The iPad is designed to be a consumer product, not really aimed at business tasks. It can perform admirably in some specific business related roles where custom applications are used but generally, for the average professional it’s lacking. I have created the following guide to demonstrate the convoluted method which must be used to access your shared documents on the work network.
The network environment described in the article will be fairly commonplace in most businesses; utilising a VPN connection, Windows Servers & a NAS device. In a single computer environment it is easy to access your documents using DropBox or Box.Net. These services sync your files to the cloud (an internet server) and allows direct access from most ipad applications. In my scenario we have a business environment with multiple storage devices containing sensitive data that can not be distributed via that method.
The Not-So-Easy Guide To Office FileSharing, iPad style
iPad Apps: for this task I am using
- Documents to Go – EDIT, CREATE & VIEW Word & Excel files (including Office 2007/2008/2010)
- FileBrowser – FileBrowser is like having Windows Explorer or Mac Finder on your iPad to access, copy and stream files from remote computers including Windows, Mac, and Network (NAS) drives.
Step 1: Lets get on the office network.
Click the Settings Icon, then General -> Network -> VPN. Here you will configure your access to the company VPN. Once your successfully connected a VPN icon will show itself across the iPad top bar (next to the Wifi indicator)
Step 2: Configure FileBrowser.
Now we can configure FileBrowser to access you office network shares. The VPN connection allows us to use the IP address of the storage device. Depending on how your network is setup, you may also be able use its name, ie: YourCompanyServer (instead of the IP address)
Step 2a: View A Document.
This part is easy. Browse through the folders and click on the file you want to open. FileBrowser can open most document file types including video and images. It will display in portrait and in landscape.
Step 3: Editing A Word Document.
Now it gets fun. FileBrowser will allow us to view documents, but not allow us to edit or create them. We are going to use Documents to Go for the file editing.
Choose a document to edit by clicking the ‘little blue arrow’ on the extreme right of the screen. This will prompt you with a selection box.
Select ‘Open In…”, then select DocsToGo.
Step 3a: Edit in DocsToGo
After selecting DocsToGo in the Open In… box, your iPad will clsoe FileBrowser and open DocsToGo, displaying the document ready for editing. So now go ahead and type away.
Step 3b: Saving Your Document
Although this should be easy, its not. The bottom left is a page icon containing a little triangle, click it to access the ‘Save’ option. Here you will run into the Read Only error, with the application telling you to save into a new file.
So lets chose Save As and save it to /Local Files/. This saves your document to the ipad, but only accessible by DocsToGo.
Step 4: Getting your updated document back to the server.
Once you have saved the document you will be presented with a file list from your DocsToGo. Click the ‘little blue arrow’ on the right hand side, this will display the file properties. In the top right corner of the iPad you will see the button ‘Open in…’, select it, then choose FileBrowser.
Step 4a: Getting your updated document back to the server continued
DocsToGo will close, and FileBrowser will reopen. You will see a dialogue box telling you to navigate to the folder you would like to save in.
Select your Office server and locate the folder to save in. Across the bottom of the screen you will find a Rectangle with an arrow coming out of it. Select this icon, it will show you a menu with Paste File Here in red.
The document has now been saved onto the server, however it now has a different name as the original file was read only. This means you now have two versions of the document. The original and the iPad updated version.
Step 4b: Renaming the document
In the FileBrowser list, click the ‘little blue arrow’ again. Select Delete to delete the older file version, or Rename to change the filename. To only maintain a singular file version, delete the original file, and rename the new file to match the original. Wow this is hard work.
Step 5: Sigh and Have a Drink.
After all that, work out if it would have been easier to just get a small light laptop or netbook instead!