This is part-2 of a short series that I began on my AIIM blog on Tuesday. In that post, I described how we worked around the fact that Datasheet views don’t work on an iPad by using some of that middle-tier magic Marc Anderson got us addicted to back in June. That solution is looking very good, and when we unveil it on Monday, I think we are going to have some happy users. The other problem we have been trying to solve is how to edit documents on an iPad, documents that we store on SharePoint. If we can solve these two problems, the people who have iPads tell me that they can then travel without their laptops. They also tell me that is something they want to be able to do. My choice is between being the guy who makes that wish come true or the guy who owns the reason it can’t come true.
In my previous posts regarding documents and iPads, I’ve gotten comments from the folks who developed SharePlus; it’s a good product, but my complaint was that it was setting up a 2-cushion bank shot between SharePoint, SharePlus and DocumentsToGo (and I rarely make those). In what I thought was going to be an unrelated story, I was also trying to get my iPad working with personal documents I store on Box.net. When I wanted to edit a document on my iPad, Box suggested that I could use Office2 HD. Not only does Office2 HD work with Box.net, it works with SharePlus. In fact, it made editing a SharePoint-based document a basic bank shot (and I can make those once in a while). The process for document creation is:
Create new document in Office2 HD
Save it to SharePlus
Save the document to SharePoint
That’s not bad! Editing a document is a little more tricky, as you have to move it from SharePoint to SharePlus’ local store first and then do the edit, save back to SharePlus and upload thing, but the process works and we were able to train one of our more technically adept users how to do it. The thing I like about this solution is, even though it is a slightly complex effort; there aren’t that many moving parts, and they are pretty cool parts. SharePlus provides a good–looking, intuitive interface to SharePoint that is consistent with the iOS user experience. Office2 HD is a sweet Office editing product whose only drawback is the inability to work with pptx files. Box.net is a safe and reliable platform for content management and I am happy to recommend it to my users for storing personal files. One editor, and our users can work on personal and business documents on their iPad, and they can easily hook up to those files from their home and office computers. As they say on TV, “But Wait, there’s More!”
My Systems Admin realized that Office2 HD works with storage locations that support WebDav. Within a few minutes, he had Office2 HD working directly with our SharePoint 2007 Internet-facing server. Unfortunately, there are some challenges to getting WebDav to work properly on SharePoint 2010 and IIS 7, but I’m sure he will crack those. This makes creating and editing SharePoint documents on the iPad as easy as a straight shot into the corner pocket. With Office2 HD for documents, SharePlus for lists, and custom middle-tier solutions for everything in between, we will be in great shape.
Since February 2010, I’ve gone from “No iPad for Me” to “Why I Bought an iPad” to the recent litany of posts complaining about how Microsoft just doesn’t get it. Today, I have a working ensemble solution and I am convinced it will only get better. Instead of waiting for Microsoft to make their software work, I’m thinking “Microsoft is going to have to deliver something stunning to pull me away from these products” – that’s the power of the market for iOS apps.
Our impending success is due to more than the Apple marketplace. The companies behind these products are building great solutions. The SharePoint, iOS and ECM communities have provided access to countless individuals who share their experience and expertise through blogs and forums. While I am spreading the credit, I want to recognize the members of my team. I am fortunate to have a Systems Analyst who is driven to give our users the best possible user experience we can provide. I reference our Systems Admin often in this blog, but it’s hard to quantify how much he brings to the table – these guys, rock!