iWork and Sharing

28 05 2014

Apple’s iWork applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) save files automatically on iCloud and sync them across all your devices. With iWork on iCloud you can also access documents via browsers (Safari, Chrome, IE) without using an Apple device.

If you save a spreadsheet on iCloud, you can share a link to it with others. Recipients can open and edit the spreadsheet in a supported browser on a Mac or a Windows computer, and see all the changes others have made. Collaborators don’t need an iCIoud account to view and edit documents.

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iCIoud keeps your spreadsheet up-to-date across all your iOS devices, your Mac, and the web, so you and your collaborators always have access to the latest version.

Sharing a link …

If the document is open, tap ‘Share’ (top right), then tap ‘Share via iCloud’. Select an option for sharing. The full link appears in the body of an email, a SMS, or a Twitter or Facebook message or just copy the link to the clipboard to use it elsewhere.

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Any further edits you make to the document after you shared it are visible to the recipients of the link. The link remains the same. The only thing you have to do is to notify the recipients if a newer version is available.

Using a password …

An iWork document has only one password. If you already added a password, that password applies when you share a link. If you haven’t added a password, you can add one, then share.

  • With the spreadsheet open, tap on Tools, then tap Set Password.
  • Enter the password in the Password field, then enter it again in the Verify field.
  • Enter a hint to remind you of the password if you forget it.
  • Tap Done.
  • Tap on Tools, tap Share and Print, then tap Share Link via iCIoud.
  • Tap the method you want to use to send.
    The tull link appears in the body of the email, tweet, or post.</em

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Any further edits you make to the spreadsh after you share it are visible to the recipient of the link. Be sure to notify collaborators of the password so they can open it, even if you shared the spreadsheet before adding a password.
If your spreadsheet is already being shared, you can still add a password to it. Be sure to notify collaborators of the password so they can open the spreadsheet.

Resend a document …

You can share a spreadsheet link as many times as you wish.
With the spreadsheet open, tap Tools, tap Share and Print, then tap View Share Settings. Tap Send Link, then choose Mail, Messages, Twitter, or Facebook. Enter the requested information (for example, an email address or Twitter account).

Turn off iCloud sharing …

With the spreadsheet open, tap Tools, tap Share and Print, then tap View Share Settings. Tap Stop Sharing at the bottom of the pane.

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File formats …

If the recipient receives a link to a document the can choose the proprietary file format of iWork, that of Microsoft Office, or the Adobe PDF format for a download.

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PDFs can easily opened in Apple’s iBooks which offers the best reading experience.

The running iWork in iCloud …

iWork, Apple’s office suite for OS X and iOS, allows working on documents across all devices.

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Here is an example:

  • 1 On an iPhone I entered the text ‘Edited on the iPhone’ in a presentation managed by Apple’s app Keynote.
  • 2 Some seconds later a message pops up in iCloud opened on a Windows PC with Google Chrome. After accepting with ‘OK’ the document is accessible in the updated version.
    Note
    Don’t get confused with image 2. It was taken with my iPad while remotely connected to a Windows PC in the office.
  • 3 After entering the text ‘Edited on a PC’ in the browser-based version of iWork it appears on the iPhone after some seconds without any message.

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The image above shows the UI when working with a browser.
Learning difficulties: None.

Using an additional cloud storage …

In contrast to many other apps for file management iWork doesn’t support predefined cloud storages like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. If you want to save iWork documents to other cloud accounts than iWork you have to use a WebDAV connection.

My post
WebDAV Basics
explains this protocol for communicating with remote servers.

Not all cloud providers support a WebDAV connection.
Since years I personally use Box and iDriveSync as additional cloud storages.
iDriveSync offers a secure solution since Feb 2013 because it works with client-side encryption, that means, only you have the key to encrypt and decrypt files. Your documents are encrypted already in transit and later on at rest on iDriveSync’s cloud servers. Box is working on a comparable solution.

Here are the WebDAV addresses of both competitors:

They can be used to save iWork documents via WebDAV.

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The steps …

  • 1 Tap on the action control (top left) in an iWork app.
  • 2 Select ‘Send a copy’.
  • 3 Select a document.
  • 4 Select ‘WebDAV’.
  • 5 Enter the URL given by your cloud provider (e.g. https://dav.box.com/dav).
  • 6 Enter you credentials.

iWork displays the folder structure. Select a folder for saving your document.

