Inside OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: a Preview of how Apple is enhancing the file system with iCloud

Posted:
in Mac OS X edited January 2014


Preview, Apple's simple, utilitarian image and PDF viewer, offers insight into how the company plans to deeply integrate iCloud into apps and simplify and improve file management in general in this summer's release of OS X Mountain Lion.



iCloud was a top billed feature of OS X 10.7 Lion, replacing MobileMe and adding Photo Stream, Find My Mac and early support for .



In Mountain Lion, iCloud adds new support for configured Accounts sync between systems, and enhances Back to My Mac with automated troubleshooting fixes. As pictured below, iCloud's System Preferences pane now offers to automatically enable NAT Port Mapping Protocol on your AirPort base station to make sure BTMM will work as intended.











The evolution of iCloud



Prerelease builds of Mountain Lion indicate Apple has been experimenting with how to add iCloud features to its own apps, including the simple Text Edit. Initially, iCloud was simply added as the default location for new files (if a user was signed into the service). When you save a Text Edit document, iCloud appears as an alternative location, despite being nowhere on the real local file system.



















This behavior is similar to how iDisk worked, and also similar to using a remote file server. Among other Mountain Lion apps however, support for iCloud is far more sophisticated and simplified, with a strong resemblance to iOS. A key example of how it works is visible in Preview.



Preview not only shows off how Apple is rethinking the toolbar, it also demonstrates how the company wants apps to access documents saved to iCloud. In the open file dialog below, Preview presents two options: the default, graphical iCloud window showing files in Preview's App Library of documents saved on iCloud (below top), and the standard file system available by clicking On My Mac (below bottom).



















You can add files to Preview's iCloud App Library by dragging them into the iCloud open file window from the Finder or desktop. You can also organize documents into iOS style Folders, which work the same way, as shown below.










ICloud is more than remote storage



While often compared to Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive or other cloud storage services, iCloud is a package of unique offerings that goes far beyond offering just web-based file storage. Apple introduced iDisk for Mac users back in 2000, allowing simple remote internet storage of files. There's nothing new about that.



One major new difference with iCloud it that ties documents with their application. This is similar to how iOS stores apps' files within the apps' own sandbox. When iOS or Mac apps save files to iCloud, they're similarly protected within that app's private library of documents.



This prevents rogue apps from accessing, erasing or modifying your data. While viruses aren't a problem for Macs today, there is malware users can inadvertently install on their own or be tricked to open. Without the kind of app-level security iCloud provides, these could damage or spy on your data.



In that sense, iCloud offers apps' documents a new level of security from other, potentially dangerous apps similar to the way file permissions work on a user level to protect all of a user's files from other, potentially dangerous users who might access the system (including a remote attacks).



On of 2: The opposite of OpenDoc, Saved in the cloud incrementally

The opposite of OpenDoc



Apple's trend toward making apps the center of the iOS and OS X experience is a reversal of the OpenDoc strategy that emerged in the early 1990s, which sought to replace big applications with software components that could be used together to edit a new type of "component document." That strategy intended to make the document itself the center of the computing world, breaking apps down into bits of functionality that could be used together to perform more complex tasks.



OpenDoc was conceptually and technically complex. Users didn't really understand the point, and many developers saw it as a lot of work that would end up replacing their apps with a bunch of individual functional components that would be more difficult to sell. Apple's 1995 mandate that its Claris subsidiary adopt OpenDoc appeared to be a major reason behind Claris' subsequent failure. OpenDoc failed to gain traction anywhere and was eventually scuttled by Steve Jobs after he returned to lead Apple in 1997.



The idea of the app (instead of the document) being the central hub for computing users' activities had already long been evident with "killer apps" such as the Apple II's VisiCalc in the 1970s and the original Macintosh's desktop publishing software of the 1980s, both well known examples of profitable and successful models for selling both computers and software.



With the rise of iOS in the 2000s, Apple worked hard to make mobile apps into the same type of high volume business as iTunes songs, a model it subsequently brought to the Mac desktop last year. These new App Store apps introduce a couple of new technologies that are the opposite of what OpenDoc aspired to achieve.



