Better note-taking and annotation tools across all plattforms (at least for Apple iOS/iPadOS)

Better note-taking and annotation tools across all plattforms (at least for Apple iOS/iPadOS)



 Dec 12 2022

We'd like to see better note-taking and annotation tools across all apps on the iOS platform, but also better integration with Windows, Android, and macOS.

Many enterprise customers use various tools like Adobe Acrobat, PDFExpert, GoodNotes, Notability, etc. for their workflows. Usually, these tools are used as annotation tools due to their very basic functionality in OneDrive, SharePoint and Office products. For simplicity, we will "only" deal with the iOS platform in the following.

When using annotation tools in an enterprise context, companies usually need a way to prevent data loss. Unfortunately, very few vendors offer AppConfigs or Intune SDK-enabled apps. Therefore, it would be even better if Microsoft already offered appropriate options in the apps for the platform. Best case, a consistent experience, regardless of platform. For the user it would then be a seamless process and for ITSec no further action would be needed on the app side once M365 has been approved (and for iOS/Android MAM/APP has been enabled).

Let's take a look at a typical, everyday process:

- Documents that need to be signed, approved, or commented on are converted to PDFs or already exist as PDFs

- They are uploaded to OneDrive, giving the employee or approving colleague/supervisor access to the documents

- Annotations are made using iPads (with 2nd generation iPads Pro and Apple Pencils).

- Everything is stored on OneDrive

- In the past, an app was set up for this, but the annotation features were pretty frustrating there too, and it was an enterprise app, so it was always pretty much work to keep it running (and make it cool and secure)

Well, to improve the situation, here's what we've found out so far and suggest:

- Some time ago there was a Microsoft blog post, for better integration of Apple Files and Microsoft OneDrive / SharePoint. Apple said they haven't changed anything, but Microsoft said they are working on a new implementation for iOS 15 that affects Apple Files and OneDrive. iOS 16 came out - and it's still the case that the OneDrive content is visible, but not writable and sometimes the Files app says "read only mode" at the bottom (but rather rarely)

- Inside files we can't open, read or interact with files from OneDrive, but we still see all content

- Inside OneDrive, a PDF is always opened with the PDF viewer inside OneDrive, same with the Office app - resulting in an eraser, three silly pens (not worth calling pens) and a highlighter

- In Office, if you open another app for Office content like Excel, Word, or PowerPoint, there's already the drawing tool, which offers some cool and usable pens

- In PDFExpert or similar apps, the tools are "ok", but there is also a dynamic feature that gives a more natural writing feel (still not cool, but nicer)

- In the Apple Files app, Notes app, or whatever, Apple's note pens come into play (available as Apple PencilKit as an SDK)-the coolest, the best, and the ones that no one ever has to learn how to use because they just work naturally, like we learned to do as kids 

Having established the necessary context, let's conclude with three questions:

- How can we solve the problem with Apple Files and View and Annotate?

- How can we ensure that pens from the Office suite get into the OneDrive PDF view for a better annotation experience?

- What can we do to consolidate pen capabilities across Apple and Microsoft?

Again, at best, a consistent experience regardless of platform. :stareyes: