Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Managing Documents in the Cloud with OfficeDrop's iPad App

This is one of those blog posts that intersects my professional and my personal life.  During the week I happen to be an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Technical Lead for a large financial institution.  This is just to say that I spend a lot of time working with document imaging systems. The length that companies have to go through to capture, store and view paper-based data is staggering.  Most of these enterprise systems are not very exciting or innovative.  Outside of my work-life, I don't normally think too much about imaging my personal documents. But, I will say that on occasion it is important that I have capture important documents in an digital format.  If you follow my blog, you may have already read my post titled "Scanning to the Cloud with OfficeDrop".  You could say that this post is part 2 of that original post.  This time around I am going to focus on OfficeDrop's new iPad app.

Before we jump right in let's review what OfficeDrop is:
OfficeDrop is an document scanning and document management solution that provides small businesses with affordable way to manage their paper and digital files. We convert paper and digital files into text-searchable documents. Our mail-in document scanning system lets you mail your documents safely to us where we do all the scanning. Our online document management system gives you a search engine for your documents, allowing you to search your paper and digital files for specific words and numbers. Folders, labeling and integration with Evernote and Quickbooks also help you get the most out of your online document management.We also now have a free scanning software to connect your TWAIN scanner directly with several cloud storage services, including OfficeDrop's.
The OfficeDrop iPad App
You can find the OfficeDrop app in the iTunes App Store.  Just search for OfficeDrop and you should it and it is free to use if you have an OfficeDrop subscription.  In general, the OfficeDrop iPad App provides a nice way to view and interact with your currently stored document data.  the iPad (or any tablet form factor) is a great way to view digital documents.  The screen shot below shows the general browse interface you are presented with when you launch the app. 

You have a number of different ways you can view or filter your documents.  
  • Folders
  • Labels
  • All Files
  • Favorites
With all of these options it is easy to configure the right amount of organization for your documents. I am not going to debate the pros and cons of using labels or folders.  The type of indexing is common for small business and consumers.  The iPad app is not just a simple viewer of what is online.  The app provides detail options to edit all the information about your document data.  It is very full-featured and it is nice to have such level of control.  

Viewing your documents is very intuitive and as you can see from the image above you have a number of functions available to work with specific documents in your account.  Move, Apply Labels, Share, etc... are all there right at the top of the image.  Sharing a document is also something that can be done right from this interface.  The screenshot to the left shows the level of control you have over this function right from the iPad app.  OfficeDrop's share function is very well done.  It gives you a way to expire the share on that document.  This way you don't have to remember to go back to that document to un-share it at a later date.  Other options for viewing your documents can be accessed from the bottom of the image.  This is where the general search function can be found.  The search feature is just as it sounds, you can type in a key word or date and get relevant results right back in the app.  I found the search function to be very accurate espeicalliy if you are using searchable PDF files.   

Uploading Documents (Files)
The most notable new feature available in the iPad app is the ability to upload document or files directly to your OfficeDrop account.  Using the iPad2 camera you can even "capture" a paper document that can be indexed and stored in your repository. The screenshot below shows the interface related to uploading files and the new "Scan from Camera" is the first option to the left.  

Scanning with your camera is just what you would expect.  The camera fires up and then you can take a picture or "scan" a document.  When you take a picture you will then have the ability to crop or rotate the image down to the exact data you want to keep and upload.  Uploading is pretty simple and you can index your "document" on the fly.  Indexing upfront on the iPad makes it easier to find later in your OfficeDrop repository.  In addition to "scanning" with your camera, you also can upload files that you may already have in your iPad.  This is nice if you download something from the Internet or receive a file in an email.  You can upload and index those to your OficeDrop repository the same way you do with the "Scan from Camera" function.  All-in-all the addition of "scanning" from your iPad is a nice addition to the feature line-up, but it will never replace the need to scan a stack of documents with a "real" desktop scanner.  Using your camera on your iPad or phone to capture document is slow, cumbersome and the image quality is poor.  But, on the other hand, if you are out in the field and all you have is your iPad camera, it is better than nothing.