keys designed to work with the iPad.

ipad laptop replacement

For example, the ZAGG Keys Mini (see above photo) includes special copy and paste keys not available on the regular Apple keyboard. It also includes a Home screen key to save you the trouble of clicking the Home button on the iPad in order to switch applications. And there is also the familiar Command-Z shortcut for undoing your last keystrokes, which you can’t do on the built-in iPad keyboard.


replace laptop with ipad

You will probably want to get a keyboard case that is near to the size of a regular keyboard as possible. I have read complaints about mini keyboards in which the keys are too small for users with large hands. If possible, try to physically test out a keyboard before purchasing it.

If you decide to go with the external keyboard, such as the Apple wireless keyboard, you’ll need to get some sort of stand or case to prop up your iPad while typing, such as the Logitech Tablet Keyboard setup. This will mean carrying at least two additional accessories for when you need to type. However, if you are mainly using your iPad in a home or office space, you can simply set up the standing keyboard for when you need it. A detached keyboard also means you can more easily keep using the iPad as an e-reader device because it is not locked in the case.

replace laptop with ipad


The Logitech k760 Wireless Solar Keyboard is another good choice for the iPad, as well as a desktop computer, in that it has dedicated keys for switching between Bluetooth devices. And the fact that it is solar powered means you don’t have to keep charging the batteries.

replace laptop with ipads

Essential Apps

The iPad comes with default Mail, Contacts, and Calendar apps, but there are a few other programs you will want to make sure you have installed on your iPad especially if you want to use it as a laptop. I strongly suggest you use the storage service Dropbox Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Ever since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me - Dropbox. In fact, I would go... Read More for securing and storing all your external documents, such as PDFs and Word files.

As for text editor apps, there are dozens to choose from depending on your specific needs. If you are a Mac user, Apple’s iWork office suite includes Pages, Numbers, and Keynote (each $9.99), which are specifically designed for the iPad. All of these apps sync with the Mac desktop version of iWork. The apps also use Apple’s iCloud service How To Save And Share Text Documents Using iCloud iCloud has been most useful for updating email, contact, and calendar data across Mac and iOS devices. But now it includes additional features for document files, for both Apple native and third-party applications. In this... Read More to sync documents between your iOS and iPad devices, as well as your web-based iCloud account.


The most recent update of the Pages app includes the ability to sync and track changes between devices.

Pages iCloud 3

If you need to work with text documents between two or more devices, you will want to make sure you’re using an app that syncs between those devices. Start with my articles (here 7 Apps That Will Help You Use Your iPad For Writing Projects Read More and here Open, Write, And Send: 5 Alternative Note Apps For iOS Devices I like clean, un-cluttered note apps that I don't have to manage with folders, and that can also be used with other applications. Well, at least five note apps (Captio, Squarespace Note, Drafts, Pastebot, and... Read More ) on the various text editor apps available for the iPad. I prefer SimpleNote (Free) as a very simple text editor without all the bells and whistles. If you want to save all your text documents to Dropbox, check out Jeffry’s review of PlainText PlainText: A Text Editor With a Dropbox Synchronization Feature [iOS] If you are the kind of person who edits your documents on the go, then you need two things to accomplish your task. The first is a device that will allow you to access your... Read More .

The iPad works really well also for reading and editing documents as you might read them on sheets of paper. For bloggers, the Blogsy app [No Longer Available] supports nearly all of the main blogging platforms including WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, and MovableType.


Also, don’t overlook the use of the built-in voice dictation Stop Typing: Better Learn To Dictate Text with Dragon Dictate for Mobile Devices [iOS] Nuance's iPhone apps, Dragon and Dragon Search have been available for free download for over a year now. Since then, the company has added a few other similar voice to text apps to its line... Read More feature of the iPad, or the more advanced Dragon Dictation voice-to-text app Stop Typing: Better Learn To Dictate Text with Dragon Dictate for Mobile Devices [iOS] Nuance's iPhone apps, Dragon and Dragon Search have been available for free download for over a year now. Since then, the company has added a few other similar voice to text apps to its line... Read More  (Free). Voice dictation can reduce the amount of manual typing and endless backspacing, deleting, and correction of typos when using a keyboard.

Dragon Dictate

The other apps you should consider include the iOS clipboard manager Pastebot Open, Write, And Send: 5 Alternative Note Apps For iOS Devices I like clean, un-cluttered note apps that I don't have to manage with folders, and that can also be used with other applications. Well, at least five note apps (Captio, Squarespace Note, Drafts, Pastebot, and... Read More  ($4.99), and the default iOS Notes 5 Tips For Making The Most Out Of The Notes App [iOS] In any application round-up - mobile or otherwise - about work, education or GTD, you'll see the most advanced conglomeration of note-taking applications. Often, the applications already present on the operating system are ignored. Likely,... Read More  app. Also I suggest making use of the Keyboard Shortcuts 10 iOS 5 Tips For iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch Users So many new features get added to iOS updates that we often don't take advantage of them all. The most recent iOS 5.0 and 5.1 updates for iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users make the... Read More feature on the iPad, which automatically types specified and regularly words and phrases (e.g., your name, email address, phone number) based on a combination of word shortcuts you assign.

Open Settings > General, and scroll down to Keyboard > Shortcuts. Tap the upper-right + button and add a phrase, name, or regularly used word, and then assign it a shortcut. Be sure to use a combination of letters that don’t make up the first few letters of a real word.)


Even better, the iOS version of TextExpander [No Longer Available] supports several different iOS text editors like SimpleNote.