Restrictions …
iWork only supports the saving of documents. You cannot manage your files and folders.
So you need a file management app, either the native app of your cloud provider or a tool like FileBrowser with which you can access different accounts and move files between folders and accounts.

Notes …
1 If you share a link to a document saved on iCloud, recipients *cannot use mobile browsers* to edit the document on iCloud. He only can download it, work on it and send it back via mail. To avoid conflicts with your original document on iCloud it’s useful to save and share it on a different cloud storage.

This complicated workflow should be improved by offering a way to let recipients collaborate on iCloud documents even if they are on mobile devices.

2 If you create important documents you can use the ‘Copy’ function to always have a backup of each document on iCloud. This reduces your available space and it might be necessary to upgrade your iCloud plan. Saving a copy on a different cloud storage via WebDAV takes far less space on iCloud.

3 If you prefer to use Microsoft’s XLSX file format recipients also can access documents when using other mobile platforms.

Summary …

Again Apple provided useful features embedded in a simple but perfect UI.

Related links …

About WebDAV

About clouds

About iDriveSync

About file management

Thanks for paying attention.





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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.





Windows on the iPad

20 05 2014

Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on

November 20, 1985 as a graphical operating system shell for MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUI).

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Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world’s personal computer market with over 90% market share, overtaking Mac OS, which had been introduced in 1984. As of October 2013, the most recent versions of Windows for personal computers, mobile devices, server computers and embedded devices are respectively Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Embedded 8.

Tablets …

Touch screen technology has brought about a revolution in the new-age and broadcast media industries and is now widely adopted by Television, Computer, Mobile Phones and Camera manufacturers. Tablet computers are among the most visible manifestations of this technology and are seen as a possible replacement for regular desktops and laptops in the foreseeable future.

The majority of tablets are available in 2 sizes, 7 and 10 inch.

Note
Some tablet manufacturers make also 8 and 9 inch tablets. Few models can be found with large than 10 inch display sizes, in majority these are Windows based tablet computers.
There are several aspects about tablet displays which a discerning customer should consider before considering one of the manufacturers for the final purchase.

There were already early beginnings in finding out the right screen size.

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There are many requirements for suitable tablets which basically remain the same independent of the screen size. So let’s have a look on some technical specifications.

1 Display resolution …

Screen resolutions vary according to the manufacturer and the price range in which the tablet is sold. From the QXGA resolution on the new iPad to the WVGA resolution that is found in the most basic models, there is a wide choice available for the consumer depending on his or her personal needs.

Typically, the screen resolution can be categorized as follows:

QXGA 2048 x 1536
WXGA 1366 x 768 or 1280 x 800
XGA 1024 x 768
WSVGA 1024 x 600
WVGA 800 x 600

Tablets of smaller sizes such as the 7 inch can do well with a lower resolution screen. Higher screen resolution becomes relevant as the tablet size increases.

2 Screen coating, Brightness and Protection …

Since tablets are highly portable devices, they are widely used indoors and outdoors. While screen brightness is not really an issue when used indoors, these tablets can become highly reflective in outdoor daylight conditions and therefore needs the screen brightness to offset the ambient brightness. Most manufacturers have overcome the problem by using a coating that prevents glare while also protecting the glass from scratches and dirt. If your tablet display is protected using a toughened glass such as Gorilla Glass, the chances of screen cracking due to the tablet accidentally falling on the ground is minimized.

3 Screen Viewing Angles …

While this may not be a major concern if you are using the tablet as a hand held device, screen dimming and colour change can be an irritant if you are placing the tablet on a stand or keeping it on a table for people around you to see. This problem is normally found in LCD displays made using TN technology. Colours like red, blue or green become darker and the screen becomes dimmer as you move away from the centre of the screen. Make sure that you get to test this out on a demo piece at the retailer before you choose your tablet. Most modern tablets do not use the TN technology in their LCD display.

4 Screen Technology …

There are 2 prominent TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD Screen technologies available today.

In Plane Switching technology or IPS was developed in Japan in response to the viewing angle problems caused by LCDs based on twisted nematic display technology. IPS LCD screens have almost no viewing angle colour changes.

