iPads for business – Part 5: Working with office files - Geek Guru

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iPads for business – Part 5: Working with office files

So you have your iPad, you’ve signed up to a data storage platform (such as SkyDrive, Google Drive or DropBox) and you have all your files on your iPad ready to go. Now how do you go about editing them? If you are used to Microsoft Office and require a fully fledged word processor and spreadsheet on the move then you may be disappointed. As a Microsoft product there is no direct equivalent to Office on the Apple platform. Microsoft have chosen not to produce an IOS variant of Office – Most likely as they want to ensure they retain some competitive edge when they finally release the surface this month.

So what are the choices for editing your data on the move?

What do you need from your on the move data?

Well, it all depends on what you want to do on the road:

  • Do you actually need to write large documents from scratch or do you really just need to make minor edits?
  • Do you need to be able to read documents you have produced in the office but not actually edit those documents?
  • What format are the majority of your files stored in: Microsoft Office? Apple Pages? Or something completely different?

The iPad (and probably most tablets) are not really designed for bulk edits. The lack of keyboard alone highlights this. Most of the data storage systems we discussed in the last blog post have file readers built in. You can easily open a file to display the contents but generally not edit those files. For that you need an editor application and the infamous ‘Open In’ functionality.

Open In

The ‘Open In’ system is a by-product of the closed file system on IOS. You can’t simply save a file to the C: drive using dropbox and then open it from the C: drive using a word processor. The file system is hidden and applications are only aware of those files that they create in their own file space. If you create a file in Apple Pages and save it to the device you can’t simply open that same file in another editor as it would not have access to the Apple Pages storage area.

In order to allow applications to share data IOS provides an ‘Open In’ function which most (but not all) applications will take advantage of. The work-flow therefore becomes:

  1. Find your file in your cloud data storage app
  2. Click ‘Open In’
  3. Select your file editor app from the list
  4. This opens the file in your editor
  5. Once you have finished editing the file you select ‘Open In’ from the editor
  6. Select your cloud storage app to move the file back to the cloud and save it

How well this works depends to a great degree how well these functions have been coded in the specific apps you are using and also how well the apps are designed to work with the files you are editing. A good example of a problematic work-flow is using Apple Pages to edit Microsoft Word documents. Pages will open a .docx produced by MS Office. However, it will save it back as a .doc document. Microsoft can open a .doc document but you may not want to use this format when you get back to the office.

When planning your iPad workspace you really need to chose your editors well for the types of files you are planning to be working with.

Other work-flow methodologies

Whilst the ‘Open In’ system works it can be clunky. Some apps have tried to get around this slightly alien way of working by providing other ways to access and edit data on the move. This will be the subject of next weeks blog post!

Posted on by Tim
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