5 10 2013

Point.io offers an enterprise Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform (launched on July 16, 2013) and Enterprise Gateway products for specialized enterprise mobile application development. Focused on document management and workflow, the platform is designed to help enterprises embrace BYOD while maintaining control of their content.

Bring your own device (BYOD) means the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to their workplace, and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications.

Since the Point.io Gateway handles all secure communication across the firewall, a VPN is no longer required. Users have access to more types of remote storages, including behind-the-firewall repositories like SharePoint, FTP, SFTP, Google Drive and Amazon S3.


In addition to its platform launch, Point.io is unveiling two new partnerships. The first is with Stratospherix. The other is with TheHostingPros, which is offering a free Sharepoint site when a Point.io account is setup.

FileBrowser by Stratospherix is one of the top-ten most-downloaded apps in the Utilities section of The App Store. The company has over 600,000 users in 60 countries. FileBrowser is now powered by Point.io and includes all the features of the Point.io platform.

I first take a look on the native app of Point.io because I think it should contain the main features and gives an overview of how the company’s service is intended for.

The native app Point.io …

Starting in July 2013 the version 1.001 of Point.io was offered for iPhone only.
The app is ugly designed but can be used to show how the platform works.

After installing the app on an iPad I recognized some mysterious behaviors:

- available storage sites are different on iPhone and iPad
- access to Dropbox and Box was not possible on the iPhone
- switching from portrait to landscape mode on the iPad mostly doesn’t work
- files on Google Drive cannot be displayed
- file transfer from one storage site to another is not possible

Here is a complete update list from July to October 2013:


Features announced by Point.io:

  • 1 You can see all your storage connections in one place. For example, Point.io provides a combined view of Box and SharePoint and will be adding additional storage locations such as Dropbox and Documentum in the coming weeks.
  • 2 With Point.io, you get access to your documents on any mobile device, from anywhere, regardless of where the document is stored.
  • 3 Share any file with anyone using secure links. Precisely control what any person can do with your files at all times (e.g. print, edit, save).
    •There is no need to ever send file attachments again.
  • 4 Remove access to any file(s) as soon as they have been used for their intended purpose. Prevent any loss of control over your documents – your files always stay on your network.
  • 5 Ensure control and security over your documents, even when others use their own mobile devices (BYOD).

An interesting application is sending a document not as an attachment but as a secured link.
This feature is new and provided neither by actual file management apps nor by any well-known cloud client apps for Box, iDriveSync, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.


About FileBrowser …

With FileBrowser, the iPad or iPhone becomes a powerful tool for business and private use, allowing users to access content on company file servers, workstations or cloud storage from anywhere. The FileBrowser app is easy to use and allows files to be downloaded, edited and uploaded back to the original location or distributed to other employees, partners or customers. With FileBrowser, users can access their documents from their mobile device and no longer need to take bulky laptops to meetings or out of the office when visiting clients.

Let’s take a look on the universal app FileBrowser by Stratospherix, UK.
FileBrowser is the only file management app with Point.io integration at the time.
The best way to summarize all the features is to visualize them in a mind map.

Feel free to download the complete mind map in the following file formats:


ITMZ (Native format of iThoughts)

MMAP (Mindjet)


FileBrowser allows to create an account on Point.io.


Stratospherix announced …

FileBrowser’s integration with the Point.io platform provides real benefits for users. With Point.io, access is simpler than ever before – users need only enter a single username and password to gain access to all their file servers and cloud storage locations.

At the time this announcement is far away from reality. One more time an app was released although it doesn’t meet the basic requirements of users yet. This is definitely the best way to lose favor with customers or to lose customers. A basic rule of app development was ignored: Release when finished.

See my article
App Development + Marketing

Summary …

What are the benefits when using Point.io?

For private use with an installed version of FileBrowser your file management will look like this if and only if your different cloud accounts are supported by Point.io and, in case of connections to Windows networks, a suitable gateway is installed on the server:


A benefit?
As you can see there is just one Point.io account necessary to access different cloud storages and Windows network drives. Instead of listing your connections in the left navigation window they are now listed on the right side. Not supported accounts have to be configured as usual and will still appear in the left navigation section of FileBrowser.

This image shows the situation without using Point.io but VPN:


A benefit?
Point.io says that a VPN connection is no longer needed. I cannot see any benefit in that because VPN is a well-functioning and developed technique which is secure and totally controlled by yourself. If connecting via Point.io there is an additional security risk with services and tools of Point.io.

Definitely no benefits!
At the time other disadvantages are the incompleteness of services and some mysterious behaviors of FileBrowser on the iPad (no feedback when loading large files) and FileBrowser in general when accessing files on Google Drive (No display, Point.io operation failed, Error retrieving file info, Folder not found).

