Here’s why I love my iPad: It’s entertaining, informative, helpful to my work, and an indispensable travel tool. It helps me to connect with younger generations, who think it’s cool just to have one. I haven’t opened my trusty MacBook laptop (circa 2009) since I first lifted my iPad2’s cover last spring to see the vivid touchpad screen spring instantly to life—no startup time required. (I did ask a tech-savvy friend to help with the initial setup. Even Apple’s user-friendly systems intimidate me until I become familiar with them. I’ve learned to ask for help, and I always purchase extended warranties.)

The virtual keypad is large enough to tap out quick notes and e-mails, but I also bought a wireless keyboard—which basically gives my iPad the functionality of a laptop. Together, the iPad and keyboard are half the weight of my MacBook. The battery lasts about 10 hours if you close down most of the apps and select “Airplane Mode” (which shuts down Internet connectivity).

Another plus for travel: when you’re crammed in a coach seat, a tablet fits easily on the tray table. The most challenging thing is wading through the available apps—the App store listed 650,000 in June. Here are my choices for newbies:

  • Pages allows you to open Word documents and create new text documents, and iAnnotate allows you to not only read PDF documents but also to insert comments in them.
  • iA Writer creates text documents and pulls up a larger and more functional virtual keyboard.
  • Translate teaches basic greetings in other languages. You’ll get a phonetic text translation and audio pronunciation.
  • TedTalks is an app I tap on the road. Hearing these brilliant thinkers lifts me out of the travel doldrums.
  • Every morning I open The Weather Channel app to see an image of the current conditions (the wind blowing leaves from a tree, snow falling, etc.) and the weekly forecast. Then I swipe through headlines from The New York Times in the nifty Newsstand app.