Sunday, December 7, 2008

Review and comparison of best iPhone Finder-like browsers and viewers: AirSharing

As a business and leisure iPhone user, one of the first things I searched for in the AppStore was an iPhone browser with which I could navigate through folders, files and documents and also view them on the go. In other words, I was looking to find something like a Mac OS X's Finder for the iPhone (Microsoft Windows users: the Finder on a Mac is the browser with which you view your files and folders).
Not having a clue where to start, I downloaded some of those applications from the AppStore and started using them. Here are my findings:

- AirSharing by Avatron Software (currently EUR 5,49- I downloaded it when it first came out for free). According to the info, this program is made to view your documents on the go. Using the app, you can also mount your iPhone as a wireless hard drive on your PC or Mac, drag-and-drop files and folders between the iPhone and your computer and view many common document formats, such as 
- iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers)
- Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint and Excel)
- Downloaded web pages or web archives (packaged by Safari)
- Plain text (e.g. .txt files),  RTF (rich text format), RTFD (TextEdit files with embedded pictures)
- PDF 
- Source code 
- Audio, Images, Movies (these have to be in iPhone-compatible format)

AirSharing is the most intuitive of all browser apps. It mounts very easily (at least on a Mac). All you have to do is go to your Mac's Finder Menu, select Go, "Connect to Server" and enter the address AirSharing gives you when it launches. This, obviously requires a WiFi connection. With AirSharing I have watched movies, listened to music (I could do that with the iPod on the iPhone too of course!), but most importantly, taken business and Office documents with me to view while on the go. For instance, I scanned in all my correspondence as .jpgs of a case I am working on at the moment and simply dragged-and-dropped it onto my iPhone. Whenever I went to the public office in question, I had all my paperwork and correspondence with them handy in my pocket! I also keep my company's logo in these folders,because I will be going to my graphic designer's soon so they can design our new studio signage. More importantly, this is where I keep e-books and read them on the go. Sometimes I download whole web pages (for instance, PDF versions of a Google Map when I am abroad and don't want to incur costly data roaming charges). I have also put in Lyrics and Guitar Chords (as .txt files) of my all favorite songs, because you never know when and where that next jamming session is going to start!
I have scanned in whole comic books as PDFs and put them on my iPhone to read!

All in all, AirSharing is an absolutely necessary app for any serious professional user of the iPhone. One flaw it has is its mediocre stability, especially with large PDF files. It either does not copy them to the iPhone, or even when it has copied them, they do not open or even when they open, they crash after a few pages. This is very annoying and will hopefully be fixed in the near future. However, as far as I know, this is not a fault of the developers. This has to do with allocated memory issues that are intrinsic to the iPhone. I say this because I have encountered the same issue in all other browser apps I am using.

AirSharing is a real time-saving app and necessary for all those professionals looking to work efficiently and organized with their iPhone as a "Mobile Office".


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