Plain Line Switching or PLS is a relatively new LCD technology and was developed by Samsung in Korea and has lower manufacturing costs as compared to other LCD technologies. With improved image quality, viewing angles and screen brightness, PLS is expected to address several of the issues faced by tablet manufacturers.

Samsung’s way …

On 12.2-inch models, you can also split the screen into four, to run four visible apps at the same time. You might display your email app, next to your browser, next to a video, while editing an iWork document.

Samsung already refreshed the traditional Android interface. Instead of grids of icons for a home screen, the tablets show a magazine-like layout that separates apps and content into different tiles and pages.

Samsung’s emphasis on professional users for tablets is a direct effort to compete with Microsoft’s Surface tablets, which are marketed as a more viable replacement for a laptop suitable for work. But it is also an effort to take on Apple, whose iPads are widely used by workers in various fields, like construction, medicine and food service.

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Apple, it’s your turn now to say Good Bye to the One-Window technique.

Increased screen size …

There are rumors about an iPad coming in 2014 with an increased screen size. The actual screen size is 9.7″ and sources speculate about a screen size up to 13″.

If this will come true what would the intention of Apple be?
Would the customers benefit from a larger screen size?

To answer these questions we should look at the motivation of users when buying a tablet. Well-known daily tasks are mailing, shopping, and banking and stats of Apple’s App Store say that nearly all of the top ten downloaded apps are games.

20140217-085455.jpg

For this kind of usage an increased screen size is dispensable. This is also validated by increasing sales of the iPad Mini.

So the only reason for launching a bigger screen size could be to use a tablet for professional tasks like editing documents, e.g. spreadsheets, presentations, and letters with Apple’s iWork suite while accessing sources shown in other apps, e.g. websites in Safari.

  • 1 With the actual operating system iOS 7 for mobiles an increased screen size will not solve the following problems:

    – Files still remain in a fragmented file system followed by redundancy.

    ( see my post http://iNotes4You.com/2012/10/11/the-ios-filesystem )

    – The One-Window-Technique is the main disadvantage when working with more than one application. It’s a daily task to retrieve information from one window and use it in a window of another application.

  • 2 Embryonic clipboard
    Working a bit more effectively affords an advanced clipboard with multiple entries.
  • 3 Mobility is slightly decreased.
    Weight and energy consumption could hamper the usage of a tablet with a larger screen size. The size of the device depends on the bezel which is actually about 0.79″ (2cm) for the actual iPad Air. A minimum bezel width of half of this value would be acceptable and the total size of the device would’t really decrease the mobility.
  • 4 Stats for the iPad Mini show us that many customers seem to go the reverse way regarding screen size. This decreases the number of potential customers for an iPad Pro. An overview of all actually available tablets show us that all manufacturers see the perfect screen size within a range of 7 to 10 inch.
  • 5 With the iPad Air Apple developed a tablet with an incredibly reduced weight and a battery life which lets you use the device a whole day. A bigger screen and improved multitasking will possibly roll these advantages back.

Windows and the operating system …

To enable a tablet for a more professional use it should offer

  • application windows
  • real multitasking
  • an increased memory
    to handle different tasks and to not let more complex applications fall into the suspended state

I’m no iOS developer so I cannot estimate whether iOS 7 already was designed for important changes in the near future.

So my presumption is that Apple will not just increase the screen size. The new iPad Pro (if there will be one) will show us application windows with an improved iOS 8 or an operating system named Mavericks for mobiles.

It needs some innovative power to organize windows on a touchscreen and find intuitive gestures to use them.

A workspace for innovation, right? And with that a case for Apple.

Suggestions …

My suggestions are based on a Two-Windows technique following the KISS principle.

A UI for the following tasks has to be developed …

  • Open two or more windows
  • Switch between windows
  • Maximize one of the windows
  • Return to ‘Two/Multiple-Windows’ display

(Tap on an image to zoom.)

Increased size doesn’t matter …

Actually tablets are used mainly because of their mobility and a more relaxed usage when reading information. Here is what Ben Bajarin wrote on TabTimes:

People see this device and realize that it is in fact a computer. This fundamental point is where the paradigm shift to tablet computing is about to happen.

