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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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