It’s easy to accrue a number of cloud app clients on your iPad. While they can conserve space, they can also hamper productivity. I recently had the chance to try out Documents.Me, a free iOS app that lets you centralize access to cloud storage and your local device from one app.

Centralizing access to files stored in the cloud and on your local device using Documents.Me could serve mobile workers well who increasingly depend on their iPad over a laptop. In fact, my first spin with this app made me think of many use cases for this app in my own work.

The startup company behind the app, topobile inc., is planning three versions of the product:

  • Free version limited to two clouds and secure sharing with a maximum of one account per service, limited stats, and analytics
  • Pro version that supports up to five cloud accounts, including multiple accounts at any of the services (like two Dropbox accounts or three Gmail accounts or two PCs) — this version promises unlimited secure sharing, complete analytics and control
  • Enterprise version that supports unlimited cloud accounts, unlimited secure sharing, complete analytics and control, corporate dashboard and controls, along with Active Directory integration

Using Documents.Me

After downloading the free app and opening it, you’re prompted to setup a Documents.Me account. It will be interesting to see what changes might occur to the account sign up once all three versions of Documents.Me are available. Figure A shows the Documents.Me home screen:
Figure A

Screenshot of the Documents.Me home screen.

Once you log in to the app, you need to setup your cloud accounts from the home screen. This first step can be easy to pass over. When I tried to bypass the home screen to setup Google Drive, I received errors and a prompt telling me to go back to the home screen. I also received a number of authentication errors when I tried to setup my Google Drive account. However, the setup of my Dropbox account went flawlessly. Later, I was able to setup my Google Drive account as well. Figure B shows an example of Google Drive access in Documents.Me:
Figure B

Google Drive access in Documents.Me.

The list of files Documents.Me produces lets you search and narrow down your file types. Unfortunately, opening up files was a bit slow from my Dropbox account. While I am willing to blame it on the public Wi-Fi I was using at the time, this could cause concern in users who are more familiar with the Dropbox app. Another thing I noticed was that file viewing was uneven between how the app renders PDF and Word documents. This might be a showstopper for some users. Figure C shows a list of files in Dropbox from Documents.Me:
Figure C

List of Dropbox files in Documents.Me.

If you use Gmail or your enterprise is standardized on Google Apps for Business, Documents.Me even lets you search for file attachments in a Gmail account. The search is much faster than through the iOS email app on your iPad. If you’re like me and find yourself having to spelunk through your email account for one attachment or another, then you’ll like how Documents.Me displays file attachments. Figure D shows the Documents.Me view of the file attachments in my Gmail account:
Figure D

This is how Documents.Me displays email attachments.

If you have a larger capacity iPad, Documents.Me will also let you search through local files, just like you can through your cloud accounts. As larger capacity iPads become more commonplace, this feature could come in handy. You can also search through files on your local PC, but I didn’t test out that feature for this post.

Documents.Me Analytics gives users a simple look into the files they’ve cached. Figure E shows the Documents.Me File Analytics:
Figure E

A look at Documents.Me File Analytics.

Documents.Me includes settings that let you change your password and logout from Google or your email. Figure F shows the Documents.Me Settings:
Figure F

Documents.Me Settings.

I like the functionality of Documents.Me and can appreciate all of the things that the app offers users who want to go sans laptop and just roll with their iPad, However, I think they need to raise their user interface game up a few notches, because it resembles the early days of iOS development. The large square buttons and color look shabby and amateurish on my iPad with Retina display. Opening the app on an iPad Mini didn’t help its aesthetics either.

Final thoughts

Aside from a few concerns, I still rank Documents.Me as an app worth watching to see if it gets past the typical first release software issues that sometimes happen in the startup world. This will be an interesting app to revisit after they mature the setup process and user interface.