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App Synergy: How To App Synergize Your Business

App Synergy: How To App Synergize Your Business

April 22, 2012
So far, we've used app synergy to design our own graphics and to create a digital comic library. These uses have hopefully demonstrated the power and versatility of bringing apps together. There is a natural question that follows, regarding app synergy's practicality. Sure, we can combine apps for personal, recreational projects. But does app synergy have a place in an environment where performance and efficiency have heightened importance? For example, could app synergy also be effective in the workplace, for business purposes? George White certainly thinks so. George is an attorney and also the first reader to comment on his own experiences with app synergy. After seeing George's comment in my first article, I felt compelled to learn more about his story. I contacted him and set up a telephone interview. For George, app synergy is not some novelty to be forced; the integration of apps has become an integral part of his business, making it more efficient and effective. In the following example, I've attempted to put my own spin on George's process. In some cases, I've used the same apps he did; in others, I've highlighted some alternatives, as applied to the context of an AppAdvice column.

Step 1 - Document Creation

George informed me that attorneys have a preference for WordPerfect. Unfortunately, there is not yet an official WordPerfect app. So for the family law side of his practice, the first thing George does is draft up contracts and other documents on his computer. I created my document using the closest iPad equivalent, which is Apple's Pages app. Instead of a legal contract, I made a form that you can use to inform me of your app synergy uses. I started with the “Thank You Card” template and input field headers that were pertinent to the type of information I was looking for. George converts his documents to PDF format and then drags his documents from his desktop server to a PDF Expert drive on his computer, which sends the information to the PDF Expert app on his iPad. For me, I wanted to do everything on the iPad, so I emailed the file to myself in PDF form, from within the Pages app.

Step 2 - PDF Modification

Once the PDF is on George's iPad, he sends the file to Form Tools and uses the app to create fill-in blanks, which he can quickly modify while talking to the client. The app allows him to input case history and instructions for his paralegal, attach the client's picture and even provide a means for his client to sign the contract. All George needs to do is turn his iPad around and walk his client through the forms. After he's done, George exports the files back to PDF Expert, which can then be dragged and dropped back to his desktop. From within the email I sent to myself, I can send my PDF to either PDF Expert or Form Tools, depending on my preference. I agree with George that Form Tools is an easy way to create editable form fields. I simply tapped on the screen and chose between creating a text box, check box, or photo box. I then inserted and resized a space, which I filled in by switching from edit form to quick fill form; this was accomplished by toggling the option in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

For my app synergy submission form, I kept things simple by using mostly text boxes. As seen in the attached figures, I created a text box for each form field and then filled in the data for this particular article. From the "Entries" option in the top right, it is possible to add new entries using the same template, or to lock or freeze your current entries.

Step 3 - Print

George does not have AirPrint in his offices. However, he does have two HP network printers. He can wirelessly communicate with them, using Printer Pro. There are many other printing apps that could also do the job, but George is a fan of Readdle, which makes both PDF Expert and Printer Pro. By using this setup, George can send the relevant paperwork to his paralegal's printer, while simultaneously talking to his client. That way, the paralegal is already aware of the case, when the client checks out.

Step 4 - Save Backup

One advantage of using PDF Expert is that it provides an extra back-up of files. Even though Form Tools is better at creating form fields, PDF Expert is the more complete PDF suite. Among other things, it has better annotation features and a solid search engine for deep word searching. In addition to PDF Expert, George also emails copies of his documents to Evernote. Evernote is free, and it also allows you to automatically forward files to specific notebooks and tags. For example, in the figure shown, I used the "@" and "#" symbols to send my form to an AppAdvice notebook and also to assign it an "App Synergy" tag.

Step 5 - Alternatives

Aside from his family law practice, George also handles criminal defense. For such cases, it is sometimes necessary to take lots of photos and convert them to PDF. There are different apps for that. If you simply want to scan in documents, an app like Doc Scan HD will help you quickly scan your papers, even if their edges are curled. For photographs of other images, I'd recommend PDF PROvider to quickly convert your picture to PDF format. It also works for many other file formats, such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Web pages.

Remember that there are many different apps with similar functions. Choose the ones you're most comfortable with. For PDF manipulation, you may be satisfied with the basic annotation features of a free app like Adobe Reader. For backup, you may choose a popular storage app like Dropbox.

George is able to organize his files with ease and redundancy, using his iPad. He has one copy stored on his desktop computer server, another printed out in hard copy, and further copies on the iPad and in the cloud. That's app synergy. Because George shared his synergistic secret with me, I can share this form with you. Hopefully, it will make it easier for more of you to share your secrets, as well. Unfortunately, the form is just a photo. Our system doesn't currently support direct PDF attachment and download. But you've learned how to work around that. You can save the image as a photo; convert it to PDF with PDF PROvider; and then fill in your answers with Form Tools or one of the PDF annotation apps. You can then email it to me at [email protected]. You can also leave your email in the comments below, and I will be glad to send you a form in any format you desire. Next week, we have a special guest columnist. My excellent colleague, Aldrin Calimlim, will be filling in. You won't want to miss it!

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