iOS Workflow - Your Suggestions

Discussion in 'iOS 7' started by dr.wong, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. dr.wong macrumors newbie

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    Aug 20, 2009
    #1
    I've been trying to include iOS in my daily workflow for years now and despite my best efforts, I can't seem to get it right. I think it might be a mindset, perhaps I need a new way of thinking.

    My problem is this : On my Mac I'll have a folder called "university" and within this folder I'll have subdirectories for each subject, for example : English, Philosophy and Law. Within each of those subdirectories I will have a further set of directories for each lecture : Lecture 1, Lecture 2, Lecture 3 etc. Lastly within each lecture folder I'll have a collection of files - PDFs, Pages, Word, JPG etc.

    It's easy to work with the documents in this logical structure on my Mac. I simply open the files, edit them, save them and close them. The documents are all related and they stay together in that folder. I use DropBox to keep them synced between my iMac and my MacBook Air.

    The problem comes in with iOS. I really want to be able to continue working on my iPad where I left off on my Macs. I've tried simply accessing the documents using the DropBox app or GoodReader (and many similar apps) and then opening the document in the related app (e.g. : opening Pages documents in Pages), but the problem is obviously that a copy of the file is made instead of it being edited directly. Saving the file back to DropBox is more difficult than it should be since you have to find the file again and then overwrite it, and the copy of the file usually stays in the app I was editing it in making duplicate files that I often forget about - later on I can't remember which is the newest version of that file.

    I like the idea of iCloud, especially when using Pages, and I'm aware of the rumours that iOS 8 will include a Preview app that will (hopefully) mean that PDFs can be synced with iCloud too. But this doesn't really solve my problem. iCloud only allows for the creation of single-level directories, meaning that I won't be able to logically arrange my files as described above. Whats more, if I figure out a new way of arranging my files (that you hopefully have suggestions for) the files of different formats will be scattered across many different apps - and I'm sure I'll forget about some of them (which is catastrophic).

    I know I'm not the only one facing this dilemma. It's the age old complaint that iOS needs a centralised file system. We're already on iOS 7 and there's no sign of one on the horizon. In light of that, I'm sure some of you have figured it out - if so, please lend me your wisdom. I really want to make this work (preferably using iCloud).
     
  2. MattInOz macrumors 68030

    MattInOz

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    #2
    You could treat iCloud, or any file editor sync store, as only active documents. Then as soon as the document is submitted or sent somewhere you "publish" it to dropbox and sent it from there. Once you know your done with a document you archive it out of iCloud to Dropbox.

    So Dropbox is only archival/reference files.
    iCloud working documents.
     
  3. dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 20, 2009
    #3
    Thanks for the suggestion Matt,

    That would certainly work for at least managing duplicated files.

    But the issue with fragmentation persists. If I'm working on 6 "active" files that are related but have differing file types, I'll still have to keep them in their respective apps where the danger exists that I'll forget about them.

    I've thought of trying to convert absolutely everything into one file type, so I would copy and paste the contents of my PDFs into Pages and where images are involved, I'll insert the image into a pages document. But other issues arise here, for example many journal articles that are accessible in PDF format are scans with uncorrected OCR text included for the purpose of searching. I can't reliably copy and paste the OCR text into Pages and you obviously can't import a scanned PDF document into Pages directly.

    In any event, if I were to commit to a single iCloud-enabled app (such as Pages) to the exclusion of DropBox, I'd still have the problem of single-level directories.

    Does anyone know the reasoning behind the single-level iCloud directory structure? Is it to make Apple's job easier? I remember the days of MobileMe and iDisk - you could add normal directory structures to iDisk, but syncing was an absolute disaster. More than once I lost my files.
     
  4. Thor774 macrumors regular

    Thor774

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    Sep 14, 2007
    #4
    I feel your pain.
    People on Android and Windows devices have had this since the beginning, I miss so much an universal file system in iOS :(.
    I am stuck with iOS because its wonderful accessibility options.
     
  5. IFRIT macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 15, 2012
    #5
    You could try Google drive. You can create folders and things are saved after every edit.
     
