Mobile collaboration is becoming an important factor for large and small enterprises. Two of my previous posts, Top iPad apps for accessing SharePoint and Harmon.ie: A BYOD iPad app for SharePoint users, show that there are a growing number of excellent third-party apps for mobile SharePoint collaboration. Huddle, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) collaboration platform, is challenging SharePoint on the iPad with the Huddle iOS app. (Note: Huddle also has an Android app.)
The Huddle iOS app meets all of my criteria for mobile collaboration. It has an excellent user experience that should make the app easy for mobile users of all levels to adopt.
Huddle activity stream
Once you login to the Huddle iOS app, your activity stream appears (Figure A). It occupies roughly half of an iPad's Retina screen. The Activity stream is visually appealing and easy to read.
Huddle Activity stream.
From the Activity stream, you get a view of recent activity across all your Huddle workspaces that impact you. There's no need to enter the individual workspaces to get status updates.
Manage files with the Huddle iOS app
Access to your documents in Huddle is available from the activity stream or by tapping on Files in the bottom corner of the app. When you tap on a file, the Details screen for the file appears. Figure B shows an example of the Details page for a PDF document.
Details page in the Huddle iOS app.
From the Details page, you have the option to comment on, assign, and approve documents. The IT technical writer side of me finds the "out-of-the-box" document approval capability to be quite appealing, because it has potential to get organizations away from dead tree reviews and offers another tool to engage busy reviewers. When you receive a document for approval, it will show up in your activity stream. After reviewing the document, you can enter a note in the Review and then tap Send Back or Approve. When you tap on Approve, the top description field turns green, and the Approve or Send Back button changes to Approved. You can't change a document from Approved in this view. Figure C shows a document ready for approval.
Document ready for approval.
You can also comment on a document from the Details screen. At the current time, the Huddle iOS app doesn't support threaded comments.
Along with comments, you can favorite documents in your Huddle workspaces, which contributes to the collaboration experience for mobile workforces because users can see the documents their coworkers favor.
The Huddle iOS app includes a well-crafted Share File dialog where you can select everyone, workspace team members, or an individual for document sharing. Additionally, users in larger enterprises can search for users from a dialog box. Figure D shows an example of the Select Recipients dialog box.
Select Recipients dialog box.
Since the Huddle iOS app is a collaboration app, not an Office productivity app, you can open up files in your Huddle workspace on your iPad that supports the file format from the app's Action button.
The only thing I'd like to see in the Document Details screen is a smooth way to exit the document. However, the Huddle iOS app doesn't have an actual home screen, unless that's considered the Activity stream.
Manage tasks with Huddle
The Huddle iOS app provides full access to tasks across your Huddle workspaces. There isn't an inbox for tasks -- instead, you have to save the tasks to workspaces. You can also assign tasks directly to another Huddle workspace user.
Entering tasks in the Huddle iOS app is very easy. The New Task dialog box is a shining example of the app's user-friendly experience (Figure E).
New Task dialog box.
Tapping on a task from the Activity stream or from the Tasks List brings up a Details screen similar to Figure F.
Details about the task.
From the Details screen, you can add comments on the task and set task dates. At the current time, you cannot reassign the task to other Huddle workspace members using the iOS app.
Because a Huddle user's task list may grow across different workspaces, the iOS app has a filter feature where you can search by All My Tasks, Assigned To Me, and Created by Me. The search can be set to include an individual or all your assigned workspaces. The Search Filter is well spaced out, which I like for mobile (and sometimes harried) workers.
Huddle features for the mobile workforce
The Huddle iOS app includes a syncing feature with patent-pending predictive technology that shows you content that's active and relevant across your Huddle workspaces. These files are then downloaded to your device. This feature should be appealing to those users who travel frequently or are often without mobile connectivity.
You can also upload files from your iOS mail inbox, because Open in Huddle now appears in the Action menu. When you open a file in Huddle, you can choose a workspace location for the file.
I finished this post the day that Microsoft released Office Mobile for iOS (though only with native iPhone support). While the Huddle iOS app and the new Office Mobile for iOS are for two different use cases (mobile collaboration vs. Office productivity), I clearly expect that enterprise mobility is going to factor into Huddle's challenge to SharePoint. In fact, Huddle meets or exceeds the level of excellence in the SharePoint iPad apps I've previously profiled. This is a definite selling point for the Huddle collaboration platform.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.