So the only remaining benefits are:

  • Supported cloud storages on multiple devices require just one configuration for Point.io.
    Access to Point.io then enables access to all storages configured on Point.io.
  • Sharing options increasing security like
    Allow/Disallow Print, Download Original File, Download as PDF, Expiry Date, Screen Capture, Password
    These sharing options control the level of access granted by this link.

What should be mentioned is that FileBrowser is still a powerful app with a perfect UI.
Stratospherix would be well-advised not to move Point.io integration into the foreground as they did when releasing version 2.9.1 on July 18, 2013.

Videos about Point.io …

Point.io ad

Point.io with FileBrowser

Related links …



Thanks for dropping by.

iPhone Configuration Utility

23 09 2013

iPhone and iPad are often seen as gadgets.
The reality is also that many companies successfully integrate mobile devices in the company’s IT infrastructure to improve business processes.
Apple offers some tools which help companies to manage their mobile devices. Theses tools are mainly for configuration purposes and take into account that mobile devices for business use have to fulfill strong security requirements and should be configurable from a central point instead of doing this for each single device.

iPhone Configuration Utility (iPCU) lets you easily create, maintain, encrypt, and install configuration profiles, track and install provisioning profiles and authorized applications, and capture device information including console logs.

Configuration profiles are XML files that contain device security policies, VPN configuration information, Wi-Fi settings, APN settings, Exchange account settings, mail settings, and certificates that permit iPhone and iPod touch to work with your enterprise systems.

Apple’s iPhone Configuration Utility can also be used for configuring the iPhone of your daughter or son to set some useful age-dependent limitations like access to the App Store or other requirements like using a strong passcode for unlocking the device. This prevents some severe troubles if the device gets stolen or lost.

With the iPCU you can create so-called profiles which can be transferred directly to a device, saved to a cloud storage from which they can be installed, or simply sent to the destination device by E-Mail as an attachment. Tapping on the attachments then starts the installation procedure.

I want to show you how Apple’s iPhone (and iPad) Configuration Utility basically works.

Installation …

You can download the free app iPCU for Mac or PC here:

iPhone Configuration Utility Mac

iPhone Configuration Utility Windows

The screenshots were taken from the German version as it was not possible to install an English version. Sorry about that.

After installing the application the home screen looks like this:


Among others it shows all technical details of your device as well as profiles configured in former sessions.

Feature overview …

With iPCU you can configure important settings of Apple’s mobile devices and deploy them later. Here is a brief feature overview. You will see all the configuration options when clicking on Provisions and select a profile.

  • 01 General Settings
  • 02 Passcode Setting
  • 03 Restriction Settings

    Allow installing apps
    When this option is off, the App Store is disabled and its icon is removed from the Home screen. Users are unable to install or update their apps using the App Store or iTunes.

    Allow use of camera
    When this option is off, cameras are completely disabled and the Camera icon is removed from the Home screen. Users can’t take photographs or videos, or use FaceTime.

    Allow screen capture
    When this option is off, users can’t save a screenshot of the display.

    Allow voice dialing
    When this option is off, users can’t dial their phone using voice commands.

    Allow In-App purchase
    When this option is off, users can’t make in-app purchases.
    Force user to enter store password for all purchases
    Requires users to enter their Apple ID password before making any purchase. Normally, there’s a brief grace period after a purchase is made before users have to authenticate for subsequent purchases.

    and more

  • 04 WiFi Settings
  • 05 VPN Settings
  • 06 E-Mail Settings
  • 07 Exchange ActiveSync Settings
  • 08 LDAP Settings
  • 09 CalDav Settings
  • 10 Subcribed Calendars Settings
  • 11 CardDav Settings
  • 12 WebClip Settings
  • 13 Credentials Settings
  • 14 SCEP Settings
  • 15 MDM Settings
  • 16 APN Settings

Creating a profile …

I took an easy example for explaining the basic actions of configuring, deploying, and using iPCU.

Let’s create a configuration profile for an icon on the homescreen which allows to directly edit an E-Mail and send it to a given recipient.
We can do so using the section WebClip Settings.

Transferring and using a profile …

To transfer the profile to an iOS device you can

  • transfer it directly by connecting the device via the USB connector
  • send the profile (an XML file) as an attachment to an E-Mail account accessible from the iOS device

By tapping on the attachment the installation process starts.
Follow the instructions shown during installation.


When exporting a profile iPCU allows to generate the profile with the following options regarding security:

  • 1 without
  • 2 sign profile
  • 3 sign and encrypt profile for (just) this device

If the .mobileconfig file is signed it can be installed by any device, as long as the profile hasn’t been altered. So signing a profile is an essential security feature.
Once installed, the profile can be updated only by a profile that has the same identifier and is signed by the same copy of iPhone Configuration Utility, which provides the certificate.

If the profile is signed a ‘Verified‘ note appears if you go to Settings – General – Profiles and select the profile immediately after installation.

Useful Links …

He are some further links for those who are interested in using iOS devices in businesses:

Mobile Device Management

iOS Deployment Scenarios

iPad @ Work

iPad @ Work Vol 2

Apps @ Work

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.
Comments and Likes are highly appreciated.

