Alfresco Mobile iPad application – a short review

I’ve been trying to write this post for a veeery long time. Actually, I can use the application itself to tell me how long: “58 days ago” it says near the first offline downloaded document.

First things first. I aimed to review the app in order to compare it to the EMC Documentum iPad app which was also released in the same time neighborhood (also reviewed by me previously). I was very curious to see if an Open Source mindset generates something different and how.

Installation

I downloaded the app and clicked on it. And… it worked! I mean, it was already connected to a public Alfresco repository which I could browse and use immediately. I must say, this was very nice.

Comparing with the EMC Documentum app where I had to walk through a convoluted server install process in order to connect the freshly downloaded App to the Content Server, this was like a sunshine coming after a storm.

Grade? 10 out of 10

Ok, the app worked, I was very happy, but I needed to make it connect to my Alfresco installation, not the internet public one.

Configuration

The app configuration options are not within the app itself but they are within the Settings area of the iPad. This is different from how EMC did it. in the EMC app, the cofiguration is within the app. I’m not sure which I like more. I tend to like the EMC approach more, even though I appreciate the fact that Alfresco uses the Apple guidelines on how an application should expose its settings.

But there is more than meets the eye. The Alfresco App can be configured to connect to 1 and only 1 Alfresco installation. Switching to another installation can be done only by entering the iPad Settings area again and modifying the existing parameters. The EMC Documentum App allows you to have multiple profiles, each mapped to one repository and you can switch between them from within the app itself, without needing to modify any of them.

I think EMC got it better here. A lot better. I would have expected Alfresco to be more in tune with the thought of having multiple alternative connections, since you can more easily find multiple Alfresco instances in an organization than multiple Documentum ones (after all, Alfresco does tend to be used at departmental/division level).

Grade: 8 out of 10

Prerequisites

What do I need to install on the Alfresco server in order to have the App connect to it? Nothing. Nada. Zip. You have Alfresco? If yes, then you have also the CMIS services there and this is all the Alfresco iPad App needs to.

Easy as it gets. Grade: 10 out of 10

What do you need if you want the EMC Documentum iPad App? Don’t get me started! Read my previous post.

Features

I will not do in great detail here. Mainly because I did not explore it all in detail and I must say my knowledge of Documentum exceeds the one I have on Alfresco so I’m trying to keep it as fair as possible here.

The Alfresco iPad App has the usual browsing/searching/offline download/tasks(activities) features you would expect. Similar with the EMC Documentum iPad App.

Where I have seen a diffrence is that:
1. you can actually see the content of documents from within the app 🙂 (in the Documentum App you can’t have that without installing yet another software)
2. you ca ADD content. So the application is not only a readonly view of the repository. Which is very good.

I’ll give it a 9 out of 10 for features. Because there is always room for more here.

Overall impression

One thing to note here is that the Alfresco App is actually a relatively small modification of the FreshDocs app from ZIA Consulting (which is another CMIS browser app on iOS). Which goes to show that open source companies tend to be more agile in their partnership strategy and more open about it.

Another thing which I very much appreciate with the Alfresco iPad App is that it follows Apple design recommendations for design. It’s very simple and straightfoward to use. This differs a bit from the EMC approach, which followed the style of the Twitter iPad application – more colorful and with the sliding decked panes. Although the EMC has more eye candy, I must say I prefer the Alfresco decision. Plus, is an universal (iPad & iPhone app).

And another thing: The Alfresco iPad App connects to the content server using CMIS. The EMC Documentum iPad App connects using a (yet another) proprietary communication protocol. not DFS, not CMIS. Eating your own dogfood? 🙂

Last but not least, since the applications were initially launched (more or less at the same time), the Alfresco App already had a new release with new functionality. And that says a lot.

Did I say “last”? I was wrong. The Alfresco iOS App xCode source code is indeed open source.

Good job, Alfresco.