As expected, in work today I came across a productivity issue that my iPhone would have handled with ease for me.
A colleague contacted me and he wanted me to have a look at a file he was trying to import from Excel to Numbers on his iPad. Normally I'd ask him to email the file, or use Dropbox, to get it onto iPhone. Then I'd have a look at it on the Numbers app.
So the productivity apps I missed today are: Dropbox and Numbers
Dropbox is a great app, and it's free! It works in a way that the iCloud is going to work, but it's available right now. The app requires you to register, and in doing so you get 2GB of online storage for any type of file.
If you have Dropbox installed on all your devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, Unix), then the files on it are available on any of those devices. Very handy, and you can set up folders that are shared with your colleagues so you can work collaboratively. And as a bonus, you get an increased storage amount if you introduce friends to the service. Placing files in the Dropbox folder/s is very easy....just a matter of dragging it to the icon on the screen if you're on your desktop. Quick tip: if you drag and drop, the file will "move" from its current location on your local hard-drive, so if you want to keep a copy locally, simply copy and paste it to Dropbox instead.
Now, if I had my iPhone with me, and if my colleague had shared his Excel file with me on it, my next step would have been to have a look at it in Numbers.
Numbers (for iPhone and iPad) is currently €7.99 on iTunes, so it's one of the more expensive apps that I've bought. It's universal, in that a single download works on both iPad and iPhone, so if you have two devices the price seems better value.
It is part of the iWork suite, which you might be familiar with as Apples answer to Office. Along with Pages (Word) and Keynote (Powerpoint), these apps are a real alternative to Office programs. I find that the animations and transitions in Keynote, for example, are far slicker than those available in Powerpoint, and since getting the iPad last Christmas I haven't made a single presentation on Powerpoint (or on a desktop computer for that matter).
Numbers is not as function-rich as Excel, and the slightly cut-down version available for iPhone and iPad losses some more functionality. For example, I haven't found a way to merge cells on the mobile version. Like most apps, though, updates may add functionality as time goes by. For now, though, as a mobile means of viewing spreadsheets, it's fine. Don't get me wrong when I say it losses some functionality: I'm referring to high end spreadsheet functions. All the more basic stuff is here, including formulae and some statistical analysis tools. I use it in the classroom as a quick and easy way to record attendance, and for that it's perfect.
Sharing files from Numbers (and Pages and Keynote) is very simple. You can export for later synching through iTunes, or you can email from within the app itself. You get a choice of formats, including native format, Microsoft Office formats and PDF. One of my biggest concerns before migrating to Apple was compatibility with colleagues that are not yet in the "post-PC world", but because you can export in a number of formats, that's not a problem.
Numbers picture from "maths.net.au"