Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to switch from a laptop to a tablet

How to switch from a laptop to a tablet

The age of the laptop is coming to an end. We might see companies produce laptops well into the future -- particularly Ultrabooks -- but we've really reached the conclusion of laptop development. There's only so much we can do with a screen and a keyboard attached by a hinge. What you see from laptops now is not much different than what you'll see in five years.

So where do we go from here? It appears that before we reached the developmental conclusion of the laptop, we already found its replacement. Tablet PCs are picking up major steam, and figure to hit it big in 2012 and 2013 in particular. As they expand in power, they'll approach laptops in processing power. Yet even with their current processing power they can already replace laptops for many people.

Ready to ditch the bulky laptop fro the sleek, thin tablet? Here's a quick guide for making the transition.

1. Take inventory

Before you can start to move your life from a laptop to a tablet, you have to fully understand what's on your laptop. More specifically, you should come to understand what you actually use on your laptop and what you don't. Set aside some time to take inventory. You'll be looking for the following:

  • File types.

  • Applications

  • Utilities

    • How you use these things is of little importance. The idea here is to strip down your computer usage to its barest essentials. Determining what you use, instead of how you use it, will help you transition. After all, you'll probably end up using the files in different ways on the tablet. What's important is to understand what you use.

      2. Find equivalent apps

      One of the biggest reasons why more people haven't already transitioned to tablets from laptops is compatibility. It's easy to transition between a desktop and a laptop, because they run the same operating systems. Macs run OSX, whether desktop or laptop. PCs run Windows or Linux. Moving back and forth is easy. Tablets, however, run different software than desktops and laptops. That makes transitioning more difficult.

      Since you already took inventory, you'll know what file types you work with the most. If you're going to transition to a tablet, you'll need a program that can handle those files. Sometimes one might not exist; users who need Dreamweaver, for example, won't find much use for a tablet. You can only open Dreamweaver files in Dreamweaver, and Adobe has yet to release a version for a tablet. But for most common files types -- particularly documents and spreadsheets -- there are plenty of tablet apps that can take care of business.

      Best of all, these tablet apps are far cheaper than their PC or Mac equivalents. You'll still have to shell out some money for them, but it won't be hundreds of dollars, such as, say, Microsoft Office. The tablet equivalents cost a fraction of that.

      3. Practice typing

      While compatibility turns off many users, the lack of a keyboard turns off even more. Yet that ignores the reality of typing on a tablet: it's fairly easy. It just takes some practice and some determination. After a while it becomes pretty natural. That's because a tablet is a prefect size for a QWERTY keyboard. You type the same way as you would on a laptop. Tablets lack just one, admittedly important, function.

      When we type on physical keyboards, we receive tactile feedback. That is, the nerve endings in our fingers can feel a button depress, which signals to our brains that we have successfully struck the key. There is no guesswork. We've adapted to this style of typing, and it's hard to transition away from that. Fortunately, tablet keyboards are laid out in exactly the same way as laptops, so we can learn quickly.

      Your fingers are in the same positions. The keys are in the same positions. It's just a matter of relying on that muscle memory of where each key lies, rather than the tactile feedback of the physical keyboard. You might chicken peck at first, but eventually you'll find yourself on the home row, typing just as you did on a laptop. It should only take a few weeks, tops, to get into the groove.

      Still unsure? You can always buy a Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet. That gives you the best of both worlds. It can also aid your transition. Eventually you might find it silly to carry around the tablet and a keyboard. Maybe that provides motivation to learn the touchscreen typing style.

      4. Find a file transfer system

      Transferring files on PCs and Macs is easy. Just stick a USB card in the slot, copy the files, and eject the drive. You can then bring that to any other PC or Mac and use the files as you would on your own computer (assuming you have the software to run them). This is hyper convenient, but it is not possible on tablets, since they don't have USB drives. Thankfully, it seems we're moving away from this type of physical storage.

      Need to transfer a file between tablets? There are dozens of online storage services that can serve your needs. Heck, Dropbox just gives you a free 2GB. That's plenty of space to transfer files. Need more space? You can either buy some more storage, or you can clear old files to make room for new ones. There are many services just like this, too, so you're not limited to just Dropbox. Traditionalist? You can always email yourself and others files.

      I've heard many complaints from people about the lack of USB storage on tablets. Really, though, we're moving away from that. Soon enough we'll be attaching peripherals to our devices via Bluetooth, and using online services for storage. It might be inconvenient at times -- like when you don't have an internet connection -- but for the most part this is just as easy as, if not easier than, using a USB stick to transfer files.

      5. Enjoy the benefits

      Congratulations. You're ready to enjoy the many benefits a tablet has to offer. Though, by this point you might be wondering what, exactly, a tablet has over a laptop. Here goes:

      • Size and portability. Laptops are small -- compared to desktops. Tablets are small, thin devices that are far, far easier to carry around than laptops. They're also might lighter. You'll find getting around much easier.

      • Ease of use. Ever try to stand up on a train while holding a laptop? If you do, you probably don't have that laptop any more. Tablets are far more versatile in their use. You don't eve need your lap, or a table, to use one.

      • Battery life. Tablets display many energy efficiency improvements over laptops. Maybe that's because they use fewer resources. Maybe it's because there are fewer moving parts. Whatever the reason, tablet batteries can last three or four times longer than laptops when used heavily.

      • Intuitive interface. It might take some time to get used to, but touchscreen interfaces are simply easier to use than traditional point-and-click systems. We're very used to point-and-click, so the transition can take some time. But I don't know any tablet owners who prefer point-and-click over touchscreen.

      So how about it? Are you ready to make the leap from the laptop to the tablet?

      Joe Pawlikowski edits Prepaid Reviews, among many other blogs across the web.

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