I’m serving in my second year of a three year term as an elder in our church, and our meetings usually fall on the last Monday of each month. As you might expect, I prefer to forgo paper copies of agendas and committee meeting notes, and instead bring my iPad and laptop to our meetings. Unlike school boards (like Oklahoma City Public Schools) and other organizations, however, our church session doesn’t use a content management system like BoardDocs to share our meeting agendas and distribute related documentation for each item of business. Instead, various individuals email attachments prior to each meeting for us to review and refer to during our meetings. I’ve been frustrated in the past, however, because all these documents end up being attached to at least five or six different email messages, and it’s challenging to have the document I need during the meeting when different agenda items come up.

13 Documents as Meeting Attachments

For this reason, tonight I tweeted out a request for suggested apps I could use to address this situation.

Suggestions for BoardDocs Replacement

I received a LOT of great suggestions from my PLN via Twitter. Here are the apps and workflow solutions which were suggested:

  1. Smart Office 2 ($10)
  2. Documents Unlimited Free for iPad (free)
  3. DropBox (free)
  4. DropBox in the Safari web browser app (free)
  5. iAnnotate PDF ($10)
  6. Pages ($10 or free with new iPads)
  7. Documents Free (free)
  8. Keynote ($10 or free with new iPads)
  9. Google Drive (free)
  10. Goodreader for iPad ($5)
  11. Quick Office (free)
  12. Documents by Readdle (free)

These suggestions are captured in the Storify archive I created after these interactions tonight.

I ended up going with Jeremy Brueck’s simple, free and elegant solution: Using a DropBox folder. I used the following workflow:

  1. Downloaded all attachments from email messages to a single folder on my laptop’s desktop.
  2. Created a new folder on my DropBox account using my laptop web browser (Google Chrome).
  3. Uploaded all 17 file attachments for tonight’s meeting to that DropBox folder.
  4. Copied the web link in DropBox to that folder to share it.
  5. Used the goo.gl URL shortener to create a shorter version of that link.
  6. Opened that link using the Safari browser app on my iPad2.

This is what the shared DropBox folder of files looked like in Safari on my iPad tonight during the meeting:

Meeting file attachments in a shared DropBox folder

As different agenda items were discussed during our 3.5 hour meeting tonight, I touched each DropBox file, held down my finger, and selected OPEN IN NEW TAB to view each document. I was able to view Word files, PDF files, and Excel files right within the Safari browser app. the only file I wasn’t able to open this way was an Open Office (.odt) file.

Opening files from DropBox in Safari for iPad in a new tab

Besides being a free and fast way to access my meeting files tonight, this iPad-based “BoardDocs alternative” proved valuable as well because it was sharable. By sharing the same link I used with other members of our session, they also were able to access each document of our meeting electronically from their iPad or laptop.

Perhaps in the months ahead our church staff will formally start utilizing this method to share meeting attachments with our elders. It’s certainly cheaper than a license to use BoardDocs or another commercial solution, and it can provide a fast way to access shared documents for a meeting.

Have you found other solutions for meeting situations like this when you need to quickly access a large number of files initially sent to you as email attachments? If you have other effective ways to address these needs I’d love to hear about them!

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  • http://ryancollins.org/ Ryan Collins

    We use Google Drive for our board meetings. Each meeting gets a new folder named YYY-MM-DD ( for easy sorting). The agenda is a Google Doc, and support materials are dropped into the folder (usually scanned). Once the agenda is finished, the secretary uses the “Email collaborators..” option from the folder itself to notify the board members. This way they get a link to the current folder in their email so they don’t have to hunt for it.

    To organize the folders, there is a “Board Agendas” folder. This folder is shared with the secretary and the BOE Google Group. Inside it there is a folder created for each school year, and then inside of that are the folders for each meeting. Because sharing is from the main “Board Agendas” folder, the secretary doesn’t have to worry about setting the sharing each time a folder is created. And since the folder is shared with the BOE group instead of individually, whenever there is a BOE change I just change it in the group.

    Since you use GMail, you can save the attachments directly into a folder in Google Drive.

    I don’t have a solution for .odt files…

  • Alisha Day

    We use Anywhere Pad at my company. What I do is a log in to the web app, drag the files to the agenda, and it becomes accessible to our senior managers. Although we purchased some licenses, I think it’s free for a limited number of users (forgot if it was 2 or 3 persons).

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