Mindscope

30 11 2014

Apple’s iPad is the perfect device for summarizing and visualizing what’s going on in your brain.

Most of the apps available at the App Store are designed for special tasks like note taking, mind mapping, concept mapping, etc. But there are also innovative ideas combining different purposes in just one app.

For technical products Three-In-One, or let’s say X-InOne, is a synonym for a set of three/X features implemented in just one product. Three-In-One concepts are well-known from printers. For printing, copying, and scanning documents there is just one device which does it all.

IMG_3217.PNG

An example is the brandnew app Mindscope by John Goering.

It promises to be

Part mind-mapping tool, part outliner, part todo manager.
A multi-level magnet board for your brain.

The basic idea of John is to organize information in layers each attached to a text snippet.

Create a text snippet.
Tap on it to move into the next layer
(fortunately not the next layer of your touch screen but a software controlled stoarage)
Enter further information.
Go back by using the pinch gesture or tapping on the layer menu at the top of the screen.

If you installed the app the welcome screen presents several videos about the usage.

IMG_3218.PNG

In advance …

The app isn’t ready yet. It’s brandnew and if you are interested in using this tool you should be patient until John adds some necessary features users expect when using the tool for note taking and mind/concept mapping.

Not all readers are familiar with all the abbreviations used in the IT world. UI means the User Interface and describes the layout of an app seen by a user. Developers should follow some standards published by Apple in The iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

UX means the User Experience and describes what users feel when they use the app the first time and extensively later on. The iPad is made for apps simplifying daily tasks. If UI and UX isn’t perfect it’s likely that an app carves out a miserable existence or is deleted after a short time.

Both UI and UX are in some way subjective criteria. So take a look on the screenshots of Mindscope and build your own very personal opinion.

The UI was developed by an engaged team in Berlin, Germany, and for me it looks perfect. I’m convinced that we soon will see a high quality product with the well-known label ‘Made in Germany’. So there seems to be no reason to not purchase the additional features via an In-App-Purchase and getting all the projected refinements of future updates.

Features …

An image is more than a 1000 words. So please look at my collages to see how the app works.

Using the app is easier than any other app I used before. Although it should be mentioned that features are limited. It’s the task of John to keep it as simple as it is now after necessary features are added. Jaakko did it with his app Mindly and I hope John will do it as well.

An application …

Using the app Inspiration I created a short summary of how to sell an iOS device. To get familiar with Mindscope I transferred the information to a board in Mindscope.

IMG_3226.PNG

What we can see is that there might be problems of acceptance because Mindscope doesn’t support colors, shapes, and images. The only way to highlight essentials is to use a bold text possibly with a larger size.

Honestly said, the creation of the board shown above was a nightmare and here are just some of the reasons why:

  • The size of a board is limited to the screen size of the iPad. The content cannot be extended or moved around.
  • Boards cannot be zoomed.
  • Boards do not adapt their position relative to the keyboard coming up when you create a new object.
  • The shape coming up when multiple objects are selected often doesn’t surround the actual selection.
  • The press and long-press gesture often opens a new board and transfers the content of a text snippet into this board.

English is not my native language and so it’s quite difficult to describe what happened during the creation process but we should keep in mind that we are talking about a 1.0 version.

Anyway I’m not sure if developers should release apps where basic features are missing or the UX in some cases is near to annoy users. It’s getting harder and harder to compete with apps already available and constantly improved over years and so the release date for a new app should be considered carefully.

Missing features …

Developers like Jaakko Rantanen (developer of Mindly) who first released his app in December 2013 and launched powerful updates in January, April, and July 2014, skyrocketing ratings and sales did it right. Talk to your customers and delight with useful new features.

If John is only approximately on the level of Jaakko we will see a competitive offer which will have it’s place in the category of useful productivity apps.

The cons as of August 26, 2014 …

  • Syncing between iOS devices not supported
  • Images cannot be assigned to topics
  • Text colors are not supported
  • Proprietary file format available only on the device
    Files cannot be sent to cloud storages or by mail
  • Topics cannot be organized in folders
  • Shapes for topics are not available
    This is a quite important con because shapes are an indispensable option to use visualizations of complex topics.
  • The UNDO control is missing
    Sorry, but that’s an absolute No-Go.
  • No word wrap
    At the time the app is more suited for shorter text snippets.

Not listed are a couple of useful small parts in the program code which make users happy, e.g. aligning objects, duplicating objects, and, and, and.

IMG_3219.PNG

The developer tries to avoid on-screen controls which is definitely the right approach to let the user focus on content.

Remarks (October 23) …

To get an overview of the changes after my article was written please have a look at the Version History of the app in the App Store. Some useful features have been added but I still think that, after 2 months of being in the market it’s a no-go that there is still no UNDO feature.

Remarks (November 15)

Never give up. The sorely missed UNDO command was released in Mindscope 1.3 along with some other tweaks which can be looked up in the version history of the app in Apple’s App Store.

The app still has the subtitle ‘Mindscope – the Mind Mapping Out…’ although many features even of simple mind mapping tools are missing.

Summary …

The app looks quite promising. The next months will give us the answer whether it moves into the smiling sky of iOS apps or drops into no-man’s-land.

The app promises to be a tool for mind mapping, planning projects, taking meeting notes, creating flowcharts, tracking todos, and presenting information. This is a quite exaggerated announcement. To compete with a specialized app or a Three-In-One app like MagicalPad it needs tons of further improvements.

John, keep on following the KISS principle. This is what users expect from modern apps for the Apple’s mobile flagship for teaching, learning, and organizing.

Related links …

The developer’s website …

Mindscope

Mind mapping …

iThoughts

Mindly

Mind/Concept mapping …

Inspiration

Three In One

Mind Maps + Concept maps

Others …

Note taking

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





CloudOn

28 09 2014

To work on Microsoft Office files (Excel, Word, Powerpoint) you can either use an app like DocsToGo, a subscription of Office 365 (connected with Microsoft’s cloud service SkyDrive) or a free app called CloudOn by CloudOn Inc., first released in October 2011.

20140122-062353.jpg

CloudOn can be connected not only to SkyDrive but also to your Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Hightail accounts, and send or share files with colleagues and contacts via email directly from within the app. Some features like AirPrint are only available through the Pro version of CloudOn with an introductory offer of $2.99/month or $29.99/year.

The features …

CloudOn works with Microsoft Office documents stored on the above mentioned cloud storages. New files can be created and existing files can be edited. Microsoft’s proprietary file format is kept in either case. •So there is 100% compatibility with Office files and you do not have to worry that they will break or compatibility issues will occur.

  • CREATE, REVIEW and EDIT documents
    Create, review and edit Microsoft Word documents , Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on an iPad or an iPhone.
    •Insert charts, images, equations, SmartArt, clipart, tables, shapes and change format fonts, paragraphs, styles, themes and layout.
    •Review spelling and grammar, track changes, comments, annotations and rich markup.
    View and create charts (including pivot, bar, line, area etc), add formulas, filter etc.
  • ACCESS and MANAGE files
    •Seamlessly connect to and access Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents in your cloud storage provider account(s), including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive.
    •Open documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your email accounts as well as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive.
    •Copy, paste, delete, rename and move files across folders.
    •All files are saved automatically giving you the comfort that you won’t lose your data.
    •DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF are the file types supported by CloudOn.
  • SHARE and SEND documents
    You can work on the same doc with colleagues (understandably not simultaneously).
    •Use the FileSpace to add context to your work – view all the activity on any given doc including edits, action, and notes or if you prefer just send a link to the file by email.
  • AIR PRINT documents (feature of the Pro version)
    •Print Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets and Powerpoint Presentations.