You also may need an Airplay-supported wireless printer, or the mobile printing app, Printopia for the Mac which allows you to print documents from your iPad or iPhone. And for times when you need an extra monitor to work with your iPad, Air Display is a useful app.

ipad laptop replacement

As for working with photos on the iPad, check out Snapspeed (free) and the iOS version of iPhoto A Cleaner, Faster iPhoto: Upgrade to Photos for OS X Yosemite Photos for OS X has finally arrived, replacing iPhoto with an image management application that Mac users will actually want to use — but is there enough here to satisfy Aperture refugees? Read More  ($4.99).

iPad Limitations

The limitations for using the iPad as a laptop include the challenges of switching between apps, and the inability to have more than one app open at a time on the device. If you do a lot of cutting and pasting of text, the iPad lacks a built-in clipboard history manager. The Pastebot app referenced above is a good workaround, but it must be re-opened every ten minutes in order to capture the clippings you’re making on the device. This limitation is imposed by Apple.

The iPad also doesn’t quite have the speed for some tasks, such as photo editing; and you may experience challenges with blogging posts, and taking and cropping screenshots. These limitations primarily keep me from using my iPad as a laptop. But if you’re not a full-time writer or graphic designer, the iPad could very well fulfill most of your needs for notebook computing.

Let us know if and how much you use your iPad as a laptop computer. What other apps and accessories do you use in your workflow?

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  1. Rich
    April 29, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Until Apple allows pointing devices to be used on IOS devices (they've actively blocked vendors from adding this capability), any discussion of using one as a "laptop replacement" is silly.

    IF they were to add this functionality, the iPad would make a fine remote desktop client (via Teamviewer app, for example), but a tablet's inherent nature prevents it from being as useful as a productivity tool beyond the immediate convenience of its portability.

  2. dan
    March 13, 2013 at 11:26 pm


    Is it possible to use the keyboard on a laptop and connect it via bluetooth to an ipad and use that to type? I thought of this as I have an old laptop and thought this would be a better idea than having to purchase a separate bluetooth keyboard.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Yeah, I've used the bluetooth Apple and Logitech keyboards with my iPad a few times, but I'm not sure you can connect a laptop to the iPad. I suggest firing up both of your devices and see if they recognize one another.

  3. Yugo
    February 5, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Laptop vs iPad, this has been a common discussion. But what about leveraging RDP apps like Splashtop? You can have best of both world. You can use iPad for travel purposes and for most of your day to day lite computing needs. Then Remote Desktop into your windows or osx based machine, from your iPad, via home wireless network or via the Internet, if you have a gmail account. This latter options assumes that you have access to wireless network or you have at least a 3G or LTE network connection on your ipad. Nowadays, I park my laptop at home and only carry my Ipad. May not be an option for all but many will see that you don't need to carry both, even for business travel!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 5, 2013 at 5:41 am

      Yugo, I never heard of RDP apps. I'll have to check into it. Thanks for letting us know.

  4. Penn
    January 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    this is brilliant thank you!
    ps. am using altamail for my email accounts at the moment and this also lets me print

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

      Cool, Penn. Thanks for sharing. I'll check out Altamail.

  5. Bakari Chavanu
    January 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hey David, thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

  6. Bakari Chavanu
    January 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hey David, thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

  7. Junil Maharjan
    January 10, 2013 at 5:41 am

    i've had an asus transformer for quite some time now. It came with a keyboard but it has never replaced my laptop. I still use my laptop heavily though it has a celeron processor. some of the tasks i did on my laptop has been easy on the tablet but i still require my laptop for most of the things i do.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

      Junil, thanks for your feedback. I've never heard of an asus transformer.

  8. Jonathon Béasse
    January 10, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Nice article!

    I got an iPad as a gift over the holidays. I can see the appeal to using it for tasks such as taking some quick notes and other productivity related tasks. This eliminates the need for me to pull out the laptop when I am away from the desktop.

    This article gave me some good starting points for productivity apps to look into.

    With regards to workflow, I have multitasking gestures enabled and have no issues with it. However, I do prefer my desktop's multiscreen setup to using a four/five finger gesture.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Jonathan, I appreciate it. And congratulations on getting a iPad.

  9. Keven Tao
    January 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    You need a stand and an attachable keyboard or a USB interfaze keyboard.

  10. Kent Ellis
    January 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Got one question. I have a I pad 4, But i also have windows 7 pc. Will those apps work on the i pad? I'm not Apple all the way yet. Just saying. I have Hardware for the pad coming. Keyboard SD Card Reader and AV Adapter.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Kent, if I'm understanding you correctly, yes, using the above apps do not depend upon what PC you're using. The iPad can now work independently of a PC.

      • Sashritha Peiris
        January 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm

        Bakari Chavanu you got the price of Pages, Keynote and Numbers wrong. I recently bought them on iOS and they cost $14.99 each.
        I would recommend Reflection for mirroring your iOS devices screen to a Mac or windows computer. It is cheaper than Air Display because you only need a Pc or Mac version. Also Google Drive has excellent and free Document, Presentation and Spreadsheet editing tools. Also instead of Printopia the free apps AirPrint activator works fine. But just make sure to get the free old version of cnet or other file sharing service because the new version costs money. I recommend you get iPhoto as it is only $6.49. Oh I just realized it, I am so sorry Bakari Chavanu you have quoted the American dollar price.

  11. David Allen
    January 9, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I work with a desk top computer, an iMac and then use the iPad extensively. I do need something running OSX. I wouldn't be able to manage with just an iPad, despite the fact that I do get so much use out of the device.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 9, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      David, I couldn't agree with you more. While I like how small and lightweight the iPad is, the inability to keep more than one application open on the screen definitely interrupts my workflow, even with only using text editing programs. A built-in clipboard manager would also help.