DBMS on iOS-Devices (5)

25 05 2013

There are three apps for managing databases I focussed on in this and my previous articles.

Tap Forms HD (Tap Zapp Software Inc, Canada)
Bento (FileMaker Inc, USA)
Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client (Impathic LLc, USA).

This article is about the features of Bento and contains a final assessment of all three products.

The developers of Tap Forms and Bento use different terms for the same objects.
Here is a translation of the standard terms used by Microsoft:

Standard Tap Forms Bento
Table Forms Library
Query Search Collection

The features …

I took these screenshots to emphasize the highlights of Bento Mobile Database.
The library ‘WordPress’ contains informations about my blog. I manage these informations with my favorite app Tap Forms. In Tap Forms I exported the data as a CSV file and imported the records in Bento. Here are some basic informations about Bento.

All options for viewing the data also allow the editing of records.


Additionally to the table view records can be viewed in forms.
Forms can be designed by the user by arranging the fields to the needs.


Bento offers no traditional queries (SQL like expressions for selecting data) but a full text search.
This might be a disadvantage if you want to select records e.g. with numerical values less than 500.


On the other hand Bento allows concatenating text fields which is not supported by Tap Forms.
So the capabilities of calculated fields leave nothing to be desired.


Full feature description of Bento …


The mind map created with the app iThoughts for iOS contains all features of the app Bento Mobile Database for iPad. It can be downloaded here:

Bento Mobile Database for iPad

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

Support …

On my iPhone Bento did THOMAS appear in the apps menu of the ‘Open in’ command. So I contacted Bento’s support and described the problem. Here is the very poor answer:

Discussion Thread
Response Via Email (…) Apr 04, 2013 02:54 AM PDT

Hello Thomas,

Thank you for contacting FileMaker Customer Support.
Regarding your question about Bento, when you open the email with the CSV file attached, does a window open showing Bento as an app when you touch the CSV attachment with your finger for a couple of seconds
If you have any questions, please contact Customer Support on: 0845 603 9100 (United Kingdom) or 01 4073432 (Ireland), Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (excluding holidays)., and reference case number: 130403-000002.
Thank you,
Customer Support

Nothing more to say.

The main problem is that FileMaker provides no other way to fill the database except with a CSV file by using the ‘Open in’ command. This is a definitely poor strategy of a big company!

Summary …

Three competitors …
Tap Forms HD, Bento, Access Mobile Database Client

Two winners …
Tap Forms HD, Bento

It’s not easy to give a final assessment and it’s obviously subjective because different users have different requirements. However, my preferred app is Tap Forms HD by Tap Zapp Software Inc, Canada.

Decisive for me are the following features …

  • Syncing via iCloud across all devices
  • Backup as ZIP file and Restore on other devices
  • Building SQL-like queries
  • Direct Import/Export to Dropbox
  • Perfect, fast, and understandable support

The main disadvantage of Bento is that it solely offers CSV files for transferring data.
This file type, as implemented by FileMaker, is not appropriate for exchanging data between devices. UnlikeTap Forms Bento does not include the field type in it’s CSV file. So relevant information drops away. After importing URLs Bento interprets the contents of this field as simple text and so it’s no longer associated with the functionality of opening a browser when tapping on it.

Note …
In contrast to Bento Tap Forms HD includes field-type tags in the header row to tell an importing app which fields are numbers and which are text, dates, URLs, or other field types.
While backing up Tap Forms creates a ZIP file which consists of a normal CSV file as well as all other ‘not-text’ data like images or audio recordings. Restoring this kind of a CSV file with additional information about filed types enables the importing app to reassign field-type specific functionality.


So there is no chance to transfer libraries of Bento from one iOS device to another and to further sync the data. Even File Sharing via iTunes is not offered.

Nevertheless Bento is a serious competitor and offers some impressive features which I miss in Tap Forms HD. These are:

  • Creating of Forms for editing and displaying data
  • Displaying data in spreadsheet-like lists
  • App controlled managing of ‘Date Modified/Created’ fields
  • Calculations can also be done with text fields by concatenating text
  • Useful Help System with short but understandable descriptions

It’s hard to comprehend that features are missing which users perceive within a minute when they start an application the first time. Many longstanding features known of comparable apps for computers are not carried over to iPad. It seems to me that companies developing software for mobile devices are not yet ready to accept the needs of the market. It’s not explicable that, for example, Dropbox in it’s mobile client still doesn’t offer a setting for the sort order of files.

Related Links …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

DBMS on iOS devices (4)

DBMS on iOS devices (5)

Importing Data

Form Access To Tap Forms

Databases and Mind Maps

I appreciate your Comments and Likes.
I you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me via comment or contact form on the About page.
Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.