The amazing thing about a tablet, that sets it apart from every device I have and use it that has more computing capabilities than my phone and is more portable/mobile than my notebook.

I can sit reclined on my couch or bed and learn, work, or play. I can take it to the office and work. I can use it as portable TV or DVD player. I can use it to make home movies. I can use it to make music. I can take it to the lake and capture video of my family water skiing and edit and create the video right there on the lake.

I can keep going with these scenarios but you get the picture.

This is why, I believe it has the most potential of any form factor out there with regard to the future of computing.

We can read statements like this quite often and I never read any suggestions for a bigger screen size. So the question is:

Is there a market for tablets with screen sizes near to 13″?

Sam Beckets concept …

Sam Becket published a concept video in December 2013 showing multitasking on an iPad.


(1:06 min)

Summary …

A bigger screen size for an upcoming iPad makes no sense without improvements of the operating system. Even then mobility decreases and there are only a few applications where an iPad with a screen size near to 13″ could make sense.

Related links …

The Post PC era

Thanks for paying attention.





iCloud, a paradigm shift

16 05 2014

Data has never really been where you thought it was. It was sprinkled across the blocks of a spinning disk and managed by a file allocation table which could retrieve it instantly as if it was all in one place. But it never was, like data traveling across the internet doesn’t always use the same path or is stored in a unique part of a cloud account.

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Note
Without a file system, information placed in a storage area would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins. By separating the data into individual pieces, and giving each piece a name, the information is easily separated and identified.
Taking its name from the way paper-based information systems are named, each piece of data is called a file. The structure and logic rules used to manage the groups of information and their names is called a file system.

Using Apple’s Finder or Microsoft’s Windows Explorer gives us an outlined overview of what’s stored on our hard disk. A first step to access files more comfortable was the assignment of apps to file types, e.g. double-clicking a PDF opens the Adobe Reader but the app doesn’t help us to find out where other PDF’s are stored on a hard disk.

After 35 years of using computers I got tired to take care of folders and subfolders, file versions, backups, and scanning the storage for viruses.

Manual file handling is an anachronism.
We have apps to do it for us.

20140209-155214.jpg

That seems to be the philosophy of Apple when introducing iCloud services on June 6, 2011.

Press Info: Apple Introduces iCloud

In October 2013 Apple added iWork for iCloud to support web-based collaboration on documents regardless of the user’s Apple ID, the device, and the place from where he wants to work on them.

The idea …

To explain what the concept of Apple is let’s take a look on the internet.

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve several billion users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW), the infrastructure to support email, and peer-to-peer networks.

The funding of a new U.S. backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. Though the Internet has been widely used by academia since the 1980s, the commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life.

The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own policies. Only the overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address space and the Domain Name System, are directed by a maintainer organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols (IPv4 and IPv6) is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise.
(Wikipedia)

20140209-160614.jpg

So the idea of Apple when launching the iCloud services is not new.
It was the rapid development of the internet which provoked the idea to a private counterpart, the iCloud services with some added and powerful features.

  • Optimized automated backup of the content of iOS devices
    • Apps are not stored in the cloud because they can be restored from the purchase list of your Apple account.
    • if your device is locked and connected to a WiFi network backups are automatically initiated.
  • Syncing across your devices
    • Contacts
    • Reminders
    • iWork Documents
    • Purchased apps
    • etc
  • Collaboration on iWork documents across different Apple IDs

Here is the full feature list of iCloud capabilities:

20140209-155329.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

Apple’s way …

Apple is well-known for reducing features to it’s needs and for seamless usage of it’s devices.

When you turn on a new iOS device or after you’ve completed the update to the latest version of iOS, follow the instructions in the setup assistant to activate your device and set up iCloud.

Using all the benefits of iCloud is as easy as switching on the light.

If you skipped the setup process, tap the Settings icon on the Home screen, select iCloud, then enter your Apple ID.

From now on iCloud does the work for you including advanced security with features like Activation Lock and Find My iPhone if you lose your device or it’s stolen.

It’s that simple. No further action is ever needed to sync all your devices or to backup content. Your Apple ID is the key to move into a perfectly designed ecosystem.

Special features …

Beside the well-known syncing features for contacts, reminders, iWork documents etc. Apple offers some more powerful features.

