Finally a workable file system solution

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

  1. anthonymoody macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    I've posted this in a few threads recently and thought some might find it useful on its own. As a power user (see my signature) solving the file management and related workflow issues has been a seemingly endless quest. I think I've finally hit on a solution. It definitely works. It definitely is not free. And it definitely should be replaced by a baked in solution from Apple...perhaps in iOS5 and the related MobileMe revamp.

    Here's what I do in the meantime...

    A) Use Dropbox. Subscribe (and pay) for additional storage as needed.

    B) Use MacDropAny, a free Dropbox add on applet, to sync your Mac's Documents folder to your Dropbox. This creates a two way, real time sync.

    C) Use dropDAV to allow iWork apps to pull in files from Dropbox AND, critically, to save files back directly into Dropbox. This has been the elusive last piece of the puzzle and avoids the email-file-to-yourself dance.

    So my files exist on my Mac for archival/back up, in the Dropbox app as needed on the iPad, and in the cloud. All sync'd in real time. Gives you some nice redundancy too.

    It ain't as smooth or pretty as it should be, but it works!

    I do think Apple is going to fix this. But until they do, this works just fine...

    And yes you might suggest replacing Dropbox with iDisk BUT iDisk is flaky, and requires the creation of a sym link in terminal to sync it with your Documents folder. Until iDisk works better, I can't recommend it for heavy lifting.
  2. schmidt65 macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2010
    I use idisk and it works perfectly. I store all my documents within the documents folder of the idisk, on the mac set it to keep a copy of my idisk on my computer (through mobileme settings) and that's it! Have access to all my files from my ipad or any other computer, and doesn't involve any work-around

    Nothing 'flaky' about it at all! ;)
  3. schmidt65 macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2010
    For the record, i have a mac mini which is always on at home - otherwise i use the iPad 2 as my main work machine. Works brilliantly, if i need to access the mac at all i can just use the teamviewer app.

    Before this i used to have an 'ultimate' macbook air 11" - which I sold as the ipad work perfectly for my needs!
  4. GadgetAddict macrumors 6502

    Jul 10, 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    This is very helpful, thank you! :D

    Since you have mastered this topic could you elaborate how the same sync process can be performed with iDisk? I always hear that Dropbox is better but currently I have all my files in iDisk and I am reluctant to make the switch.

    Also, what do you think of the sync feature in Goodreader? Couldn't this take care of syncing?
  5. Gav$ter macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2010
    Thanks Anthony I am going to try your approach as I have been looking for solutions on the wiki I now use my iPad 2 as my primary computer. I meet regularly with an Apple Business Team to discuss different approaches on improving the functionality of the iPad. Apple is very proud of the their business profiles Is there a centralized location possibly on MacRumors where new ideas and solutions can be stored and feedback provided?
  6. anthonymoody thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    I'm guessing you don't have more than several gigs worth of files, and/or don't have any especially large files. Once you get into tens of thousands of files, scores of gigs, and a slew files that are > 2GB apiece, trust me - iDisk will not perform in a robust manner. And fwiw I found that the local copy use of iDisk actually makes the syncing worse on a functional level because it basically forces iDisk to try to sync more frequently (I.e. All the time) to your local copy, and that's where the breakdown usually lives.

    If you're having a good experience, then good for you. But even a casual poke around apple support boards evidences massive problems with iDisk syncing for all but casual usage for most folks.

    Funny I've wondered if I would've purchased an iPad had they released the 11" air first (because I definitely would've purchased an 11"). But the iPad has so changed my computing life for the better that I don't think I could ever give it up

    You can do what the poster above described, keeping a local copy of iDisk on the desktop, and use it instead of your Documents folder for local storage. I have run into reliability problems with this for anythng beyond casual usage. Or, if you want to use your Documents folder, you can sync iDisk to it by creating a sym link (symbolic link) from iDisk to Documents, using a terminal command (google this, should be easy to find).

    iWork apps already have built in ability to suck files down from iDisk, and copy them back.