DBMS on iOS-Devices (4)

22 05 2013

Microsoft Access is the worldwide most powerful system for developing database applications with forms, reports, queries and VBA modules. An acceptable performance is ensured for databases up to 2 GB and a number of records up to 100,000 per table when using a state-of-the-art PC.

Microsoft Access 2010 Specifications
I myself develop databases in a Frontend-Backend design mainly for auditors since about 25 years with more than 2,500 licensed users. My experiences are that no other system allows you to develop applications, add features, and fix bugs as efficiently as with Microsoft Access.

So let’s have a look at a client which allows to use Microsoft’s proprietary database file format (.accdb or .mdb) on Apple’s iOS devices.

Impathic LLc, USA offers the Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client at Apple’s App Store.

Microsoft Access databases are Stand-Alone Files, and so the database file must be transferred to your iOS device in order to open it in the Access Mobile Database Client. This is in contrast to many other databases, which connect over a network in ‘Client-Server’ mode. While having your database file on your device prevents the ability to work on the data concurrently with other users, it also allows you to work with your database in a disconnected environment, such as on an airplane.

Transfer to an iOS device …

How to transfer a Microsoft Access database to an iOS device …

Transferring an Access Database via iTunes File Sharing

  • (1) On your desktop, locate your “.accdb” or “.mdb” database file.
  • (2) Plug your iOS device into your desktop or laptop using the USB cable and open iTunes.
  • (3) In the left panel of iTunes, locate and click on your iOS device name.
  • (4) At the top of the screen for the device, select the “Apps” tab.
  • (5) Scroll down to the “File Sharing” section at the bottom of the screen.
  • (6) Select “Access” from the list of apps.
  • (7) Drag your Access database from your computer into the file list.
  • (8) When you next launch Access Mobile Database Client, you will see your database in the list of available databases.

You may also transfer a database from a cloud provider offering a client app for iOS devices which supports the ‘Open in’ command or you can send the database as an E-Mail attachment.

Transferring an Access Database from the cloud

  • (1) Sign up for a free account at http://www.dropbox.com if you don’t already have one.
  • (2)Upload your “.mdb” or “.accdb” file to your dropbox account using their desktop integration program.
  • (3) Download the free “Dropbox” app from the Apple iTunes App Store, launch it, and log in.
  • (4) Browse to your database file and tap the forward button , then select “Access” as the application to open the database with.

    When you first select your database in Dropbox, the app may say “Unable to view file”, but you should still be able to tap the forward button to open it in Access Mobile Database Client.

    Modifications made to your database will not be saved back to your Dropbox account, but instead will be saved locally on your iOS device. To get your modified database back to your desktop, you need to transfer it back using the iTunes File Sharing method, or by tapping “Edit” from the database list, selecting your database, and then mailing your database back to yourself, or opening it another application (such as the official ‘Dropbox’ app).

Transferring an Access Database via E-Mail attachment

  • (1) Tap on the E-Mail attachment (an accdb or mdb file).
  • (2) From the ‘Open in’ menu choose ‘Access’.

The full feature description …


The mind map created with the app iThoughts for iOS contains all features of the app Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client. It can be downloaded here:

Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

Impressions of the application …

See this annotated slideshow to get an impression of the user interface.
Tap on an image to see the navigation bar.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The pros …

  • Support for Microsoft Access 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010
  • Support for relationships between tables
  • Export of tables or queries as CSV file to other apps like Apple’s iWork app ‘Numbers’
  • Ability to adjust the font size for listings
  • Simple UI

The cons …

  • Creation of databases not supported
  • Changing of tables (add fields, etc.) not supported
  • Adjusting the column width not supported
  • Backup and Restore not supported
  • Printing of tables not supported
  • Saving changed databases back to a cloud storage not supported
    iTunes File Sharing is the only way to transfer edited databases back to other devices or cloud storages
  • No integrated browser for opening Hyperlinks
  • Display of images not supported
    Images located in the system table MSysResources or other tables are not displayed.
  • Errors when executing queries with string operations
    Error executing query: Syntax Error: Stopped parse at …
  • No feature updates or bug fixes since 18 months
    This usually is an unmistakable hint for a frozen app.

It’s obvious, and no disadvantage of the app, that

  • linked tables in a Frontend-Backend configuration are not supported
  • sharing the Frontend is a senseless act as forms, reports, and VBA modules are not supported on iOS devices

The test results …

I imported the following databases via iTunes File Sharing

  • My simple WordPress database WordPress.accdb
  • The Microsoft sample database Northwind.accdb
  • A database containing a table with 100,000 and one with 3,666,731 records

Does the client app or the iPad behave disgracefully when using large amount of data?

Here are some stats:

  • Table with 12 fields:
    Number of records = 100,000
    File size on a PC = 320 MB
  • Loading of records into the list view:
    500 records within 11 sec
  • Query with the WHERE condition ‘Begins With’ for a text field and descending sort order:
    215 records selected within 38 sec
  • Full text search over 12 fields:
    448 records selected within 370 sec

Repeating the tests with 3,666,731 records came to a nearly linear increasing processing time.

