Friday, 28 February 2014

Long Live the File-System !

If you have spent much time building mobile apps -- or even using them -- you will know how painful it is to work around the lack of consistency regarding the treatment of file-systems across the various platforms. iOS is the worst. Last time I looked in any detail, the iOS file-system was heavily locked-down such that one is basically confined to the very limited sub-file-system associated with a given app: making it almost impossible to flexibly share files across apps, one of the best things about the file-system in the first place !

Android and Windows Phone 8 are better, but neither is as simple and effective as the good old desktop (or laptop). Perhaps that's one of the reasons why almost half of (the many thousands of) iNavCalc users, are still routinely using the "old-fashioned" desktop (laptop) web-browser version of the app (as opposed to the mobile versions). With the desktop (or laptop) browser, it is trivially simple, for example, to import and export GPX route files (via the Import/export button on the web-form), which happens to be one of the most commonly used features of the software.

I must admit I was a little surprised by all this. I had sort of assumed that the mobile versions of iNavCalc would rapidly outweigh the desktop version in terms of usage volume. But a year or so after releasing the mobile versions, the desktop still commands 50% (or so) of the daily action.

So, given these steady usage volumes on the desktop, I thought it would be good to spend just a little bit of time on improving the desktop version of iNavCalc. As such, and making good use of the file-system, I've enhanced the route file import/export functionality. Specifically, you can now do the following:

  • Import a GPX route file (this functionality was already present)
  • Import a Garmin FPL route file
  • Import a SkyDemon ".flightplan" route file
  • Export route to a GPX file (this functionality was already present)
  • Export route to a Garmin FPL file

These functions are all available via the Import/Export popup, as illustrated in the screenshot below.

Of course with the mobile versions of iNavCalc,  there is a workaround: namely exchanging files via email and via the Cloud storage functionality....but sometimes you can't beat the good old file-system in terms of simplicity and convenience. 

I  note in passing that the latest version of ChromeOS has a rather usable file-system. I was able to import/export route files via iNavCalc on the ChromeOS/Browser, with the same ease as I'm used to doing on Windows :)

Enjoy !

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