Here is a summarization of all features created with a mind map with my favorite mind mapping tool iThoughts HD for the iPad.

20140122-194601.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

User interface …

The functionality of CloudOn is pretty straightforward, with a tidy interface that allows you to rearrange the layout of your files by tapping an icon. There are also shortcuts for creating a new document and for accessing the settings and other menu options.

20140122-063536.jpg

CloudOn also has an autosave feature, so if your quick burst of editing is interrupted, everything will have been saved for when you can come back to it.

The navigation features and the different ways to show files and storages are quite impressive. But navigation through folders is unfortunately not the main task of the app. It’s working inside a document.

20140122-062523.jpg

In contrast to Apple’s iWork suite the UI of CloudOn when working on a document is not perfectly adapted to touch screens. It just reflects what is well-known from the original versions of the Microsoft Office suite. With a “RIBBON” as the main menu bar it works like the big brother for desktops. This might be seen as an advantage by many users but others complain about the missing adoption for the iPad’s touch screen.

20140122-063019.jpg

This is the fully adapted keyboard of Apple’s spreadsheet application NUMBERS.

20140122-063119.jpg

As you can see Apple uses a fully adapted keyboard which fully supports the basic tasks done with a spreadsheet application like choosing the field type (text, number, date, term), building a sum, and using functions.

There would be a lot of features which should be added to CloudOn to facilitate typing on an iPad in Excel. CloudOn just helps a bit by adding a row at the top of the iPad keyboard with Ctrl, Alt, Shift, Tab, function, arrow, Esc, and Del keys.

Unfortunately there is a keyboard lag. A slight delay between touching the keys and the appearance of letters on screen makes the typing process feel disjointed. You might also recognize the usefulness of Apple’s autocorrect feature which is not working in CloudOn documents. It’s quite frustrating to manually correct all those minor typos.

In a group setting CloudOn’s lack of support for custom add-ons, templates, auto-correct settings, and other advanced features may limit the program’s usefulness. Still, the word processor lets you track and accept changes, show or hide markup, make and view comments, restrict editing, and compare and combine versions.
Similarly, the mobile versions of the spreadsheet and presentation apps provide most of the features you’ve come to expect in Excel and PowerPoint, respectively.

Summary …

For all the productivity apps working on Microsoft Office files this is still valid:

It’s not that it does it well,
it’s that it does it at all.

CloudOn goes far beyond the basics to provide a full set of word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation features in a familiar interface. But it’s still not adapted to touch screens.

So the usefulness is only given if there is a constraint to stay fully compatible with Microsoft’s file formats. It’s also useful if documents are just for accessing information or making smaller changes.

In general the concept of porting a desktop app to an iPad with just slight modifications is wrong and will not be accepted by the majority of users. We are living in year 4 after the launch of the first iPad and users need and want apps fully adapted to touch screens.

A further disappointing approach to manage Microsoft Office files and a certificate of poverty for Microsoft not to offer an iPad version of their Office 365 Suite.

Related links …

Office 365 for Mobiles

Thanks for dropping by.





About apps

10 09 2014

‘App’ is the modern term for application which means a set of instructions to let your device solve life’s dilemmas one app at a time.

Inextricably linked with apps are small animals which most aggressive life forms are well-known from tropical areas and called bugs. Today we have them also massively in the temperate zones and they are distributed for free by Apple, Microsoft, Google, medium-sized companies, and individual enterprises mainly via Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

20140617-091131-33091606.jpg

Free apps are almost always designed for promoting services or developed by individuals who just like programming or want to carve out a way to success in getting commissional work. It’s obvious that the paid ones are made for making money. Unfortunately many of them are offered just for making money. Developers should know that this is a short-term strategy and often borders on fraud.

We, as the customers, should punish these companies by writing appropriate reviews and ask Apple for refund of costs.

Note
A lot of craptacular apps that should never find their way to your iOS device can be found in the App Store. Apple just controls conformity of apps with their guidelines but doesn’t identify crap. Although Apple’s terms and conditions state that ‘All sales and rentals are final’ you can apply for a refund if your cause is legitimate. Here is how to do it:

  • Open your iTunes Account.
  • Open the Purchase History.
  • Click on ‘Report a problem’.
  • Select the app and click on ‘Report a problem’.
  • Choose one of the six categories Apple lists for app-related complaints and add legitimate reasons.

It’s still one of the biggest disadvantages of Apple’s App Store not to offer apps free for a limited time to decide if you want to keep it. Serious developers offer a so-called ‘Lite Version’ for free with some limitations of features.

Well, independent of the motivation individuals or businesses have when offering apps customers are only interested in bug-free versions just doing what they are intended for and offering a great user experience described in Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines.

Classification of apps …

When we talk about apps we should first classify them.

Speaking in broad strokes apps may be classified as follows:

  • Table-Based Apps
    The app allows access to hierarchically organized data. Opening the app displays topics and often a Search-Field where you can enter a term. the app then displays topics matching the term. Tapping on a topic displays related information.
    Examples: dictionary, product description with parts lists
  • App based on Complex Databases
    This type of app is an extension to simple table-based apps with improved features of parsing out content. Often included is an online access that allows updating of the database to always work with actual data managed on a webserver. A simple solution is to download updated on demand and store them permanently in a local folder of the device. So the user is independent of a working internet connection. A more complex solution is the retrieval of updated records when needed.
  • Apps Improving Built-In Features
    iOS provides tons of features developers have access to. But some of Apple’s built-in apps don’t meet the requirements of users. With the camera you can take photos of several pages of a document. You will need an additional app to convert these image files into a single PDF, the scanned document.
    A typical example is Readdle’s app Scanner Pro where scanned documents additionally may be organized in folders.
  • Fully Dynamic Apps
    Similar to the database driven apps, these apps are the kind that rely purely on external information – Apps for social networking like Twitter, Weather Pro, WordPress, etc. usually there is Read-Write access to webservers (read tweets for displaying them, write new tweets).
    Some apps additionally provide encryption when transferring data from or to the device.
  • Apps for Creating Data
    The user enters the content (writes letters, creates spreadsheets, or presentations, annotates PDFs), manages storage places (local folders and cloud storages), uses convert algorithms (Microsoft Word to Apple Pages) and shares documents with other users. Typical apps of this kind are Apple’s iWork suite, Tap Forms Database, iThoughts Mind Mapping, Adobe Reader, etc.
  • Games
    These have the largest range of complexity, starting with something as simple as a PONG type functionality (PONG=one of the earliest video games by Atari) all the way up to a 3D physics engine that does high speed air racing. Scoring points, incorporating the user experience through the physical movement of the device, and hooking into Game Center are all possible.

Testing …

Developers have to learn four simple rules to become successful.

