Saturday, October 09, 2010

SharePoint 2010 and the iPad

I have always loved gadgets. If it were true that these gadgets are productivity enhancing devices then I should be one of the most productive people alive. Sadly, this is not the case. It just seems that I can be unproductive in a lot more places than before.

Recently I caved in to temptation and got myself an iPad. Many people have sneered at this device, but I have always considered it a brave move by Apple. It is an untested format in the marketplace. I think that only time will tell whether they carve out a place in peoples work and personal life or whether it goes the way of the Internet connected fridge. I also hope that other vendors innovate around this format, more choice is always better.

The main reason I gave myself for getting an iPad is so that I can become familiar with how it integrates with SharePoint. I know deep down that I really got one coz they are shiny and new, but the lie is easier to live with. In truth though, many of the clients that I work with have expressed interest in using iPads or have actually started to trial them. So I thought I might share some of my experiences here on the blog.

Firstly, I have come across two iPad applications in the App Store - SharePlus and Filamente. Both of these allow you to access a Sharepoint site, lists libraries and sub sites. Both provide the ability to sync content so that you can access it offline, and both have their own little quirks. These are version 1 products, hopefully reliability will get better as they mature. Neither of these applications gives the user the same experience as if they were using a web browser, they focus on letting you see content in your SharePoint lists and libraries.

Another option is to use the iPad Safari browser. This proves to be a nice option for online access. If I am in my office I can access the site by entering a fully qualified domain name (e.g. http://somewhere.officenetwork.local). Even though the site is also available on a shorter name of http://somewhere, the iPad doesn't seem to be able to use that. Of course you will need to ensure that your Alternate Access Mapping and IIS host headers are correctly set up for this to work.

Outside my office I have been able to connect to my intranet through the iPads VPN functionality. We also publish our intranet externally using Microsoft Threat Management Gateway over SSL, the iPad browser has no issue with this either, however the two iPad apps didn't accept this method of connecting.

Not everything works perfectly through the safari browser when accessing a SharePoint 2010 site. Vertical and horizontal scrolling can be troublesome, rotating the display between portrait and landscape seems to fix this some times, two-finger scrolling is another trick that has mixed results. Pinching to zoom in and out of the page has rarely worked for me. I've also noticed that the people picker field only lets you search for a name, not type one in directly. You can create, edit and delete list items but don't expect to use any of the more advanced rich text editing functionality.

One area that I think holds a lot of promise on the iPad is the Office Web Applications and InfoPath Forms Services. I haven't had a chance to check these out myself yet (see earlier comments on productivity) but Dux Raymond Sy has an interesting video that shows some of these in action.

So I shall continue to explore the capabilities of the device and share what I learn here. Stay tuned.