First, iOS apps are sandboxed (and Mac apps are working in that direction). This enables an app-level security that protects users' data from other apps, including when they're stored remotely on iCloud. They're no longer just thrown in a cloud storage folder like iDisk; iCloud stores each app's files in a separate sandbox, so that only that app (or a trusted companion app, or a mobile/desktop version of the app) can access it.



Apps can still export their documents and files for use with other apps, but the default behavior protects the documents you create from being maliciously or even accidentally erased, modified or spied upon by apps that shouldn't be snooping or changing things. This addresses the very real threat of malware, as opposed to the fanciful solutions to non-problems that OpenDoc was aiming to fix.



The value of iCloud is so obvious that Apple's latest ad for the iPhone 4S demonstrates its usefulness without even providing an explanation via voice over.







Saved in the cloud incrementally



Another distinct feature of iCloud apps' documents under Mountain Lion is an extension of the Auto Save and File Versions features Apple introduced in OS X Lion last fall.



Apple now makes it easy for developers to automatically save every change to a file as you make it, allowing you unlimited undo capabilities (in Lion's Versions, below) that work similar to Time Machine, except on the scale of a single document rather than the whole file system.











When developers tap into iCloud, this autosave behavior happens automatically, efficiently saving small batches of edits rather than having to remember to initiate a "save" and then wait for it to complete. This is also how local documents are handled in iOS. The other advantage to doing this is that it will allow developers to create apps that can edit files from both Macs and iOS devices. Apple isn't quite there yet with its own iWork apps (currently iCloud support is limited to iOS apps), but Mountain Lion will eventually support an iCloud-enabled version of apps (including iWorks) to share their edits between both platforms.



iOS is ahead of the game in accessing iCloud because Apple built support for these features from scratch. On the Mac, there are already established ways to work with files, making it a challenge to introduce a simpler, smarter, easier to use system that doesn't take away features users are already accustomed to using.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    This really sounds awesome for the average home user, while still retaining functionality for pro users who want more control.



    For business use though, I still will prefer Dropbox. I like the philosophy of having local copies saved on each machine, in addition to in the cloud. While it may be redundant, storage is cheap and it makes it pretty much disaster-proof. Very important for critical data.



    I'm assuming iCloud files aren't really on your machine, only in the cloud.
  • cutykamucutykamu Posts: 211member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    For business use though, I still will prefer Dropbox. I like the philosophy of having local copies saved on each machine, in addition to in the cloud. While it may be redundant, storage is cheap and it makes it pretty much disaster-proof. Very important for critical data.



    I'm assuming iCloud files aren't really on your machine, only in the cloud.



    that's where you are wrong buddy, iCloud saves the files on the cloud as well as on the registered device.

    i like the way where it is going right now.
  • macky the mackymacky the macky Posts: 4,572member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    This really sounds awesome for the average home user, while still retaining functionality for pro users who want more control.



    For business use though, I still will prefer Dropbox. I like the philosophy of having local copies saved on each machine, in addition to in the cloud. While it may be redundant, storage is cheap and it makes it pretty much disaster-proof. Very important for critical data.



    I'm assuming iCloud files aren't really on your machine, only in the cloud.



    I get the feeling that the documents exist in the machine that created or last edited it AND in the iCloud. So, if you see a document on your device that was saved somewhere else, AND you click on it, it is then on your device too, and ready to be edited.



    I am a bit perplexed at how this all works though: If more then one device can see a document, how does Apple prevent various users from attempting to edit that document at the same time and not end up with a mess of versions, none of which contain all changes?
  • paxmanpaxman Posts: 3,998member
    I love to see iCloud grow up. But the challenge will be to make it really simple and useful without being confusing. At the moment for instance, photo stream doesn't quite cut it. The fact that I can't control it, image by image, is frustrating.
  • cutykamucutykamu Posts: 211member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    I love to see iCloud grow up. But the challenge will be to make it really simple and useful without being confusing. At the moment for instance, photo stream doesn't quite cut it. The fact that I can't control it, image by image, is frustrating.



    i agree for the photo stream part with you, the fact that i can see the fabric designs on my tv and not be able to delete them is horrible.
  • gustavgustav Posts: 799member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    I love to see iCloud grow up. But the challenge will be to make it really simple and useful without being confusing. At the moment for instance, photo stream doesn't quite cut it. The fact that I can't control it, image by image, is frustrating.



