CloudOn

28 09 2014

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

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

The features …

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

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

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

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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.

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

User interface …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related links …

Office 365 for Mobiles

Thanks for dropping by.





Go Paperless

8 03 2014

Stats say that every human living in an industrial nation uses about 20,000 kg paper in his life.

About paper …

Paper may be impregnated, enamelled, metallised, made to look like parchment, creped, water-proofed, waxed, glazed, sensitized, bent, turned, folded, twisted, crumpled, cut, torn, dissolved, macerated, moulded, and embossed. It may be coloured, coated, printed or even written on! It can be laminated with fabric, plastic and metal. It can be opaque, translucent or transparent. It is naturally combustible, or can be made fre-retardent. It may be a carrier or a barrier or a filter. It may be made tough enough to withstand acid, or soft enough for a baby’s skin. It can be read and worn as a garment. It can be re-used and recycled and it is made from a renewable, sustainable source.

The range of possible uses of paper seems almost limitless. New ways of using it are being devised daily. This evolution will continue because paper is an expression of everyday living.

  • Agriculture
    Sacks, seed packets, and animal bedding Building
    Wallpaper, damp-proof courses, roofing, flooring, flame resistant papers, plasterboard, and decorative laminates for furniture.
  • Business
    Print out sheets, receipts, circulars, catalogues, filing systems, sales and service manuals, brochures, and letter heading.
  • Cars
    Fascia boards, door and roof liners, filters the Highway Code, and driving licences.
  • Communications
    Writing pads, envelopes, newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, calendars, diaries, telephone directories, labels, business and identity cards.
  • Domestic Products
    Tissues, paper plates and cups, toilet paper, kitchen towels, table napkins, and lampshades.
  • Education
    Books, exercise books, wall charts, flip charts, and report cards
  • Electrical
    Special insulating boards, electrolytic condenser paper, wrapping and identification for electrical cables, printe( circuits, and battery separators.
  • Entertainment
    Menu cards, paper hats, crackers, fireworks, wrapping paper, programmes, playing cards, board games, kites, model aircraft, and race cards.
  • Filtration
    Filters for water, air, coffee, medicine, beer, oil, and mechanical uses.
  • Impregnated Papers
    Polishing, waxing, and cleaning.
  • Industry
    Protection for manufactured goods, in transport, transfer sheets for decorating chinaware, display boards, point of sale materials and in storage.
  • Medical
    Wrapping to keep instruments and equipment sterile, bandages, first aid bands, clothing for nurses, face masks, surgeons’caps, disposable bed pans, sheets, and pillowcases.
  • Money, Finance, Security
    Bank notes, insurance forms, cheque books, travellers’ cheques, postal orders, stamps, cash bags and security papers that contain special markings which are only visible when subjected to ultra-violet light

This is an amazing variety of applications but although there is a sophisticated recycling industry the usage of paper still destroys parts of our ecosystem.

Paper consumption …

The paper consumption in individual countries is related to their gross national product. The further increase in paper and board consumption will be different in different countries depending on whether economic saturation, as e. g. in the United States, in the North European and some Central European countries, and also in Japan, or fast increasing demand, as in China, is prevailing. But also India, Russia and some other Asian and East European countries will come up in the near future with growth rates above the average. The following comparision between the paper consumption per capita and the population in the various regions of the world demonstrate the significant differences and devine the future development of the paper demand there.

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The production and use of paper has a number of adverse effects on the environment.
Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years leading to increase in deforestation, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. Logging of old growth forests accounts for less than 10% of wood pulp, but is one of the most controversial issues.
Paper waste accounts for up to 40% of total waste produced in the United States each year, which adds up to 71.6 million tons of paper waste per year in the United States alone.
Conventional bleaching of wood pulp using elemental chlorine produces and releases into the environment large amounts of chlorinated organic compounds, including chlorinated dioxins. Dioxins are recognized as a persistent environmental pollutant, regulated internationally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Dioxins are highly toxic, and health effects on humans include reproductive, developmental, immune and hormonal problems. They are known to be carcinogenic. Over 90% of human exposure is through food, primarily meat, dairy, fish and shellfish, as dioxins accumulate in the food chain in the fatty tissue of animals.

The tasks …

If you plan to go paperless you won’t change the stats significantly but there are some other benefits when moving from ring folders to flash memories.

Scanning documents is a daily task for big businesses but it also can be useful for private purposes. You have access to all important information without taking heavy filing folders with you, search within documents without looking through countless pages, send documents or parts of them to companies or authorities, etc. instead of copying them on new paper. Another benefit is that you still have the content even if original documents get lost for what reason soever.