20140209-155812.jpg

  • iCloud Keychain
    keeps your Safari website usernames and passwords, credit card information, and Wi-Fi network information up to date across all of your approved devices that are using iOS 7.0.3 or later or OS X Mavericks v10.9 or later.

    iCloud Keychain can also keep the accounts you use in Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Messages up to date across all of your Macs. If you’re signed in to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, or any other accounts in Internet Accounts on OS X Mavericks, iCloud can push those accounts to your Macs as well.

    Setup

    Go to Settings – iCloud and turn Keychain on.
    Follow the onscreen instructions to complete setup.

    Security Code

    When you set up iCloud Keychain, you’re asked to create an iCloud Security Code. It can be a 4-digit code similar to the passcode lock for your device, or you can have a more complex code automatically generated for you. The iCloud Security Code is used to authorize additional devices to use your iCloud Keychain. It’s also used to verify your identify so that you can perform other iCloud Keychain actions, such as recovering your iCloud Keychain if you lose all your devices.

    Additional devices

    Follow the iCloud Keychain setup steps above for each device that you want to add. When you enable iCloud Keychain on an additional device, your other devices that use iCloud Keychain receive a notification requesting approval for the additional device. After you approve the additional device, your iCloud Keychain automatically begins updating on that device.

    Incorrect Security Code

    If you enter your iCloud Security Code incorrectly too many times, you won’t be able to use that iCloud Keychain. You can contact Apple Support, who can help verify your identity so that you can try again to enter your iCloud Security Code. After a number of incorrect attempts, your iCloud Keychain is removed from Apple’s servers and you will need to set up iCloud Keychain again.

    Local Keychain

    When setting up iCloud Keychain, you can skip the step for creating an iCloud Security Code. Your keychain data is then stored only locally on the device, and updates only across your approved devices.

  • Optimized Backup
    iCloud backup is a differential backup (only changed items are backed up after the first backup was initiated). Apps and other purchases are not backed up because they can be restored using the purchase history of your Apple ID. This saves time and space.
  • iWork in the cloud
    Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are the best way to be productive on a Mac or iOS device. Apple brought that productivity to the web in October 2013 for Mac and PC. The apps make it easy to work together with people everywhere. And since it’s all powered by iCloud, your documents are always up to date on each of your devices.

    iWork for iCloud works with Safari 6.0.3 or later, Chrome 27.0.1 or later, and Internet Explorer 9.0.8 or later.

20140209-155431.jpg

The future …

iCloud will connect all your services with each other. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, SkyDrive and other clouds just operate as remote storage servers. Files are transferred to the cloud and taken off if needed. Some apps like ByWord (a simple text editor for iOS devices) automatically save content on DropBox servers which then can be accessed in a wide variety of ways.
All these approaches are isolated applications.

Apple is in a unique position. The company develops soft- and hardware which is the basis for building an interconnecting service and not only a file sharing application. This makes it a bit more confusing to think about because there is no precedent or metaphor to compare it with.

More and more developers implement iCloud storage and synchronization (e.g. the password keeper 1Password, the database application Tap Forms, etc.). They seamlessly connect to iCloud and users must not care about saving or syncing. Create an iWork document on one device, edit it on another device, and collaborate with people not using an Apple device but one of the supported browsers.

What I’m driving at is how there seems to be a difference between managing files on a remote located cloud through some dedicated App or having files available to specific Apps and not worrying about whether they are remotely located in a cloud.

Managing files manually seems to be a bit more work than necessary. If I am with a client and we change a document together, I could return to my office to see those changes without having to ask the client to upload the newest version. So I feel it is probably a choice we make about how we want to handle our data. Do we want Files? Or do we want access to our data? If the file needs an app to open it, then why not just have the app retrieve it from iCloud?

Everything we see from Apple regarding cloud services seems to be pointing toward empowering the apps themselves to handle their data in the cloud and to have hooks into iCloud which deal with this seamlessly. We all used to deal with filing our data on hard drives and organizing it into categories, labeling it, and adding tags. Lately it has gotten easier to manage documents without having to think about where they are located. We may have to evolve a new way of using computers where the desktop metaphor gets replaced with a data access model shared by all apps.

It may get to the point where we no longer need to be aware of exactly what location the data is in.