And … Neither the app nor the iPad crashed!

Summary …

I cannot recommend Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client because of the limited sharing options and missing sync functionalities when using more than one device.
It might be useful for looking up records on an iOS device for databases containing more static content like product lists with stable prices or other tables similar in kind.

The competitors, Tap Forms HD by Tap Zap Software and FileMaker’s Bento, are light years ahead.

Related links …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

Importing Data

Databases and Mind Maps

From Access to Tap Forms

I appreciate your Comments and Likes.
I you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me via comment or the contact form on my About page.
Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.

DBMS on iOS-Devices (3)

19 05 2013

Using a database is the only appropriate way to store large amount of data.
As tablet and smartphone purchases are booming it stands to reason to have a look at some apps for iOS devices.

Allow me to point out some previous articles about databases here on iNotes4You

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

Importing Data

Databases and Mind Maps

From Access to Tap Forms


First of all it’s useful to have a look on what customers use databases for:

  • Personal information management
    This field of activity means the “classical” applications for PDA or organizers. Mostly, there is no cooperative work with other users on the same piece of data. The amount of data on the mobile device is usually small, and is at most edited on the mobile device itself. The main challenges for developers of mobile databases for personal information management are

    • Flexibility
      regarding changes of tables and fields
    • Independency
      of stationary devices
    • Easy to use
      even for non-professionals
    • Reliability
      of the developer constantly upgrading and adapting the app to changing operating systems and devices
  • Replication of large databases
    The replication of large databases or parts of them – large in the context of mobile, lightweight appliances, e.g. not more than 2 GB – is characterized by the cooperative use of the same data by numerous users. Data are mainly managed and manipulated by the DBMS on a stationary server, only a few or no changes are performed on the mobile device. Business applications, geographic information systems or multimedia are typical applications. The most important challenges for mobile databases in this field are syncing, performance, storage capacity, and the way to display data on a small screen.

The differences between stationary and mobile devices can be described by the following issues:

  • Amount of data
    Due to the restrictions of CPU performance and storage capacities applications for mobile devices are suitable for about, let me say, 10,000 records. Larger amounts of data cause performance problems when it comes to import, export, and sync data with other devices.
  • Hardware resources
    Stationary devices are customizable for the needs of their applications with a broad range of exchangeable hardware components. In contrast Apple’s mobile devices are not upgradable. So the later usage of the device has already to be considered when it’s purchased.
  • Form factor
    Screen sizes like that of the iPad are not suitable for databases containing tables with a large amount of fields. Even in landscape mode it’s hard to view tables with many fields and different field types. Usually views of tables are not customizable by defining suitable forms, subforms for related tables, data sheets, and reports like it is possible e.g. in Microsoft Access.

As we are talking about applications for the actual iOS devices the key feature list assumes an iPad and an iPhone as mobile devices optionally supported by a Mac as the big brother to do some tasks mobile devices are not designed for.

The key features …

Here are some key features for apps managing databases on mobile devices.
When expanding the branches of this map you will see many details reflecting my comprehensive experiences with database tools.


The mind map created with the app iThoughts for iOS contains many detailed informations when expanding the branches. It can be downloaded here:

Key Features of Mobile Databases

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

Classification of apps …

The apps available at Apple’s App Store I would like to describe are distinguished from each other by

  • Creating and customizing a database on the mobile device
    examples are Tap Forms (Tap Zap Software Inc., Canada) and Bento (FileMaker Inc., USA)
  • Creating the database on a stationary device and editing data on the mobile device
    an example is Microsoft Access Database Client, My SQL Mobile Database Client, (Impathic LLc. USA) and the mobile database clients for Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Sybase, PostGreSQL, and DB2 also developed by Impathic.
  • Access to databases located on webservers
    an example is MySQL Database (Software Solutions + Technologies AG, Switzerland)
    These solutions are not discussed here because of the dependency of an external data source managed on a webserver.

Some features in details …

I want to talk about an appropriate usage of databases on Apple’s iOS devices. So the focus is on private and small business applications, the usage of more than one device without the necessity of a stationary device, and the independency of external data sources.

So the key features are

  • Creating the database on the mobile device
    e.g. On an iPad or by importing a CSV file which automatically generates a table with the correct field types
  • Creating the fields by selecting from various filed types which are particularly useful for mobile devices
    e.g. location data
  • Syncing across multiple devices
    e.g. syncing via Apple’s iCloud
  • Importing data from previous systems
    e.g. via a CSV file from Microsoft Access
  • Exporting data to other apps for further usage
    e.g. to Apple’s spreadsheet app Numbers to create graphs or editing data for print outs or presentations

Please visit iNotes4You to read the upcoming article DBMS on iOS-Devices (4) with a description of the Mobile Microsoft Access Database Client by Impathic LLc, USA.
This article will be published on May 22.