  • Take care about the system analysis.
    It’s the process of studying procedures in order to identify its goals and purposes and create a system (the app) that will achieve them in an efficient way.
  • Test your app and if you don’t find a bug test it again.
    Before starting any tests, developers have to shut down and use their schizophrenic partition to reboot. From now on they must behave like bad guys trying to destroy the whole work of this incompetent developer.
  • Listen to your customers.
    If features and the UI are driven by customer requests and feedbacks it’s likely that you will be successful with your business.
  • Set up a platform.
    That means create a mobile friendly website without ad, engage in social networks, etc.

All this doesn’t help if the app isn’t stable or the UI doesn’t feel like ‘Made for Apple’s mobiles’.

Here is how testing should work but in most cases it obviously doesn’t. One of the developers I’m talking about should be expected to do a professional job but it’s an individual enterprise which shows us how to do the job – a painful affair for the big company.

20140619-091058-33058773.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts for iOS (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Testing an application is an indispensable task and it often takes more time to go through all the test scenarios than to write the code. The most important part of the whole testing procedure is called Functional Testing. This is a type of black box testing that is based on the specifications of the software that is to be tested.

Keep in mind that the developers of iThoughts and Tap Forms do it all alone.
They are project manager, quality assurance manager, programmer, CEO, website owner, publicity expert, accounting clerk, and often
complaisant husband, father of some kids, owner of a dog and tax payer.

The application as a whole system is tested by providing input and evaluating the system’s compliance with its specified requirements.

  • Unit Testing
    Unit Testing is performed by developers on individual units of source code. The developers use test data that is separate from the test data of the quality assurance team.
    The goal of unit testing is to isolate each part of the program and show that individual parts are correct in terms of requirements and functionality.
  • Integration Testing
    Integration Testing is done to determine whether all single units of the app properly work together.
  • System Testing
    Once all the components are integrated, the application as a whole is tested to see wether it meets the quality standards. This type of testing is performed by a specialized testing team. System Testing is one of the most important steps on the long way from an idea to the deployment of an app.

    • System Testing is the first step in the Software Development Life Cycle, where the application is tested as a whole.
    • The application is tested thoroughly to verify that it meets the functional and technical specifications.
    • The application is tested in an environment which is very close to the production environment where the application will be deployed.
    • System Testing enables the developers to test, verify, and validate both the business requirements as well as the application architecture.
  • Regression Testing
    Whenever an app is updated it is quite possible that other areas within the app have been affected by this change. The intent of Regression Testing is to ensure that a change, such as a bug fix did not result in another fault being uncovered in the application.
  • Acceptance Testing
    This is arguably the most important type of testing as it is conducted by the Quality Assurance Team who will gauge whether the application meets the intended specifications and satisfies the client.s requirements. The QA team will have a set of pre written scenarios and test cases that will be used to test the application.
  • Alpha Testing
    Unit testing, integration testing and system testing when combined are known as alpha testing. The teams look for spelling, broken links, quality of the help system, etc. The app will be tested on devices with the lowest specification to test loading times and any latency problems.
  • Beta Testing
    In beta testing a sample of the intended audience tests the application. Beta testing is also known as pre-release testing. Beta test versions of software are ideally distributed to a wide audience on the Web, partly to give the program a “real-world” test and partly to provide a preview of the next release. The audience will be testing the following:

    • Users will install, run the application and send their feedback to the project team.
    • Typographical errors, confusing application flow, and even crashes.
    • Getting the feedback, the project team can fix the problems before releasing the software to the actual users.
    • The more issues you fix that solve real user problems, the higher the quality of your application will be.
    • Having a higher-quality application when you release to the general public will increase customer satisfaction.

Two examples …

As a mind mapper and an engaged member of Google+ I frequently use my preferred mind mapping tool iThoughts by toketaWare as well as Google’s app Google+.

toketaWare
is a small software development business based in the UK (just outside York.) When I say small, I mean really small. Currently it’s just me, Craig Scott.
In addition to the iThoughts mindmap products, toketaWare also builds/maintains makeDoc and makeSlides (iOS apps for converting Markdown, OPML and text into MS Word and PowerPoint files).
Toketa is a term used in Judo to describe when a person has escaped from being pinned down i.e. they’ve broken free. Seemed apt somehow – software that sets you free. That’s the goal anyhow!

Google
Well, what can I say, the app Stocks on my iPhone tells me that the market capital is $378,1B. Without knowing the capital of toketaWare I’m quite sure that Google is ahead.

The app Google+ crashes a couple of times each day when my iPhone 4S running on iOS 7 is unlocked and the app was in suspended mode. This happens since about 12 months and the problem can easily be proofed by countless complaints in different communities on Google+.

20140617-092123-33683418.jpg

But there is even more. The app doesn’t provide any useful support for moderators and doesn’t allow relevant settings for your Google+ account. Searching, limited to content if specific communities is not possible. There is no list of people you have blocked. Text typed in the comment section may get lost if you switch to another app and return to the G+ app. Formatting is supported only by using special characters like *, -, and _.

If you look up the version history starting on 2011-12-05 (version 1.0.7.2940) you will find many useless new features within the 25 updated versions and countless bug fixes which didn’t fix the most annoying bugs.

Let’s have a look on the Reviews. I found 4.651 reviews for all versions which is definitely a negligible quantity compared to the number of downloads. The consequence for me is that reviews published in the App Store are most often useless if it comes to an objective assessment of an app based on a large/representative number of users.

Reasons are …

  • Apple hasn’t built bug reporting into the App Store, so customers use one-star ratings as a way of reporting bugs.
    Developers cannot contact people who post ratings.
  • People are much more likely to complain than to praise. If you have an app that crashes for 0.01% of your users, those users are generally not going to quietly ask Apple for refund. They’re going to post a negative review. However, the 99.99% of people for whom the app works great are not going to post five-star ratings.
  • The App Store only shows the ratings given to the latest version of an app. Every time a minor update is released, the app’s ratings history is effectively wiped out. If 0.01% of the users have a problem, the app ends up with ten one-star reviews which is a disaster for a developer.
  • Ratings are often made after a short time of usage and they most often do not reflect systematically collected experiences.

For those who make their living on the App Store, a one-star rating is an existential threat. If an app is rated one star, nobody will look at it or buy it. If it’s rated five stars, the company will make a decent living but lack of features may still hamper the usage of many customers. A typical case is the missing support for the WebDAV protocol which is essential if users do not have accounts for the predefined cloud providers offered in the app’s settings.

Since years I’m in close contact with two small companies

  • Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada
    developing the database application Tap Forms
  • toketaWare, UK
    developing the mind mapping tool iThoughts

following Steve Jobs’ philosophy

To purchase is to build relationships.

A fast, understandable and friendly support ends up in a win-win-situation for both, customers and developers. Regardless of any educational background developers can learn from their customers.

Let’s have a look on the presentation of the app iThoughts.

20140617-092449-33889330.jpg

Meaningful images, factual descriptions of relevant features, a link to a website with lots of useful information and a ‘What’s new’ mind map delivered with every update.

I summarized the updates in a mind map. toketaWare publishes the details of updates in contrast to many other developers just describing their new versions with useless notes like

  • Various bug fixes
  • Overall performance improvements
  • Runs better than before
  • Improvements for reliability
  • Fixes to make the app a little better for you

20140617-092545-33945285.jpg

Apple’s guidelines …

An iPhone, by itself, is a somewhat dull device after you get over touching the screen of a cell phone. Sure, it’s an innovative device, but it’s just another cell phone with a unique way of interacting with it before applications are added.

