12 iPad tips and tricks

Get the most from Apple's new tablet

Apple's iPad is comfortable, like your favorite shoes or an old T-shirt. You can use it at a desk or table, or curl up with it on the couch. It's a flexible device that fits into your life. It doesn't really let you do anything you weren't doing before, but you can do those things more easily and with less effort.

In my time using the iPad, I've found some tips and tricks for making the device even more versatile and easy to use, including accessories to buy, avoid, and re-use; tricks for writing on the iPad; and at least one really bad gotcha to avoid. Read on to find out, and don't forget to share your own tips in the comments.

[Also see: The 8 best iPad apps -- so far]

If you haven't bought one yet, hold out for the 3G model. Impatient early adopters (like me) had to have the first available iPad when it went on sale April 3. That model only supports Wi-Fi connectivity. If you've held out this long, hold out a little longer for the 3G model, which Apple says is due out at the end of the month.

The iPad Wi-Fi + 3G is priced starting at $629, which is $130 more than the least expensive Wi-Fi-only model. That's not really a big premium, considering you've already committed to spend a minimum of $499 on the Wi-Fi-only model.

Here's the beauty part: You don't have to sign up for a data plan to use the 3G service. It's not like a smartphone data plan, where you have to sign a contract to pay a monthly fee for one or more years. AT&T's 3G plans for the iPad are pay-as-you-go, starting at $14.99 per month.

You may think you'll never need the 3G service, but how sure are you? Planning to do any traveling? How extensive is the Wi-Fi coverage where you're going? Think of the 3G iPad as having connectivity insurance.

"Not Charging?" No problem. The iPad has some problems charging from the low-powered USB ports found on older desktops and some USB hubs. You might see a "Not Charging" message on the iPad when it's connected.

Not Charging message
The "Not Charging" message may not be as dire as you think.

In many cases, the iPad does actually charge from these connectors, but only when the display is off -- which means you can't see the icon that tells you the iPad is charging. "It's the modern-day 'Does the refrigerator light stay on when I close the door?' mystery," quipped Macworld's Dan Frakes.

If you're getting the "Not Charging" message, try leaving your iPad plugged in anyway, and see if the charge is greater when you return.

Keep the iPad out of direct light. No, it's not going to turn into a nasty gremlin; it's just that the screen is pretty reflective and the glare makes it hard to see.

Tilt it any which way. There's no right-side-up for the iPad. You can hold it in any direction and it works. However, the iPad is often more useful in landscape (wide) rather than portrait (tall) mode. The onscreen keyboard, for instance, is larger and thus easier to type on in landscape mode, and text is often larger and more readable.

Many apps change mode from portrait to landscape; for example, in landscape mode, the Mail app shows your mailbox along with a particular message you're focused on, while in portrait mode you just see the message. Similarly, in iBooks, you get a single page in portrait mode, and two pages side by side in landscape.

iBooks in portrait and landscape modes
The iBooks app in portrait and landscape modes.
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