Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Viewing Documents in the Cloud Repository
More and more organizations are moving to solutions where documents are stored in cloud-based systems. Implementing a solution in which documents are stored in a cloud-based system, such as a content management system, engineering drawing repository or a technical publication library, can present some challenges. You need to consider these challenges carefully so that you could provide the optimal experience for your users.
These are most important challenges to consider when implementing a cloud-based documents repository: working with multiple file formats; variations in document size; browser-compatibility with HTML5; and viewing documents on mobile devices.
Multiple File Formats
The documents that you might like to upload into your cloud content management system may be in many different formats. They may be PDF, TIFF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, CAD or many others. The device that is being used to display the content often may not have the correct software needed to display the document or image.
This issue is further complicated by the varying number of devices that the content will be viewed on. A common solution is to convert the files on the server to a generic format that can be viewed by many devices. For example, most browsers and devices today can display JPEG or PNG formats for images, Microsoft Office or PDF format for documents, CAD for drawings, etc.
It is very important to consider the size of the document, either the number of pages or the physical size of the file. Downloading the entire document can take a long time depending on available bandwidth. This is especially an issue on mobile devices with slow or crowded data connections.
A system that provides a preview of the document can help the user to determine if they want to download the document. The system can also provide quick initial view of the first few pages of the document allows a user to begin reading content while the rest of the document downloads. This increases worker productivity and can even reduce traffic if the user quickly determines that they do not wish to continue reading the document.
Another challenge is that there are various browsers that are used to access the Internet and not all of them work the same way. The four major browsers are Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Each browser has differences in how they operate and how the code works under the covers.
Document viewing technology is dependent on some level of support within the browser. For example some browsers support Flash and some do not. HTML5 is only supported on recently updated versions of some browsers, so older browsers can create problems. Even where HTML5 is supported, different browsers have different levels of support. Sometimes the differences are subtle and only cosmetic, while others, like complex formatting, can cause significant display issues.
With today’s on-demand business world, it is imperative to be able to support viewing documents on mobile devices. But not all the devices behave the same way, and different operating systems are used on the various devices. Without a consistent mobile viewing platform, separate viewing applications may need to be installed on each device and results will vary. Using a single technology that supports many document types is very important in a mobile environment.
Is HTML5 the Answer?
HTML5-based viewers can help resolve some of the challenges associated with browsers and mobile devices. However, there is a misconception that the adoption of HTML5 is the answer to all problems. It is not. The four major browsers have been implementing HTML5 over time and how much of the standard that is supported varies greatly with the version of the browser. Older versions of the browsers that are used in many government, education and businesses do not support HTML5.
Understanding that these common challenges are a possibility and preparing for them before you encounter them is important. Providing a single platform with multiple viewing technologies, including HTML5, Flash and image-based presentation, can help to ensure that all users can view documents, regardless of their specific device, browser or operating system. With that knowledge you can successfully promote a good experience for your users and overcome the major pitfalls faced by so many organizations today.