20140617-094432-35072473.jpg

But once applications are added to the device, it becomes a far more compelling product with a series of great applications that easily make it the best cell phone in the market. And it’s because of Apple’s Guidelines every developer has to follow when offering software products.

20140617-181711-65831661.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts for iOS (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Summary …

Developing an app successfully running through all stress tests and following Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines is a quite complex task and it doesn’t differ from the development of an application running on computers.

Character traits define your personality, your underlying values and your beliefs. Maybe you remember my interview with Brendan Duddridge, the developer of the awarded database app Tap Forms.

I like Steve’s philosophy on design. Make it simple and beautiful to use. Steve surrounded himself with brilliant people who he could command to do the best work of their lives. I don’t have that luxury so I just try to build the best and easiest to use app that I can possibly think of.
(Brendan Duddridge)

I take my hat off to all the individual enterprises doing their job much better than their big competitors.

Related links …

App Development + Marketing

iThoughts, redesigned, reengineered, re-everythinged

Tap Zapp Software Inc.

Google+ on iOS devices

About guidelines …

App Store Review Guidelines

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

UI Design Dos and Don’ts

Thanks for dropping by.





iThoughts, redesigned, reengineered, re-everythinged

23 05 2014

On May 13, 2014, Craig Scott, the developer of the mind mapping tool iThoughts released a new version designed for iOS 7. It took him 9 months of reviewing the new features of iOS 7, testing them (even Apple isn’t perfect), and redesigning the old version. So it’s understandable that the new version is not free but comes up with a really fair price (80% off). Craig got bills to pay, kids to feed and more.

20140515-200300.jpg

Let’s say it with an Apple slogan for marketing the MacBook Air …

Redesigned.
Reengineered.
Re-everythinged.

To make it clear, re-everythinged doesn’t mean that users have to learn it all again. It’s still an application which can be used intuitively and users migrating from the predecessor will not have problems to immediately continue working on maps.

Craig’s company …

Craig Scott about his company …

toketaWare is a small software development business based in the UK (just outside York.) When I say small, I mean really small. Currently it’s just me Craig Scott.
In addition to the iThoughts mindmap products, toketaWare also builds/maintains makeDoc and makeSlides (iOS apps for converting Markdown, OPML and text into MS Word and PowerPoint files).
Toketa is a term used in Judo to describe when a person has escaped from being pinned down i.e. they’ve broken free. Seemed apt somehow – software that sets you free. That’s the goal anyhow!

Craig’s philosophy …

Steve gave us the iPad and Craig the app iThoughts.
Well, in some way this might be an inappropriate connection between people and products. On the other hand there are only a few developers who were able to adapt an application to a touchscreen in such a perfect way and to internalize many of the intangible assets of Apple and it’s innovative leader of the past.

Craig Scott brought home the bacon.

He started developing his mind mapping tool already prior to the launch of the iPad in April 2010. It’s not only an excellent coding but also a deep insight in what Apple intended to offer it’s customers. In his lecture about mind mapping on Biggerplate Unplugged (London 2013), Craig called it Touchy Feely Mind Mapping.

A mind mapping tool is an application for improving knowledge and personality as well as summarizing facts and ideas. In so far there is indeed a virtual connection between Steve and Craig. Priorities for both were/are:

Focus (on essentials)
Say NO (to bells and whistles)

People appreciate apps that feel as though they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to the gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for. And, although people might not be aware of human interface design principles, such as direct manipulation or consistency, they can tell when apps follow them and when they don’t.

iThoughts follows

Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines

in a perfect way. To use the app a documentation is basically not needed bit in cases directly accessible from within the app, e.g. creating doodles.

For example there is one and only one taskbar which is divided into two parts with a Share control in the center. On the left side there are file management features and settings. On the right side you will find all features needed for editing a map with the most important control (i), the inspector, to set all the properties of topics.

Craig on his website
The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request – although there are some ‘core principles’ underpinning the whole thing as follows:

  • User Interface is everything
    if it’s not usable then people will not use it.
  • Interoperability is vital
    must play nicely with existing tools/services.
  • Stay focused
    mindmapping is what the app does.

The result of following these simple rules convinces everyone immediately after installation and it is the ultimate way to successful marketing via the Apple’s App Store.

The redesigned app …

In many articles about mind mapping I always talked about iThoughts as the most powerful tool for the iPad and a wonder of stability compared to other apps developed by really big companies (I’m just thinking about Google+ for iOS which crashed again while working on this post and looking up new notifications).

So it’s time to review the redesigned version including all the useful updates it got over time. All the powerful features let users create impressive maps. They can be shared in lots of different file formats up to nearly all needs.

A mind map is worth a thousand words so here is a full feature description of Craig’s tool. The map was created with the new version of iThoughts in June 2014.

20140518-194942.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The old version …

The old version can still be downloaded but not purchased. There will be no more updates and bug fixes. This is largely because Apple does not allow updates to apps unless they are build using the iOS 7 technology.

The migration …

After installing the new version you immediately feel back home.

20140515-211500.jpg

There is also an easy way to migrate from the predecessor and this is obviously in the line with Craig’s philosophy of perfectness.

After installing the new version there are two ways to transfer maps.

  • 1 If you already use a cloud folder synced to Dropbox then you can create a similar setup within the new version and have it sync your maps down.
    For more details see How to sync.
  • 2 If you are not syncing with Dropbox then you can use the ‘Send Archive … to app’ feature in the previous version to send a copy of all your maps over into the new version. Once you maps are successfully transferred you can delete the old app. Keep in mind that deleting an app always goes along with deleting all it’s data. This is due to the iOS file system. So first check out the new app and keep the older version for some time.

The anatomy …

If you are new to iThoughts it’s worth understanding the anatomy of an iThoughts screen.

20140523-151528.jpg

I created this map directly from toketaWare’s website (I hope by courtesy of Craig) by using the screen’s image as the center of the map, copied the outlined description to the clipboard and used the ‘text to map’ feature described further down to generate the topics. That’s it. Admittedly I did some further work to improve the layout.

The new features …

The following features are implemented in the new version … •

  • Universal app, you buy it once and install it on all your iOS devices.
  • Rich text support everywhere
    bold, italic, underline, fonts, sizes, colours – all in the same text block
  • Totally new cloud sync architecture – much faster and more reliable
  • Extensive bluetooth keyboard support
  • Multiple selection of topics (SHIFT)
    Left handed?
    If you’re left handed and find it tricky to use the SHIFT button then you can switch this to the other side in the ‘System Settings’ under the ‘Options’ menu.
  • Independently resize topic, image or text
  • New map picker with thumbnail previews, favourites and recycle/trash system
  • Imports Markdown format files•
  • Imports Mindnode and Simtech Mindmapper maps
  • Exports as a ‘website’ (package of HTML, clickable images and attachments.)
  • Export as multi page PDF (which can then be printed out and stuck together into a ‘poster’)
  • Research feature can now download websites for off line viewing (as a .webarchive)
  • System settings accessible from within the app
  • Relationship improvements (drag the actual curve – even drag the end to another topic) •
  • Choose a default colour for callouts
  • Infinite (effectively) and dynamic canvas which grows and shrinks to fit the map

These features have been retired permanently …

  • • Passcode protection •
  • Dimming branches (‘hide completed tasks’ and ‘show unfocused topics’) •
    Shadows
  • Novamind4 and iMindmap4 import/export support
  • TextExpander support
  • Support for WebDAV or Box.com cloud services
  • Splitting branches into separate maps automatically.
  • ‘Based upon’ options when creating new maps.
  • Version history for maps.
  • Paste Style
  • $date and $time variables

Well, no reason to shed crocodile tears. Well done Craig with one exception, the ‘Paste Style’ feature should be returned.