Thanks a lot for visiting iNotes4You.
Comments and Likes are appreciated.

A Small Office Configuration

8 05 2013

iPad may effectively support business activities particularly if colleagues are intensively involved in external relations.

Mind maps are the most efficient way to summarize information about a topic. So I created a mind map which contains many suggestions for integrating iPads and iPhones in the daily tasks of a small business effortlessly.

Small businesses are often forward-looking companies implementing modern technologies to improve sales. Usually they are not supported by technical and organizational assistants and the CEO has to supply the knowledge and to communicate the usage of devices, sharing techniques, and organizational guidelines. Summarized: He has to do everything.

The dream of all CEOs is a maintenance-friendly environment with easy-to-use devices. As tablets are rapidly gaining popularity there are no special training demands required and the company is usually not faced with problems of acceptance as the staff already use these kinds of devices privately.

Let’s discuss some details where the benefits of mobile devices integrated in a suitable environment makes business easier:

  • A colleague has to share a document with another colleague.
    He can do it by E-Mail that means selecting the E-Mail address, writing a short text, adding an attachment and sending the mail. Lots of E-Mails must be managed later by selecting relevant mails and deleting others.

    An alternate way would be to use a cloud storage and an automatic syncing functionality like Apple’s iCloud syncing which is supported by a growing number of apps.

  • A document on an iPad should be printed out in the office.
    You may save the document to a cloud storage, download it on a PC and print it on a network printer.

    An alternate way is to use an PC/MAC application called FingerPrint.
    Every network attached printer will be shown on iOS devices in the print menu. So the document can be directly printed out on any printer in the office.

  • You call a colleague and inform him to call a customer at 15:30.
    The colleague writes it down on a cheat sheet.

    An alternate way is to enter a reminder which is automatically synced with the other iOS devices and reminds the colleague to call the customer. Shortcuts (defined under ‘General – Keyboard – Shortcuts’ like CC=Customer call… with) makes it easy to forward the information directly to the colleague.

The mind map above outlines experiences made in the company I work for.
It focusses on …

  • Easy file sharing between iOS devices and
    other iOS devices even if they are running under different Apple IDs
    cloud storages and desktop computers within the office
  • Fast and easy syncing of
    Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Bookmarks
    Documents, Data stored in a database, and Scanned documents
  • Easy connection to
    computers within the LAN from outside the office
  • Ability to print from anywhere
    in the office via Fingerprint that makes every printer AirPrint-capable
    from outside the office via Google Cloud Print
  • Improving business by using social networking
    via clients for LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Using a database
    with essential business information which automatically syncs with all other devices
  • and last but not least reducing the costs of the technical equipment to a minimum

To understand all the experiences I made use this mind map and adjust it to your individual requirements.

Here is a slideshow with details of some branches of my mind map for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool:

Download …

The mind map ‘iPad in Small Office Environments’ created with iThoughts for iOS can be downloaded here:

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

The Apple group on Biggerplate
to see and download all mind maps related to Apple.

Thanks for stopping by.
I appreciate your Comments and Likes.

iPad attends Meetings

30 04 2013

The iPad offers great benefits because of it’s form factor and mobility.
The Retina display allows relaxed working over a long time.
It’s a complete device without the need of any peripherals.

So it’s predestined for many tasks where a powerful processor, a perfect display and a reliable operating system is required.

Business or other meetings today are a bit different from old-fashioned lectures at universities decades ago or solo actions of Monday-morning quarterbacks.

Let’s talk about some aspects where the iPad may improve the results of meetings and enforce the participation of the meeting members.
The technical equipment is geared towards extensive communication between the members and supports presentation of ideas on an ad-hoc basis.

Additional support for information exchange between iOS devices of the meeting members is provided by a new app named INSTASHARE, which supports direct file transfer between iOS devices Macs and PCs (Beta).
For explaining and clarifying propositions and opinions each iOS device can be connected to a Beamer or a TV to show secondary sources, ideas, doodles and stickies.

So a highly flexible environment is established for growing Big Onions with relatively less financial and technical efforts.

This environment follows the principle of least effort which says:

People will use the tools that are most familiar and easy to use to find acceptable results. For example, one might consult a generalist co-worker down the hall rather than a specialist in another building, so long as the generalist’s answers were within the threshold of acceptability.

The iPad provides this approach (via Internet, company servers, cloud storages, locally saved documents) to all the information which might be relevant to achieve the best results even if the present knowledge of the audience is insufficient to clear up some details.


Practical experience …

This mind map (Opti.Tax) was created during a meeting about the usage of a software product which supports the upload of balance sheets to the tax authorities. This procedure is required by law in Germany beginning with the accounting year 2014.

One training participant documented the lecture with the help of a mind map shown below.
Others created questions and hints with Apple’s iWork app PAGES regarding the usage of the software product as well as suggestions for feature updates.

The documents have been transferred to the iPad and added the mind map’s branches. Transfer was done with Instashare (see the brief description below).