We should not be constrained by the metaphors which once allowed us to simplify our understanding. If the new paradigm is to have our data available no matter where we are on the net then we will have to let go of our older notions of it being “stored” in the cloud somewhere far off.

Summary …

iCoud is a giant step forward to seamless managing and syncing of information across all your devices. But it’s also the way into an extreme dependency. Access to data is dependent on the availability of an Internet connection and bug-free software applications on web servers as well as on connected devices.

Credits …

Thanks to Dave Trautmann, President at EncycloMedia Ltd., for publishing his forward-looking statements on Google+ and giving me the idea to write about this topic.

Related links …

iCloud Setup

iCloud Keychain

The cloudy iCloud

The Apple ID

Thanks for flying with 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.

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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 …

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Box offers useful settings.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Box offers some useful sharing options.

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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.





2-Step Verification

7 05 2014

Strong efforts have to be undertaken to secure data in the digital world. Even your identity can be countermined if you think about a hacked social media account where a bad guy publishes using your name.

Sometimes hackers behave like terrorists and try to destroy everything they are able to. A victim could suffer humiliation, identity theft, and lifetime suspension from services and social networks.

See this article to understand what I mean

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

There are many different approaches to secure accounts …

  • 1 Using strong passwords
    that means passwords consisting of characters, special characters, and numbers.
    Apps like 1Password by AgileBits Inc., USA, are able to randomly generate complex passwords up to a length of 30 characters. Good idea but from then on you are bound to access accounts via the integrated browser of this app if you don’t want to write the password down on a sheet of paper. If you temporarily do not have access to your device there is no chance to access your account.
  • 2 2-Step Verification
    Your personal device is needed to receive a code with which you then identify yourself.
  • 3 Additional hardware
    to generate a code which has to be entered on a website. A transaction authentication number (TAN) is used by some online banking services as a form of single use one-time passwords to authorize financial transactions. TANs are a second layer of security and are used in different kinds

    • Classical TAN
      numbers generated by a bank and printed on a sheet of paper
    • Indexed TAN
      called iTAN where the user is not asked to use an arbitrary TAN from the list but to enter a specific TAN as identified by a sequence number (index). As the index is randomly chosen by the bank, an arbitrary TAN acquired by an attacker is usually worthless.
    • iTAN with CAPTCHA
      Prior to entering the iTAN, the user is presented a CAPTCHA, which in the background also shows the transaction data and data deemed unknown to a potential attacker, such as the user’s birthdate. This is intended to make it hard (but not impossible) for an attacker to forge the CAPTCHA.
      This variant of the iTAN is method used by some German banks adds a CAPTCHA to reduce the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks. Some Chinese banks have also deployed a TAN method similar to iTANplus. A recent study shows that these CAPTCHA-based TAN schemes are not secure against more advanced automated attacks.
    • Mobile TAN
      mTANs are used by banks in many countries. When the user initiates a transaction, a TAN is generated by the bank and sent to the user’s mobile phone by SMS. The SMS may also include transaction data, allowing the user to verify that the transaction has not been modified in transmission to the bank.
    • Simple TAN generators
      The risk of compromising the whole TAN list can be reduced by using security tokens that generate TANs on-the-fly, based on a secret known by the bank and stored in the token or a smart card inserted into the token.
    • ChipTAN
      is a TAN scheme used by many German banks. It uses a TAN generator which only works if the bank card for the account is inserted into it. The TAN generated is specific to the current transaction. There are two variants: In the older variant, the transaction details (at least amount and account number) must be entered manually. In the modern variant, the user enters the transaction online, then the TAN generator reads the transaction details via a flickering field on the computer screen (using a photodetector). It then shows the transaction details to the user for confirmation before generating a TAN.
  • Smart Card
    An example for a smart card you all know is the SIM card (subscriber identity module).

or this suggestion, using a complex password and a simple trick to not forget it

20140130-205135.jpg

If you are lucky and have just one bank account you just need one additional device to identify yourself or to verify a transaction. All these more sophisticated methods are not used by companies engaged in eCommerce. Instead, some companies still allow to buy with an eMail address and the password 1234.

