You Need PDFs to Get the Most from your Multi-touch Smartphone

September 28, 2010

3 minute read

Things we love about our multi-touch smartphones:

  1. Large screen that allows reading documents without having to pan the page from side to side (see image 1)
  2. Powerful browsers for using web applications (e.g. SharePoint) and viewing full websites
  3. Ability to pinch to zoom and swipe to pan or scroll down the document

Image 1

So now we can work as efficiently away from our desktops as when we’re in the office, right? Not quite.

None of today’s smartphones – including multi-touch ones like iPhone – let you view the full spectrum of document types used in business. Sure, you can view Microsoft Office documents, but not many businesses are limited to those file types only. What about…

Not being able to view documents on smartphones can significantly hamper business process efficiency when you’re away from the office, since many workflows are dependent on the ability to view documents. For example, your sales rep Joe needs a check cut for his expenses; you’re the only one who can approve his expense report and you’re on the road.

Joe sends his report as an Excel email attachment, or your workflow (e.g. SharePoint) automatically sends you the email task upon Joe’s expense report checkin.

If you’ve ever tried to view an Excel file on a smartphone, you know it isn’t pretty – even if you’re using a multi-touch smartphone. Critical information can be obstructed by text or image overlaps. If you cannot view the expense report information, Joe will go another pay cycle without a check. And there are many business processes, with even more dire consequences, that you could hold up as a result of not being able to view required documents while out of the office.

All this is a non-issue when documents, of any type, are converted to PDF. Some of the reasons why PDFs are ideal for viewing documents on smartphones include:

  • PDF file size are typically significantly smaller than their corresponding source document
  • PDF fast web view feature means a page can be viewed without waiting for the complete document to be downloaded providing short page display times, even on 3G
  • PDF maintain the source document page layout

The newer smartphone OS, such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android - natively support the PDF format. Even smartphones without native support for PDFs – such as Blackberry and Noika phones – work with third-party apps such as Documents to Go to get PDF viewing capabilities.

So, Joe’s expense report can be opened instantly, as a PDF, and no content is obstructed, enabling a thorough review. (See image 2.)

Image 2


Now there’s virtually no excuse for hindering business productivity while out of the office with your PDF enabled multi-touch smartphone.

Do you use a smartphone, multi-touch or otherwise? What has been your experience trying to view business documents on your phone?

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