Instashare …

Exchanging files of any type between meeting members can be done with a new app, released in February 2013, available at Apple’s App Store.

Instashare is an aptly named utility that lets you instantly share files between iOS devices, Macs, and Windows PCs (Beta).

Sharing is quite simple. Once you’ve connected Instashare on your iDevice with another iOS device or a Mac companion app.
On the iOS device all connectable devices appear on the right side and the file list on the left side. You then transfer files by Drag and Drop from left to right. Instashare uses a WiFi or even a Bluetooth connection.

In addition, you can transfer files of any file type from a Mac to your iOS device and vice versa. Files received by a Mac appear in the Downloads folder, while those received by an iOS device can be found in Instashare’s local app folder.


Meeting whiteboard …

You may also try the app Anywhere Pad. Once you create a meeting and add a blank whiteboard page meeting members can add sticky notes and freehand drawings.
I have no experiences with this app, so I cannot rate it. At the time I wrote this article there were no user ratings at the App Store.

Downloads …

The mind map ‘Apple Devices in Meetings’ created with iThoughts for iOS can be downloaded here:

The Apple group on Biggerplate.com

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

DBMS on iOS-Devices (2)

5 01 2013

In part (2) about databases I will introduce an SQLite – based app from Apple’s App Store. I found it by posting a question to the ‘MacTalk Australia’ – Forum (Thanks to Biallystock).

On my point of view the following requirements are indispensable to obtain acceptance from users even with a lower state of knowledge:

  • Creating tables directly on the iOS-Device
    (without the need of a computer)
  • Availability of field type ‘media’ to insert images, PDFs and other document types
    (iWork-Documents would be highly appreciated)
  • Importing CSV-Files for simple analysis
  • Creating simple queries
  • Printing reports
  • Self explaining user interface
  • Support for easy and fast entry of data
    (date picker, customizable pick lists, etc.)
  • Creating relations between tables
    (for connecting records of a subtable to a main table)
  • Included templates and the possibility of customizing them
  • Automatic or on demand syncing across iOS-Devices via iCloud or other storage providers like Dropbox, Box, etc.
  • Direct syncing between iOS-Devices in the same WLAN
  • Backing up all data and settings for a complete restore on another device
  • Security features like Passcode lock for the app and encryption of the database
  • Stability of the app and maintained data integrity after crashing

According to my present knowledge Tap Forms HD from Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada is the only app that meets these requirements. I looked on the version 3.0.4 (44) from Dec 2012.

To show you the features, I created a new database on an iPad 3rd Gen and synced it with an installation on iPhone 4S via iCloud (implemented feature of Tap Forms).

I have chosen a semi-professional document management system, which clears up the mysterious business of table design and table linking.

The definition of goals …

To avoid distribution of data to different locations we use the database which contains all the information needed to browse through essential informations based on documents.

Let’s work with two tables.

The set of basic informations is stored in a master record in the master table.
Corresponding documents are stored in a document record of the documents table. One master record may refer to a couple of documents stored in the documents table.

Documents are the feed for our database.
Follow these steps to machine the food and bring it to the empty belly.


The food is served so we can now start to design the storehouse, sorry, the database.

For those who are not acquainted with database design and technical terms I will do my best to keep it simple. Beginners are invited to read the first part of my blog from 2012-01-03.

Step 1 … Creating the document table

The document table contains the files attached to records of the basic table.
By way of example:
We have two documents referring to the purchase of an Apple iPad, the invoice and the Apple Care Protection Plan.
In other cases it could also be the sales contract for a car and invoices of repair services or insurance policies.
You also can define a table for customers (use Apple’s CONTACTS app only for what is it designed for) with additional informations like Last Contact, Reminders (using field type ALERT for alerts like those of Apple’s Calendar or Reminders app), Invoices, Offers, etc..


Step 2 … Creating the master table

The master table is the outline for main informations enclosed in documents.
Possibly there are documents of different kinds, so we will implement a further breakdown e.g. (insurances, devices, …). This will later on enable us to select records.


Using a powerful special field type called Pick List


Step 3 … Entering the data

The image shows the data entered for Name=Apple Topic=Device with 5 attached PDF documents as there are invoices and a confirmation for an Apple Care Protection Plan.
As you can see the app follows Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines when using symbols. This makes it easy to use.


Step 4 … Searching for data

Databases contain a lot of entries so it is indispensable to have a highly efficient functionality for searching records. In the example below a SEARCH on devices has been configured and saved for later use. In the search area (top left) you can enter ad-hoc search terms or refer to saved searches. In the latter case Search Rules like ‘Field contains, is less than, is greater than or equal to, …’ can be defined.


Step 5 … Syncing and backing up

After a short time an intensively used database contains many relevant informations.
So backing up the data is indispensable.


