Essential Apps for iPad in the Construction Field
I recently had correspondence with someone planning to roll out a number of iPads in a construction business. At CMBSC, we use iPads and iPhones in the field extensively. I have tried many different apps on my iDevices and thought to review which of those apps have become the essentials we rely on.
These apps are absolute must-have utilities for managing, sharing, converting and producing files of various formats within the iOS environment.
Dropbox is my preferred tool for managing all document files that need to be shared or that you may wish to access from multiple devices. Dropbox for iOS is free and allows opening, saving and sharing all types of files with ease. We make shared jobsite folders for all our projects including all related drawings, daily logs, inspections and a myriad of other project documents.
You can find Dropbox in the App Store here for free: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dropbox/id327630330?mt=8
iZip Pro allows unzipping compressed files received or downloaded onto your iPad. iOS does not handle zip/rar files otherwise.
You can find iZip Pro in the App Store here for $4.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/izip-pro-zip-unzip-unrar-tool/id479665601?mt=8
Did you ever receive an email with no content, only a file named winmail.dat attached? This is the result of email sent in a format unreadable by your email client. WinMail app can open these files, read and format the email for you to view on iPad.
You can find WinMail in the App Store here for $2.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/winmail-file-viewer/id379500151?mt=8
Password management is essential on all our mobile devices. I insist on unique strong passwords and so mSecure, or similar app, is a must have. I have been using this app for a very long time with almost 400 passwords now saved. I saw a review of password keepers some time ago and mSecure was rated higher than most others regarding security and encryption. Some of the most popular competing apps were found to be easily compromised (I’m looking at you 1Password).
You can find mSecure in the App Store here for $9.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/msecure-password-manager/id292411902?mt=8
Creating and Editing Documents
The following apps are my selection of tools for creating and editing various documents in the field.
Allows import or snap a photo then add measurements and notes.
You will find Measures in the App Store here for $6.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/photo-measures/id415038787?mt=8
Full featured drawing app with layers and shapes. Very good for drawing sketches and details. iDraw has a matching desktop app for Mac that shares the files in iCloud. Don’t mistake it for another app, Draw, which claims to have been formerly named iDraw. Draw is a much simpler app without the advanced abilities of iDraw. See an earlier post regarding crane lift plans I create with iDraw.
Find iDraw in the App Store here for $8.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/idraw/id363317633?mt=8
I have tried many, if not every one, of the available note taking apps. Goodnotes has become my goto app in this space. I find it to be the most usable and reliable. This app has completely replaced the legal pads that would pile up in my truck and all about my office year after year.
You can find Goodnotes 4 in the App Store here for $6.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goodnotes-4-notes-pdf/id778658393?mt=8
Before completely ditching the legal pad, I had been using iAnnotate. I still use it for certain cases. If I have a pdf agenda for a meeting, I would open it in iAnnotate and scribble all my notes along the course of the meeting right on the agenda item. These days, I use Goodnotes more, it has the same capability. Still, iAnnotate has a very good signature capture tool and is a bit better for filling out pdf forms.
You can find iAnnotate PDF in the App Store here for $9.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iannotate-pdf/id363998953?mt=8
I have a host of reference apps on my iPhone. Seems I haven’t felt the need to install the most of them on the iPad. Google search in safari is my preferred research tool for one stop shopping on iPad. Here are the few apps that I do recommend for iPad. Well, one for now. I’ll add more when I come across them.
Planimeter is a map tool that allows obtaining measurements directly from the map images. You can get the square footage/acreage of property and buildings. I have used it quite a bit and find it very close in accuracy. Planimeter is good for quick take offs in the field.
You can find Planimeter in the App Store here for $3.99: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/planimeter-measure-land-area/id423492040?mt=8
What, no Autocad?
You might have noticed that none of the apps above are specifically focused on the construction industry. An app needs to be really well done and perform a function not otherwise available to warrant a space on my home screen. I have tried hundreds of others that just don’t add significant value in real world, out in the field circumstances.
When I first started using iOS devices I hoped for a killer field administration app to solve the difficulties of coordinating and documenting construction crew activities. I tried every app out there at the time. There was nothing even remotely usable and so I started to develop my own app, CrewKeeper, for the field.
There are more players out there now but, from what I see, they generally miss the mark when it comes to what the typical field supervisor needs. They further miss on usability and practical focus. Many others are basically duplicating some of the functionality of the apps I have mentioned.
I believe there is a disconnect in these attempts to connect the high minded priorities of the execs with the boots on the ground. Technically adept developers that have never managed a construction crew attempt to realize the lofty ideals of the enterprise execs. The result is a bloated, desktop like product more suited for the office than the field.
CrewKeeper aims to be super simple, quick hit entries in real time throughout the day.
KISS- you know what it means.
More on CrewKeeper in a future post. I recently added iCloud syncing between devices and so I am working on many improved iPad focused features and layouts for pending updates.