    Again though I have had trouble getting iDisk to work in a robust, bullet proof manner when it comes to syncing "a lot" of files.

    Goodreader works well, and in fact was my defacto file system from Day 1. Hwever, you can't directly save files from iWork to Goodreader.

    But yes, you can save them to iDisk or Dropbox, and still have Goodreader link to either. Goodreader does some other cool stuff so I'm not abandoning it.

    But the Dropbox app has now replaced the Goodreader app in my springboard.
  7. anthonymoody thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002

    To your question, not that I know of. I guess we could create a thread for that... Or I'd be happy to post any cool solutions on my blog. (speaking of which I haven't yet posted this file system workaround there yet!)
  8. schmidt65 macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2010

    I have around 12GB's of files in my idisk, all my personal documents, work files, work software I need on the go (I work in IT for a small law firm) as well as copies of all my travel documents. Certainly at least 1,000 files, and never had a problem with idisk. I know a few people have had issues with syncing, but it's always been great for me.

    You don't have to keep a copy of your documents on the desktop. I just deleted the normal documents folder on the mac, then dragged the documents folder from my disk into the sidebar and dock, then use it as my documents folder - that's it.

    Regarding the Air, i already had an iPad 1 when i bought it, but it just seemed like a waste when they were very similar products. I ended up selling the air & the iPad 1, buying an iPad 2 3G and a mac mini (which i upgraded to 8GB RAM) and the setup works brilliantly for me.
  9. schmidt65 macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2010
    Also, as you mentioned 'scores of gigs' - no, I would not use iDisk for this being as the iDisk is only 20GB as standard! Dropbox I think is only 2GB as standard anyway, so for the amount of files you are syncing (a score is 20, so i dread to think how many scores of gig's you mean!) I can't think of any ideal solution? I thought we were talking about syncing documents to access from the iPad (you mention iwork files) - not syncing everything you would normally store on a full size hard drive? I don't think any network are up to coping with that yet!
  10. anthonymoody thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    A few things..

    You're process doesn't give you any back up or redundancy. Your stuff lives only in the cloud. That feels super risky to me (especially working at a law firm :)) I prefer to have stuff in the cloud, on my Mac (which itself backs up to a separate time machine HD), and on my iPad.

    I am excluding photos, videos and music from this conversation. I have about 300GB or so of that so given the relatively small capacity of the iPad that's just not an option (thought I watch with interest the rumors of a media storage in the cloud solution...)

    I have 55GB of files that I am talking about. I have upped both my iDisk storage and Dropbox to accommodate it. It ain't cheap to be sure...
  11. thelookingglass macrumors 68000

    Apr 27, 2005
    Another solution I use is Dropbox + Documents To Go. My files on my Mac are all in the Dropbox folder. Documents To Go allows me to access my documents in the cloud and will automatically sync changes back to the cloud. Does what OP is suggesting without the intermediary step. In fact, with just Documents To Go you don't really need the Dropbox app.
  12. Piggie macrumors G3


    Feb 23, 2010
    We don't want to have to use 3rd party apps and tricks to accomplish what should be there as standard.

    By all means use cloud for data, however, this needs to be built in to work seamlessly with the whole OS and all the standard apps.

    Also, I feel there needs to be the option of the data being on a home storage device (NAS) for fast and large data storage and not on Apple's servers.
  13. chiefpavvy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2008
    I agree something needs to be built-in, and I think iOS 5 will finally bring it. But for the time being DropBox really is fantastic. I use iDisk as well but Dropbox is just faster, smoother, and more reliable. I guess if you're already paying for MobileMe and don't want to 'double-dip' paying Dropbox as well, iDisk could be a full-time solution but I much prefer Dropbox.
  14. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    Good advice - I do a similar thing with my files, but instead of using Macdropany to create symlinks from the normal folders into dropbox, I moved my documents under dropbox and then created symlinks back out to the normal location