Notes …



DBMS on iOS-Devices (1)

3 01 2013

As I develop applications based on Microsoft Access I am highly interested in solutions for Apple’s iOS-Devices. The strong benefit of a database is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread informations. Apple’s App Store offers a lot of apps suitable for productive operations but all the informations saved by these apps are cut into pieces saved in app-specific folders. That’s a consequence of the iOS-Filesystem and it is not intended as criticism of developers.

See my blog Every app is an ‘iLand’.

iOS-Data Management is, sorry to say, a back step into the late Middle-Ages where card boxes for every requirement were state-of-the-art.

Due to the relevance of the topic this is my first blog about databases with follow-ups.

A database …

If you create structured data (e.g. contacts, where every contact consists of a set of fields (e.g. name, email-address, phone number, account, bank) with different contents and save them as a file you have a very simple database. Its just a container in which similar data are stored.
Lets call the set of fields a TABLE (Library) and the contents of one set of fields a RECORD and a subset of all records a QUERY (collection) and one or more tables and queries a DATABASE


An improved version of a database contains many tables, stores your data securely, lets you collaborate simultaneously with other people and gives you fast information about people, stocks, insurances, words in other languages and beyond. But the pure data won’t let you do the jobs. It would be like searching in a very bulky phone book where data are not sorted.
So you need database management software (DBMS) to support your curiosity.

A Database Management System (DBMS) is a set of programs that enables you to store, modify, and extract information from a database, it also provides users with tools to add, delete, access, modify, and analyze data stored in one location. A group can access the data by using query and reporting tools that are part of the DBMS or by using application programs specifically written to access the data. DBMS’s also provide the method for maintaining the integrity of stored data, running security and users access, and recovering information if the system fails.

An extremely powerful feature of databases comes up, if you connect data in different tables. In the above mentioned example the record contains the fields ‘account’ and ‘bank’. This two fields can be connected to the database of your home bank and will show you your accounts current.

A database solves many problems with your otherwise widely spread data.
Where is the “egg-laying, milk-bearing woolly sow app” that makes it all easy to manage?

The short answer is: nowhere.

Anyway there are some apps working on databases but their usability is strongly limited and much foresight is demanded from the user to hit the apple.

After a while you will manage a lot of different data.
And every night during your slow-wave sleep questions pop up:

  • Can I switch to another app without loosing my data?
  • Does the app still run if a new iOS-Version is coming from Cupertino?
  • Are the data available on my second device?
  • Are my data locked against all the nosy nerds?

And here is the bad news:
There is only one app meeting the requirements extensively.
iOS is a new technology compared with Windows or Mac OS. Most of the developers are not yet ready to analyze the requirements of customers (thinking they bought a computer which is only a bit smaller than his brother). And its obviously a question of pricing to get on the green track.

Databases for iOS-Devices …

The best small business solution is Microsoft Access.
This is my personal experience over decades of programming and designing.
But an iOS-Version is not available. There is only one app ‘ACCESS mobile database client’ from Impathic. This app is not even capable to fetch a Microsoft Access database except via iTunes-Filesharing.

After investigating 7 apps there is only one app from a serious developer which may be taken into account. Its BENTO from FileMaker Inc., USA.

But even this app does not sync multiple devices except via BENTO for Mac.
iOS-Users do not like these solutions as they have to install a server version on a Mac, if they have one, configure it and go deeply into the details. FileMaker is not discussed here, because you cannot create your own databases on an iOS-Device. The full version and a Mac is required.

To clear it up: I never worked with the Mac version of FileMaker or Bento so I cannot give a rating for this product. What I see are some facts about Bento which are summarized here:

  • Databases are not synced across iOS-Devices
  • Fetching data from external storages only via CSV-File received by E-Mail
  • Fields like ‘media’ or ‘checkbox’ get lost when using CSV-Format
  • No support for cloud storages neither for well-known providers like Dropbox nor WebDAV-Connections
  • No import of PDFs into fields of type ‘media’ (voice recording, import from camera roll or captured media is available)

An application …

Bento is an easy to use DBMS for iOS-Devices with a plain user interface.
I your requirements don’t clash with the lacks above its the best solution available in the App Store even for normal users.

To give you an impression of BENTO I imported 5000 records from a CSV-File.

Checking invoices …


Cons …

  • No IF-Statements in calculated fields
    (Support only for numerical calculations and String-Operations)
  • No alignment of calculated fields
  • Some crashes, however without data loss
  • No queries with conditions when building new collections
    (single select of records only)
  • Printing is not supported

Pros …

  • Perfect UI, easy to use
  • Good performance (tested with 5000 records)
  • Understandable helps
  • Easy to use design tool for forms
  • Special field types Checkbox, Choice, Rating
  • Show/Hide-Fields option
  • Permuting of columns
  • Resizing of column widths
    (‘automatic and manual adjustment)
  • Sorting for all columns

All missing features in BENTO for iOS are available in the Mac-Version.

Part (2) of this topic will be posted on 2013-01-05.



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