Do you hate the closed, app-centric document model?

Discussion in 'iOS 5 and earlier' started by darkgoob, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. darkgoob, Apr 7, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2012

    darkgoob macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2008
    Recently I lost data from an app due to the app-centric document model. An app that was bought with my GF's account didn't properly sync and when I upgraded my iPad, I lost all my saved data from it, with no warning messages.

    This incident highlights the reason why I am very frustrated with the app-centric document model that Apple has forced upon us in iOS. IMHO, my saved documents should always be kept protected and separate from any sort of DRM. The app-centric document storage model applies the same DRM that is intended to prevent apps from being pirated to *my* documents that I myself have created (and thus should have every right to).

    I would never have lost this data if iOS used files and folders that were separate from the app itself.

    There are other frustrations I have with the app-centric document model. I am a musician and I create audio files using various apps. Often times I would like to simply access a music recording that I have created in one app, opening it up into another app without having to copy it to a clipboard or jump through any weird hoops. Or I would like to simply plug in my iPad into the Mac and see all my files right in the Finder, so that I can copy my music *that I created myself* into the folder of my choosing without having to use iTunes or iCloud etc.

    Apple and its yes-men-media-fanboys have given various reasons for this new app-centric document model. However many of these reasons seem more like justifications as opposed to legitimate, user-driven reasons.

    The initial reason given was "security:" we have to do it this way, because it's a phone, and you wouldn't want an app accessing your contacts and voicemail, now would you? We all nodded, "of course not Apple, of course not Apple." It seemed so logical, even though there was always someone trying to ask, "But.. but.. can you really not find a way to let us access files from the Finder without letting apps access each other's data? Really?"

    I had to wonder if the real reason this was done was not simply because of the fact that Apple made a deal with the record companies not to allow direct access to the files on an extremely portable device that could directly download files. Hmmm.

    Because when the iPod Touch came out, even though it wasn't a phone, it still shared this same app-centric document model with no way to access the device's files from the Finder. So wait, even though it's not a phone, it's still going to retain the closed document model that we need for security "because it's a phone"? Hold on.

    Ah, but now, new reasons were given: it's "easier" this way. People "like it more." Yes indeed, "look at the wild success of iPhone," which must naturally mean that the app-centric document model is "better."

    No. The iPhone was only successful despite the closed document model, not because of it. The iPhone's success was due to the fact that it has superior hardware design and a slick UI, and (at first) no competition.

    The iPhone being successful does not mean that every feature of it contributed to its success.

    iPhone's success was not caused by the closed document model, which hides documents within each app itself.

    Then when iPad came out, it STILL had the app-centric, closed document model. WHY?! THIS SUCKS APPLE!

    Look. Here is my suggestion.

    Apple could still have the document model remain "app-centric," and not change the fundamental user experience of iOS, while also completely changing the underlying logistics of where documents get stored and how permissions are handled, and also opening up access to these documents via the OS X Finder.

    They would simply change iOS so that each app, by default, has its own directory within a standard document folder that belongs to the user. To keep things the way that app likes it, there could be a read-only subdirectory within there that handles any CoreData files that will crash the app if they are moved around. Any other files ought to be able to be moved around wherever the user wants to store them; let the app simply locate them via Spotlight and the document metadata.

    The user could then grant one-time read access to other apps that wanted to access data from any folder other than their default app-specific directory (which would be in the user's folder, not the app's folder -- at the risk of repeating myself). For example that way, I could grant Garage Band read-access to my synthesizer's recorded AIFF files, then mix down the results, and access the whole shebang from the Finder on my Mac.

    This would also allow Apple to make a Finder app for iOS. Doesn't that just make you orgasm simply thinking about it? Think of all the ridiculous overflow of annoying kludge-ware that attempts to replicate the functionality of the Finder on iOS. Many of you will already have some such app yourself. Mine is called "USB Disk" and I hate it.

