Android tablets aren't just for fun. Paired with the right accessories and apps, your Android slate can become a real work machine. When linked with a Bluetooth keyboard, an Android tablet can become nearly as functional as a laptop computer. And the Google Play store is packed with apps to help you take notes, plan meetings, edit documents and manage your business's bottom line – all on a slim, portable device that you can carry with you on your commute. No matter which Android tablet you own, here are six ways to put it to work.
A touch-screen slate is more portable and affordable than the average laptop computer, but they lack some of the functionality that makes a laptop so useful. But with a few tablet accessories, you can get the best of both worlds.
- Keyboard: For serious productivity, a touch-screen keyboard just won't cut it. There are lots of Bluetooth keyboardsavailable for Android tablets of every size.
- Case: A folio case can keep your Android tablet and keyboard together, and some cases include a built-in kickstand to prop up your slate as you type. And, of course, it's important to protect your Android tablet if you use it for business.
- Stylus: A stylus allows you to take notes and draw charts and diagrams, right on your tablet's screens. Some Android slates such as the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 include a built-in stylus and pressure-sensitive display, but capacitive styluses are available for just about any tablet.
View and edit documents
You can't run the full version of Microsoft Office on your Android tablet, but there are plenty of solid alternatives to help you create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations when you're away from the office.
- Google Drive: Google Drive is a cloud storage app that lets you view documents and spreadsheets on your Android tablet. But where it really excels is by integrating with Google's standalone Android apps, including the Docs word processor and Sheets spreadsheet editor. New and edited files are automatically uploaded to your Google Docs account, so you can access them on any Web-connected device.
- WPS Office: WPS Office is a free Android productivity suit that stands up to competing apps, thanks to a solid feature set and simple, easy-to-use interface. The suite includes a word processor that lets you write, edit and save files, and email integration makes it easy to send and receive documents as attachments. Editing features include the ability to tweak text alignment, change fonts and colors, and insert tables.
Notes you take using your tablet and stylus are searchable and backed up to the cloud, so you'll never lose them. That's reason enough for your Android tablet to replace your old notepad. Try these apps.
- Evernote: Evernote is a powerful note-taking application that lets you manually enter notes, or dictate them verbally. You can also snap photos, create to-do lists and much more. And because it features text identification, the app can index typed and handwritten notes for easy searching later.
- OneNote: OneNotehas one big advantage over competing note-taking apps: it's fully integrated with Windows. Files you upload to the cloud using the Android app automatically sync with Microsoft's OneNote cloud storage platform, which is baked right into the File Explorer in Windows 8. That means your notes will always be backed up and accessible from your work PC.
Manage your finances
Android apps can't solve all your accounting needs, but they're good for expense tracking and light number crunching. These applications are good for basic on-the-go accounting.
- QuickBooks: If you already use Quickbooks for accounting in the office, the Android app is a good mobile companion. It lets you send out invoices, track sales, review payments and more when you're away from your desk. To use the app you'll need a full QuickBooks subscription, however.
- Mint (Free): Mint is a personal finance app that's also a good tool for individual entrepreneurs who want to track spending and budgets. Once you add your bank accounts and credit cards, the app can pull in spending data and categorize your transactions. It even organizes your data in graphs and charts so you can see at a glance where your money is going.
Your Android tablet can ease the process of planning and executing a productive business meeting. These apps make it easier to invite employees or colleagues to attend, share your agenda and even join a meeting remotely using a video-conferencing app.
- Doodle: Instead of playing phone tag or exchanging dozens of emails to plan your meeting, use Doodle. The app makes it easy to confirm individual availability by sending out an email with several options so each person can weigh in on times and dates that work for them. After that, the organizer can finalize a meeting time and send a confirmation message.
- GoToMeeting: When you can't meet face-to-face, video-conferencing is the next best thing. GoToMeeting uses the camera on your Android tablet to let you virtually meet with anyone and even participate in group meetings. It's a good workaround for those times when an in-person meeting just isn't feasible.
Access your files and programs
Your Android tablet can help you access everything you need to stay productive, even when you're away from the office. Cloud storage apps let you back up your files and view them from anywhere, and remote desktop software lets you use Mac and PC programs right on your tablet.
- Dropbox: Dropbox is a good solution for Android tablet users who want instant access to all their files from anywhere. The service lets you drag-and-drop documents on your computer desktop to sync them across all your Web-connected devices. To view and edit files away from the office, just launch the Dropbox app.The app also lets you designate individual files as "favorites" to cache them for offline viewing. And Dropbox offers perks for business subscribers like the ability to protect your files in secure folders and alter file-viewing permissions for members of your team.
- Microsoft Remote Desktop: Microsoft Remote Desktop works like a direct portal back to your desktop PC, letting you view your full Windows PC desktop right on your Android tablet. That means you can view files and even run Windows applications such as the full versions of Microsoft Word or Excel, right on your tablet.