Some details …

My tagline on Google+ is ‘Doing things accurately’. So my blog posts seem to be long but there are two reasons why this is the case:

1 Reviewing a powerful app cannot be done with writing ‘Awesome …’, ‘Best app of the week …’ etc. it needs some weeks to assess a tool and give the reasons for a final rating.

2 Some developers do an outstanding job and in this case it’s simply funny for a leisure blogger not driven by Click Stats to go into the details.

So I think it’s worth spending the time to look at some tidbits of iThoughts and the sophisticated considerations Craig put in the code.

Using the Inspector

Mind maps can drastically be improved by using adequate connectors, colors, shapes, images, numbering, and size of topics according to its importance. Be aware that the appropriate usage of attributes may attract an audience, force further discussions, and last but not least remain in the peoples photographic memory for a longer time compared to a more simplistic layout. But you shouldn’t go over the top. A informative map in most cases shouldn’t be degraded to artwork.

20140515-211756.jpg

20140516-210610.jpg

These images show the main features of iThoughts for improving layouts and with it, breathing life, attractiveness, and a better understanding into the map. All dialogs are integrated in the Inspector control (top right).

Using Links

Today nearly all kind of information is accessible via the Internet. It’s a giant knowledge base. To provide background information from within a mind map iThoughts allows the assignment of hyperlinks to a node. When opening a link app switching between iThoughts and Safari is not necessary because of iThought’s integrated browser. This is an indispensable feature for mobile devices because of their One-Window technique.

It’s also possible to seamlessly assign links to a topic by just tapping on Research in the context menu and using one of the options (Copy Link, Insert Link, Make Topic) offered in the browser’s task bar.

20140516-082523.jpg

Even if you are within Safari iThoughts can be directly accessed by using this bookmarklet

javascript:void(location.href=’ithoughts://link?url=’+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+’&title=’+encodeURIComponent(document.title))

which can be easily integrated in the bookmarks bar of Safari and allows permanent and fast access to iThoughts. See the instruction for installing the bookmarklet here

iThoughts bookmarklet for Safari

Commenting

Some maps are hard to understand because they often reflect a very subjective process of thinking about topics. To make it understandable for others it’s indispensable to add comment to topics.

iThoughts allows two options for commenting on topics.

20140517-112740.jpg

As a third way you can use a normal topic and place text into it like I did in the map ‘Anatomy of iThought’.

Note
Commenting or even creating topics can be done with Siri, Apple’s speech driven assistant which can be started by just tapping on the small microphone button to the left of the keyboard’s spacebar. To create a sequence of topics use the word ‘comma‘ which is interpreted as ‘create new topic’.

Adding attachments

Mind Maps visually summarize information but sometimes it’s necessary to refer to documents containing detailed description.

The map in my example is about security features provided by Apple. Basics of the 2-Step Verification for Apple accounts are explained in subtopics. I created a detailed description of the activation process and the usage in a Keynote presentation which contains a lot of screenshots and comments. To make it available in a mind map iThoughts allows to attach whole documents to topics.

20140518-094457.jpg

Here are the steps to go explained with a Keynote document…

  • Open Keynote
  • Use ‘Open in Another App
  • Select the presentation you want as the attachment
  • Select the file format (Keynote, PDF, Powerpoint)
  • Select iThoughts in the app’s menu
  • Use Paste to attach the document to a topic

While presenting your map to an audience you are now able to go into the details of 2-Step Verification.

Note
Attached documents are stored in the mind map file in their native format. So the source file travels with the map when sharing it.
The recipient can then work on the mind map as well as on the attached documents and send them back both.

Topics with attached documents are marked with small icons pointing to the source application. Use ‘Tap and Hold’ to open the document within iThoughts or use ‘Open in’ to further work on the attachment.

Further information is available under

iWork and iThoughts

Creating from text

Tap on any topic or select any piece of text within a map and one of the options presented will be an internet Research. Research will take the text and ‘Google it’ – using the built-in browser of iThoughts. Once you are on websites, press and hold on images, text and links on the page and have them turned into topics in the map. This makes it easy to quickly collate information from the web – without requiring a whole load of copy/switch app/paste operations.

20140517-072930.jpg

If you mark parts of a text within the built-in browser of iThoughts or any other app you can insert the text a topic, or several topics (if the the text is outlined) or a note. All formatting attributes are automatically stripped off.

20140517-094203.jpg

Sometimes it’s useful to collect ideas on the go with simple text editors like ByWord or PlainText. An outlined text then can create topics and subtopics if pasted into a map. To generate subtopics the text line must be indented by at least 4 spaces.

Creating Websites

iThoughts can generate (and email/upload) an associated HTML page. It contains what is known as an Image Map.
This tells the browser to treat different parts of the image as clickable Hotspots. iThoughts will automatically associate a hotspot with each topic – then associate that hotspot with a hyperlink (if the topic has one.)

This makes it simple to publish a static, clickable mindmap webpage.

20140518-072058.jpg

As an example – take a look at the following link – generated by iThoughts and uploaded to Dropbox then made publicly visible – essentially using Dropbox as a website hosting provider.

Mind Map Webpage

The process is as follows:

  • Create your map – adding links to topics as appropriate.
  • Select ‘Send Map To Cloud’ and choose the Website.zip export format.
  • Choose a folder to upload the file.
  • Once uploaded, use the Dropbox ‘Copy Public Link’ option (from your desktop) to get the public web address of the uploaded HTML file (you may need to make the folder public/shared.)

That’s it – your map is now published as a clickable web page. If you’re using Dropbox then you can use the built in iThoughts sync to refresh the image/HTML as your map changes.

Image maps on websites act as attractive navigators. People are much more about to retrieve information than with traditional link lists.

Map Recovery

iThoughtsHD automatically saves your work every 60 seconds (or when the app is closed/suspended.) It also creates a ‘snapshot backup’ (copy) of your map each time it is modified then closed. It keeps 10 previous snapshot versions (of each map) on disk – any one of which can be recovered.

In the menu under the ‘gear’ toolbar button is an option called ‘Save Archive’. This will take all your maps and zip them up into a single archive file then send that archive over into another app. Typically you would use this to send the archive into your Dropbox app – or perhaps your Evernote app. Those apps will then take care of uploading the archive into the cloud – and most importantly – off your device.

iThoughts will nag you each week to save an archive in this way.

The archive file is simply a zip file containing a folder structure of .itmz files. To recover a map, unzip it on your desktop, locate the map and send it back into iThoughts.

You can recover all the maps within the archive in a single operation by sending the zip file itself back into iThoughts. The contents of the archive will be restored into a new folder – your existing maps are not overwritten.

