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Apple reinventing file access, wireless sharing for iPad

post #1 of 508
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Apple is dramatically rethinking how applications organize their documents on iPad, leaving behind the jumbled file system and making file access between the iPad and desktop computers seamless.

In a move foreshadowed by the Newton Message Pad fifteen years ago, Apple's new iPad jettisons the conventional shared file system and introduces a new, streamlined convention for working with document files that ordinary users should find much more understandable.

Outside of savvy computer users, the idea of opening a file by searching through hierarchical paths in the file system is a bit of a mystery. Add in the concept of local and cloud file servers and things really get confusing.

Apple has already taken some steps to hide complexity in the file system in Mac OS X; Spotlight search was supposed to make a file's location almost irrelevant, while apps such as iTunes, iPhoto, and Photo Booth now present their databases of content in media folders within the open file panel rather that forcing users to slog through the underlying file system.

The Finder, iTunes and iPhoto also allow users to wirelessly share content between different systems via Bonjour-discovered file shares that pop up automatically whenever another system sharing files is sensed on the network.

The iPhone similarly abstracts away the file system entirely; there is no concept of opening or saving files, just a media library of Photos and file attachments that stay connected to their mailbox items. But the iPhone currently isn't designed to do much more than view files.

iPad's new document sharing model

With the iPad, Apple demonstrated new multitouch versions of desktop-class iWorks apps with user interfaces that need to open and save documents. There's still no file system browser with open and save panels. Instead, each app displays the files it knows about at launch for the user to navigate through directly.

An iPad developer has revealed to AppleInsider how this new mechanism works, without also requiring that users learn about the complexity of the underlying file system. Rather than iPad apps saving their documents into a wide open file system, apps on iPad save all their documents within their own installation directory. Delete the app and you'll clean out all of its related files. This is how the iPhone OS already works.

Additionally, iPad apps can now specify that their documents be shared wirelessly. With that configuration, the iPad will make available each apps' documents, allowing the user to wirelessly mount their iPad via WiFi and simply drag and drop files back and forth between it and their desktop computer.

On the desktop system, the iPad will show up as a share containing a documents folder for each app that enables sharing. For example, a user with iWork apps will be able to wirelessly connect to their iPad as if it were a directly connected drive, and simply drag spreadsheet, presentation, or word processing files between their local system and the mobile device as desired.

Documents copied to the app's shared folder will be graphically presented by the app when it launches, sparing users from having to figure out where to look for their document files and avoiding any need to sort through different kinds of documents. The document listing also presents each file as a large preview akin to Quick View on the Mac OS X desktop.

And iPad app's documents can be presented in any way that makes sense, depending on how many and what kind of documents the individual iPad app uses. Apple demonstrated its Work apps scrolling through a quick list of documents, while its iBooks app presents its various digital books as titles in a virtual bookshelf.

Just like the iPhone, the iPad will sync some apps' documents via either iTunes or MobileMe, including photos, music, movies, TV shows, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks.
post #2 of 508
Yay, I've been waiting for someone to describe how this worked. Does this work for third party apps too?
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post #3 of 508
I wish they'd fix Quicktime first.
post #4 of 508
I'm warming up to it. This is good news.

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post #5 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by TEKSTUD View Post

I wish they'd fix Quicktime first.

That was unrelated.
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post #6 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post

Yay, I've been waiting for someone to describe how this worked. Does this work for third party apps too?

Yes, read the article lol.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #7 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post

Yay, I've been waiting for someone to describe how this worked. Does this work for third party apps too?

That's what the OP said.
post #8 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post

Yay, I've been waiting for someone to describe how this worked. Does this work for third party apps too?

Yes if already does on the iPhone. That's why it is important to sync and backup. I suspect you won't be able to delete iWork etc off your iPad
post #9 of 508
Hrmmm, that ought to make backups a cinch!
post #10 of 508
This works well for a small number of documents, as on the iPhone, but it becomes a problem when working on, say , a project, where it might be desirable to keep all the different document types for the project grouped together. With a conventional file structure it's easy, when the project is done, to archive all the related documents and remove them.
post #11 of 508
This mangles the concept of projects. When Im doing video work Ill have files from a variety of applications collocated in a centralized directory: DV/AVCHD/mov video; FCE/FCP sequences; jpg/TIF/PSD images; PDF; AIFF/MP3 audio; etc.

Now I realize that the iPad does not currently support video creation at all. But other kinds of projects can also require files from various apps.

I dont see how the app=file type library or file system can make this work. So is the iPad truly not to be compatible with or usable for content creation, and is just to be a viewer? Maybe so. Have to think about that.
post #12 of 508
I think this is where Apple has been heading for sometime......and I like it. I remember when iTunes came out. I couldn't stand it reorganizing my folders. When iPhoto came out I had a apoplectic fit as it hid all my carefully organized photo folders. You know what, after letting the applications organize my files/folders, I found it so much easier. I can't remember the last time I went looking for photos or music files in the finder. If I need a file I simply drag it to the desktop or onto the application icon in the dock that needs it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by themeperks View Post

This works well for a small number of documents, as on the iPhone, but it becomes a problem when working on, say , a project, where it might be desirable to keep all the different document types for the project grouped together. With a conventional file structure it's easy, when the project is done, to archive all the related documents and remove them.

This is where metadata could make this file system work. Tag one project's files with the project name.
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post #13 of 508
I was curious if Apple decided to tie this to a MobileMe contract, what would happen to your files if you decided after a year you didn't want to continue your MobileMe. What happens to your files? Does Apple allow you to download them to a hard drive? What if you don't have the space? Do you have to continue to use MobileMe just to hang onto your files? Obviously this is in the early stages. I'm sure cloud computing is coming. I'm just wondering what happens if you change your mind. Can you get off the cloud?
post #14 of 508
I could see projects being accommodated by the iPad 'file structure'. If applications allowed you to tag files with a 'project name' as some sort of metadata, then Spotlight could be used to find all files associated with that project. It would show all files in one pane by app type or metadata, with no need for a file structure. Spotlight could be modified with a collect for output type capability similar to InDesign or Quark, to collect all files for sharing, archiving, copying - almost anything. If there were a lot of little files this might get a bit tedious, but there must be some good way to make it work.

I've always wondered if Spotlight could replace the Finder, but it would definitely take some getting used to and would need a few UI enhancements. It sure would simplify things for my older mother - trying to explain how the Finder works is like pulling teeth.
post #15 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeCourious View Post

I was curious if Apple decided to tie this to a MobileMe contract, what would happen to your files if you decided after a year you didn't want to continue your MobileMe. What happens to your files? Does Apple allow you to download them to a hard drive? What if you don't have the space? Do you have to continue to use MobileMe just to hang onto your files? Obviously this is in the early stages. I'm sure cloud computing is coming. I'm just wondering what happens if you change your mind. Can you get off the cloud?

"On the desktop system, the iPad will show up as a share containing a documents folder for each app that enables sharing. For example, a user with iWork apps will be able to wirelessly connect to their iPad as if it were a directly connected drive, and simply drag spreadsheet, presentation, or word processing files between their local system and the mobile device as desired. "
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post #16 of 508
How long before AI will be obliged to start a stand alone iPad forum?

Or at the very least make this one "iPhone + iPad" in the manner of "iPod + iTunes + AppleTV."
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post #17 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeCourious View Post

I was curious if Apple decided to tie this to a MobileMe contract, what would happen to your files if you decided after a year you didn't want to continue your MobileMe. What happens to your files? Does Apple allow you to download them to a hard drive? What if you don't have the space? Do you have to continue to use MobileMe just to hang onto your files? Obviously this is in the early stages. I'm sure cloud computing is coming. I'm just wondering what happens if you change your mind. Can you get off the cloud?

This has absolutely nothing to do with MobileMe
post #18 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by stumbleone View Post

This mangles the concept of projects. When Im doing video work Ill have files from a variety of applications collocated in a centralized directory: DV/AVCHD/mov video; FCE/FCP sequences; jpg/TIF/PSD images; PDF; AIFF/MP3 audio; etc.

Now I realize that the iPad does not currently support video creation at all. But other kinds of projects can also require files from various apps.

I dont see how the app=file type library or file system can make this work. So is the iPad truly not to be compatible with or usable for content creation, and is just to be a viewer? Maybe so. Have to think about that.

More than likely, they'll have something like GarageBand for iPad, and iMovie for iPad, etc. In those apps, I imagine they will allow some kind media sharing between apps. But I doubt there will ever be any pro-level, or semi-pro-level media creation workflow tools.
post #19 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmf2 View Post

Yay, I've been waiting for someone to describe how this worked. Does this work for third party apps too?

Developers will have access to this feature.
post #20 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


An iPad developer has revealed to AppleInsider how this new mechanism works, without also requiring that users learn about the complexity of the underlying file system. Rather than iPad apps saving their documents into a wide open file system, apps on iPad save all their documents within their own installation directory. Delete the app and you'll clean out all of its related files. This is how the iPhone OS already works.


If I delete the application, the files are deleted too? So if a file can be opened with more than one app, and I delete the app, the files are deleted? If I need to reinstall a program, the files are deleted? This sounds scary. Wow, if I create something in iWork and an iPad version of MSOffice is created, I can't delete iWork without losing my documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Wow! I hope this isn't the case.
post #21 of 508
I hope that you'll be able to stream movies and music from your household Macs or PCs to your iPad so that you don't have to sync them first.

Like streaming to an Apple TV or streaming from Mac to Mac.
post #22 of 508
I can't see any reason why Apple wouldn't add this feature to iPhones and iPod touches in their next OS update. It'd be quite handy.
post #23 of 508
I think all of the hype is more about what potential the iPad (and iPhone) have in the future as far as application development. Sure there are some limitations now, but all of that can and probably will be overcome in the not too distant future.

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post #24 of 508
Nice to see a comment thread without his incessant "no flash" commentary.

Nice article, Dan. It's always a pleasure to read your analyses.
post #25 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goocher View Post

More than likely, they'll have something like GarageBand for iPad, and iMovie for iPad, etc. In those apps, I imagine they will allow some kind media sharing between apps. But I doubt there will ever be any pro-level, or semi-pro-level media creation workflow tools.

I agree. I'd like to add that there is already allot of content creation going on with the Iphone / IPT in music, photography, video and graphics. Users are covered pretty well. Why does everyone say you can't create anything with the Ipad? Such unrealistic expectations. Sure let's give everyone a $500 device that can edit broadcast video, take 30 or 40 megapixel photos, shoot 4K video and do all of the finishing, retouching, titles and VFX. Hope everyone is willing to wait a while for that. Far more likely it'll make a pro's desktop experience a bit better by replacing expensive hardware to interface with FCP or some other App. Similar to "Garageband Touch".
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post #26 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by dguisinger View Post

This has absolutely nothing to do with MobileMe

It doesn't? - We'll see, but I'll be surprised if Apple aren't looking to 'control' more of the cloud with MobileMe, and add another revenue stream. (God bless them little Apples)


Quote:
Originally Posted by astroturf1 View Post

Hrmmm, that ought to make backups a cinch!

How so? - If backups are to be seamless for the new 'appliance' of the decade they'll have to do some very clever manoeuvring around the file systems on MobileMe (so sloooow) and Timemachine to make it semi-invisable to the new (touch)iWorks user.
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post #27 of 508
So if I receive a word/pages document in the Mail app how do I open it in Pages on iPad? Will the Pages app not see the file because it's in the Mail filesystem, and not the iWork one?
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post #28 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post

I think this is where Apple has been heading for sometime......and I like it. I remember when iTunes came out. I couldn't stand it reorganizing my folders. When iPhoto came out I had a apoplectic fit as it hid all my carefully organized photo folders. You know what, after letting the applications organize my files/folders, I found it so much easier. I can't remember the last time I went looking for photos or music files in the finder. If I need a file I simply drag it to the desktop or onto the application icon in the dock that needs it.

It works well for songs and photos or other single type of content and is mainly for viewing/listening. But iTunes and iPhoto also essentially act as content servers to share the media with other applications. Are all 3rd party apps expected to build in that same capability?

And you sort of invalidated your entire argument when you say you drag your content to the desktop or to other applications when you need it there. How can you do that when the iPad (currently) can't multitask and there really isn't a desktop to drag a file to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post

This is where metadata could make this file system work. Tag one project's files with the project name.

Ok, great; but just how do you propose tagging the files and, more importantly, viewing the collection of files you tagged with that project? You'd need an app to allow you to identify the files you want to tag and then view the related files the way you've organized them.

Guess what, you just reinvented the Finder, the Mac's file management application. Granted, you may not be navigating according to the actual file structure of the operating system, but you've still created a virtual file structure the user needs to be able to navigate.

This new file management system will work fine when you have a relatively small number of file types and limited interaction between apps (what would you break if you deleted an app and all it's related documents and other apps were referencing those documents?).
post #29 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toyin View Post

... You know what, after letting the applications organize my files/folders, I found it so much easier...

I agree, after a while you let iTunes and iPhoto organize your file, but let's say I have 64GB of iBooks or simple text file on my iPad, using the bookshelf might not be the fastest route to select a book.
post #30 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

An iPad developer has revealed to AppleInsider how this new mechanism works, without also requiring that users learn about the complexity of the underlying file system. Rather than iPad apps saving their documents into a wide open file system, apps on iPad save all their documents within their own installation directory. Delete the app and you'll clean out all of its related files. This is how the iPhone OS already works.

yuck, this sounds worrisome to me.
post #31 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by MeCourious View Post

I was curious if Apple decided to tie this to a MobileMe contract, what would happen to your files if you decided after a year you didn't want to continue your MobileMe. What happens to your files? Does Apple allow you to download them to a hard drive? What if you don't have the space? Do you have to continue to use MobileMe just to hang onto your files? Obviously this is in the early stages. I'm sure cloud computing is coming. I'm just wondering what happens if you change your mind. Can you get off the cloud?

It's been some time since I worked at an Apple Store, but IIRC if you ask they will give you a brief grace period (maybe 1 or more days?) to access your iDisk just for backing up your files. If you don't have space, blank CDs and DVDs are pretty cheap.

Keep in mind that the iPad is still an accessory to a computer, at least for now. What I take issue with is "apps on iPad save all their documents within their own installation directory. Delete the app and you'll clean out all of its related files." I thought that the improved metadata system in OS X was partially to make it easier for you to use multiple apps with the same files, provided they 'know' how to use those file types. If an app keeps all your files in its own directoryand is only aware of what's in that directorythen what happens if someone wants to make their own alternative to, say, Pages for example? How would such an app access files that only Pages is really aware of?

Maybe I'm missing something; maybe the metadata allows other apps to find those files. I'm not a programmer, let alone an iPhone dev. Please feel free to explain what detail I'm missing here.

It probably also doesn't help that I never went to sleep Wednesday night, and went to bed around 3AM last night.
post #32 of 508
How is this a feature?

This philosophy is flawed in so many ways. Apple is not giving the end user MORE freedom, but less! Filetypes should act independent to programs for one reason only. LICENSING! Let's apply Apple's logic to the way my computer works now. Being a graphic guy, I switch between Photoshop and Fireworks all the time. Why would I want Photoshop to open and save graphic files when both applications treat the same file totally differently! I also script! There are some things Pages sucks at (script writing development). Why would I want to be in Pages only to write my scripts when scriptwriter pro does it much better?

PDFs is another great example. I want to open PDFs in Acrobat, not PREVIEW! I also want to put files on my thumb drive to send to clients, or upload them to box.net for review. Now what? I have to say to the client, "sorry. That thumbnail I rendered on my iPhone can only be used with this application software of which you have to buy..."

Yea, right.

Why is Apple giving me a reason to move over to the upcoming slate or a netbook running Linux? WHY! What's next Apple? Are you going to tell me that I have to put ice cream in a cone instead of a cup?
post #33 of 508
So, does this mean that the file can't be accessed by another program/app? Even without multitasking, it would be good to let more than one app have access to a particular file. This seems to go against the 'open' concept that apple generally backs...
post #34 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

And you sort of invalidated your entire argument when you say you drag your content to the desktop or to other applications when you need it there. How can you do that when the iPad (currently) can't multitask and there really isn't a desktop to drag a file to.

He's just talking about how he uses his Mac today, to find content; i.e., he doesn't dig through the file system but rather uses the associated app (iPhone, iTunes, etc.) or Spotlight to find the file for him. He's not talking about how the iPhone/iPad would work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Ok, great; but just how do you propose tagging the files and, more importantly, viewing the collection of files you tagged with that project? You'd need an app to allow you to identify the files you want to tag and then view the related files the way you've organized them.

The iPhone does have built-in search that searches the entire phone. If they really wanted to add tags to link files between apps, then you could use the search app to list all those files.
post #35 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by pazimzadeh View Post

So if I receive a word/pages document in the Mail app how do I open it in Pages on iPad? Will the Pages app not see the file because it's in the Mail filesystem, and not the iWork one?

Well you can already do that in Mac OS X. When you have a photo attachment in Mail.app there are multiple options like "view in iPhoto". And if you open iMovie it has a pane showing all of your iTunes files and iPhoto files... etc. Apps can still share each others files in that way. And the idea of tagging would take care of the concept of a project. But that said... I don't know if such a file-system-free model would ever replace professional level content creation. But that's fine! Because most computer users (I'm guessing) are not content creation and development pros. The iPad is not aimed at the professional graphic designer or video editor or web developer... etc. It's aimed at "the rest of us". Like the original Mac. The concept for the original Mac was that it should be as easy to use as a toaster. That it should be an appliance. Not a geek tool. The iPad brings that concept back. I'll say one thing... after one too many phone calls from my 70 year old dad trying to figure out how to do something on his iMac... I have no doubt that he would find the iPad much easier.
post #36 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Franco Borgo View Post

I agree, after a while you let iTunes and iPhoto organize your file, but let's say I have 64GB of iBooks or simple text file on my iPad, using the bookshelf might not be the fastest route to select a book.

The file size of your library isn't really an issue. The issue is: how many books do you have? That's really not a big issue, however. They could sort your library by category, author, publication date, title, etc. to make things more manageable.

They could also use the quick lookup feature that the iPhone uses for contacts when you run your finger along the right edge of the screen (it shows the alphabet along the edge of the screen and lets you skip from letter to letter to quickly scroll through long lists).
post #37 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by iMeMine View Post

So, does this mean that the file can't be accessed by another program/app? Even without multitasking, it would be good to let more than one app have access to a particular file. This seems to go against the 'open' concept that apple generally backs...

I totally agree! Apple is selling this idea to idiots in hopes of locking everyone into their own application environment in which they would receive a large piece of the pie for absolutely no work whatsoever. This is all about money. Actually, its down right extortion.
post #38 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takeo View Post

Well you can already do that in Mac OS X. When you have a photo attachment in Mail.app there are multiple options like "view in iPhoto". And if you open iMovie it has a pane showing all of your iTunes files and iPhoto files... etc. Apps can still share each others files in that way. And the idea of tagging would take care of the concept of a project. But that said... I don't know if such a file-system-free model would ever replace professional level content creation. But that's fine! Because most computer users (I'm guessing) are not content creation and development pros. The iPad is not aimed at the professional graphic designer or video editor or web developer... etc. It's aimed and "the rest of us". Like the original Mac. The concept for the original Mac was that it should be as easy to use as a toaster. That is should be an appliance. Not a geek tool. The iPad brings that concept back.

Ok that's fine, but I doubt that there will be a button in iPad Mail that will say "open with 'Documents-to-go (current iPhone app)' or 'XXX made up PDF editor' or 'YYY made up photo editor' or 'ZZZ other made up App store app.' There will probably only be an option to open with Apple's own apps, which is not a great thing.
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post #39 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by iMeMine View Post

So, does this mean that the file can't be accessed by another program/app? Even without multitasking, it would be good to let more than one app have access to a particular file. This seems to go against the 'open' concept that apple generally backs...

I doubt that the limitations are as strict as you think they are. For example, on the iPhone a photo editing app can open files from the Photo Album and then save them back to the Photo Album.

I'm guessing there will be similar ways of aggregating similar types of document collections so that you can edit them in various apps...
post #40 of 508
Quote:
Originally Posted by thartist View Post

I totally agree! Apple is selling this idea to idiots in hopes of locking everyone into their own application environment in which they would receive a large piece of the pie for absolutely no work whatsoever. This is all about money. Actually, its down right extortion.


Did you miss this part ?

Instead, each app displays the files it knows about at launch for the user to navigate through directly.

How is that lock-in? If I open an app it sees all filetypes it can handle. This article says nothing about sandboxing documents to a single app.
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