Any Chance of a Basic File Manager in iOS 4?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by J Radical, Jun 11, 2010.

  1. J Radical macrumors regular

    J Radical

    Nov 20, 2006
    The notion of not having a visible file system for is great – for 90% of tasks it really simplifies how users interact with the device, and makes for a streamlined experience. However, there are several very important instances where the inability to access and use a traditional file manager really limits the iPad.

    These include the ability to manipulate documents using multiple applications, 'save' files from the web for later use, transfer files between devices/servers (including uploading files) This crucial 10% is the difference between the iPad as a very cool gadget, and the iPad as a viable replacement for a netbook.

    Obviously adding a file manager given the current setup will be a challenge, but I see no reason why a very simplified version of 'Finder' shouldn't be possible. 'Documents' folders, behind a Finder icon, would add a ton of functionality without affecting the primacy of individual apps as the primary means of document interaction!

    So, what are the chances we'll see this from Apple? And what are my current 3rd party options?
  2. EssentialParado macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2005
    I don't see Apple ever doing it personally. Navigation of files and folders, despite being quite easy to most of us now we know it, is one of the most difficult concepts for a user to 'get' when being taught an operating system. It's also a user interface nightmare; how do you move files between folders? — Open two instances of two windows and drag files over? Cut->Paste the files? It's all a bit of a mess, and would be even more difficult on the iPad. I can see why Apple haven't done it.

    But Apple have never really liked Finder. When Steve announced Spotlight he near as much said, "This is the beginning of the end of Finder." It didn't quite work out that way because so many people are familiar with folders and kept using them, but ultimately an interface that completely lacks of any sort of Finder concept is plausible. I think the iPad implementation needs some too fulfil that 10% you're after, but I can't ever see them going back to the Finder concept now. You could tell it was hard enough for Steve to put application folders into OS4! He wants everyone to put all their files into one giant free-for-all database, which is searchable. And I think it could work… so long as it becomes easier to tag several keywords to files before we store them away in the 'void'. Just a few more years and we'll all be on cloud computing anyway, so we better get used to the idea sooner or later I suppose!

    In the interim, you do have a few 3rd party options for what you want… I'd checkout DropBox, GoodReader, and Evernote.
  3. pondie84 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2008
    Personally I don't see it happening until iPad g3. It doesn't bother me so much but it'd be good to have the option.

    Plus I want to see what the next complaint will be :p

    It's far more likely to happen than sticking USB ports on I think.
  4. redman042 macrumors 68030


    Jun 13, 2008
    Well, the chances of seeing it in iOS4 are zero. That kind of feature would be a big deal so they wouldn't "slip it in" right before launch. We'd know about it already.

    I'd also like to see it added. Until then, power users have to jump through some painful workarounds at times. I jailbreak, and use iFile. It does address a lot of needs but it's by no means elegant.
  5. xraytech macrumors 68030

    Mar 24, 2010
    Not going to happen.

    The only way it will is if they give users the ability to mouse and a real desktop.

    Even with iFile on a Spirited iPad, moving a file is just not fun.

    The best and easiest way is to SSH into your iPad.
  6. colourtheatre macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2010
    well, they could invoke a system similar to photos now where apps can browse through the photos/files available or something similar to when you perform your search results and all the documents shows what file type it is (ie mail, song etc) my AUD$0.02. i think it's possible.
  7. J Radical thread starter macrumors regular

    J Radical

    Nov 20, 2006
    Thanks for the responses guys, I thought as much.

    What a shame! I got the iPad as a computer replacement for the parents (they have no PC), and they love it, but this problem has been gnawing on my brain for a while now. At a practical level it is the difference between being able to upload a photograph, open a file with a different app, and transfer a document via bluetooth.

    I understand Apple's hesitation to include such a feature, namely security and simplicity, but leaving it out all together rather than working towards a solution results in the significant limitations we've all encountered! I would welcome even a very basic, highly curated and limited implementation; as long as I could see documents, tap them and then be given the option to 'open with...' and 'send via...' Equally, if prompted on the web to upload something, the ability to see a basic folder containing important user documents (combined with spotlight, as a halfway house?), would add a ton of functionality to iOS.