    Now I'm sure there will be many of you who will say, "But... I like the app-centric document model...!" Fine. Under my suggestion, it will continue to function *exactly the same.*

    However please be sympathetic towards those of us who are content creators. Musicians. Artists. Publishers. Writers. Managers. Organizers. (I'm including spreadsheets, notes, calendars, etc. as content.)

    We want total, complete, and unfettered access to our own documents.

    We are not simply using the iOS devices to consume content that is created by others.

    We understand that DRM and copy protection are part of life, and we are OK with these measures being there for those content files that we have purchased online. However we are NOT OK with DRM and copy protection also being applied to those documents that WE OURSELVES have created.

    We cannot abide with being forced to access OUR OWN CREATED WORKS through a DRM-gateway like iTunes.

    Nor are we OK with iCloud being the only other default way to access our own work, because iCloud is not owned by us, and therefore we have greatly reduced privacy and no guarantees that our content will not be censored or modified as it passes through iCloud. (I read the iCloud user "agreement".)

    We cannot idly stand by and remain complacent when OUR OWN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IS LOST because it was created with an app that a spouse or child downloaded onto our device, and it did not "sync" properly.

    We do not want to have to resort to kludgy methods of file transfer that involve third-party cloud services (which all seem to carry similarly scary user "agreements" as iCloud), FTP sites, expensive USB dongles, emailing things to ourselves, or other draconian measures... ANY LONGER.

    So I would kindly and humbly request that Apple please listen to this request and implement some much needed improvements in some future iOS version (sooner rather than later please).

    But mostly I'm tired of the increasing, subtle feeling that content that I myself have created on my own device with my own software... is not actually mine, in some way... that my own works could be taken away from me if I don't play by the correct rules, or what I wrote offends the wrong person.

    Now excuse me while I go back to installing Mono and X11 on my fresh Lion install, so that I can run iPhone Backup Extractor to hopefully decrypt my own saved data.

  2. Ashwood11 macrumors 65816

    Nov 10, 2010
    "Do you hate the closed, app-centric document model?"

    No, I don't hate it.
  3. darkgoob thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2008
    Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word. However responding to the subject line only is not very constructive. What do you have to say about the various points I made?
  4. Eric8199 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2009
    I'm guessing he did what I did. I read until I had to scroll, then realized how ridiculously long the post was, and said "It's Saturday. I've got things to do." and quit reading.

    In response to your post, or what I read, I have three suggestions:
    1. Use apps that allow you to sync to Dropbox,, or a similar service.
    2. Back your stuff up. Email it to yourself. Whatever. If its important enough not to lose, back it up. Otherwise don't have it on your phone.
    3. Go buy an Android phone.

    Here's the problem: if the file system is open, if files are not stored within the app, then it's easier for the entire system to become compromised and I have to worry about getting a virus on my phone. The way it is now, if a malicious app gets through, it can only harm that app within its sandbox (in theory). If you have an open file system, it can now screw up everything on my system.

    I'd rather not worry about that on my phone. Sure, the current system can be a pain sometimes, but I do A LOT of stuff on my iPad, and I deal with it just fine.
  5. Quotenfrau macrumors 6502


    Mar 6, 2011
    didn't read the full posting. Completely agree with you.

    I like OS X, but don't like iOS!
  6. mortenandersen, Apr 7, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2012

    mortenandersen macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2011
    Thanks so much for this very reasonable wish or request

    First of all, I noticed that the opening post soon got voted down, and that fact tells a lot - or some will even say: says it all. At least: This kind of reaction reflects the irrational fanboyism that I think will be very destructive for Apple itself if they are not willing or able to re-think an re-evaluate such obvious hindrances that the poster deals with here.

    The poster has a really important experience to report, and he is pointing at that the way that iOS is dealing with our own data is both cumbersome and unreasonable, and in fact also unnecessary. So why defend it, and why continue to impost these unreasonable restrictions on our own made data files?

    The poster even comes up with a solution, which in my non-tech head seems to be doable.

