About not having a filesystem...

Discussion in 'iPad' started by anjinha, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I work for a company that handles email support for several popular Mac and iOS developers. One of the developers has a mind mapping app for both Mac and iOS. It's a very simple app more geared towards casual users as opposed to power users.

    In the iOS version there's a list screen with all the available documents, both created in the app and transferred from the Mac app. In the Mac you open documents the regular way, from the filesystem.

    Several times already I've replied to emails from people asking if a similar list screen with all the available documents will be added to the Mac app. It seems that a lot of people do prefer the iOS way of having documents in the app instead of in a filesystem.

    While I don't dismiss the fact that a lot of people do miss a filesystem I just wanted to post this to remind people there are people for whom the iOS way is easier and there is a reason why Apple went that route. You don't have to agree with it but I think a little more understanding wouldn't hurt anyone.
  2. ZilogZ80 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 5, 2010
    I generally don't have a problem with the way iOS handles files but there is no doubt in my mind that the current 'kludge' of emailing documents between programs or using Dropbox cannot be considered a permanent solution, especially in a professional environment.

    Apple needs to improve the file system in some way, particularly now they have apps like iMovie and Garageband which are crying out for some kind of document sharing model.
  3. eawmp1 macrumors 601


    Feb 19, 2008
    People don't like to "think different" [sic]. From early naysayers of desktop versus mainframes or GUI versus command lines, to questions posed in this forum from Windows switchers asking why Mac OS processes are different, people don't suffer change easily.

    For what it is and what it was designed to do the iPad does not need a file system. For what some people want the iPad to be and do (full laptop replacement) they feel they need a file system. To simplify and improve the end user experience, Apple purposely moved away from a file system. Whether this was a good decision and becomes the norm will be apparent in a few years.
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    A file system is useful so that the user can organize his documents and/or file objects in a way that benefits his usage.

    With iOS, I'm not missing a file system, but given the iPad's power and flexibility, I'd say if it had one, it would increase the iPad's ability. That is the iPad does ok without one, but if we did have a file system, we'd see the OS really shine in some areas.

    People are trying to use an iPad as their sole and main machine, this would be even more likely if iOS had a file system.
  5. ZilogZ80 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 5, 2010
    The applications of iOS in general have changed vastly since it was designed & introduced (on the iPhone). Even the iPad (in its short lifespan) has had its capabilities significantly increased since its introduction. iOS needs to evolve to keep pace, it is as simple as that.
    I am not talking about iPad as a "laptop replacement" but a complimentary device.
  6. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    I think the application-centric view of documents within the applications generally works well.
    However, one area where it doesn't work so well is where you have multiple applications with the same document and they are all different versions.
    For example, I can open a file from dropbox in Goodreader and open the same document from dropbox (using dropdav) in pages. What I then have is two different copies of the same file. A new user may reasonably expect that if they save the file in Pages, the new version will show in Goodreader, but it won't automatically. What you need to do is copy it back to Dropbox from Pages and setup the file in Goodreader to sync to Dropbox (and then go back into Goodreader and sync the file)

    It does work and once you get used to doing it it's not a major problem, but it's a bit clunky and not very "Apple like".
    IMO, a lot of the problems could be eliminated if Apple implemented a shared document storage area that all applications could access (even if it was through an API and not by directly reading the disk structure). They could even make it permissions based so you could enable or disable access to the shared document space on a per-application basis. Maybe in iOS 5?

    And, just to clarify things, iOS does have a file system and applications can create, delete and browse files and folders. The issue isn't that it doesn't have a file system, but that each application can only access the directory structure within their own sandbox so there is no way of opening a file from one application in another
  7. ZilogZ80 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 5, 2010
    Exactly. I think this is what most people are talking about when they say "file system". A document folder that all apps can access would be ideal and solve all current problems.
  8. anthonymoody macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    This horse has been beaten to death. For power users (see my signature) this remains iOS' most glaring omission.

    I've worked out a pretty good workaround that accomplishes everything I need until Apple gives us something better.

    A) use Dropbox and subscribe for lots of additional storage

    B) set up Dropbox on my Mac (which is essentially archival/backup only for me, but important as such) to sync Dropbox with my mac's Documents folder. You do that with one of the many available free applets that provides this capability.