    i.e. instead of having ~/Documents as a folder and ~/Dropbox/Documents being a symlink to ~/Documents, I have ~/Dropbox/Documents as a folder and ~/Documents is a symlink to ~/Dropbox/Documents.
    This is easily achieved with the following terminal commands (which moves your documents into dropbox and then creates a symlink for Documents in the original location:

    sudo mv Documents Dropbox
    ln -s Dropbox/Documents Documents

    The reason I do this is having symlinks inside your dropbox can only be done on one computer (I also use dropbox to sync between my iMac and MBA): On any other computers the files are actually stored inside the dropbox folder. Having symlinks into the dropbox folder on all computers means I can keep things consistent.
  15. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    Why do you do this step? This just results in you having everything in 2 places on your Mac for no real reason.

    Why not just save stuff directly to your Dropbox folder on your Mac? Seems simpler to me.

    Are you worried about sync-errors erasing stuff? I make sure I have enough Time Machine space so that everything has 1 or 2 versions in the Time Machine, so those sorts of things don't scare me.

    EDIT: that I think about it...does this mean you never set up a Dropbox folder on your Mac? That makes more sense, I guess, than what I originally thought.
  16. omni macrumors 6502

    Jan 20, 2008
    Sorry for asking this - but this is the piece that eludes me also. So what in the world is dropdav? ios app? mac app? Can you explain this step a little more.

    Thanks in advance
  17. thelookingglass macrumors 68000

    Apr 27, 2005
    Seems like the easier alternative is to just use SugarSync. Then you can sync any folder you want.
  18. Night Spring macrumors G5

    Night Spring

    Jul 17, 2008
    Dropdav is an online service ( Basically, Dropbox and iPad's iWorks apps don't have a way to directly exchange info. Dropdav serves as the middleman to accomplish this, using a protocol called WebDav.
  19. AZREOSpecialist macrumors 68020


    Mar 15, 2009
    I think it's sad that iPad owners must resort to these types of "solutions" to get their products working as they should. There's no excuse for the iPad not to have a consumer facing file system. This is ridiculous.
  20. chiefpavvy macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2008
    The iPad's target audience (as in 99% of users) DON'T WANT a file system, at least not one they have to see and manage. That's the point. Keep it simple. Apple is great at that.

    I personally don't like the hassle of file system management either. Perhaps the solution is really for Apple to buy Dropbox and integrate that cloud functionality in to iOS keeping the "consumer facing file system" up in the cloud as opposed to a local system that would require tedious maintenance and upkeep and no doubt be the source of many a tech support call.
  21. anthonymoody thread starter macrumors 68020


    Aug 8, 2002
    Wowza. Very interesting, thanks. Did not know that. I only have the iMac so not an issue but great to know!

    I don't have a Dropbox folder on the Mac, intentionally. Maybe I was scared off by the super flaky performance of idisk's local copy. Irrational I suppose since Dropbox is just generally so much better! Also, so many programs seem to default to the Documents folder when you Save As, so there's a minor pita of having to navigate to a different spot. Not that I really use the iMac for anything other than storage and syncing lol.

    Coronet me if I'm wrong but sugar sync does NOT allow WebDAV, therefor ni ability to save documents back to it directly from iWork apps.
  22. miamijim macrumors 6502

    May 26, 2010
    I use Dropbox and Air Sharing.

    Air Sharing is a perfect file system.
  23. Stealthipad macrumors 68040


    Apr 30, 2010
    DropBox is a great product. It allows my entire company to view and use files no matter what platform or hardware they are using!:p

    It has worked perfectly for me.
  24. clyde2801 macrumors 601


    Mar 6, 2008
    In the land of no hills and red dirt.
    I've been using drop box on a limited basis, but the macdrop app might seal the deal.

    Will definitely look this over once I get into the office today.
  25. Zeos macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2008
    The biggest problem here is that Time Capsule does not pick up the iDisk files, so you don't get the historical archive of files over time. You delete a file or make a bad change, and the original is gone for good.

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