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.
For this reason, tonight I tweeted out a request for suggested apps I could use to address this situation.
I received a LOT of great suggestions from my PLN via Twitter. Here are the apps and workflow solutions which were suggested:
- Smart Office 2 ($10)
- Documents Unlimited Free for iPad (free)
- DropBox (free)
- DropBox in the Safari web browser app (free)
- iAnnotate PDF ($10)
- Pages ($10 or free with new iPads)
- Documents Free (free)
- Keynote ($10 or free with new iPads)
- Google Drive (free)
- Goodreader for iPad ($5)
- Quick Office (free)
- 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:
- Downloaded all attachments from email messages to a single folder on my laptop’s desktop.
- Created a new folder on my DropBox account using my laptop web browser (Google Chrome).
- Uploaded all 17 file attachments for tonight’s meeting to that DropBox folder.
- Copied the web link in DropBox to that folder to share it.
- Used the goo.gl URL shortener to create a shorter version of that link.
- 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:
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.
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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