    I'll check out your suggestions, and will write an e-mail to Apple about it.

    Thanks again.
  8. EssentialParado macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2005
    forgive me for being ignorant as I don't have my iPad yet, but can't you find and open all your documents via Spotlight?
  9. pondie84 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2008
    st tried it and don't think so...
  10. Zazoh macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2009
    San Antonio, Texas
    Great dialog in this thread, it makes me happy.

    There are certain pivotal moments in paradigm shift, and one is near, the elimination of traditional files. We are not there yet, but getting closer. When we do get there, watch the transformation.

    The OP stated what about having one file be used by another application. This is a perfect example while files don't work. Data, or the output of efforts should live in a cloud and interact with whatever application needs to work with it.

    It should have a reference name and if it had image properties, they should be editable by image applications, if it had text properties text applications should see it. It should be accessible on a variety of devices, automatically synched etc.

    Some applications already work like this. We just need to stop worrying about organizing in folders, moving a to b and saving a copy as c and all that nonsense. If we cling to the meantime we will never walk away from the inefficiencies of document management.
  11. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    I tried searching for a numbers spreadsheet using spotlight, but it couldn't find it, maybe an update will help this.
  12. Crosbie macrumors 6502a


    May 26, 2010
    Brighton, UK
    I suspect there won't be a files-and-folders app called Finder or suchlike, but they do need to find a solution to the problems you describe.

    It might be done by improving the scope of Spotlight to allow it to search within apps' own docspace - perhaps with a new API allowing devs to open up these to Spotlight.

    Given that they have the 'file transfer' spaces in OSX iTunes, maybe this could be opened up for manipulation on iPad itself?

    Or perhaps those applications which currently fail at working usefully under the present filesystemless approach can be fixed. I'm looking at you, Pages.

    (Why on earth can you not save Pages docs in a way that makes them accessible to other apps directly on the iPad? Why? Why is there not an 'open in...' function in Pages' own docs browser? Why oh why oh why?)
  13. gocardsfan1 macrumors member

    May 19, 2008
    This is what I think is necessary...

    Imagine having an app on the home screen called "Files", and all it did was allow the user to view the files that they have both created on the iPad and transferred to the iPad via iTunes. When a file is selected, the user has the option to print the file (assuming previous setup with a printer has been made), open the file (and a list of compatible applications would appear), and share the file via email.

    This also would provide more developer tools to give developers access to all files on the iPad (with user permission) so that apps like Dropbox, Goodreader, etc. can let the user upload them to that app's servers or view them in that particular app.

    It seems simple enough to me, what do you think?
  14. kdarling macrumors demi-god


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Re: file moving.

    A lot of us moved files around for years on WinMo phones, and it's not that hard. Just click and hold and select copy/cut, then go to the other directory and click and hold and select paste. No different than copy/paste on the iPhone.

    Some third party file managers worked slightly differently: you'd select the file(s) and then click the action, like Move. Then you select the directory to move to and press Do It.

    Re: not needing folders.

    That's fine if you do almost nothing with your device. Once you get past X number of photos, apps, etc, suddenly folders become very desirable even for newbies.

    Apple knows this. That's why we have Photo and Video folders, and now App folders.

    Re: doing things with files.

    Microsoft had a patent application a couple of years back for mobile devices, where each app registered what kind of files it knew how to display or edit in certain broad situations.

    Thus when the user clicked on a file, a list of related apps would pop up and you could select from them.
  15. Crosbie macrumors 6502a


    May 26, 2010
    Brighton, UK
    I like the idea of the Files app as described.

    If Apple are dead against the concept, then just making 'Open With...' a universal function across apps would do it. (This could be an in principle, guideline, de facto standard behaviour rather than hard coded...)
  16. colourtheatre macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2010
    @op i wrote 3 emails to Steve about this issue but he never replied. naturally. i hope more people hammer apple about it.
  17. EssentialParado macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2005
    What Apple needs to do is fix iPad Spotlight to make individual files searchable, and then to make the Spotlight paradigm global. So when you go to, say, and you press the [browse] button, a small Spotlight overlay window would drop down and you could type a few quick letters to find the file you wanted to upload. This would work as a universal method for accessing files inside every app too. So if you wanted to, say, import a photo, song, or video into iMovie, you'd press an [import] button and have the Spotlight window drop down and you could search through your database of files; but this time it would be intelligent enough to only show the files compatible for importing into iMovie. And this could extend to other apps, so an audio editor would intelligently only show you search results for compatible audio files, and so on.

