Putting instruction manuals, videos, databases and other files onto a mobile device can be quite useful. Field workers can get the information they need to perform their job right from their phones without having to leave the site, and without needing to have Wi-Fi or cellular access. However, building apps to load, store, and access these files can be a real challenge for app developers. Fortunately, Alpha has simplified this process considerably, allowing developers to add on-device file access easily with little or no coding.
Alpha uses a standard, manifest technique to keep track of the names, types, and source and target locations for the files that need to be accessible on the device. The manifest itself is a JSON text file.
And while it’s fairly straightforward for developers to create this file themselves, hand-coding JSON files can be tedious and prone to errors. So, Alpha makes the job much faster by providing a powerful tool, built into the Alpha IDE, for creating manifest files. You can even use wildcards to select many files at once.
Additionally, Alpha can take existing data (from virtually any data source) and use it to create an SQLite database that can be loaded onto the phone and accessed offline. This allows a worker, for example, to scan a barcode on a piece of equipment and automatically load its maintenance history. Or, it could be used to cross reference replacement parts or to check if a part is in stock.
In fact, not only does it create the needed files, it can also automatically upload the files and the manifest to an account on Amazon S3 where it can be accessed by the application. (Note: You can put the files on any server, it does not need to be S3).
Alpha also zips your files for you automatically, making it practical to downloaded hundreds, or even thousands of files quickly to a mobile device.
Of course, creating databases and the manifest file is only part of the job. The other part is loading the assets onto the device and accessing them from the mobile app. Developers usually find this part particularly tricky due to the nature of managing files on a mobile device. (For a variety of reasons, it is much more difficult than managing files on a PC or server.) Here, too, Alpha makes this easy for the developer.
And in the case of videos, spreadsheets, PDFs and other documents, there is built in action that can automatically find and launch the correct application for the document. For example, for XLSX files, Alpha can automatically look for and launch the Microsoft Excel Mobile application if it is present, and then return the user to the app when they are done.
Detailed technical information can be found in release notes (as of April 2019), and will
soon be available at documentation.alphasoftware.com.