Tablet Tuesdays: How To Get That Tablet Feeling More Like A Desktop

This week I'm going to go through some bits of software and general uses that make your tablet feel more like a Desktop PC - without the noise and bulk of course. Now, most of you - if not all of you, have a laptop as well as a tablet, probably because the laptop fills those tiny gaps that Android tablets just can't fill just yet. I might well be the exception to that rule, I have access to a laptop but, I, in fact sold my old laptop to gain my first tablet. For the most part, it has gone well in the months I've relied solely on tablet devices and it's easier to consume content on them, not to mention a great e-mail tool alone.

Now, you may have heard that Microsoft have recently announced their own tablet platform called Surface, shipping with Windows 8 of course. Microsoft have realised that you still need a desktop environment to work in at times and have also included innovative keyboard covers as well. It's looking like Google will need to bring out some serious stuff to rally against these new tablets at I/O - where our own Justin Diaz and Mike Corbett will be there bringing you all the latest.

Read on below to see how you can have a more Desktop type feel on your beloved Android platform

Accessories

Don't panic, I'm not here to sell you anything, I swear. It's well worth getting some accessories for your tablet as let's face it, we only have two hands and we'll need at least one to hold the thing so we're already struggling. Last time, I mentioned that the Griffin Arrowhead makes a must have a piece of kit for tablet users and, again I'm going to tell you that it is in fact, awesome for working with as well. No, Griffin don't pay me but, if you want to send them an e-mail on my behalf, be my guest.

A stand is awesome to have and there are a number of them out there, some inexpensive and some more so. The more you'll spend the better looking and more sturdy it'll be but to be honest, a stand is a stand as long as it wasn't made by monkeys, it'll work. These are great for reference material on a desk or glanceable information when in the kitchen or whenever you need some onscreen help away from the keyboard. I use my Touchpad docked in its Touchstone for instance, with my To Do list on display, which I prepare the night before, to make sure I don't forget anything as I have a tendency to do so.

Keyboards and Mice

I'm a little loathed to go into here in a piece on tablets but, the keyboard is still king and if you ask me, it always will be. There are numerous keyboards available out there for Android tablets and even generic Bluetooth Keyboards will work fine thanks to the platforms flexibility. Pretty much any OEM that makes a tablet has a keyboard designed for tablets as well, you can get these keyboards from Acer, Sony, Motorola, Logitech and Zagg. Not all are designed specifically for Android but, the one that I'm typing on now is and that's the Morotola XOOM bluetooth keyboard with a host of keyboard shortcuts that are designed for Android. Having this keyboard for my Touchpad has been amazing, it's so much easier to get work done, especially if your work is writing like it is ours. There well worth the money if you plan on getting work done on a tablet and aren't a Transformer Pad user.

Mice. Whilst nowhere near as essential as the keyboard on a tablet they do work well in Ice Cream Sandwich and provide a useful tool for navigating, some apps even support right clicking as a long press which is nice. You can use any Bluetooth mouse you can set eyes on and, I'd advise not spending a huge amount on one but having one around is handy if not genuinely helpful

Apps

You can have all the tools in the world but, with no workbench you're not going to get a lot done. To that end, I'm going to give you a look at some of the apps that I've found to be of use to fill the gap between tablet and laptop or tablet and desktop nicely, with little fuss.

Jotter Pad HD

I've long been a user of Jotter Pad HD and I bought the pro version only hours after trying the trial version. If you're someone that works with words or you're studying and have a paper to right and want to do this in comfort then this is an excellent app. It supports keyboard shortcuts, has a number of different font and formatting options and it has an innovative night mode that goes easy on your eyes a little late night work. It's incredibly easy to use and presents the user with a good amount of options on how you want that text to look and even includes Dropbox sync for good measure. If you're looking to do any word processing in a relaxed and easy way, this is your friend.

Play Store

OnLive Desktop

I'm sure there's a lot of you out there that are avid Windows users, correct me if I'm wrong I don't see Mac and Android users being one and the same. As a Linux user, I don't really like Windows but, there are applications that I sometimes have to run in a Virtual Machine and there's really no escaping the Desktop giant. Now, when it comes to work, Windows is the tool that's used pretty much everywhere and lets say you need to get to  a Windows machine to edit a PowerPoint or to review/tweak a super macro'd Excel spreadsheet that Android tablet isn't going to help much. This is where OnLive Desktop comes in, it gives you remote access to a barebones Windows 7 installation with Office and whatever else you can do with Windows. So, if you've got a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, with this you basically have a Windows Netbook at your side without having to lug anything extra around. It's also FREE. Which makes this ridiculously tempting, doesn't it? I've tried the app and it certainly does what it says on the tin, this is perfect for those times when you seriously need to sit down in front of Word or Excel, and fast.

Play Store

Google Docs/ Google Drive


I'm kind of cheating and preaching to the choir at the same time with this one, I know but, hear me out. If you work with alot of people who use Drive then this is a serious must, being able to edit things collaboratively with no hassle is amazingly refreshing, not to mention productive. Whilst the tablet side of Docs is hardly anything to write home about it does work and will allow you to get some work done to then pick it up back home seamlessly on the real Desktop. I'm sure all of you smart people are clued up on Google's latest and greatest.

Play Store

PocketCloud Remote Desktop from Wyse

I'm sure a lot of you may well be thinking why I didn't go with a plain jane VNC server and client here and I'll tell you the reason why is ease of use. Unless you're some kind network Guru, accessing that server from cellular networks can be tricky to get right.

PocketCloud on the other hand is easy to set up and also works on Mac - for the four or five of you reading this - and it's also free, too. There is a Pro version that offers more features if you'd like to have a look at that as well. This is the kind of app that could well be a lifesaver at some point. You must have had one of those times where you need to hand in a critical report, that you finished at around 2AM and you forgot to upload it to Drive or Dropbox. Busted. With this though, you can remotely connect to your PC at home and make sure you upload it to a cloud drive or e-mail it to your work address, making sure that you actually have it when you say you have it. Of course, these things aren't bulletproof and if you're in an area with poor coverage you may be out of luck but, the option is there and it's a good job that it is.

Play Store

Join us next week for even more Tablet Themed fun, you never know, we might even have a special Google I/O themed Tablet Tuesday!

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About the Author
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Tom Dawson

Former Editor-in-Chief
For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, growing up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles has fed into an addiction to everything that beeps. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I love watching the platform grow. As an avid reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android, Google and mobile technology as a whole.