Can an iPad Replace a Home Computer?

With the latest versions of the iPad becoming more powerful and the multitude of apps available, many people are wondering if they can replace their home computer with an iPad.  The answer is a good solid MAYBE.

It really depends on how you use your computer.  Everyone does different things with a computer, ranging from checking emails and surfing the Internet to advanced simulation and modeling with 3D graphics.  Therefore, you need to consider how you personally use a computer.

General Use

If your only use for a computer is to check emails and surf the Internet, this can be handled very nicely with an iPad.  Some light duty word processing and spreadsheet work can also be accomplished on the iPad.  It is noteworthy to say, there is currently no version of Microsoft Office for the iPad.  The most common apps to substitute are Apple’s own word processing app – Pages, spreadsheet app – Numbers, and presentation app – Keynote.  Collectively, these apps are known as the iWork suite of apps.  There are also other third-party options available in the App Store.  Generally speaking, these apps can open, modify, and save Microsoft Office files.  However, you need to be cautious with very elaborate documents that have lots of embedded tables, pictures, macros, or other such items that may cause formatting issues during translation.


With so many wireless printers available, printing from an iPad is becoming less of an issue.  You basically have three options to setup print capability with an iPad.

  1. Buy an AirPrint capable printer so you can print directly from the iPad using your wireless network.
  2. If you have a wireless printer that is not AirPrint capable, you can buy an app for the iPad that should allow it to connect to a wireless printer on your network.
  3. If you don’t have a wireless printer, you would need to buy software for your computer that allows the iPad to connect to the printer through your computer.  This will require your computer to be running every time you print from the iPad.  If you plan to eliminate your computer, this is probably not the best solution.

Obviously, option 1 is the easiest, but it may result in you buying a new wireless printer if you don’t currently have one that is compatible.  The Apple website has a list of all AirPrint capable printers.


If you plan on doing large amounts of typing, you may want a real keyboard instead of the iPad’s on-screen keyboard.  The iPad keyboard is fine for emails, surfing the web, and small word processing activities.  However, someone that spends a lot of time typing may opt for a wireless Bluetooth keyboard.  Many Bluetooth keyboards are available for the iPad with various styles ranging from compact models integrated into an iPad case to full-size standalone keyboards.  Once again, it is a matter of personal preference to know which one is best for you.  Personally, I mainly just use the on-screen keyboard of the iPad.  The compact Bluetooth keyboards typically just feel a little small when typing.  Additionally, I like to use the iPad while not at my desk, so using a separate keyboard is a little awkward.

File Management

When working with documents, you inevitably need to save them and, quite likely, send them to someone else.  If you are using Apple’s iWork apps, documents can be saved directly into iCloud, which is Apple’s own online storage capability.  Everyone that has an Apple ID can sign up for a free iCloud account that will store up to 5GB of information.  Additional storage space can be purchased directly from the iPad for a yearly fee.  Third-party data storage options such as Dropbox are also available.  Dropbox provides subscribers with up to 2GB of free online storage with additional paid plans for users that need larger storage options.

Both services have their advantages and disadvantages.  The iCloud service is nicely integrated across all your Apple devices, so documents can be easily accessed from any device.  Unfortunately, only apps developed by Apple are currently capable of saving documents to iCloud.  Conversely, Dropbox is not as tightly integrated into the iPad operating system, but it provides a free app that allows easy access to your files stored in your online account.  The app can be loaded on all the devices you use to access your Dropbox account.  With Dropbox, there are a greater number of apps that can save files to your Dropbox account.

When the time comes for you to send a document to someone else, most apps provide the capability to email documents.  Simply open the document and select the email option within the app.  An email message will automatically open with the document as an attachment.  You can then add recipients and a message before sending the email.  Documents received through email can also be opened by a compatible app.

Ultimately, deciding whether to eliminate a home computer in favor of an iPad is a personal decision based on how you plan to use the device.  Many seniors find the iPad to be much simpler and less intimidating than a computer.  For me, there are times when using a regular computer is unavoidable.  When sitting at my desk, I prefer to use a computer with a real keyboard.  However, when away from my desk, the iPad is great for quickly handling most tasks.

If you are a little reluctant about completely eliminating a home computer, there is always the option to keep your old computer as a backup and use the iPad for most daily tasks.  This gives you the convenience of the iPad while not completely severing ties with your computer.  The more time you spend using an iPad, the more things you will learn to do with it.  In the dawn of this post-PC era, devices like the iPad are leading the way for many people to cut at least some of their ties to the computer.