Here is a brief overview of documents which are worth scanning

  • Insurance Policies
  • Receipts
  • Certificates of Warranty
  • Passport, ID Card, Driver License
  • Ad-hoc information taken with a camera

After buying an iPad about one year ago I started to reduce paper consumption. The first step is to find out the right apps and then optimize the workflow from incoming or already existing documents to permanent storage on an iOS device.

The requirements …

For me, a reliable solution is based on software of reliable software developers which should meet the following requirements:

General …

  • UI design following Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines
  • Reliable developer updating his apps regularly
  • Universal app (running on all iOS-Devices)
  • Further apps from the same developer for related tasks
  • Understandable and fast support
  • Code stability
  • iCloud support
  • Scanning

Specific …

  • Integrated camera usage
  • Saving photos as images or PDFs
  • Combining several photos as pages to a unique document
  • Connection to different well-known cloud storages including iCloud as well as WebDAV-Connections
  • Setting of meaningful filenames for images respectively PDFs
  • Organizing scanned objects in folders
  • Mailing of scanned objects
  • Availability of the iOS ‘Open in…’ command
  • Access to the camera roll and the photo stream
  • Password protection for the app
  • Encryption of documents when uploaded to cloud storages and sending by E-Mail
  • Syncing of scanned objects across all iOS-Devices using the same Apple ID
  • Printing of scanned documents
  • Extended search functionalities

There are three apps available at Apple’s App Store which meet all these requirements.

Scanning …

  • Scanner Pro by Readdle
    with an impressive user interface for scanning by using the integrated camera.
  • AiO Remote by HP
    for hardware-based scanning in connection with an AirPrint capable Three-In-One (Print, Scan, Copy) device by Hewlett Packard.
  • Prizmo by Creaseed
    for extracting text from photos and saving the content as PDF.
    This is a much more faster procedure than scanning documents with an AiO device although the quality is slightly reduced.

Document management …

  • Documents by Readdle
    as the main container for scanned documents with access to Apple’s iCloud and other cloud providers

Useful utilities …

  • File Browser by Stratospherix
    as a tool to access nearly all cloud storages as well as local computers running on OS X or Windows with powerful features like moving multiple files from one storage to another, zipping files, etc.
  • Native apps
    of cloud providers like Box, Dropbox, and iDriveSync
  • 1Password by AgileBits
    as the main password keeper for all sensitive data

It was a rocky road to find out these apps in Apple’s App Store with thousands of productivity apps. The developers of the mentioned products did their homework in the last months and today the apps are quite powerful.

As you can see this suggested solution is not based on a database system. I will discuss the alternate way to go paperless in my next post.

Feature descriptions …

Documents by Readdle

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Documents supports Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SugarSync, SkyDrive, Office 365 Sharepoint, CloudMe, WebDAV, Windows SMB, FTP Server, and SFTP Server (as of Dec 2013).

For a full feature description of Documents by Readdle see my post mentioned under ‘Related links’.

AiO Remote by HP

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AiO Remote supports, iCloud (for syncing), Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote, and any WebDAV access, e.g. iDriveSync.

Scanner Pro by Readdle

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Scanner Pro supports Apple’s iCloud so that documents e.g. scanned with an iPhone are automatically also available on an iPad.

Further considerations …

Many of the scanned documents contain information which must be available over years. So it’s indispensable to use a suitable file format which allows access over a long time and it turns out that it’s the PDF file format of Adobe.

Additionally it’s worth thinking about the folder structure where scanned documents should be saved.

My suggestions how to group the information …

I called the root folder ‘ARCHIVE’ with the following subfolders:

Long-Termed (many years)

  • Insurance Policies
  • Real Estate
  • Certificates of Warranty
  • Personal documents
  • Last Will
  • etc

Short-Termed (1-2 years)

  • Receipts
  • Carrier contracts
  • etc

I always use structured file names containing a date (e.g. conclusion of a contract) and an added short description pointing to the main content, for example 2013-12-06-AppleTV or 2014-01-13-CarLeasing.

An essential point is that there are at least two different storages so that access is still possible even if a device is broken, replaced, or not in use.

It needs some efforts to replace old documents by newer ones and to delete documents which are not valid any longer. But this is a task you also have to do when using ring binders. Nothing is more annoying than to find invalid information when searching for essentials.

Legislation …

Check the legislation in your country. Paperless storage of certain documents without keeping the originals might be inoperative. In this case the old-fashioned usage of ring binders is still indispensable.

Note
This was the case in Germany where companies sent their invoices as PDFs which were inoperative if the company didn’t digitally signed them. Legislation was changed because it hampered the workflow of small enterprises.

