How to Use SharePoint on iOS (iPhone/ iPad)

Mobile Man / Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Until pretty recently, Microsoft had a reputation for being incredibly protective of its products and services. While some of those perceptions linger on, the Redmond giant has made a lot of significant moves to open up its technology over the last couple of years.

Back in 2015, we reported on Microsoft’s open sourcing of its .NET stack, a move which surprised and delighted developers. The company has also been increasingly open to its competitors, letting users integrate Office and Outlook with Dropbox, or by letting iOS customers download the Office suite for free.

The world of work is becoming ever more cloud and mobile based, and the good news for enterprise IT users the world over is that Apple’s hardware and Microsoft’s productivity tools are becoming increasingly entwined. For the millions of employees who use SharePoint to collaborate and share files, but who love Apple’s trend-setting devices, this is great news.

So, how can you work in SharePoint from your iPhone or iPad?

Basic use

For basic use of SharePoint from your iPhone or iPad, the most obvious place to start is the mobile site. Microsoft has created a functional mobile site for iOS users to visit their company’s SharePoint, where they can switch between mobile and full views.

If you just need to check a library, open a document or share a file, the mobile approach is perfectly suitable. To open a SharePoint site you need to:

  1. Open Safari or the browser of your choice
  2. Type in your company’s SharePoint address
  3. Sign in
  4. Touch the ‘tiles’ icon at the bottom of the page
  5. Select the Sites icon
  6. You’ll then see a list of sites you can navigate to

That, in a nutshell, is how you can use SharePoint in your iPad or iPhone. Pretty neat and pretty simple. However, this approach does have some limitations, including:

  • The User Experience (UX) leaves quite a lot to be desired. The mobile version of the site is essentially SharePoint ‘lite’ and hardly gives you full functionality or the customized experience you might be used to on the desktop.
  • There are some quirks to iron out when inputting text to the Office Web Apps – though Microsoft should hopefully sort these out in time.
  • No offline capability – this is the biggest problem. Without an Internet connection, you won’t be able to see any of SharePoint from your iPhone or iPad.

Why an app is a worthwhile consideration

It’s great that iOS users can directly access SharePoint through their browsers, but there’s a long way to go before this will be anything like the desktop experience. It’s therefore worth investigating a native app (one that’s installed directly onto the iPhone or iPad, rather than accessed via a browser) if you want to really use SharePoint on an iOS device to its fullest.

What do you get with an app?

  • SharePoint apps should let you view documents offline

Users don’t need a Wi-Fi connection to view their favorite document libraries. These can be downloaded and edited, before being synced back up to your company’s SharePoint once a connection has been re-established.

  • SharePoint apps can be customized

Rather than logging into a fairly bland Microsoft themed SharePoint via the web, an app can be customized by your company’s IT department to look and feel just like your desktop SharePoint – not only with company colors and logo giving users a sense of continuity between devices, but also with personalization of the information shown on app screens.

  • Greater security

SharePoint apps for iOS let you store and send encrypted data securely by integrating with MDM providers such as MobileIron, Citrix XenMobile or AirWatch.

  • Use all the features of your iPhone

The particular value of having a SharePoint app built specifically for your iPhone or iPad is that it integrates perfectly with the device’s unique features – from UX interactions to the GPS tracker to the device’s camera.

  • Support for a range of file shares

SharePlus, Infragistics’ SharePoint app, lets users access and import files, annotate PDFs and more from other content sources like OneDrive for Business, Google Drive and Dropbox, in addition to SharePoint itself.

Get more from SharePoint

It’s great that Microsoft has started opening up and letting users integrate with software and devices from its competitors. This means more power and choice to you, the end user. iOS devices are incredibly popular, and by letting users access SharePoint over the web from their iPhones and iPads, Microsoft has given users more choice and more flexibility.

However, to truly use SharePoint on iOS to its fullest, business users should definitely explore a SharePoint app. SharePlus, from Infragistics, has been designed with today’s worker in mind. Its offline access means you can remain productive on that long haul flight, its MDM integration means your IT team don’t get the jitters when you take data out of the office and its smooth integration with SharePoint’s search, social and BI features mean you never compromise on quality.

Try a free demo of SharePlus Enterprise today, and see how much more you can achieve from SharePoint on iOS.