    Eric8188's post is off the point in his suggestions and in his defence of this limiting aspects of iOS: One wonders why someone has a motivation to defend "the Apple way" even when it reasonably can be argued NOT to be a practical and user-friendly way. I really think that Appe in the future should listen more to persons like the first poster, because this is an annoying and unnecessary problem, and a problem that one CAN deal with. For some - perhaps many more than Apples will like - a continuation of such a limitating policy regarding this aspect of the file system management in iOS will result in finding other, more user-friendly systems.
  7. VulchR macrumors 68020


    Jun 8, 2009
    @OP: I do not understand. You lost data when you upgraded your iPad because you were using an app from your girlfriend's account? Didn't you buy the app yourself? If you didn't, perhaps that was the problem.

    In any case your suggestion is interesting, but there are the issues of trojans/viruses, possible corruption of the shared data, and the inevitable problems in the decoding of the data format of one app by another app.

    Finally, many apps allow you to access data documents through iTunes: Plug in your iDevice, go to the 'Apps' tab, and look for the heading 'File Sharing' toward the bottom, which allows apps that have been properly programmed to add and back up individual data files. The problem is not iOS, it is whether or not a given app takes full advantage of iOS.
  8. darkgoob thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2008
    You're wrong. (A) I did not propose an "open" file system. (B) Under my proposal, apps would still only have write access to their own sandbox, and you would have to grant each app individual access to writing within other app's sandbox or your own user document area. (C) No area that an app could write to would have "executable" permissions, so there would be zero risk of a virus ending up there. (D) Apps would still be purchased through Apple, so the risk of malicious code would be minimal to none.

    Yeah, we all "deal with it". But I'm tired of "dealing with it," when I know good and well that it doesn't have to be that way.

    No offense to you, but I'm also tired of your species of fanboyism, where you tolerate with what you call "a pain" because you blindly accept the rationale you've been fed as to why the system is like this. You blindly accept the idea that an entirely closed file system is necessary for the platform to be "secure," yet in reality, iOS could have a much more open file system (but still partially "closed"), like the one I propose, and still be just as secure. And it would be MUCH less of a pain.

  9. darkgoob thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 16, 2008
    The app was purchased on her account, yes.

    Was I warned that my data would disappear? No. Was I prompted to purchase the app myself if I wanted my data to carry over to the new iPad? No.

    Either way, my data should be stored in my own where it can never be erased no matter what unless I intentionally delete it.

    What is the purpose of security from viruses if the system deletes my own data?

    What exactly are these vague "issues of trojans/viruses" that you speak of? Can you please precisely explain how, exactly, what I have proposed makes the system more vulnerable to such threats?

    Also I do not see how anything I have proposed could lead to the corruption of any data, "shared" or not. Also, the "decoding of the data format of one app by another app" is not a problem at all. Either an app supports the file format of another app, or it doesn't support it (pretty simple, just like a computer!). I don't expect one app to be able to access another app's CoreData .sqlite files! But I see no reason that a text file created in one app shouldn't be easily read-accessible from any of the others, assuming the user has granted permission to read-access it.

    I have been using the Mac since 1984. It's a fully open file system. I've never had a virus or a trojan, and I've never had any app corrupt the data of another app. The only apps whose data I've seen get corrupt is Apple Mail and iTunes (library), and it was not from the interference of other apps.

    I realize that viruses and trojans are more frequent these days, and so I am not opposed to protections. However, I am not the least bit worried about data corruption or interoperability between apps... that's just a boogeyman and is nonsense!

    In fact, iOS has far more problems than the Mac with losing data. The scenario I detailed in the original post is just one example. Here's another.

    Another example of how iOS is more prone to data-loss is the fact that documents in iOS constantly save over themselves. There is no way to "revert" to a previously saved version of a file, nor is there a guaranteed way to "save-as" in order to preserve a particular version of a file. Therefore you must rely upon the Undo feature of an app to go back to a previous state of a document.

    In fact, I recently lost data in an app when the Undo feature did not work as expected, and would not restore content that had been Cut to the clipboard. Because the document saved over itself constantly, then I could not even revert to a previously saved state of the document. I simply lost all the changes I'd made to my document that day.

    The app is called "NoteShelf." I selected an area of the document and said, "Cut." Then I went to another page and pasted it. Then I "Cut" another area and did "Undo" twice. It undid the Paste action, but did not restore the content to its pre-Cut state. Then I could only Paste back the second cut. I lost the content that was removed in the first "Cut" action.

    This was a minor annoyance in that instance, but still, the fact that you have no control over your own data being overwritten is truly lame. One time, it happened in a different app to a customer's phone number, and I lost a pretty big sale because one section of the app did not behave in the expected way (where everything gets auto-saved).

    I'm not against auto-save, but I'm against auto-save-over. On the Mac, and even the XBOX 360, auto-saved documents always show up as Filename-autosave.ext or whatever. They don't overwrite the original!!

    My point is, iOS is hardly a paragon of data integrity. Please don't try to say it's somehow less likely to corrupt your data than the Mac, because it isn't. It's more likely to lose your data, mostly because of the ways in which it's different from the Mac.

    That's kludgy. iTunes on the Mac is not part of iOS, and it shouldn't be required to use it. My data that I want to get off of my iOS device is not a "tune" therefore it should not be accessed by anything called "iTunes." You don't use "iMovie" or "iPhoto" for accessing this data, why should "iTunes" do it? That doesn't make any sense!

    The Finder has been the Mac's standard interface for accessing files and folders on external devices for the past 28 years. It should continue to be that way. It's called "interface consistency," "user friendliness," "being Mac-like," "expected behavior," and "proper design."

    Meanwhile, iTunes is universally regarded (outside fanboy circles, anyway) as a kludgy piece of bloatware that needs to be completely redone. Or in my opinion, returned to its roots as a music player, while the other features are integrated into the Finder itself (or for Windows users, a sync app of some kind).

    I think it's hard for Apple to be self-critical these days, looking at their stock price. They must think everything they do is 100% correct, and there is no questioning their divine wisdom. I don't think that's entirely true, but also, I am afraid they are going to start believing that this crappy closed document model is actually better, or that users like it more, or something (when in reality, even the guy who defended it called it "a pain" that you just have to "deal with").

    I have nightmares about a totalitarian future in which OS X has become iOS-ized with regards to its documents, and I wake up in a cold sweat. I pray that Apple actually makes iOS more like the Mac, now, not the other way around. Because it can and should!
  10. Eric8199 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2009
    Don't we already have this? Can't you already, through iTunes, see the files stored in that specific app, such as Apple's own iWork apps? Isn't it something that devs have to turn on, and therefore not Apple's fault but app developers? I don't know, I seriously never have to worry about it.

    Maybe your biggest problem is that you were using an app from another account on your device, hence why it wasn't updated? Maybe you should buy the app yourself?

    I'm far from an Apple fanboy, but it seems like you created your problem, not them. And truth be told, the only way Apple will change is if you speak with your wallet. You say it's people like me that cause the problems because we just deal with it. But aren't you doing the same thing? How is posting in Macrumors solving the issue. Solve it with your wallet. Don't buy their products. Go buy something else that serves your need. If enough people do that, they'll change. But I don't think that many people have a big concern over it.

    In the end, the iPhone/iPad isn't a computer replacement. Maybe Apple says it is, but it isn't. Period. I have a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air in addition to my iPhone and iPad. When I need to do something the iPad can't handle, I grab one of those. I really don't see the problem. Maybe you are just using the iPad in a way it's not designed yet. That's not me being a fanboy, that's me saying the iPad doesn't perform to the level it needs to for some people.