Security …

It’s up to where you primarily store your documents. Keep in mind that everything is stored in Apple’s iCloud if you device is backed up to iCloud. So if you don’t want your documents saved in iCloud you should turn off iCloud backup.
If you use a cloud provider it is indispensable to read the terms and conditions. Free cloud storages are subject to change and suspension without notification.
See ‘Risky free clouds’ under ‘Related links’.
A suggested provider is iDriveSync with encryption of data in transit (during transfer from your device via internet) and at rest (when saved on a provider’s server).

Summary …

Here is a summary of the hard- and software configuration

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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.

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

An annotation …

Valid for reducing paper waste in the private and business sector …

If your goal in maintaining a paperless office is greater productivity, you may find it more useful to focus on that, rather than on the paper itself. For example, if you receive lots of printed documents and your main problems are finding information in them and figuring out where to file them, the scan-OCR-shred routine will serve you well. It won’t literally reduce the amount of paper you encounter, but it will address the inconveniences you struggle with.

Then there are the trees. Environmental issues, including saving forests and reducing waste, are certainly noble reasons to decrease paper usage.
MacWorld

Related links …

About paper …

Fast facts on Paper Use

Paper Consumption

About the hard- and software …

Documents by Readdle

zBase vs Tap Forms

Text Recognition (1)

Text Recognition (2)

About clouds …

Risky free clouds

iDriveSync Privacy

Thanks for stopping by.
Please do not print this page, just save the PDF version.





Three In One

8 09 2013

Three-In-One Concepts is an educational corporation based in Thousand Oaks, California with the purpose of assisting individuals who are interested and willing in taking responsibility for creating their wellbeing personally and professionally through the integration of Body, Mind and Spirit. Developed by Gordon Stokes, Daniel Whiteside und Candace Callaway in the 80s, it’s a worldwide accepted approach today.

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

Within app development I found out an approach to combine note taking, outlining, and mind mapping resp. concept mapping.

The app is named MagicalPad by MagicalPad, USA.

The developer talks about his app …

MagicalPad is a Massachusetts based start-up provider of innovative mobile and web-based applications for visually organizing and managing information and ideas to drive structured thinking, spark creativity, and enhance business innovation and team effectiveness.
The thousands of users who use MagicalPad understand the value of structured notes to help structure their thoughts and ideas. MagicalPad has quickly become THE app for many business users for brainstorming, meeting notes, project notes, school notes, mind mapping, creative writing and other information management and outlining needs.

This announcement forces me to dip into the details.
Does this app really combine all these features?

The features …

What you should know is the meaning of the term ‘Notebook’. The developer uses it for single projects consisting of ‘Pages’. Notebooks can be created on the home screen and pages on the worksheet. It’s comparable with files (Pages) in folders (Notebooks).

Here is a full feature description visualized as a mind map created with the app iThoughts HD for the iPad. An image often says more than 1000 words.

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You may download this map in the following file formats

PDF

ITMZ (Native format of iThoughts)

MMAP (Mindjet)

XMIND (XMind)

The UI and UX …

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

UX means the User Experience and describes what users feel when they use the app the first time and extensively later on. The impression must be positive to keep the app on the device for further usage.

Both UI and UX are in some way subjective criteria. So take a look on these screenshots and build your personal opinion.

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What you cannot retrieve from these screenshots is the feeling when interacting with the app. Sorry, but you have to buy it to check this out.
What I recognized on my iPad 3rd Gen was a stuttering behavior when moving objects and slow performance when loading complex notebooks.

Export, Import, Share …

Nearly all apps available at Apple’s App Store use native file formats. So sharing of files with other people not using the same app is an important criterion when it comes to collaboration.

I used the notebook coming with the app and exported it using all supported file formats as there are

  • OPML
    OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) is an XML format for outlines. Each node contains a set of text values.
  • JPEG
  • PDF
  • RTF

The results:

The main disadvantages …

While using the app as a mind mapping tool I recognized that there is no automatic combining of topics. So it’s an ugly work to manually set every single arrow which combines a topic with a subtopic.

The performance of displaying objects when loading a page is near to be not acceptable (iPad 3 rd Gen). Moving objects to new positions is a bit jumpy.

Objects cannot be connected to internet sources by attaching a hyperlink.
I asked the company via E-Mail to get an answer regarding this flaw (and to test the support):

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The support is perfect. The company answered immediately even on further questions I had.

Summary …

Like all the other apps I reviewed here on http://iNotes4You.com there is still some work to do for the MagicalPad developers. The mind mapping features are stunted compared to specialized apps whereas the outlining feature is well-developed.
What can be named as MAGIC is the idea to combine outlining, mind mapping, and note taking.

It’s an ongoing experience to see useful features in one app that are missing in another app.

Related links …

Note taking

Mind mapping (3)

Thanks for dropping by.