    C) use dropDAV to allow the iworks apps to pull documents directly in from Dropbox, AND save documents back to Dropbox. (you can also use the Open In option from within the Dropbox app to get files into iworks apps)

    This way my documents exist on my iPad (in the Dropbox app), in the cloud, and on my Mac at home. All sync'ed in real time.

    It works pretty well all things considered. But no doubt apple could/should make for an easy, seamless solution.
  9. blow45 macrumors 68000

    Jan 18, 2011
    apple should streamline the above scenario via mm, and that ll solve lots of problems, actually if the new mm doesn't take care of that it would be huge failure.
  10. iPutz macrumors member

    Mar 27, 2011
    As long as the iPad and the iPhone share the same OS will Apple ever consider changing how files are stored? Apps would then need to be written to different standards for each device. And many would most likely need to be rewritten. Can't see it happening.
  11. anthonymoody macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    Completely agree. I am of the view that iOS 5 and mobile me will see a fairly tight interconnection and be overhauled fairly deeply in terms of functionality.

    If iDisk "just worked" and was easy to sync with a Documents folder on a Mac (I hate having to use terminal to create a sym link) you could replace Dropbox with iDisk in my scenario above. But iDisk blows. Way too flaky.
  12. macse30 macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2009
    I like where this is going. I know there will be frustrations caused by lack of access to the iPad file system, but I'm intrigued and excited to see how the next level of computing unfolds. I'm not using Dropbox to the level described in this thread, but I love how Evernote syncs automatically across devices.

    By the way, my first file system was shoe boxes with punched cards. Evolve or die.
  13. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Yep Dropbox or WebDAV (your NAS may support this) are both excellent and usually supported in iOS apps that need a file system.
  14. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    The current system might not be fit for "power users" but that is absolutely not the iPad's biggest market. Part of the reason the iPad is so popular is because it's simple enough for people who would previously get frustrated with computers for being "too complicated".

    If you want a filesystem there are actual computers, netbooks and even other tablets to fill that need. But there is nothing else like the iPad around and for that reason I think it makes total sense. And while I would like an actual filesystem I also realize that the current way does fill a need for a great number of people.
  15. blow45 macrumors 68000

    Jan 18, 2011
    I am looking forward to this more than anything. MM has run it's course, and it wasn't that great to begin with. Let's hope we do see these much needed changes, because they can take us to the next level of file managment that would be oh so much less frustrating.
  16. master-ceo macrumors 65816


    Sep 7, 2007
    The SUN
    All I want is Access to those Apps Documents folders without having to jailbreak. I like to move / share files between my Apps without the limited "Open In" and "Audio Copy Paste" Methods.. :apple:
  17. thelookingglass macrumors 68000

    Apr 27, 2005
    Yep, absolutely. I just want to be able to upload files through Safari, reply to an email and attach whatever files I want, etc. This is NOT power-user stuff and can be easily addressed with a shared files directory.
  18. dmaul1114 macrumors 6502

    Mar 12, 2011
    I'd prefer a simple file system, but can get by with dropbox etc.

    Only thing I really want on that front in usb drive support--even if it only works with dropbox or other third party apps.

    It would be nice to have a way to get a file off the iPad and onto a thumb drive without having to have a computer, so you could put files on a colleagues jump drive in a meeting, or move a presentation from the iPad to a computer hooked up to a projector in a conference room that doesn't have internet access on it (so you can't e-mail it etc.).
  19. jclardy macrumors 68040


    Oct 6, 2008
    I think the current iOS way works well when you have a single app that handles a specific document type and it does it well.

    The problem comes when one app can do one thing well while another app does a different task better. Then you have to switch between those two apps. Or maybe the app doesn't support emailing files but it can open it into another app.

    Even more problems come when you want to sync with a service like Dropbox or iDisk. Only certain apps support it and so you have to take the file out of those apps then be able to move it back into those apps again to sync it. Or the app has to support the specific API you need.

    What I am hoping for is a revamped iDisk. Basically have a simple file selector SDK that all apps can implement that will allow them to import files from your iDisk and also save new files to it. The files you import will be copied to the apps document storage area, but it can be saved back to your iDisk to sync the file.

    It would be a basic version control system, but without the user ever knowing about it or having to know about it.

    The best part about this is the fact that Mail.app now can access files in your iDisk, so that means you can attach multiple different file types without having to go into each individual app and sending multiple emails from different apps. Also Safari will have a way to upload files as well, so the "attach file" box no longer has to be grayed out.

