Top business applications for iPad
Enterprise software for tablets
By Brian Nadel | Computerworld US | Published: 16:56, 04 October 2010
Byte²'s Office² HD can turn any iPad into a document factory. It's less than a third of the cost of the trio of iWork programs but offers two thirds of the functionality: word processing and spreadsheets. Office² HD can handle Word .DOC and Excel .XLS files, documents created in Apple's Pages and Numbers applications, and files from the free NeoOffice suite.
When I tried it out, Office² HD correctly handled a variety of formats, including PDF and Microsoft's newer .DOCX files. You can save documents as PDF files as well.
Office² HD can adjust formatting, margins, type and font size, as well as place an image in a document. You can undo up to 100 previous changes. It lacks the ability of Pages to save files after every change, but the program will autosave when it's closed. Like Pages, Office² HD can import files that use Microsoft's Track Changes feature, but the comments are in plain text. It cannot add comments that identify the writer.
The program can work with several spreadsheets at once. You can easily adjust the row height and column width by tapping and dragging them to the size you want. I was able to switch between spreadsheets with a finger swipe, which was quite convenient.
Office² HD includes 112 spreadsheet functions, from basic math to heavy-duty statistical analysis, this is half as many as Numbers has. Office² HD can't create graphs, which could be a real negative for many users. One nice feature: The program lets you grab files from online repositories like Google Docs, Apple's MobileMe, iDisk or Box.net without leaving the application.
One big disappointment with Office² HD is the inability to view and edit presentation files. Still, what it does do, it does well and inexpensively.
MeLLmo's Roambi Pro is the most expensive app for the iPad covered in this article. But it can be essential equipment for staying on top of your company's operations or watching business trends. The app lets you tap into your company's business intelligence data with a nicely designed interface that can show raw numbers as well as present trends in a variety of graphs.
The Pro version I looked at can work with a variety of file types, including .XLS, .CSV, .HTML and .DOC. The enterprise edition (Roambi ES3) is aimed at large companies and adds the ability to work with tools such as IBM's Cognos applications, SAP's CRM products and others. There is also a free Lite version that can handle only XLS, CSV and HTML docs.
After using it for a month, I found that while Roambi provides a good variety of ways to bring raw numbers into an iPad, I couldn't just grab a spreadsheet or array of figures from an email or website. I also couldn't work with data already open in Numbers or any other iPad app. All the data has to come through Roambi Publisher, software that maps the data fields so that the program can understand all the different formats, in a somewhat complicated sequence.
With a little help from Roambi's tech support, I was able to establish a data flow using several files from my Google Docs account. After that, updates were easy to make. Roambi can perform modest analytical work using eight different graphs. On top of the usual linear, logarithmic, exponential and other graphic techniques, it has an excellent best fit curve-smoothing routine. You can quickly try out each and see the results in a second.
At any time, you can email a screenshot of any graph you're working on to a colleague or incorporate it into a presentation or report. My favourite part of the program, though, is the Cardex view, which lets you flip through a "Rolodex" filled with dozens of different data sources, like a company's business groups or sales areas. And with all this data at your fingertips, the app's bookmarking feature is a lifesaver for those with short term memory issues.
Roambi Pro is expensive, but its price tag easily pays for itself through the work it lets you do.
Fax Print & Share Pro for iPad
One thing you won't find on an iPad is a button for printing. (Some resourceful people have actually put the iPad screen-side down on a photocopier to print what is on its display.) Ndili Technologies' Fax Print & Share Pro for iPad (FPSP) is a better way to put it all on paper. Apple's iOS 4.2 upgrade, due in November, will add native printing, but for now, FPSP is a valuable addition.
FPSP's main menu lets you bring in new material to be printed; you can select the document you want to print, fax or email to a colleague. The app works with most major file formats, including .DOC and .PDF documents and .JPG and .GIF images.
Unfortunately, printing a file can be a time consuming process. Each file has to be imported into the program and then printed. To print a web page, you first have to use the program's Downloader feature to capture the page, and then go back to the main program to print it. FPSP would be greatly improved if it could quickly print whatever was on the screen at the moment.
FPSP can send pages directly to any networked (wireless or wired) printer that's connected through a router. I tried it with three different printers. While it worked fine with two wireless printers, an Epson Stylus NX510 and a Brother HL-2170W, it couldn't print in colour with an Oki Data C6050 wired printer. Ndili is revising the driver software.
The app can also send a physical letter or postcard (you'll need to buy postal units beforehand to cover the postage). I used the service to send a letter, it created an impressive-looking business document that arrived in a plain white envelope a week later.
While the process is rather awkward, FPSP's ability to print out your documents makes it a valuable addition to any iPad that wants a place in the business world.