    That's a criticism of Photostream, not iCloud. Photostream just happens to use iCloud.
  • firefly7475firefly7475 Posts: 1,499member
    Reading about this level of control to protect against "rogue apps from accessing, erasing or modifying your data" makes me want to poke my eyes out with a rusty nail.



    This is iOS, not Android. Apps are vetted before entering the app store.



    The chance of encountering a "rogue app" that trashes all your documents is not even worth considering.
  • pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    I love to see iCloud grow up. But the challenge will be to make it really simple and useful without being confusing. At the moment for instance, photo stream doesn't quite cut it. The fact that I can't control it, image by image, is frustrating.



    I was Photostream worked in the reverse of its current form, where you can choose to save a photo to your Photostream. I take many pictures, often many versions of the same thing, and don't need all of them saved in the cloud.
  • pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post


    Reading about this level of control to protect against "rogue apps from accessing, erasing or modifying your data" makes me want to poke my eyes out with a rusty nail.



    This is iOS, not Android. Apps are vetted before entering the app store.



    The chance of encountering a "rogue app" that trashes all your documents is not even worth considering.



    Um, isn't this referring to OS X, as in 10.8 Mountain Lion? While I believe only Mac App Store apps can use iCloud, thus meaning they too are vetted, this prevents a non-App Store app from accessing iCloud and your documents.
  • pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cutykamu View Post


    that's where you are wrong buddy, iCloud saves the files on the cloud as well as on the registered device.

    i like the way where it is going right now.



    Does it save it locally to every device synced? That's what I was referring to.



    I imagine iCloud saves it locally on the machine that created it, in the cloud, and then locally on any machine that edits it (akin to iTunes Match, with downloading substituted for editing).
  • correctionscorrections Posts: 1,080member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Firefly7475 View Post


    Reading about this level of control to protect against "rogue apps from accessing, erasing or modifying your data" makes me want to poke my eyes out with a rusty nail.



    This is iOS, not Android. Apps are vetted before entering the app store.



    The chance of encountering a "rogue app" that trashes all your documents is not even worth considering.



    First up, iCloud works with both iOS and OS X. Secondly, even if an app is vetted doesn't mean it can't do bad things, as we've learned with apps that do things like upload your contacts or whatever.



    The idea of expecting nothing to go wrong because you aren't aware of potential dangers is a poor security policy. Having lots of checkpoints is a better policy.



    Think of this as memory protection for files. It's file protection, and it's a "modern OS feature" as they used to say.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    Does it save it locally to every device synced? That's what I was referring to.



    I imagine iCloud saves it locally on the machine that created it, in the cloud, and then locally on any machine that edits it (akin to iTunes Match, with downloading substituted for editing).



    From what I can tell with ML and iCloud the files are saved locally in a hidden cache as one would expect from a modern OS but iCloud is not designed to be the soul location for your files locally. The UI for iCloud is designed to look very different from Finder to make sure the user doesn't confuse the two. I have been saving my files to my Documents folder or Desktop per usual and then save a version in iCloud as needed.
  • johndoe98johndoe98 Posts: 278member
    This is all very good, but I wonder how the "companion app" stuff works. Sandboxing shouldn't be setup around Apps but file types, somewhere in between opendoc and what Apple is doing. Sandboxing according to file types strikes me as a good compromise, where you need to give permission for each app to be allowed to work on that file type.



    For instance (hypothetical example), sometimes I need to use Microsoft Word, whereas most of the time I would use Pages. Pages would manage everything in the cloud and sync to all my iOS devices. But now if today I need to load my document in Microsoft Word, MS Word should be trusted to make changes to my .doc files and immediately sync the changes to my cloud without having to use Pages in the process.



    It would really suck to have to open Pages, open the file, send it to MS Word. Make the changes, and send it back to Pages to have it sync. Much better is to open MS Word, make the changes, and be done.
  • johndoe98johndoe98 Posts: 278member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    iCloud is not designed to be the soul location for your files locally. The UI for iCloud is designed to look very different from Finder to make sure the user doesn't confuse the two. I have been saving my files to my Documents folder or Desktop per usual and then save a version in iCloud as needed.