    And for the user who doesn't care about syncing files they don't even know the difference, as it looks exactly the same from the outside and apps still use the document based file display.

    Something along those lines is what I am hoping for in iOS 5.
  20. anjinha thread starter macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    In what situations exactly do you guys miss a filesystem?
  21. Axiem macrumors member

    Mar 14, 2011
    It is worth keeping in mind that study after study has found that most computer users do not understand the filesystem. (See e.g. http://books.google.com/books?id=04...resnum=10&ved=0CFoQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q&f=false last paragraph on page 52 and http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/01/filesystems-arent-a-feature.html). Implementing one in iOS would be a failure.

    That said, I think that it would be a good idea for Apple to provide some sort of API in Cocoa that links via iDisk to an actual filesystem, but from the perspective of the end-user, just gives them access to the things that matter to the application they're in, while allowing those things to easily persist between apps. If anyone could pull it off without re-making a filesystem but still giving flexibility to power-users, it would be Apple.
  22. thelookingglass macrumors 68000

    Apr 27, 2005
    Like I said above, I just want apps to be able to access docs in other apps or in a common shared directory. That way I can be in Mail, reply to an email with, say, 2 photos and 1 pdf without having to get those three files into Goodreader and then email them separately from there. I also want to be able to upload files directly from Safari every now and then. And I want to be able to open files in the Dropbox/Sugarsync app, make edits and then have the Dropbox/Sugarsync app automatically sync the edited file back to the cloud (just like on Android). That's all. Pretty simple.
  23. Meanee macrumors 6502a

    Mar 8, 2011

    For example, my LaserJet is not supported natively by iPad. HP app will print to it, but you need to open things in the app. File system would be great in it.

    OmniGraffle, that I use for network maps. If I could save it to a folder and email few files in one email, I would be a much happier person.

    I have few video files that I watch on a train. If I do not want to convert them to iPad format, I can use 3rd party apps to play it. But what if Program X supports the codec but I imported into App Y? Why not just let me drag/drop the file and open it in the app I would like it to.

    Someone said that people get confused with file systems on computers. Honestly, if you cannot comprehend a simple Documents folder, maybe you should not be out in a public without a helmet. I honestly would not mind meeting some of those people who have iOS device and would be confused with file system.
  24. jclardy macrumors 68040


    Oct 6, 2008
    I use my iPad for chord charts when playing guitar at my church. One of the apps I use does not support docx files, but my worship pastor typically puts the files online in docx format.

    So I have to do this:
    1. Download the files in iCab (Faster than clicking on each doc and waiting for it do download in safari, then hitting back and repeating the process...)
    2. Use Open In... on the document to open in docs to go.
    3. Select all the text and copy it.
    4. Create a new document with the correct file name (If I just save it again it saves as a docx file still)
    5. Hit open in.. in Documents to go.
    6. Open the song in Onsong.
    7. Repeat steps 2-6 for 4 or 5 songs every week and it gets pretty annoying.

    Now if Onsong supported docx that would make it less of an issue, but if there was a shared folder it could be like this:
    1. Download docx files via Safari into shared "iDisk"
    2. Open docs to go and open the file from your iDisk
    3. Select all the text and copy it.
    4. Create a new document with the correct file name (If I just save it again it saves as a docx file still)
    5. save to idisk
    6. Open onsong and import the 4 files

    While it still seems like a lot, I no longer have to switch between those apps multiple times as all the files can be "transferred" at once, rather than moving one document at a time.

    Also, now I don't have a bunch of separate versions of the file in each app (iCab, Docs to go (2x), and onsong). Just one file in my iDisk. Well, one after I delete the docx version.

    This is just one situation, there have been others but I deal with this every week.

    Plus now that they are in my cloud based iDisk I can now easily access those documents on my laptop. Yes, you can do this now by opening the files in the iDisk app but that adds an extra step and creates yet another copy of the file. And again has to be done one by one as you can only move one file at a time.
  25. KeithJenner macrumors 6502a

    Sep 30, 2010
    Just go to your nearest town centre and look around. You will see lots of them.

    It isn't because they can't understand a file system. It's because they are not interested enough. I know a lot of people (work colleagues and family) who don't understand the file system on their PC's. Every one of them could easily understand it if they tried, but they just aren't interested.

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