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Entries in apps (22)

Thursday
May102012

Security App for the iPad - VirusBarrier

I read a lot of articles and online posts about the iPad - and I mean a lot.  So if you asked me, what kinds of security apps are available for the iPad, last week I would have told you, "I'm just not aware of any - Apple won't provide security services with root access to the device, to make security apps worthwhile." Well, thanks to my LPM friend and colleague Dave Ries, I now know better.

There are certainly more security apps available for the iPhone than iPad, and many of those are only for devices that have been "jailbroken" (removing limitations imposed by Apple to run software not authorized by the folks in Cupertino).  As far as I know right now, there is no malware written for the iPad today - but there are still some tools that can keep you, and the ones with whom you digitally communicate, safe from future threats.

VirusBarrier ($2.99) works as a manual virus scanner for email attachments or other documents you want to save on your iPad.  When I say "manual," that means you have to run the app yourself - it doesn't work automatically, like your average desktop antivirus product.  Once you install the app, it becomes one of the options in your Open In... menu in email.  So if you receive an email attachment you don't recognize and you absolutely have to open it, press down on the attachment until Open In..., appears, and then select VirusBarrier:

The "Open In..." menu in your email app.You'll be taken to the VirusBarrier app, where the document is scanned.

VirusBarrier says the PDF file is A-OK!That's it - that's really all there is to the app.  It's a nice security blanket to have if you absolutely need to open attachments you don't recognize (or even ones you do).  That's not actually all there is, but it's the feature you'll probably use the most.  You can also add a "Remote Location," to scan files in other locations before you decide to download them to your iPad.  Right now you can add a Dropbox or iDisk account, website, and FTP or WebDAV server.  In the image below I added my Dropbox account, and am looking at my folder of Articles.

You can select individual files to scan, or you can select Scan All at the top to scan everything in a folder.  Once you're done, you can press the  button in the upper right to either open the file in another app or send it via email to yourself or others.

The Logs button will show you a listing of all the apps you've scanned recently, and the results of each scan:

For $2.99 you get a years' worth of malware definitions - presumably I'll need to pony up another $2.99 this time next year.  You can configure the app to automatically update the definitions daily, weekly, or monthly - the updates will occur on schedule, the next time you connect to a wireless network.

In all, I really like VirusBarrier - it's pretty basic, but that's really all you need for a little extra peace of mind.  Like I said before, there's currently no known malware for the iPad - but VirusBarrier can definitely protect you from passing on an infected file - nothing like being known as the "Typhoid Mary of iPad users" to ruin one's reputation.....

 

Tuesday
May012012

War of the PDF Apps: Who's the Winner?

Last week my friend and fellow iPhone/iPad addict Jeff Richardson gave a great review of PDF Expert.  He liked it, but not as much as his current favorite PDF annotation tool, PDF Pen.  I thought I would put both of these apps through their paces, along with iAnnotate PDF and Adobe Reader, which has long been the standard for PDF review and annotation on your desktop or laptop.

I decided to use the same document in each case - I chose a simple W-9 form, because it would also give the opportunity to test and show the form-filling and signature features of each app. I'll fill out the form to send to my client for him to sign.  I initially placed the form in the Downloads folder in my Dropbox account on my desktop.  How did the form fare in each app?  Here we go....

PDF Expert ($9.99)

Downloading the form to my iPad was a breeze in PDF Expert; of the three apps, it offers the widest selection of networks from which to download your PDF files.  

PDF Expert offers a lot of options for getting your documents into the app.

I was able to easily navigate to my Downloads folder in Dropbox and download the file to the app.  PDF Expert mirrors your folders in Dropbox, so it's easy to find the documents you want. But you can create your own customized folders as well.

Folder view in PDF Expert.

I was able to fill the form quickly and easily.  Just press in the field you want to fill out, and the keyboard appears so you can enter the appropriate text.

You can move from field to field by pressing the buttons just above the keyboard.

Do you need to annotate your document?  The annotation toolbar just above the document allows you to do a lot of things.

See the table below for annotation features of all apps.

 

If you want to add something to a PDF document in a particular location, just press and hold, and you'll be presented with a number of options:

You have a number of options to insert something wherever you press your finger.

 

Let's say you want to sign the form, or have your client sign it.  Just press Signature, and you'll get a further option:

 

In this case we'll substitute the word "Client" for "Customer."  Once you press that button, you'll get a blank screen that your client can sign.