In addition to the above, each day (of use) iThoughts will automatically create an archive. By default, it will store the last 5 archives (days.) You can pull these archives over onto your desktop if necessary. This can be useful if you want to recover a deleted map.

Save, Export, Share

File formats of mind mapping tools are unfortunately not standardized. Each developer of mind mapping tools knows this. However none of the many tools pay attention to this fact by implementing adequate options to save a map in all the well-known file formats of other tool, except iThoughts.

20140516-202559.jpg

If you want to become a mapper you should register on BIGGERPLATE.com to access more than 50k mind maps and to upload your own maps to this work-wide largest mind mapping platform.

Using iThoughts you should know something about compatibility of the different file formats actually supported by Biggerplate as of June 2014. These are:

Application File format
iMindQ (DropMind) DMMX
ConceptDraw CDMZ
XMind XMIND
Mindjet Manager MMAP
iMindMap IMX
Mind Genius MGMF

When downloading a map from Biggerplate you get the best results within iThoughts if the original map was uploaded in MMAP (Mind Manager) format.

You can find further information about compatibility on Craig’s website

iThoughts FAQ, Compatibility

In addition to the above iThoughts can also import AND export OPML which is a relatively standard format for documenting hierarchical data (although it doesn’t support positioning, colours, shapes etc.)

Note
If you use the PDF or PNG format your map is automatically resized independent of the actual display on your device. Collapsed and expanded topics appear as on the screen. Complex maps need much space so that you have to limit expanded topics to the most important ones. Otherwise details will be too small to perceive. As an alternative iThoughts allows to export single topics and you may use this feature to seamlessly display important parts with a suitable resolution.

An extended keyboard

It’s in the line of Craig’s sophisticated coding to add useful features to Apple’s standard keyboard for writing and formatting text in shaped topics.

20140516-192350.jpg

You don’t like onscreen keyboards and prefer a BT keyboard?
Well, here is a table with all supported shortcuts

FAQ, Keyboard Shortcuts

Doodles
How to doodle

A doodle is a simple finger drawing tool within iThoughts. It is ‘vector based’ which means each line can be manipulated individually and continuously. Doodles can be attached to topics and exported as PDF, SVG or PNG files.

Use your finger to draw lines (known as ‘strokes’.) To move the canvas itself you must drag it with 2 fingers. This differs from the rest of the app, where a single finger is used to drag the canvas. If you accidentally draw a line when intending to drag the canvas (as I STILL do) then you can hit UNDO to remove it.

20140516-091330.jpg

The numbers in the image above are described as follows:

1 Tap on a ‘stroke’ to select it. When selected it will have a blue ‘glow’ around it. Once selected, any changes to thickness, dashed’ness or colour (#3, #4, #5) will apply to the selected stroke(s.) Tap on a selected stroke to see Cut, Copy, Paste type options (including options to ‘Send to Back’) Drag a selected stroke to move it.

2 Press and hold SHIFT whilst tapping on strokes to select/deselect multiple stokes. SHIFT then drag the canvas will create a ‘selection marquee’ to help select multiple strokes more quickly. SHIFT then drag an already selected stroke(s) will duplicate the stoke(s)

3 Set the stoke thickness. If a stroke is selected then it will apply to that stroke. If no stroke is selected it will become the default for any new strokes.

4 Set the stroke to be ‘dashed’

5 Set the stroke colour.

6 Share the selected strokes or whole doodle (typically in an email attachment.)

7 There is no ‘eraser’ type feature – you can only delete whole strokes by selecting them then tapping on the waste bin icon in the lower corner (or dragging/dropping the stroke onto the bin.)

Text Formatting

A gift from heaven Craig, Rich text support everywhere.

20140518-102519.jpg

Visualized information still needs text to understand the content. With the new version of iThoughts visualized accentuations now can also be done within textual information.

Linked Folders (sync)
How To

Your maps can be synced automatically between iPad, iPhone and desktop (Mac or Windows) by using Dropbox and iThoughts Linked Folders.

I’m a wretched failure when it comes to creating videos. So have a look at Craig’s screencast (5 min) which demonstrates the usage of Linked Folders.

There are some caveats to be aware of when syncing:

Syncing only happens if a device is connected to a WiFi network (by default) except you turned on Mobile Data Syncing in the iOS Settings.
By default local changes are synced 30 seconds after the app is closed.
Remote changes are checked for when the app starts (but no more frequently than every 10 minutes).

Improved Context Menus

I’m an old man but I also heard young people complaining about wavering hands causing a perfect disaster when arranging objects on a touch screen. So here is just one example of iThoughts’ improved context menus which let people think you are in full control of your fore limbs.

20140518-105420.jpg

There are many more new features implemented in the context menus which increase seamless usage.

20140518-112246.jpg

Just explore them.

Settings

Now Settings are accessible directly within the app. Thanks a bunch!
Have a look on the many options you have to customize the app.

20140518-122200.jpg

Please don’t ask me for explaining all the options. Just try them out or request for a fixed-price offer if you want me to do it for you.

Some cons …

Nobody is perfect and it’s surprisingly also valid for Craig.

  • Due to iOS 7 the new version is not as responsible as the old version. If you use multitasking it takes some time to wake up the app from suspended mode. I used an iPad 3 running on iOS 7.1.1 and I think it would run much smoother on an iPad Air with its 64-Bit processor.
  • An outlined collection of links still cannot be inserted as topics. The links are there but not activated. They are interpreted as normal text.

You remember the words of Craig “The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request”. Don’t panic though. Let an email wing its way to the tech guy Craig with a severe reprimand and your suggestions. I’m sure he will take care but you should give him some time. Beside bills to pay and kids to feed there are some more things to be done, e.g. Christmas shopping, ironing, washing-up, and more.

Version history …

iThoughts was completely redesigned. So it’s obvious that there are bugs to be fixed and features to be added.

Feel free to download a regularly updated overview of iThoughts’ version history.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ

Some examples …

I created these maps with the predecessor or iThoughts and downloaded them from my Dropbox account into the new version.

Tap an image to zoom in.

Summary …

iThoughts is still the best mind mapping tool for Apple’s mobiles and the actual version is a quite significant step forward into Apple’s new design philosophy.

Related links …

About the new version …

iThoughts migration

About the predecessor …

iThoughts for the iPad

More about features …

iWork and iThoughts

Non-Linear Presentation

About a competitor …

Inspiration

About mind mapping …

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Mind Maps + Concept Maps

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Box for iOS

12 05 2014

In January 2014 Box offered a free 50 GB storage for those who downloaded the iOS app from Apple’s App Store. Usually it’s 10 GB anyway a lot more than the well-known Dropbox with 2 GB.

With a perfect client app and a clean web-based interface it’s worth to take a look on the offer of Box Inc., USA.

Martin Destagnol, who heads mobile engineering at Box said

We are really committed to making the user experience of this app the best in the world.

20140511-180305.jpg

To help with that, Box hired Mallory Paine to head up iOS development at Box. Paine was an engineer on the original iPhone and most recently was director of mobile engineering at Path.

Expectations …

What do users expect when using a cloud storage on an iOS device?