    So don't buy one.
  11. mortenandersen, Apr 7, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2012

    mortenandersen macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2011
    The point is to include the file management in the iOS and NOT to have to use iTunes

    As I understand this issues (and correct me where/if I am wrong): The ONLY good and reasonable solution and development regarding how the iPad using iOS is to INCLUDE the file management into the system itself, so that the user - in a user friendly way - NOT have to deal with iTunes. Or worse still: "We must make a new app for this (if there is not one already)!" In other words: Apple must EXPAND the working area of iOS. And in this vital regard that could not be an unreasonable or big deal. I cannot see any other "objections" to doing so than potensial ideological ones - or that "we don't have a tradition for doing so...".

    And in fact, such a totally irrational limiting attitude WITHIN THE COMPANY ITSELF is just what can destroy its future successful development. (In other contexts, these diseases are named cancer, for instance.) If Apple also in the future of iOS will "develop" the OS with such an irrational attitude, I wiil say this giant of a company has lost its contact with reality on one important point, and that can be really unbeneficial for them, and it's not the first time in history such a thing happens: Not keeping up with the reasonable market demands is one of the first signs of the company's demise.

    If Apple shows such an attitude in this matter, the expression that comes to my mind is a five year old's stubbornness". (Or economical/ideological matters).

    There are BTW other indications of that Apple has not done a good enough job making the iOS yet: As I have reason to believe, the forward delete key (on external BT keyboards for iPad) is non-existent because the iOS doesn't support it. What kind of "development" is this an example of?! Something - or much - is still missing.
  12. PNutts macrumors 601


    Jul 24, 2008
    Pacific Northwest, US
    Holy Jebus. I'm exhausted after reading that so I'll simply say losing the data sounds like user error, apps already have the built in ability to share their data outside of iTunes and/or drag and drop between apps in iTunes, iOS can already ask "which app" when opening a file, and iTunes isn't necessary to get to the files even on a non-JB device.

    So... There's some feature requests which should have been passed to Apple but most of it is a solution in search of a problem. Wanting all the files in one place sounds like a control thang.

    I'd offer a constructive response but don't consider myself a "yes-men-media-fanboy" and don't want to be lumped into that group with everyone else that has a different opinion than the OP. And someone who responds to the security model with "Really?" isn't interested in a conversation.
  13. VulchR macrumors 68020


    Jun 8, 2009
    OK, so you don't want to backup your data files via iTunes to a local computer. What about iCloud? Doesn't that fit with what you want? Apologies if my attempts at pointing out existing solutions are ruining a perfectly good rant... :p
  14. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    I don't use an iOS device for much creation, so I can't really relate too much, but Apple is always very defensive about how iOS devices are not just for consumption. And it seems to me that part of the desktop revolution in production of web-pages, page layout, etc., was a very extensible system that allowed people to move content freely. So I can understand what you are saying at a theoretical level. I've always thought that iOS devices are not an advancement of computing as we came to know it in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, but rather starting over with an appliance model, something like an ATM. Computers evolved over time. iOS isn't really an evolution to me of the 80s forward. It seems like an evolution of the ATM computer interface. It's not intuitive. It's simple. And I think there's a difference. You're missing the intuitive way in which files and content can be manipulated on a traditional computer.

    I don't think Apple would ever say that, and I don't mean it as a hit, people certainly seem to like it OK as it is. But I completely understand your point.
  15. porcupine8 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 2, 2011
    I agree wholeheartedly. This model may have made sense when the iPhone was introduced, but the iAd has so much more potential that's hobbled because of how difficult it can be to move files between apps - not to mention always making a new copy every time, so that the copy I edit and save in App A is now different from the copy I originally made in App B. The iPad is more computer than smartphone, it needs to be able to handle documents like a computer.
  16. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    Can you access individual files other than iWork files through iCloud? I am asking out of curiosity, I really don't know . . .
  17. hchavarria macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2008
    I have no concerns on Apple's model of doing things. I think their way of doings things in a more simplistic way is what has made them different from the rest. I have no problems with iTunes backing up my data and/or iCloud, to tell you the truth I like the simplicity of iTunes taking care of that for me versus having to worry about what directory to backup. I have yet to loose data I have ensured I backed up and quite frankly data loss is not an iOS issue, it's a general issue that happens cross platform.
  18. VulchR macrumors 68020


    Jun 8, 2009
    Since I back up locally using iTunes, I am not sure how this is meant to work with iCloud. I presume that if one restores an app from iCloud the data would also be restored. Certainly Apple have implied this...