Blank signature screen.After signing.Press Done in the upper right corner, and you'll be able to move the signature and resize it so it will fit within the signature box.  If your client isn't right in front of you, you'll need to mail the PDF form either to yourself (to print it out) or to your client.  Just press the Open In... button at the top right, and press Send by E-mail.  That's all there is to it.

PDFPen ($9.99) 

PDFPen is a bit more basic in its user interface - you can create folders here, but it's not very intuitive (press Edit, then drag a document on top of another to create the folder).

 

Once you open the form, the user interface is simple as well.  The app supports form filling, much like PDF Expert:

 

Form filling in PDFPen.

All of the annotation tools are tucked away under menus in the top right.  There's one for Markup tools and a window that allows you to insert Objects, pictures, custom items, and proofing marks.  

Markup tools in PDFPen.Proofreading marks you can insert into the document.

That's right - if you're into proofing markup symbols, you have a whole lot to use here. There's also an Information button that allows you to customize whatever annotation tool you happen to be using at the moment.  The annotation tools here are definitely stronger than that of PDF Expert.

Unfortunately, PDFPen does not have an dedicated signature feature - to add a signature, you must either use the Scribble tool, or import an image of your signature.

Once you're done, press the wrench button in the upper right, then Share, then Email Document, to mail the form to yourself or your client.

iAnnotate PDF ($9.99)

I have used iAnnotate PDF for a while, and I think it has the best annotation tools of the bunch. However, it has other weaknesses that make this probably my least favorite tool for filling forms and signing them.  

iAnnotate does not connect to very many services, but it does connect to Dropbox, so I was able to download the file. 

The Library view is very confusing to me, especially everything on the left - I think that it is probably a terrific tool for searching through PDF files, but the user interface is too busy.  Fortunately for us, my document is right there in the middle of the screen, so we can start using it.

iAnnotate's Library View is VERY confusing to me.

The first thing you'll notice is that iAnnotate does not have a form filling feature.  Instead, you'll have to use the Typewriter tool and the maneuver the text into place once you're done typing.

The Typewriter tool can be found on the annotation bar to the right.

There's also no feature for adding a signature - you can use the freeform draw tool, but it's just not as satisfying as the other apps.

Where iAnnotate really shines is in its annotation tools - it blows all the competition away.  Just look at this page - and we're just looking at the specific annotation tools!  There are other tools for Navigation, View, Document, and Utility.  It's very powerful in this regard.

Get a load of all these options!

To send the form to your client, you'll have to go back to the Library, press on the file until this toolbar pops up, then press E-Mail.

Adobe Reader (Free)

Adobe Reader's features just don't match up to either PDF Expert or PDF Pen, as the chart below clearly shows.  I'm tempted to give it some slack; after all, the app is free.  But wait a minute - this is Adobe we're talking about, right? The desktop version of Acrobat has some of the best annotation and collaboration tools around - is it too much to ask for just a few more of them in the iPad app?

Unfortunately, Adobe Reader does not connect to any service, so to get our form into it we must go the other direction.  I uploaded the form into GoodReader, then opened the form with Adobe Reader.  Like PDFPen, Adobe Reader does not support folders; you'll just see a list of documents.

Adobe Reader's documents list.

 

And when you get to the annotation screen, the commenting tools are also pretty meager, with really the only customization being the ability to adjust the opacity of the annotation:

 

To fill out the form, just press the field and start typing.  Like all of the other apps there are buttons at the top of the keyboard from moving from field to field.

To sign the form, tap the fountain pen icon  at the upper right.  You'll be prompted to tap where you want to sign.  

Adobe Reader's signature page.

You can then customize the signature further when it's place in its correct place.

If you want to get a secure signature, you can send the signature out using Adobe's great EchoSign service.  This is one area where Adobe Reader shines - EchoSign is really a terrific tool for client and other signatures, and its integration into Reader is terrific.

So who wins?  Again, it depends on what you're looking for in a PDF annotation/signature app.  Based on the chart below, I'd say that PDF Expert wins on breadth of features, PDFPen and iAnnotate win on breadth of annotation tools, and Adobe Reader wins on signature security.

 

 

What do you think?  Let me know your favorite PDF annotation tool in the comments.

Tuesday
Apr172012

An "Open In..." Rant (and a call for your Open In Faves)

It happened to me again today.  I downloaded a few new apps, and want to test them out using documents on my iPad.  I go to GoodReader or Dropbox, find the document I want to use, and then press the "Open In..." button in each app.  As I suspected, neither of the new apps appears in the list.  Apple's iOS inexplicably limits the number of apps that appear in the "Open In..." box of any app on your iPhone or iPad - a "feature" or "bug" that really needs to be changed.

