One week on and the iPad has become my paperless file for meetings.
We work increasingly paperless in the office, all company files are on CCH Pro-Audit software and most others are compiled in a standard Excel file we have created. We attach scanned client documents to the Excel file as PDFs (Office 2007 allows you just to insert a PDF into a spreadsheet) so it's quite efficient even for small unincorporated businesses.
But all this means that I don't have a paper file to take to client meetings. In the office I can just take my laptop into the meeting room or see the client at my desk (if it's visible under the files of paper!), but what do you do outside the office?
I have taken my laptop before, but that has two particular disadvantages - 1) like any Windows PC, it takes half the meeting just to start up so I can open the relevant document, and 2) it's big and heavy to cart around.
Not so the iPad, which fits in even the smallest bag along with a pad of paper, calculator and all sorts of other essential stuff, and takes only a few moments to fire up. The snag was working out how to get files ONTO the iPad. The official method is to transfer them via iTunes, which is fine if you are transferring them for use in an iPad application that iTunes recognises. However, much easier is to use my trusty Dropbox account. There's a neat iPad app from Dropbox that gives you instant access to your cloud-based file store. I just drag the files or folders I need into Dropbox on my PC or Mac and there they are on the iPad. Even better is that the Dropbox app includes all the file viewers you might need, so you don't actually have to run a word processor app like Pages to be able to view a Word document, for example.
I have loaded up the iPad with PDFs of client Sage nominal reports - several hundreds of pages - plus draft accounts, CT comps and Excel working papers. You need to remember to mark them as Favourites in Dropbox so they are available when you're not online.
I have also experimented with a file manager app called ReaddleDocs which I have hooked up to Dropbox and my MobileMe iDisk so Ican get immediate access to any files I have stored in the cloud, or attachments to emails. This app seems to have a better range of file viewers and I haven't found a file type it can't open. Unlike Dropbox, where you scroll down through documents vertically, like you do in Word, ReaddleDocs displays them like pages in a book so you scroll left and right by wiping a finger across the iPad screen. Not yet sure I like that as much as it make continuous text slightly harder to read.
The trick on the iPad is to realise that files are stored within the application in which you are viewing them. There is no separate document folder accessible by all apps. So if you view a Word document in the Dropbox app and decide to open in in Pages to make some edits, you are actually saving a copy in Pages. Now there are two copies on the iPad, so you need to keep your wits about you to make sure you know which is which!
Returning to the office, it's quick job to delete the files you reviewed with the client and upload the next set via Dropbox for the next client meetings.
About Nigel Harris
I'm a partner with Burton Sweet, chartered accountants & business advisers, and run the Shepton Mallet office down in beautiful Somerset. Despite the name, Shepton Mallet is actually the home of Glastonbury Festival! I trained in audit and corporate tax with Grant Thornton and came to my current position in 1991 via small local practices and a stint with a training consortium.
I have the distinction of being one of the original members of the AccountingWEB editorial team, having been a freelance writer here for a year or so before John Stockdyk joined!