    Anybody else know for sure?
  19. hchavarria macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2008
    The application must have been developed to use iCloud as storage but when you backup you iDevice using iCloud and you later decide to restore them all data will be restored along with the applications.
  20. Mobile923, Apr 9, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012

    Mobile923 macrumors 6502

    Sep 20, 2007
    New York, NY
    All I gotta say, as a musician myself, with producing music with an iPad, it's totally a different approach and a good challenge. I gave myself that challenge: from my mind to the listener's ears, use nothing but iOS devices to produce a 4-song album.

    Apple didn't FORCE the app-centric iOS on you... they sold, you bought. Not saying it's 100% perfect, but it really does a good job. The only kind of file access I'd like, is iTunes File Sharing... but without iTunes. It'd be great to plug in an iOS device to ANY computer, see it pop up as a drive/device, open a window and see an expandable list of its apps... click on an app and see the files created with it. Drag to desktop if you like. No need for a Finder iOS app. But even with that, iTunes File Sharing isn't so bad.

    I wish the Videos app was used to store any videos recorded and edited with an iOS camera instead of the Camera Roll, or you could export a song from GarageBand right into the Music app... Other than that, I'm getting along just fine without a dedicated file system app.

    Apps have the "Open In..." feature, opens a copy in whatever app you choose, so ALREADY it's backed up/ non destructive.

    Anything created on these devices aren't as locked-down as you make them out to be. There are many ways to export and backup now, so there's really no excuse for losing data. If it was that important, email it. GarageBand can export straight to SoundCloud now... I'm more excited for that than a Finder app.

    As for music app-interoperability... look into a new feature coming soon called AudioBus for audio app devs.

    iOS isn't a desktop OS replacement. It's true mobile OS. Quick creation, but with way better quality... If you're trying to get more complicated, move it to the desktop.
  21. mortenandersen macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2011
    Hope Apple put this into iOS

    Mobile923 wrote: "[...] Apple didn't FORCE the app-centric iOS on you... they sold, you bought. Not saying it's 100% perfect, but it really does a good job. The only kind of file access I'd like, is iTunes File Sharing... but without iTunes. It'd be great to plug in an iOS device to ANY computer, see it pop up as a drive/device, open a window and see an expandable list of its apps... click on an app and see the files created with it. Drag to desktop if you like. No need for a Finder iOS app. But even with that, iTunes File Sharing isn't so bad. [...]

    I really agree with you when you say this: "The only kind of file access I'd like, is iTunes File Sharing... but without iTunes. It'd be great to plug in an iOS device to ANY computer, see it pop up as a drive/device, open a window and see an expandable list of its apps... click on an app and see the files created with it."

    BTW: Of course, you're right when you're saying that Apple doesn't force the app-centric iOS on us, but there IS IMO still an unwanted and unnecessary kind of "forcing" involved in the transaction between Apple and the customer: If you buy an iPad, then you ARE forced to accept the limitations that iOS imposes on you and your use of the device. And these limitations are NOT necessarily wise and user friendly. So, if you choose to buy an iDevice hardwardwise, then you also have to live with the iOS, which has not been developed into enough maturity and flexibility yet, and I hope that Apple doesn't in the future have a too rigid (and thus: user/customer unfriendly) policy regarding the iOS versions to come. That can really turn out to self destructive.
  22. jclardy macrumors 68040


    Oct 6, 2008
    My main problem with the app centric model is when you have two apps that work on the same kind of file, but excel in different areas.

    With the "old" way you just save to the same file from either app. With the app centric model as it is right now you have to continuously "open in" back and forth, creating countless copies of the files between the two apps.

    Then there are things you can't do well with it, like Dropbox. If the app itself doesn't implement Dropbox, then it is a one way trip.

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