It’s been about ten months since I purchased my iPad. No, I won’t be purchasing an iPad 2. The iPad 2 is certainly nicer but I will try to curb my desires, at least until iPad 3. The iPad has had two OS updates, but getting documents into and out of the iPad is still something for Rube Goldberg (Rube Goldberg was an old-time cartoonist. Look up his cartoons — you’ll see what I mean and have a good laugh).
When I say documents, most of what I work with are Microsoft Office-compatible files (.txt, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and PDFs. Most of these are Word documents. I’m not the only one using an iPad for office functions — Pages, Keynote, and Numbers are consistently in the top 10 of the iOS App Store sales chart.
Transferring files among computers is common at home and office for a variety of reasons. There is no perfect solution that is best for everyone at all times. Am I at home, wanting to transfer a file between two computers sitting next to each other, is the file on a computer that’s miles away, or is the file on a Smartphone, tablet, SD card, or external hard drive?
Most devices have an SD card slot and/or USB ports where you can plug in thumb drives, card readers, external hard drives… the list is endless. Imagine my surprise when I first brought the iPad home. Having to e-mail documents to myself, or getting documents in or out thru iTunes, seemed strange and primitive indeed. I’m sitting here with one of the most advanced devices on the planet, and I have to get documents into and out of the device as though it’s years ago.
Another surprise was the lack of support for transferring files with Bluetooth. We transferred files with Bluetooth years ago, first with Palm devices, then with Pocket PCs.
One of the easiest ways to get docs into and out of the iPad or any iOS device is thru iDisk, part of Apple’s MobileMe suite. Another solution with advantages (for one, it’s free!) is Dropbox. MobileMe syncs email, bookmarks, contacts, notes, and calendar; Dropbox syncs files. I use both. Dropbox can automatically sync files on all your computers: Windows PCs, Macs, Linux, iOS devices, Android, and Blackberry. If you want to keep a lot of files synced it will cost you, but the first 2GB of storage is free and you can earn more free storage. Use this link to sign up for Dropbox and receive extra storage. The LifeHacker website has frequent articles detailing new uses for Dropbox. A recent article told how someone used Dropbox to pinpoint the location of his stolen laptop. There are other sync solutions such as SugarSync. Read all about each one; there are differences that may be important to the way you work.
Dropbox is an “almost” seamless way to get documents into and out of iOS devices. Dropbox works well with some apps such as QuickOffice Connect, not so well with other Apps such as Apple’s iPad iWork suite of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. There is a simple way to make the iPad iWork suite work perfectly with Dropbox, and it’s explained here: http://techinch.com/2011/02/02/integrate-dropbox-with-pages-keynote-and-numbers-on-ipad/
My only problem came when I tried using the iPad with a local storage device that also uses WebDAV. The article’s author explained what I had to do (Comments at the end of the article) and everything works fine.
You can set that whole thing up in just a few minutes, but let’s journey ever so slightly into the land of What If. We’re so close to another solution that could happen with just a little help from Apple. Apple sells a dongle that plugs into the iPad’s 30-pin connector port. The dongle has an SD card slot. So far, so good. Problem is, this device that could be so very useful is a one-trick pony. It’s only purpose is to transfer pictures from a camera’s SD card to the iPad. It won’t transfer documents in, and it won’t transfer anything out. This could be rectified by a firmware update.
This would serve three purposes. One, easily transfer files into and out of the device. Two, extend the storage capacity of any iOS device — keep what you use most on the device and store everything else on SD cards. Three, back up the entire device to an SDHC card, then restore your current iOS device or a new one from that SDHC card. Item three would require the most effort (developing a new app or adding that feature to the OS), but the added feature would surely increase sales of all iOS devices.
Under the current iOS device scenario, if you are away from home and office (business trip, vacation, whatever) traveling with only an iOS device, and that device has a problem and needs restored, or the device is lost or damaged and you purchase a replacement iDevice, you are SOL until you physically return to the one computer in the world your iOS device syncs with. If anything happens to that one computer your data may be gone forever. If you’re away for a few days, a couple of weeks, or longer, you probably added to and/or changed the data on the iDevice, yet you have no way to sync or back up that changed and new data. That is so primitive!
One of many rumors is that iOS5 will allow us to back up to and restore from, “the cloud” (Apple’s new North Carolina data center). I hope so, but that is just a rumor, and it’s always nice to have choices. If it does happen, backup and restore will likely require a Wi-Fi connection, which may be impossible to find at that mountain cabin, secluded lake, and many locations around the world. A couple of SDHC cards in your pocket could be all you need!
I submitted this suggestion to Apple and invite you to do the same. The more requests for something, the greater the chance Apple will listen. Remember the iPad orientation lock switch issue? The best example is that Apple originally planned for web apps only on the iPhone until they saw the sheer number of people jailbreaking their iPhones so they could have Apps. Apple changed their mind, opened the iOS App Store, and here we are more than ten billion downloads later. Hopefully my suggestion and other solutions are introduced soon.