  • encryption while data in transit to and from the cloud
  • encryption while data at rest on the cloud
  • create files and folders
  • delete files and folders
  • move files to other folders
  • rename files and folders
  • send files by mail
  • send file by link (share)
  • multi-selection for file operations (delete, copy, move)
  • copy link (for further use)
  • share files by retrieving a link to files/folders
  • menu for recently accessed files
  • powerful full-text search within folders with highlighted search pattern matches
    (searching for just file names is nice to have but normally useless)
  • options for sorting files and folders by name and date changed ascending and descending
  • availability of the ‘Open in’ command to directly transfer a file to an appropriate application
  • preview for all well-known file formats
  • supported file formats
    txt, csv, image file formats like jpg, png, etc
    Office file formats like
    docx/xlsx/ppt (Microsoft), numbers/pages/key (Apple)

Security …

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

Terms of services …

To register for a free cloud storage is easy and fast.
Go to the website, fill in your mail address, a password and click on Submit. Usually you will get a conformation mail. Confirm and you can access 2, 5 or up to 50 GB space in the cloud.

But did you read all the Terms of Services of your provider?
See what may happen with your data if it’s a free account.

In addition to other termination provisions, if your account it not currently subject to a paid subscription plan with us, we at our discretion may terminate your account if: (a) you do not engage in any activity in your account within thirty (30) days after becoming a Registered User, or (b) you do not engage in any activity in your account for any period of one-hundred and twenty (120) consecutive days. In the event of such termination, any Content you may have stored will be lost.
(Aug 1, 2013)
TOS Box Inc.

Other providers operate with nearly the same terms.

Features of Box for iOS …

Let’s have a look on the clean and tidy user interface …

20140202-152821.jpg

Box offers useful settings.

20140202-152943.jpg

Downloaded documents can be displayed in portrait and landscape mode and the additional toolbar can be overlaid on the right side e.g. sharing or moving the file to an other folder.

20140202-153048.jpg

What I miss in many client applications for mobiles: full text search within documents with highlighted matches.

20140203-062203.jpg

The Box client is connected to installed apps on your device. In the ‘Add item’ section (top right) you can create documents with suggested apps. The app is automatically opened and the created file is saved in the Box folder.

20140202-153144.jpg

People you share files with see this clean and tidy web interface.

20140202-153240.jpg

Additionally there are comprehensive stats available which show all activities on your account. With an appropriate setting of email notifications you are always informed e.g. about downloads of shared files.

20140202-153324.jpg

Box offers some useful sharing options.

20140202-153426.jpg

Here is a full feature description of the Box client app visualized in a mind map.

20140509-174925.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Box edit …

A really powerful feature of Box is Box Edit.
Box Edit is an add-on feature that allows you to edit or create files directly on Box. Designed for all file types, browsers, and platforms, Box Edit uses the default application installed on your computer to edit or create simple and centralized content: DOC files open in Microsoft Word, PPT files open in Microsoft PowerPoint, images open in Photoshop (if installed), CAD files open in AutoCAD, and so forth.

Unfortunately this feature is still a bit embryonic if used on Apple’s mobiles.
The only app which is actually supported without crashing the Box app is CloudOn.

20140202-153524.jpg

If you create a document with Box Edit the native app opens and a small Box-symbol appears. After finishing the work the Box app is re-launched and the file is saved on the Box account.

Box sync …

Because mobile operating systems like iOS don’t reveal the file system to the end user, Box has focused on integrating with applications.

Instead of syncing files/folders, they are working with app developers so that users can sync the content of their favorite apps directly to Box. Apps with direct integration like GoodReader and DocsToGo, allow you to connect directly to your Box account and manage your files from within the app.

How does Sync manage conflicts?
If two users both change a file concurrently, Box will first try to merge the changes if both are not edits (e.g. one user edits the file, another user renames the file). However, if both users edit the file, the first save will get uploaded, and the second save will generate a “Sync Conflict/Error” message and generate a “-copy of” version of the edited file.

Box and Apple’s iWork …

You might know that Apple’s iWork suite for iOS supports saving of documents via a WebDAV connection to a cloud storage.

For Box you have to enter

https://dav.box.com/dav

and your credentials to save iWork documents on your box account. iWork saves your Numbers, Pages or Keynote documents as ZIP files. To later open a document from within the Box client app just use the ‘Open in’ command and select the appropriate iWork app. Unfortunately Box cannot display iWork documents saved as ZIP files.

Summary …

Box offers a much more powerful solution than it’s competitors.

Box features impressive file-sharing capabilities that are easy to use, even if you are new to the service. Box allows you to set folder permissions, giving you complete control over what other users can do with your shared files. File-sharing capabilities make this web service worth your consideration.

The company is working on client-side encryption and if it’s available Box seems to become the most powerful cloud provider.

Related links …

BOX Blog

BOX Pricing

iOS Cloud Clients

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.





Fragmentation? Tap Forms.

5 05 2014

It’s not the fragmentation of operating systems for mobile devices I want to talk about. It’s the fragmentation of information.

In computer storage, fragmentation is a phenomenon in which storage space is used inefficiently, reducing capacity or performance and often both. The exact consequences of fragmentation depend on the specific system of storage allocation in use and the particular form of fragmentation. In many cases, fragmentation leads to storage space being “wasted”, and in that case the term also refers to the wasted space itself. For other systems (e.g. the FAT file system) the space used to store given data (e.g. files) is the same regardless of the degree of fragmentation (from none to extreme).

There are three different but related forms of fragmentation: external fragmentation, internal fragmentation, and data fragmentation, which can be present in isolation or conjunction. Fragmentation is often accepted in return for improvements in speed, simplicity, or security.

Steve Jobs once said …

There is an app for that.
It’s the iPhone.
Solving life’s dilemma one app at a time.

True, if you look at the 1m apps offered in the App Store.
False, if you want to keep relevant data together for a more seamless access by using the UI of just one app.

The iOS filesystem …

Apple talks about it’s iOS filesystem with this headline:

Every app is an island.

During installation the installer creates an app specific directory. This directory constitutes the app’s primary view of the file system and represents the universe for that app and it contains everything the app can access directly.

So far so good.

This also implies that information is distributed within the iOS filesystem one app at a time.

20140501-204845.jpg

With the installation of an app for specific purposes fragmentation starts and is continued with every installation of further apps.

Contacts, notes, events, and links are typically managed by built-in apps or/and additional apps purchased at Apple’s App Store. To use many apps is followed by frequent switches between apps to look up the data you need.

The solution …

There are many different types of apps, e.g. web-based applications retrieving their data online from servers (e.g. Google+ for connecting to Google’s social network) or text editors keeping written text in the local folder of your device (e.g. ByWord a simple text editor).

Tap Forms is a table-based app keeping all bits on your device. It allows access to hierarchically organized data. Opening the app displays topics and a Search-Field where you can enter a term. The app then displays records matching the term. Tapping on a record displays related information.

Examples are:

a dictionary, a product description with a photo and a parts lists, a repository, or more detailed information about customers, visits, sold products, location of the main office and audio notes to a meeting which cannot be entered in Apple’s built-in app Contacts.

20140501-204940.jpg

The strong benefit of a table-based app is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread information using different content-related tables with an option to connect them.

Note
Tap Forms uses the term forms as a synonym for a table.

