The construction industry has begun to embrace the iPad as a productivity tool in the field, but the device and some of the applications can have their limitations. So how do construction professionals work around this?

While there are a number of concerns surrounding the iPad for the construction industry such as connectivity, security, and durability, one of the primary hindrances of the device is the difficultly of viewing Microsoft Excel and Word documents as well as PDFs, among others.

The good news is there are apps for that. One example is construction professionals can view and markup PDFs using GoodReader.

In addition to using GoodReader as a PDF markup tool, construction professionals can also view Microsoft Office files, text files, and pictures, as well as play audio files. Furthermore, construction professionals can sync with Dropbox and any WebDAV, FTP, or SFTP server.

Jerry Seitzinger, project manager, LF Driscoll, www.lfdriscoll.com, Bala Cynwyd, Pa., says the company is using the GoodReader app to look at drawings, schedules, and contracts.

“For instance, we walk the job every week and mark up the current schedule noting actual dates versus planned,” says Seitzinger. “The contracts, drawings, specs, and shop drawings are all in Dropbox, which we open from (within) GoodReader, then save to the iPad for use in the field without Wi-Fi.

“The shop drawings can be opened in GoodReader as a package, and you can swipe to go from page to page, whereas in (other apps) you have to know which page you want.”

The iPad trends transcend across the entire construction industry, as Daniel DeVol, owner, Daniel DeVol Custom Builders, www.devolbuilders.com, Dayton, Ohio, agrees Dropbox is a good app to share files between a PC at home and an iPad in the field.

Dropbox is a service that allows users to bring photos, documents, and videos anywhere and share them. DeVol is able to easily switch back and forth between his PC, Android device, and iPad using the Dropbox app and hasn’t had any issues with compatibility.

For construction professionals, being able to view documents in the field goes beyond just Microsoft Word and Excel and Adobe’s PDF. One commercial construction company uses the Jump Desktop app as a way to remotely access its server to view its custom project-management system, and remotely manage RFIs (requests for information), change orders, and contracts, among others.

While the iPad and some of the applications that run on the device do have drawbacks, many construction companies are finding there are other apps such as GoodReader, Dropbox, and Jump Desktop that can help work around some of the limitations.