Tag Archives: microsoft

Converting a Word Document to a Mobile App

In this article, we’ll look at how you can turn a Microsoft Word document into an App that will play back directly in any modern browser. No plugins required, no App Stores required – the result is pure HTML5. You can see the result of this example at http://www.appcobra.com/x/KS2/whyappcobra. The AppCobra source project can be found at http://www.appcobra.com/examples/worddoc.kti.

We’ll be using AppCobra to illustrate how easy this is. It requires at least version 10.9.40 – which was uploaded on 2nd March, 2013. You can download a trial at http://www.appcobra.com/ipaddownloads.htm.

AppCobra is the world’s premier HTML5 editing tool for mobile and HTML5 browser apps. After this article, you’ll see why. And is this article, we only scratch the surface of its power.

How do we do it?

It is actually a very simple process.

The first step is to get your Word document into a series of bitmap, PNG, or JPEG files. PNG would be best. There are several tools that allow this to occur. In fact, there are probably tools that allow this to happen much more easily than the method we outline below.

In our case, here is what we did.

First, we created our Word document, add the images, the layout, the styles – everything we wanted in the document. We made the Word document in landscape, as it would match the screen size of most devices better.

word2

Then we saved it as a PDF document.

We then imported the PDF document into PhotoShop Elements. This software allows you to save each page as a file type of your choice. We saved them as a PNG file. And it fact, we saved it in a size that was double what we needed – this allows us to use Retina Display support if we desired.

word1

In AppCobra, we created a simple template. It consisted of a title bar, and four buttons. We set these buttons up to allow the user to move forwards and backwards, and also to the first or last step in the App.

word3

Then, we created a placeholder in AppCobra (Add Objects / Full List / Placeholder command, and set it up at the size we wanted the pages to come in at.

We then used the Add Objects / Image command, selected the From File option, and navigated to the folder where the images were placed. The only thing we did to these images was to rename the images that started at 1 to 9 to be 01 to 09 – this ensured that the images would all come in at the right order (if you don’t do this, then alphabetically, it goes 18,19,2,20, etc).

We selected all the files, and imported them in one operation.

word4

Essentially, it is now done. However, we added a table of contents to our Word Document. After import, it looked like this:

word5

Currently, this is not functional – because it is just an image.

So, we used the Add Objects / Hotspot command to create a hotspot over each table of contents entry. For each hotspot, we selected the Interact / All Events command, and gave it the action Go to Specific Step. We then set the desired step for each entry. Below, each hotspot is represented by a red dotted outline. The user will not see these, however – all that they know is that if they select an entry in the table of contents, it will go to the appropriate page.

word6

We did add a status bar along the bottom of the screen (using Add Objects / Full List / Import App Status Bar) to automatically denote user progress through the app.

Finally, we checked the App Settings / App Settings command to ensure everything was to our liking.

That’s it  – all done! We then used the Share button to upload to the AppCobra server!

Advertisements

Where Microsoft Went Right

Microsoft have lagged behind Google and Apple in the web sphere for a long time. But I think times are a changing.

I’ve spent the last few months using Windows 8. On a new laptop, an older laptop (where we upgraded from Windows 7), and the Surface tablet.

Using the tablet, in particular is an absolute joy. It is quick, responsive, and I love it. Starting apps, moving between apps – I love it. I’d probably prefer a little more customization for the Start screen – but I can understand why they perhaps left this where it was.

After using the Surface tablet, the iPad looks and feels feels clunky. Old. Outdated. Suddenly serious deficiencies seem to have appeared. Microsoft have absolutely capitalized on everything Apple, and to a certain extent Android, left out.

First of all, the multi-user support is great. IE10 is a massive improvement. Windows 8, with its full screen interface, is also great (although I have to say in theory this did not sound like it was going to be great…).

I love the Xbox integration. Playing movies from a Windows 8 device wirelessly to the iPad – love it.

Clearly the store lacks apps. But there is more than I thought. But I certainly look forward to more of them. Certainly more serious apps, anyway. But it is integrated quite well.

If you like the cloud, the way SkyDrive integrates with Windows 8 native apps is brilliant. It’s as simple as working with a local drive.

The surface tablet is a little heavier than I would have hoped – but battery life is pretty good.

The Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin etc. integration is very handy. There may be apps on iOS or Android that manage this the same way – but this is built directly into the system.

I also like the way the Music and Video apps tie in the store and your current music.

And yes, Windows 8 takes a little getting used to. I’m not a real fan of the whole horizontal scrolling methodology. It is different, but it does work. And while I think Windows is much better for the release of Windows 8, I can see it hindering uptake. I can’t see Windows tablets outselling iOS or Android tablets in the short term. It seems clearly aimed at people, rather than business, and it remains to be seen if it can convince business to take it up.

