Five productivity-boosting iPad tips

Lock the screen orientation, turn off auto-correction (without sacrificing spell check), activate spoken auto-text, set the triple-click Home button, and view the iPad user guide in iBooks or a Safari window via a built-in bookmark.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

The iPad is becoming an office worker's best friend. In terms of work time saved, your iPad will likely pay for itself in a matter of months if not weeks. But like any computer, you can't realize the iPad's full potential without tweaking the machine's default settings to suit your style.

Here are five ways to squeeze a little more productivity out of your iPad.

Lock the screen orientation. The iPad was made for sharing. Handing off a laptop is clumsy, but passing someone your iPad is as natural as shaking hands. The only problem is the spinning display, which automatically reorients as the iPad changes position.

To make sure the viewer sees the screen you intend them to see, you can disable the automatic switch using either of two methods. The first is to set the side switch to lock the orientation: open Settings and choose General > Use the Side Switch > Lock Rotation.

I prefer to use the side switch as a mute button, so I lock the iPad's screen orientation by double-tapping the Home button, swiping the Multitasking status bar from left to right, and tapping the screen orientation lock button on the far left.

iPad screen orientation lock
Lock the iPad's orientation by tapping the screen orientation lock (double-click the Home button and flick left to right in the bottom pane to view the lock). screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

iPad suggested alternative spellings
Check spelling manually via the iPad's suggestions feature when you disable the device's sneaky auto-corrections. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

Turn off text auto-corrections. The iPad's onscreen keyboard is a challenge to use. Add the iPad's tendency to insert its auto-correct suggestions surreptitiously and your writing can quickly be reduced to gibberish. What works better for me is to disable auto-corrections and check my iPad spelling manually.

To turn off the iPad's auto-correct feature, open Settings, tap General > Keyboard, and set Auto-Correction to Off. Leave the Check Spelling setting on so that you can view suggestions when you select words you suspect are misspelled.

Turn on Speak Auto-text. If you decide the iPad's auto-corrections are worthwhile, you can avoid having them slip into the text you're typing by enabling the device's Speak Auto-text option. In Settings tap General > Accessibility and set Speak Auto-text to On. You will then hear the auto-text suggestions spoken before they are inserted.

iPad triple-click home button menu
Set the iPad's home button option to show a menu of accessibility options when you triple-click it. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

Activate the triple-home button: Every iPad user knows that clicking the machine's home button once shows the home screen. Most know that clicking the home button twice opens a list of recently used apps at the bottom of the screen. Swipe left to right in the list to view brightness, audio/video playback, and volume controls (as well as the lock screen orientation button described above.)

But not many iPad users know you can set the home button to activate one of four accessibility features when you triple-click it: the VoiceOver feature, white on black display, screen zoom, or AssistiveTouch. Open Settings and choose General > Accessibility > Triple-click Home. Select the option you prefer, or check Ask to open a menu with all four options when you triple-click the home button.

View the iPad user guide in iBooks or Safari. Telling someone to read the (insert adjective here) manual is like reminding them to floss. As tech manuals go, the iPad user guide is not so bad. At 416 pages, the iBooks version of the user guide is not so short, either. But if you want to get up close and personal with your iPad, there may be no better way than paging through this freebie.

The iPad User Guide is a free download from the App Store: just search the title and click Free > Install. You can also find the manual in iBooks by tapping Store, searching the title, and choosing Free > Get Book. Versions of the user guide are available for iOS 4.3 and iOS 5.

The iPad version of Safari provides a bookmark to the online version of the user guide, which can also be accessed via the Apple support site. As you can imagine, the online guide is more app-like and less book-like.

After using both the e-book and the app, I found the book easier to use--in the app I sometimes had to look in several locations to find the specific information I was looking for. The e-book seemed better organized to me, though most iPad users will likely find the app guide's interface more intuitive.