The Nexus 7 is a landmark device in the world of Android tablets. Rather than being a productivity tool though, it was touted as Google’s content consumption device. Despite the release of the Nexus 10, the Nexus 7’s value for money has ensured its long term sales success, as evidenced by the newer 32GB and 3G versions of the device. Just because the Nexus 7 was intended for one purposes doesn’t mean we can’t turn it into something completely different though. Join us as we show you how to turn your Nexus 7 into a mobile office.
The easiest way to switch your Nexus 7 into work mode is to load it up with apps from the Play Store. We’ve already written about Nexus 7 productivity apps, but let’s have a quick recap.
Whether you prefer Evernote or Microsoft’s OneNote for online note taking, both of these apps allow you to take notes with text and images that synchronise to the cloud for viewing on your browser and other mobile devices. If you already use one of these services, then check out how to switch from one to another. See our guide for other Android note taking apps too.
Mobile Office Suites
The default option for working on documents and spreadsheets in Android is Google Drive (formally Google Docs). However, sometimes a completely offline office app is a better option. OfficeSuite Pro 6 + (PDF & HD) is a great option if you want direct access to editing files in several cloud services, including Dropbox and SkyDrive, even if it does suffer from some text rendering problems on the Nexus 7. If you want a slicker ‘whiz-bang’ user interface, then try Smart Office 2. It accesses files on DropBox and Google Docs, but not SkyDrive. However, it has a much more enjoyable user experience than OfficeSuite Pro 6.
If you are serious about password management, then you should invest in a LastPass subscription which entitles you to use its free mobile clients. The app gives you a secure browser environment too – great for doing your banking.
For blogging, check out the Android WordPress client.
If you’re a developer, then you must check out DroidEdit Pro which gives color coded syntax and direct editing of files on DropBox.
It’s not just software that can transform the Nexus 7 into the perfect mobile office – hardware matters too. Don’t worry though, none of the accessories listed here need be very expensive, with some very cheap accessories you can turn your Nexus 7 into your own little Android Netbook.
USB Host Cable
Picking up where we left off on the apps section, let’s talk about getting files from other devices into your tablet. Neither Nexus Media Importer nor Stick Mount are any use to you unless can connect a USB drive to your Nexus 7. For this, you’ll need a “USB Host Cable”, which has a Micro USB connector for your tablet, and instead of a USB plug on the other end, it has a USB port for connecting USB cables or thumb drives. These cables are inexpensive and easy to pick up – run a search on eBay.
Even though we finally know the release date and price of the Nexus 7 dock, there are simpler alternatives thanks to the huge third party market of iPad accessories. If you look on eBay or Amazon for tablet stands you’ll find a range of designs for very little money. If all you want is to have your Nexus 7 upright on your desk as a second screen, then pretty much any iPad stand will do.
Note that if you want to charge your Nexus 7 while standing on a generic tablet stand, you’ll need to make sure you have screen rotation enabled.
Even though the Nexus 7 has a capacious 4,325mAh battery, it can still run down quickly – especially if you’re using Bluetooth and/or GPS. You travel a lot, you should carry a portable charger, which is basically a huge battery, about the size of a phone. There are portable chargers out there with capacities as large as 8,000mAh – enough to charge the Nexus 7 twice. My personal choice is the Proporta TurboCharger 7000 (mAh).
The Pièce de résistance of Nexus 7 accessories are Bluetooth keyboards. While there is a huge market of Bluetooth keyboards, it’s best to buy something that has been designed specifically for your Nexus 7. There are plenty of leather cases with integrated keyboards designed for the Nexus 7. These are good options as long as you will be using the tablet in ‘laptop mode’ while on a desktop, but not on your lap given that they rely on a small stand that flips out from the back of the case.
The best keyboard I have found for the Nexus 7 doesn’t actually have a name, but if you search Google or eBay for “Nexus 7 keyboard stand” you’ll soon find the keyboard shown in the photos there. This keyboard provides a solid base, meaning that you can easily sit it on your lap as a (very) small laptop. It has a narrow trough that allows the Nexus 7 to slot in and sit at a slight angle.
In addition to being a keyboard, it also acts as a case. Its base is covered in a similarly rubberised material as the Nexus 7’s back, and the keyboard has clasps that allows it to clip onto the front of the tablet.
The best of all is that this keyboard is amazingly cheap. There’s no official distributor – it’s not even clear who makes this keyboard, but they’re fairly easy to find if you know what you’re looking for.
I highly recommend this keyboard if you want to turn your Nexus 7 into the Android equivalent of a Chromebook or Netbook.