It's time for an iOS roundup for New Zealand, and possibly the most exciting news at the moment is the rather momentous fact that FileMaker 12 users can deploy Go for free on iDevices.

I know databases might not sound very interesting to some, but bear with me - I talked to Mathew Roscoe of Foundation, one of many excellent New Zealand FileMaker developers, about this as his company was talking about the potential of iPads and FileMaker over two years ago, before it was a reality.

Basically, FileMaker is a database company, which makes software for Macs and PCs, but it's a wholly-owned Apple subsidiary.

iPads are mobile and can be connected either via wireless networks or with a Sim card, of course - a much easier, more convenient way to access a database housed somewhere else than was previously possible. Add to that the ability to take photos and videos directly on an iPad 2 or 3, plus input a signature directly with a finger or stylus, and you can report in to a master database. So although it's a great portable terminal to show stock to a client somewhere, that's possibly the most base example of what Go can do. With interactivity between the new, free Go and FileMaker Pro 12, there's a lot more that's possible.


As Matthew says, with Go, FileMaker is now effectively a tripartite (Server, Mac/PC and Go) platform forming a very attractive environment for developers. Foundation showed me a solution for a Blenheim vineyard as an example. Resources and staff (like seasonal pickers) have to be allocated around a huge area, and the contracts mean they need to be paid a minimum of 30 hours a week. Fair enough, but if they're not allocated intelligently or the company loses track, they could be doing nothing or, more realistically, in the wrong place to be doing anything productive.

Also, what's picked, what's not and what's at what stage and other concerns, across different areas, rows, varietals of grapes etc, all create a massive management task. Previously, supervisors would drive back to the office - and we're talking a 1.5-hour drive in some cases - and deliver stacks of paper that all had to be typed into the system. Imagine that ...

Now, with iPads, even though local 3G cell phone reception is at too low a transfer rate (meaning synching times out), supervisors annotate the database from their iPads as they move around. Back in the car park by the office, they're in the network and the data synchs and uploads into the database. A little work needs to be done on the PC (not a Mac) in the office to keep track, and to fine-tune, but the raw inputting is done out in the field by the people with their fingers on the pulse - pretty much literally, thanks to Foundation. The manager can even sign work off out in there.

This car park transfer is pretty quick - the data has a compression routine built in that Foundation created, and it's not a problem, as the supervisors have to go back to Blenheim anyway; that's where the office is, and where they live.

This was all devised under FileMaker 11, actually, with Foundation currently supporting that and FM12. Foundation is impressed at the conversion that FileMaker 12 can do with older versions of the databases, so far. Matthew also mentioned his new HP printer with AirPrint, by the way: "It's so handy - want a paper record from your iPad? Print it wirelessly."

Another example of a Foundation solution is an iPad app for physios - they indicate where the problem is on a patient using a body chart, just circling or crossing it with a finger-tip or stylus, can write notes beside it, and even photograph say an ankle before then a week later for a progress comparison, all appended to patient records. Actually, even patient mobility is recordable, since the iPads 2 and 3 can shoot video directly into a field in Go.

Foundation's business is booming and Matthew needs staff - either someone who wants to learn, or someone experienced.

And if you want to know more, and more in depth about all this or just see it in action, along with other clever things iPads can do, Systems Engineer for FileMaker, Inc Asia Pacific David Head is coming to talk at a yet-unannounced conference taking place at Auckland University in August ... but I should be able to tell you more about that by the end of May.


The Skinny

Aaron Pearce of Whanganui has built a very slick-looking app that tells you what you've used and what's left on your Skinny Mobile plan (a Telecom cell phone spinoff).

The Skinny Usage app is elegant, and very clear and easy to use and read; drag the whole screen down and it refreshes, so you can see how many minutes, data, text etc you have left. You can also customise the colour bars to suit your, erm, whatever. Aaron is considering an Android version.

If you're on Skinny, this is great, and only $1.29. You'd think Telecom would get behind it.

Oh, my word!

And now for something completely different ... sort of: TextGrabber has so many uses. It turns your iPhone into a pocket word scanner, for a start.

Shoot text in any of many languages and it turns it into editable text, which you can copy, paste, amend, and connect straight to Facebook, Evernote and twitter.

You can buy additional dictionaries inside the app. There are 200 dictionaries for 20 languages available. When I looked, the Lingvo Dictionaries (English Premium Set, German and French sets) were on discount for NZ$1.29 (US90¢).

But that's not all - it can also translate between those languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish; including some in different scripts, including Arabic and Korean.

This may not sound all that useful, but it is: my daughter, at 17, went on a solo trip to Japan to attend a Red Cross conference. On a train by herself, she overshot a station she was destined for and got off at a different one ... and of course, all the signs were in Japanese script, which are really hard to recognise if you have no Japanese. Now if only she'd had this!

(Maori isn't in the list, unfortunately, and I'd love to have Latin, too, please.)

But for $4.19, if you have anything to do with any other languages, and/or you are travelling, or hey, you're visiting our fine country and English is a second, third or fourth language for you, it's pretty terrific. It's by the proven optical character recognition software makers with a long history, ABBYY, so it comes from an impressive pedigree. Great stuff.

As usual, please tell me what you're doing in the iOS sphere, so I can tell Herald online readers.