And, perhaps the most valid point, is what I choose to use. I have iPads, iPhones, Several Android devices (one Asus one with the detachable keyboard, which I love), a Mac, and several Windows devices. But the first one I go for is the Surface tablet.

I suggest you give Windows 8 a serious look – especially on a tablet. And by the end of 2013, I think it will be a serious competitor in terms of sales.

Where Google Went Wrong

As with Apple, it’s kinda difficult to say a company like Google has gone wrong when it is so successful.

With a brilliant search engine, a brilliantly designed AdWords cash cow, fantastic email, and brilliant mapping, no one can say they don’t know how to do most things right.

It wasn’t so long ago however, that Google launched the short lived Google Wave. After my very first use of the product, I really had to wonder what Google were thinking. How that product ever saw the light if day I will never know.

Android today – particularly if used on a machine like the Google Nexus tablet, is a joy to use. And develop for. But this hasn’t always been the case.

The multitude of Android versions, resolutions, and variously powered devices was a nightmare, and still is in many ways. In this respect, Apple has it all over Android.

The Google App Store, now Google Play, has also improved. But for several years it contained countless seriously deficient apps. They didn’t work. They crashed. Or they stole your data. Or they were designed for a resolution that didn’t match your device.

The Android browser has also improved tremendously, but to my mind it does not match Safari on iOS. The addition of Chrome for Android helped this – and Chrome gets my vote for best all around browser. But the smoothness of CSS animations in Safari just can’t be matched by Chrome.

I have a caveat for my next point – I’m only just investigating the manner of creating Chrome apps. But the features disallowed by Chrome HTML5 apps is disappointing. It means, essentially, creating apps specifically for Chrome. And doesn’t this defeat the purpose of HTML5? Let us hope this changes.

Where Apple Have Gone Wrong

The iPod/iPhone/iPad revolution have been amazing for the mobile industry. Without a doubt, without Apple, the mobile industry would be nowhere near as advanced as it is today.

The Apple mobile devices are all brilliant devices. The first iPhone introduced the first mobile browser that essentially matched desktop browsers.

Great resolution, great power, high quality builds and great software all helped Apple to where they are today.

And while I initially disagreed with the way Apple was so ‘heavy handed’ in the way they policed the App Store, in retrospect, it was a policy that ensured only good quality apps, in general, made it to the store. In many ways, this was only made apparent when Google released their own Android App Store. The quality of many apps was woeful. The difference between the stores was stark.

The whole app paradigm was also successful when compared to the stability of programs available via Windows. iOS apps worked. Yes, more than a few required a device reboot from time to time, but as RAM and processing power increased, and iOS improved, this became less and less of an issue.

The Apple browser, Safari, utilized the WebKit engine, which was a vast improvement over the existing standards and over Internet Explorer particularly. WebKit CSS is brilliant.

So where do I think Apple has gone wrong? Several areas spring to mind. Some Apples fault – some not.

Firstly, Apple now have very little room to move. While I think there must be enough brilliant engineers and designers at Apple to cater for the loss of Steve Jobs, there is just not a lot of wiggle room now in the innovation department. While every generation of iPhone/iPad/iPod provides incremental improvements, we’ve not seen a lot new. And while innovation should be something that takes us by surprise by its very nature, I just can’t see a lot new happening from Apple. And they now have a lot more competition.

Second – and here is where Microsoft swooped brilliantly (although some Android devices got there first), is the tablet/laptop hybrid. The iPad should have had an optional keyboard/mouse from day one. In fact, it should come with one. The reluctance to do this has resulted in the iPad being very difficult to actually create content – but perfect at viewing it.

Third – stop suing everyone. Apple rose to prominence playing the underdog card. Almost the ‘alternative’ to the ‘evil’ Microsoft. But as Apple’s market value eclipsed Microsoft’s, I believe Apple have proved themselves even worse at abusing their market power more than Microsoft ever did. And it has affected the brand.

So – if I was to run Apple? Here is what I would do:

  • Add a (or better integrated) keyboard and mouse to iPad / iPhone. At the very least, allow precise and pressure sensitive styluses to be used.
  • Allow widgets / more customization options to iOS. Custom icons, custom captions, custom colors.
  • Allow iOS devices to broadcast the screen – or at least add HDMI support to all iOS devices.
  • Forget Apple TV (see above point).
  • Integrate the web App Store into iTunes.
  • Allow more file system support. Loading photos onto iOS devices is a major chore. It takes an inexplicably long time, creates duplicates, and increases file size.
  • Multi-user support needs to be added. The Microsoft Surface tablet is great in this regard.
  • Allow saving to the Camera Roll from Web Apps.