This approach to store data is called a database and a suitable app for content management should provide the following specifications:

  • a clean and tidy UI (user interface)
  • support for non-professional users who never created a database before
  • field types for all purposes
    (see my mind map showing all available field types of Tap Forms)
  • syncing via iCloud
  • encryption
    If encryption is turned on data stored in iCloud is encrypted. Each time you tap the sync button in Tap Forms, it creates an encrypted file and uploads that to iCloud. Then, the other devices download that encrypted file and merge the changes with the local database.
    Data are encrypted on the device, during transfer to iCloud and on iCloud. To access data on iCloud your Apple ID, password, and the encryption key of Tap Forms is needed. So Tap Forms can also be used as a password keeper.
  • import of already existing data
  • customizable templates available right in the app for an easy first approach to create a form
    available templates are: Audio Dictation, Business Accounts, Calling Cards, Frequent Flyer Numbers, Investment Accounts, Software Licenses, Bank Accounts, Blood Donor Cards, Credit + Debit Cards, Daily Journal, Driver’s License, Email Accounts, Health Insurance, Homework Assignments, Passport Information, Personal Health Cards, Website Logins, Garage Door Code, Home Insurance, Log Book, Loyalty Cards, Memberships, Security Alarm Codes, Serial Numbers, Vehicle Insurance
  • linkage to other forms in the database
    A ‘Link to Form’ field allows you to create a relationship between the data of two forms. Example:
    If you created a form ‘Articles’ you can use the ‘Link to Form’ field to assign available accessories stored in a second form ‘Accessories’.
  • powerful and easy to use backup procedures which is quite important because a lot of valuable information is accumulated and it shouldn’t get lost even if the app is deleted for what reason soever
  • an integrated browser to show content of linked websites without switching to Safari
  • an integrated PDF-Viewer to show attached files
  • fast and friendly support
  • continuos updates with powerful improvements
  • adapted versions for Apple’s mobiles and Macs
  • a lite version to decide wether the app fits your needs

You get this all and more from Tap Zapp Software Inc. (Canada) when buying Tap Forms for iOS or OSX.

Let’s say it with Steve Jobs …

I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.

This goes for Brendan Duddridge, the developer of Tap Forms and founder of Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada. The final outcome is an app 90% near to be perfect. What about the remaining 10%? Well, let’s give him an even break to further improve his app.

Further information …

The extensive field list of Tap Forms shows the capabilities you have to create your personal data collections.

If you never created a database before it’s worth to first think about what you need, then create the necessary fields, and finally start entering the data. Your requirements will grow up with the daily usage and your experiences. Don’t worry. You can modify your first design later by adding fields, deleting fields, or changing the order in which records are displayed. While redesigning, the dialogs to change content and appearance do not overlap with what you change and all your changes are immediately shown in the data entry area.

Here is a mind map visualizing all features of Tap Forms.

20140501-212615.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

It’s not only me rating Tap Forms with 5 stars.

Mac Format Magazine assessed the app as the winner of a database shootout and one of the competitors was FileMaker by FileMaker Inc., a subsidiary of Apple.

Summary …

A database app is a perfect approach to stop fragmentation. Tap Forms supports you with a clean an tidy user interface, stable data management, and syncing with all your devices. You will need the iOS Multitasking view less frequently because there is an app solving the dilemma with widely spread information. Whether you use it as a personal database or for your business, the data go with you, always updated.

Related links …

About databases …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

DBMS on iOS devices (4)

About applications …

Go Paperless with Tap Forms

Importing Data

Form Access To Tap Forms

About an award …

Mac Format Magazine about Tap Forms

About a competitor …

zBase vs Tap Forms

About the iOS filesystem …

Every app is an i(s)Land

Thanks for surfing by.





Snapguide

25 04 2014

The developer Heavy Bits Inc., USA, about Snapguide …

Snapguide is a simple, beautiful way to share and view step-by-step how to guides. Discover new things to cook, build, wear, play and more. Create your own guides and share what you love making with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Discuss your interests with other people who share your passions.

Let’s say you know how to bake a delicious cake or fix a fence and you want to share your process with others. Using Snapguide, you can use pictures, videos, and text to create a step-by-step guide that you can publish and send out to friends. You can also use Snapguide to connect with people who share your interests and explore other how-to guides that show you something new.

Visiting snapguide.com shows thousands of guides under the following topics

Arts + Crafts Lifestyle
Automotive Music
Beauty Outdoors
Desserts Pets
Drinks Photography
Food Sports + Fitness
Games + Tricks Style
Gardening Technology

20140109-061059.jpg

An app was first offered in early 2012 and got 22 updates as of the end of 2013. After a six month phase of bug fixes starting in July 2012 the app was continuously improved and today has a perfect UI which is self-explaing.

The app Snapguide …

Snapguide for iOS is a companion app for the same-named website. Though you can browse the site using mobile Safari, the iOS app provides a much better experience than the mobile website. You get niceties like search and categories, and you don’t have to deal with the “Download the Snapguide app” nags in the mobile web version.

20140109-061233.jpg

The Snapguide app is an all-in-one solution that allows you to view full Snapguide tutorials without ever leaving the app. You can browse through the guides by category or search for a specific topic. Unlike most apps that require a login at launch, you can search or browse through guides without a Snapguide account.

20140109-061327.jpg

Each guide is broken down into steps that include text, photos or even video. At the beginning of the guide, there is a list of the items required (i.e., the ingredients) as well as a list of the number of steps in the guide. For technical descriptions like mine the list of items (Supplies) is not necessary. You can skip to any one of these steps via a convenient grid of numbered thumbnails representing each step.

20140109-061639.jpg

If you like a specific guide, you can flag it as a favorite (free account signup required) or choose from several options to share a link to the guide. There are also comments, allowing you to chime in with your own advice or read others’ opinions.

Creation of a guide …

The universal app allows you to create guides using photos and videos from the camera roll and written instructions. Snapguide “guides” you through the creation process, allowing you to assemble and upload the final project up to its website using your iPad or iPhone.
It’s quite simple to create a guide so there is no need for any further description. What you should know is that textual descriptions (captions of a step) are limited to 200 characters.

20140109-091238.jpg

Depending on your notification settings you get an email after publishing a new guide.
You can share your guides on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, by mail, or just get the link

Troubleshooting iOS Devices

to embed it elsewhere.

Using a guide on websites …

A guide can be embedded on a website.

  • Head to the web version of the guide and click the Embed button next to Supplies.
  • Decide which dimension you would like to display by clicking Narrow or Wide.
  • Copy and paste the code onto your website.

It’s possible to embed a guide on most sites, including Blogger, Tumblr, and self-hosted WordPress sites. Unfortunately, embedding will not work on blogs hosted by wordpress.com because of security guidelines.

Summary …

An easy-to-use app with a perfect UI. All guides created by yourself are publicly accessible. It’s not possible to restrict access to people e.g. like circles on Google+. The content is owned by you but automatically licensed for the company to use it.
A significant disadvantage is that images cannot be maximized or downloaded.

You have the ultimate recipe for a pizza: Snapguide it.
If the public doesn’t like it or even gets belly aches there are drugs although available only on prescription. So don’t forget to create a guide which describes the treatments.

Related links …

Final Argument

Presenting with iPad (1)

Presenting with iPad (2)

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 212 other followers

%d bloggers like this: