Being an Apple ‘fanboi’ of long standing [I got my first mac way back in ’93] I love my shiny iPhone and iPad. But one bugbear I have with these gadgets is the way that Apple makes it so difficult to get stuff on and off them, without either using only Apple apps, like the execrable iTunes or using clumsy workarounds such as emailing files back and forward as attachments.
So here are a few goodies I’ve discovered, over the years, which will help make this process a bit easier. First up, I’ll give Apple’s own iCloud offering a mention, seeing as it does have some good features.
Apple’s built-in cloud storage is a pretty easy way to get files to and from your iOS gadgets, providing you don’t mind being forced to use Apple software for the entire process. I use it to synchronise my Address Book, iCal calendar and info from a few apps, which don’t need too much storage --iCloud gives you 5GB for free, with more available at pretty ungenerous rates.
The reason I find iCloud annoying and have had to look for additional alternatives lies with PhotoStream. This is a handy feature, whereby the last 1000 photos you’ve taken on your iOS gadgets are automatically stored in iCloud. In fact, it turned out to be a bit of a life-saver a few weeks back, when the missus realised she’d deleted a load of photos off her iPhone, that she needed for a college project: luckily they were all still in her PhotoStream on iCloud.
The problem with iCloud is that to get photos off it and onto your mac, you need to be using either iPhoto or Aperture [Apple’s two photo management tools]. Given that I’m already using Adobe Lightroom to manage my photos, this is a major annoyance. Both iPhoto and Aperture are hefty downloads and in my opinion Aperture [the supposed ‘Pro’ offering] is nowhere near as good as Lightroom, so I don’t see the point in installing a huge lump of crappy bloatware, just to allow me to download the odd photo to my comp.
Hence the quest to find out what else was out there.
There can’t be many people about who haven’t heard of Dropbox but, just in case, here’s a quick run down: Dropbox gives you a free 2GB Dropbox folder of online storage, which appears in your Finder sidebar and automatically synchronises over WiFi across all your computers and iOS gadgets. Dropbox was originally intended as an online backup and a means of synchronising your files across, say, your work and home computers, but its availability on iOS makes it equally useful for getting files onto or off your iPhone/iPad: just shove them in your Dropbox and pick them up at the other end.
Because Dropbox has been around for so long and is so well-known, you’ll find that a lot of iOS apps already support saving to and opening from Dropbox directly but, even for those that don’t, you can always open the Dropbox app, tap and hold on the file in question and wait for the Open in… menu to pop up, to open that file in any app which thinks it can handle it.
If you want more than the measley 2GB storage you get for free, Dropbox have paid plans, going up to 100GB and beyond. But one nice thing they do is a referrals system, whereby you can earn 500MB extra storage for yourself and anyone you refer. So, if you sign up with my link below, you’ll get an extra 500MB free [and so will I, so it’s all good!]
SugarSync is pretty similar to Dropbox in the way it works and synchronises across your mac and iOS devices. The main difference is that, where Dropbox creates a special new Dropbox folder on your mac, into which you have to drag anything you want to synchronise or access from your iPhone/iPad; SugarSync allows you to choose a folder or folders that already exist on your mac and use those as your synchronised folders.
SugarSync offers a more generous 5GB free, when you sign up. However, it’s not as popular as Dropbox, so not as many iOS apps support open from / save to SugarSync, as do with Dropbox. But again, Open in… makes this pretty much a non-issue. SugarSync also allow you to earn extra storage [usually 125MB at a time], by completing ‘tasks’ such as installing the mobile app, making a file available via a shared link etc. As with Dropbox, you can also earn 500MB for referring a friend, who subsequently signs up. Here’s my referral link, if you want to sign up and ‘spread the joy’:
One real annoyance I had with trying to get real work done on my iPad was the absolute turd-fest that is trying to work with Tumblr on iOS. I’ve tried about three different Tumblr apps over the years and they all sucked the arse of Beelzebubb. The biggest annoyance, which they all seem to share, being the inability to add photos into a text post.
That’s where Droplr comes in. Droplr doesn’t have any of the online backup connotations that Dropbox or SugarSync do. It’s billed as simply being an easy way to move stuff about from one device to another. You only get a teensy-weensy 1GB of storage with the free version and there is talk of it being ad-supported, though I’m not quite sure how this works, or you can upgrade to 100GB storage for $3/month, which I make about £1,87. Not too shabby.
I’ve not explored Droplr’s potential for moving round files yet, but have been using it as a way of adding multiple pictures into text posts, while writing on the iPad. This is doable thanks to a really cool feature of Droplr’s handling of images:
When you upload a file to Droplr, you get a link to that file, which you can then use, or give to someone else, to download that file again on another device. However, with uploaded images, if you add a plus sign to the end of the link then, instead of working as a link to the file, it actually embeds the image itself in any web page you use it on, which means you can use this trick to add images into Tumblr posts, written on iOS, provided you upload the images to Droplr first.
Here’s what I mean. Here’s one of the images I used in my Starsky & Hutch review, which I wrote on my iPad:
As you can see, if I write the link normally, you just see a link to the file, back on Droplr. However, if I add a plus sign to the end of it, you see the actual image embedded right here in this post:
Pretty sneaky, eh? [And, as I’m writing this very article on my iPad, all the other images were added in the same way].
sign up here: Droplr --No referral schemes, in this case. It is what it is.
Well, that’s my round up of a couple of the ways you can get some nice free extra storage, get files onto and off your iPhone or iPad and also sneakily get round not being able to add photos into Tumblr text posts, when composing on iOS.
Tune in same time next week, when I’ll be showing you how to build a fully functional nuclear submarine out of old milk cartons and string!