Conventional wisdom says the number of apps in the "Open In..." box is 10, but I can say differently.  Just testing out different types of documents in my GoodReader app, most of the document types limit me to 10 apps in the "Open In..." box - Word, PDF, Excel, and PPT all offer me 10 different app from which to choose. However, I also have an RTF (Rich Text File) in my list of files, and when I press "Open In..." for that, I am presented with...twenty-five app choices!

Theoretically, when you click on "Open In..." you are given choices that apply to the file type you are trying to open.  For example, when I want to open a PowerPoint file, Keynote is always the first option in the list. It's clear that an RTF file can be viewed in a lot of different apps - otherwise, why would it give me so many options?  And if that's the case, why can't iOS give me that many options for all of the files I try to open?  It's a puzzling conundrum that has yet to be figured out, and one on which Apple has so far been silent.

Jeff Richardson had a great writeup on this very issue over at iPhone J.D. back in January - he sets forth the problem succinctly, and offers some workarounds.  I agree that the best workaround is simply to delete apps that do show up on your "Open In..." list until the apps you actually want appear in the list - then reinstall all of the apps you had to delete.  But as Jeff explains, this approach is inelegant - and as far as I'm concerned, a real pain in the butt.  

I'd Apple to fix this feature/bug, but I'm not going to hold my breath - it has been a known issue for nearly two years, and still nothing from Cupertino.  So I guess my plea goes out to the app developers themselves - if you intend users to view documents or other files within your app, then give us another option than an "Open In..." button.  The most direct way of doing this is to allow us to connect to our Dropbox or Box or other file synching accounts - that way, we could open the documents directly, without getting other apps involved.  And easy access to our files is what all of you developers want for your users - right?

Given that the "Open In..." list isn't likely to change any time soon, I thought I'd open up the comments below for you to chime in on the question:  What are the 10 Must-Have Apps in your "Open In..." box? If you're limited to 10 apps, which are the apps you absolutely need to have there?  Here are mine - looking at the list, it's pretty basic:

 

 

What about you?  What apps make your ideal "Open In..." list?  I realize that not all of these apps open the same types of documents - but if this was the same every time I tried to open a document, this would open just about everything for me.

Wednesday
Apr112012

An Update on MS Office on the iPad

Back in February I posted about two new apps that allow you to actually work with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad - OnLive Desktop and CloudOn.  Shortly after that, OnLive ran into a bit of trouble with Microsoft, because it wasn't properly licensing the Windows 7 software that users accessed through the app.  This week, OnLive and Microsoft kissed and made up; OnLive will be running its app on the Windows Server 2008 RS engine, rather than Windows 7.  Some users say it doesn't work as well as a Windows 7 environment - for one thing, the fantastic handwriting recognition tool is not available any more - but I didn't notice anything too disturbing when I tried out the update.

I'm still a big fan of CloudOn, and this week they also issued an update.  Now Box users can connect to the service, and the app also provides support for Adobe Reader - so you can read PDF files within the app. Unfortunately, the Commenting and Signing options have been disabled, so really all you can do is read PDF files.  There are certainly better apps for working with PDF files, but it's nice that CloudOn added this feature.

Have you tried out either OnLive or CloudOn?  Leave a comment and let me know which one you prefer.

Monday
Apr022012

Announcing iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of my latest book, iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers, published by the ABA's Law Practice Management Section.  The idea that drove me to write this book, is the sheer number of apps in the App Store for the iPad - at last count there were somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000.  I keep getting asked the same question - how do you know which apps are best?  So I decided to create a curated listing of what I consider the best iPad apps, in the categories most important to lawyers. The result was this book - short reviews of 220+ iPad apps in the following categories:

  • Getting organized and being productive
  • Documents:  creating and organizing them
  • Apps for the law office
  • News, reading and reference apps
  • Utilities
  • Travel apps

I also spend some time describing how to buy, download and install apps on your iPad.

The book is currently available in print from the link above.  We'll also have an iBook and e-Book version available soon.  Unfortunately, the book won't be available on Amazon for some time, either in print or on the Kindle - this is due to an outmoded ABA policy (don't get me started).

If you'd like to know more about the book, please let me know.  I hope you enjoy it!