    I can see it being a much faster and more efficient means of finding and selecting files, as opposed to the old concept of navigating through files and folders to find what you need.

    If that was what Apple did, do you think it would solve all the document management issues? I'm hoping they might even introduce something along these lines for iOS4 for iPad.

    I think you definitely need folders for visual content which you browse through, such as photos, or apps. But is it necessary to extend the concept of folders to documents, or music, or miscellaneous files? These aren't necessarily things we browse, just things we need to search for and find.
  18. AppleHater macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    I think all these questions are raised because someone wants to use ipad for something it's not designed to handle the best. To my understanding, it's a consumption device and internet connection device, so asking for these pc like features is like saying a Porche doesn't have enough trunk room.

    It ain't gonna replace pc or laptop, and it's not meant to do that. I simply don't see me doing any kind of serious documentation on ipad, but I would love to watch videos and check the latest news which is 90% of my use of home pc. For more serious and boring work stuffs, I've a pc at work and home to handle it. When I want to have some fun and some kill free time, ipad is right next to me.
  19. J Radical thread starter macrumors regular

    J Radical

    Nov 20, 2006
    But we're not talking about high specialized or complex tasks. The 90% of things the iPad does, it does very well, and I said so in the OP, using the exact same percentage as you! The problem is a 10% problem, where the limitations of having an invisible file management system manifest themselves. These functions are not trivial, nor are they insurmountable.

    Not being able to easily upload a photograph to a website, transfer a file between an iPad and external drive (physical or cloud-based), or open a document in more than one application are significant and fundamental limitations of the current iOS.

    Some implementation of a 'files' or 'finder' app would be an elegant and obvious solution to these woes. It would only be needed for a small minority of tasks, but its mere existence would broaden the iPad's utility tremendously. It is supposed to be a netbook killer after all.

    Having watched the keynote again and thought some more, I am hopeful. The addition of multitasking to iOS 4 is an indirect step towards such a functionality – a simple finder could appear and disappear when needed within applications. More generally, the iPad's surprising success must make Apple think about the future, and how the product's role should evolve. Central to this thinking, must be the clear distinction between the functions of iPad and the iPhone- even if the only major hardware difference is screen size (which is a HUGE difference). It would be a travesty if the iPad grows to be nothing more than an iPod Touch 'on steroids'.

    Sort of related to all of this is a piece Gizmodo ran recently about Apple's lack of 'cloud' strategy. A universally free mobile me didn't materialize at WWDC, but such an announcement in the future could go hand in hand with the sorts of changes we're hoping for.
  20. NateSJ408 macrumors newbie

    Apr 19, 2010

    No. We aren't anywhere near there. New media being released today might be stored in the cloud in quicktime format, sure. But EVERYTHING ELSE on the internet is still files. No, people don't and won't have the time to go back and convert everything.

    Your theory is idealistic and may one day be the case but not anytime soon. Of course, apple would love for you to be right, then your inly choice is to buy what apple wants you to buy from itunes. Why anyone would actually want that to happen, I have no idea.

    Bottom line, iPad will never be a truly capable computer unless it has a file system. Until then it's a niche device.
  21. richpjr macrumors 68030


    May 9, 2006
    If it's simply a consumption device, why is Apple selling Pages, Numbers and Keynote for it?

    Why does Apple sell a keyboard dock and support bluetooth keyboards if it's not meant to be used for documentation?
  22. colourtheatre macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2010
    keyboards are for FPS shooter games. aha.. ha.. ha. i kid.

    i think some of you guys should be apple UI designers. the solutions for the file system sounds very intuitive and its definitely a step forward for file systems (especially on a touch screen device). i'm really hoping that this issue gets fixed in iOS4 for the iPad hence the longer timeframe for its release.

Share This Page