    Well that's inconvenient. In that regard I liked iDisk. I could work both locally and remotely off the same folder. Everything was always in sync and also backed up and accessible, easily, locally and remotely. I hope iCloud achieves the same. I don't want double copies to keep track of. That's what my time machine is for.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johndoe98 View Post


    This is all very good, but I wonder how the "companion app" stuff works. It shouldn't be setup around Apps but file types, somewhere in between opendoc and what Apple is doing. Sandboxing according to file types strikes me as a good compromise, where you need to give permission for each app to be allowed to work on that file type.



    For instance (hypothetical example), sometimes I need to use Microsoft Word, whereas most of the time I would use Pages. Pages would manage everything in the cloud and sync to all my iOS devices. But now if today I need to load my document in Microsoft Word, MS Word should be trusted to make changes to my .doc files and immediately sync the changes to my cloud without having to use Pages in the process.



    It would really suck to have to open Pages, open the file, send it to MS Word. Make the changes, and send it back to Pages to have it sync. Much better is to open MS Word, make the changes, and be done.



    I can see Apple eventually allowing multiple apps to access the same files over a system but lets remember this is still in Beta.



    On top of that, Apple typically tries to get one thing worked out before tying to add new features. With so few people who are fairly technical minded by virtue of posting on this site not understanding how it works I think going "simple" out of the gate and then expanding makes a lot of sense.
  • cutykamucutykamu Posts: 211member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    Um, isn't this referring to OS X, as in 10.8 Mountain Lion? While I believe only Mac App Store apps can use iCloud, thus meaning they too are vetted, this prevents a non-App Store app from accessing iCloud and your documents.



    as filemaker is non-app store, i wonder how they would use iCloud.

    or maybe they will bring filemaker to app-store as well.
  • solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by johndoe98 View Post


    Well that's inconvenient. In that regard I liked iDisk. I could work both locally and remotely off the same folder. Everything was always in sync and also backed up and accessible, easily, locally. I hope iCloud achieves the same. I don't want double copies to keep track of. That's what my time machine is for.



    Then use Dropbox. You gain a lot more functionality over iDisk. That includes delta encoding so that only the changed pieces are uploaded and you get 30 days of version history on the free account. iDisk is complete shit in comparison.



    You can pay for excessive amounts of data and have your entire user folder media and documents on some server somewhere but that doesn't make sense. iCloud is for accessing from the cloud n your iDevices with ease. It's not meant to be a remote server between 100 Enterprise Macs. This isn't a sly move from Apple to get Macs into the business sector. It's a simple interface to a complicated issue for the majority. You need something more robust there are still the other options available.
  • cutykamucutykamu Posts: 211member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    Does it save it locally to every device synced? That's what I was referring to.



    I imagine iCloud saves it locally on the machine that created it, in the cloud, and then locally on any machine that edits it (akin to iTunes Match, with downloading substituted for editing).



    as far as i have used iCloud sync documents between my iPad and iPhone, it keeps the file synced on both of my devices (as well as on the cloud) even though if i edit it only on one device it is pushed to the other device as well. i'm sure it is going to work the same way with OS X Lion.
  • jmmxjmmx Posts: 340member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pendergast View Post


    I was Photostream worked in the reverse of its current form, where you can choose to save a photo to your Photostream. I take many pictures, often many versions of the same thing, and don't need all of them saved in the cloud.



    I agree (tho admittedly without direct experience). The problem with Apple's simplifications is that they frequently preclude the ability for advanced users to work with them. Advanced users need to work documents with multiple apps. We also produce a large number of files (in photography anyway) and we may want to save them all, but not as "primary" files more as possible alternatives.



    The one thing going for iCloud is that they do not charge for photo roll so you can have as many thousands of pics as you like. HOWEVER- i believe I did read that at some point in time old pics are deleted unless you do ??? with them.
  • johndoe98johndoe98 Posts: 278member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


    I can see Apple eventually allowing multiple apps to access the same files over a system but lets remember this is still in Beta.



    On top of that, Apple typically tries to get one thing worked out before tying to add new features. With so few people who are fairly technical simply by posting on this site that don't understand how it works I think that going simple and then expanding makes a lot of sense.



    Agreed. Make it rock solid then consider expanding.
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