Apple and passwords …

Ronald Carlson published interesting stats on tapscape.com (Jan 25, 2014) about how companies handle security:

Dashlane, a company that sells a password manager of the same name, has assessed the world’s top 100 websites for password security and published the results (pdf) for all to see. Unsurprisingly, Apple comes out on top with a perfect password security score of 100, while a long list of “trusted” companies, like Amazon, do less well:

The roundup assesses the password policies of the top 100 e-commerce sites in the US by examining 24 different password criteria that Dashlane has identified as important to online security, and awarding or docking points depending upon whether a site meets a criterion or not. Each criterion is given a +/- point value, leading to a possible total score between -100 and 100 for each site — Dashlane.

  • 55 % still accept notoriously weak passwords, such as “123456” or “password”
  • 51 % of websites, including Amazon, Dell and Best Buy, make no attempt to block entry after 10 incorrect password entries
  • 64 % have highly questionable password practices
  • 61 % do not provide any advice on how to create a strong password during signup and 93 percent do not provide an on-screen password strength assessment
  • 10 % scored above the threshold for good password policies (i.e. 45 points or more in the roundup)
  • 8 sites, including Toys “R” Us, J.Crew and 1-800-Flowers.com, send passwords in plain text via email

The research study puts Apple on #1 with a score of 100, Microsoft on #3 with 65, Nike on #10 with 45, Toys R Us got a score of -60, and MLB -75 which means that this e-commerce offer was the leader of the bottom 10.

Thanks to Ronald Carlson for sharing Web Password Security, Apple Protects Users Best, Amazon Less So on Google+.

Securing web-based services …

It’s indispensable to secure access to web-based services to increase reliance. This must be an integral part when building up customer relationships.

My article describes two ways to securely access accounts offered by Apple and Google. While Apple’s solution is limited to account access and purchases within Apple’s ecosystem Google’s solution supports 2-Step Verification for a whole range of services even from other vendors like Dropbox, Facebook, or WordPress.

Today companies make it easy to register for services.

Usually you need an E-Mail address (as a username) and a password. Instead of separating username, password, and email address for communication purposes nearly all companies reduce these three properties to just two which makes it easier to use their services but it goes along with less security.

To increase security the so-called 2-Step Verification was developed.
The basic idea is that apart from a password a second input is required to successfully access an account. Additionally access is limited to so-called trusted devices, devices you personally own and have access to.

2-Step Verification means “something you know” (like a password) and “something you have” (like a smartphone). Once you activated 2-Step Verification you have to use both, your password and an authorized device to sign in. To increase usability Apple as well as Google let you authorize a device to not asking for an authentication code again.

With 2-Step Verification security is drastically increased but not perfect at all. The only way to further increase the level is to use biometric identifiers (like a fingerprint) which are actually not supported for mobile devices. A standardized solution implemented in all operating systems would be a great step forward.

Many authentication processes could be made much more easier if “something you are” (fingerprint, iris) would replace “something you know” and it would increase security drastically if all these three methods are combined to identify yourself.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. A physiological biometric would identify by iris scan, DNA or fingerprint. Behavioral biometrics are related to the behavior of a person, including but not limited to: typing rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.
More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number. Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.
(Wikipedia)

Apple did a first step with a fingerprint scanner implemented in it’s flagship iPhone 5S, released in October 2013.

Apple’s solution …

For a comprehensive description of the 2-Step Verification process visit:

Frequently asked questions about 2-Step Verification for Apple ID

or see this concept map which contains all information in a visualized layout.

20140507-082044.jpg

On your iOS device 2-Step Verification will look like this:

20140130-205257.jpg

Unsurprisingly Apple did not follow the open standard Google, Microsoft, and many others use. So this optional security feature is just made for Apple services and devices that means for Apple’s ecosystem. It requires you to verify your identity using one of your devices before you can:

  • Sign in to My Apple ID to manage your account
  • Make an iTunes, App Store, or iBookstore purchase from a new device
  • Get Apple ID-related support from Apple

The complete process …

I published a How To for the complete activation process on Snapguide com.

http://snapguide.com/guides/activate-and-use-apples-2-step-verification/

Note
You can view this public guide via Safari but I suggest to download the app Snapguide from Apple’s App Store (universal, free). The iPad version enjoys all the advantages of a perfect user experience.

Google’s solution …

Sorry. But as usual Google spreads information about the internet and it’s hard to find out a simple description which contains all the information a normal user needs to understand this additional layer of security. So here is a description I found on MacWorld for configuring 2-Step Authentication:

2-Step Verification by Google

My opinion: This is not the way to let users accept the efforts made by the company. It seems to be quite difficult to explain this approach to more security to a broad number of unexperienced users.

The flaws …

Apple …

  • 2-Step Verification is still not available in all countries.

Google …

  • After you turn on 2-Step Verification, non-browser applications and devices that use your Google account (such as the Gmail app on your phone), will be unable to connect to your account. Google solves this by generating application-specific passwords to allow these applications to connect to your account. Although this must be done only once for each device and application it’s an additional hassle to manage these settings.

Common flaws …

  • What will users do to keep usability on an acceptable level.
    They first declare their device as a trusted device. That means this device has direct access to all services because the apps generating security codes are fully accessible. Furthermore Google’s authentication provokes to grant access to all the installed applications by using application-specific passwords and setting the option “Remember Password”.
  • Security is still bound to the unlock code of your device.
    The progress coming up with 2-Step Verification is limited because it doesn’t secure your device but only reduces the chance to successfully hack an account.

Some FAQs …

01 What to do if the phone doesn’t have a carrier signal but is on WiFi?

Google
You can install a standalone app called Google Authenticator (it’s also available in the App Store), so your cell phone doesn’t need a signal.
Apple
You can use the app Find My iPhone to get a verification code.

02 What to do if the phone runs out of power, is broken, or is stolen?

Google
You can print out 10 one-time backup codes and put them in your wallet. Use those one-time codes to log in even without your phone.
Go to your 2-step verification settings page. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll have the choice to remove a device. The device will automatically sign out of your account, and you’ll be prompted for a verification code next time you try to sign in from them.

Apple
While activating 2-Step Verification you will get a so-called Recovery Key which has to be printed out. This code can be used in the event that none of your trusted devices are available. You have to sign in to My Apple ID and remove the stolen or sold device from the trusted devices. Access from this device to your Apple ID (Settings – iTunes+App Stores – Apple ID) or purchases from Apple’s stores are no longer possible.

03 What to do if an authentication within an app like Apple Mail fails?

Google
For apps you can create so-called ‘application-specific passwords’ (ASPs) that your app can use instead of your regular password. You can revoke ASPs at any time.
Apple
Not applicable

The worst case …

If you lost two or more of the required sign-in items (your Apple ID password, access to one of your trusted devices, your Recovery Key) you cannot regain access to your Apple account. You will need to create a new Apple ID. You can do so on one of your devices or on the web at My Apple ID.

Costs …

If you use SMS as the transmission service for verification codes you will be charged by your provider. The sender of the SMS is located in UK (+44).

To clarify costs you should ask your provider. Best practice is to activate Find My iPhone. The app is ready for receiving verification codes. It’s obvious that this transmission only works if you are connected to the internet.

The main features …

These are the main features of Apple’s 2-Step Verification

  • 2-Step Verification is bound to your Apple ID.
  • You can use any device capable of receiving SMS.
  • If you loose two or more sign-in items you cannot regain access to your account.
  • If you sell your device or if it’s stolen immediately go to My Apple ID and remove this device from the list of trusted devices.

Summary …

Use 2-Step Verification to improve security and to avoid compromising your identity which can cause severe problems with law if it’s obvious that you did not follow well-known security advices.

The digital world offers great benefits but increased security always goes along with decreased usability. That’s the price we have to pay. Be sure it’s a good investment.

The solution of both companies, Apple and Google, do not meet the requirements of their users. You cannot keep a recovery key or up to 10 backup codes in mind but your biometric identifiers are always with you. So let’s wait for the next step of a more innovative technological progress where you have access to all your accounts just with ‘something you are’.

Related links …

Apple …

Security made by Apple

Emergency Guide

The Apple ID

Apple ID: Frequently asked questions about 2-step Verification for Apple ID

Apple ID: Can’t sign in with 2-Step Verification

Google …

Google: 2-Step Verification

Google: Install Google Authenticator

Google: Sign in using Backup Code

Overview …

Overview about 2-Step Verification of other companies

Thanks for dropping by.





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.