  6. bd4 macrumors member

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    Jan 26, 2014
    #6
    Instead of Dropbox, you could use Microsoft's OneDrive which does literally the same. Having your files there, you can access them from Office for iPad/iPhone and they'll keep automatically in sync. Note that you will need a Office 365 subscription (probably there's a way to get it cheaper if you're a student).

    For other files like PDFs, just use an app with Dropbox or OneDrive integration like GoodReader.
     
  7. CutterSlade macrumors regular

    CutterSlade

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    Istanbul, Turkey
    #7
    Unfortunately there's no solution to your problem on iOS. iOS simply isn't designed for work/productivity. Lack of a file manager is the proof of that. You'll have to sync from individual apps one way or another.
     
  8. richwoodrocket macrumors 68020

    richwoodrocket

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    #8
    A file system makes it confusing for first time ios users. Seeing a file system would probably scare a few poeple.
     
  9. dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 20, 2009
    #9
    Thanks for your input guys.

    I've done some reading and there are quite a few points of view. One article suggests that the current method of locking files into an app is technically useful (from a programming point of view), but not from the point of view of the user. I agree with this.

    @IFRIT : Google Drive comes with the same issues as DropBox as far as I know?

    @bd4 : Using the Microsoft solution is pretty much the same as using iCloud with Pages, Numbers and Keynote (my preferred software). As for keeping "all other" files in their respective apps - this defeats the point of being able to organise your files logically so that they're all in one place. I have used apps like Goodreader, Documents by Readle, PDF Expert etc but I don't want to use "jack-of-all-trade" software. Pages is the best app for editing Pages files, and I also have my favourite PDF annotator. I want to use these apps whilst keeping everything in one place. If this is an outdated way of thinking, then I'm open to suggestion, just not one that says "fragment your files by placing them in many different apps" - that is not a solution (I'm attacking Apple and not you by the way).

    @CutterSlade : It would seem that way, but I maintain hope.

    @richwoodrocket : a file system is confusing to first time computer users (i.e. : 5 year old children). Computing shouldn't be device specific. iOS is an extremely powerful piece of software and people will adapt to it easily if there's a familiar workflow to their computers. I think the current model is far more confusing than a traditional file scheme.

    I had hopes for the "tags" feature in OS X (which I find quite useless) - my immediate thought when they announced it was that it would form some sort of common ground in iCloud. You could have an app that lists all of the files depending on the tag you've selected. The problem with this is obvious : imagine the list of tags you'd have to scroll through on iOS that would emulate your complex file structures - there's no way of making it elegant. I still wonder what good tags will do us in the future!
     
  10. richwoodrocket macrumors 68020

    richwoodrocket

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    #10
    @dr.wrong Not everyone that had an iphone or is looking to get an iphone has experience using a computer. Like my great grandpa, the iPad works great for him because it's simple to use.
     
  11. dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #11
    @richwoodrocket : Fair point. Perhaps we should ask him how he organizes his files. A fresh new set of eyes might be the key to explaining this brave new world to us old file system veterans.
     
  12. richwoodrocket macrumors 68020

    richwoodrocket

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    #12

    All he uses is email and pictures.... lol
     
  13. djtech42 macrumors 65816

    djtech42

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    #13
    I created this concept a while ago (before iOS 7 was released and skeumorphism was still alive :p): http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1420029

    I think that if it was redesigned, it would be a practical solution for files on iOS.
     
  14. dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 20, 2009
    #14
    @djtech42 : that's pretty cool. iOS needs something along those lines.

    I see a few of the guys replied to your thread saying that you have to get used to opening an app to find the file you're looking for. I read somewhere that the problem with this is that it makes the human do the work that iOS should be doing (and I fully agree with that). Why should I remember a file system in my mind (ie : where each of my files are stored)? This is the job of the computer as it always has been in the days of complex directory structures.

    iOS's scheme is not an elegant one nor is it easy to use for any type of user (new or old) who has to work with a few files of differing types.

    The plethora of quasi file managers (GoodReader etc) that include support for complex file structures is testament to that. The responses I've received here also show that people don't want to / can't move away from a traditional file scheme. Suggesting DropBox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive etc is just the same as suggesting a traditional scheme under a different name - each equally unworkable because of the "open in..." fearure that causes file duplication.

    I wonder what happened to that API they've supposedly been working on that lets apps access each other's files. That might solve all of this and make a third party app similar to what djtech42 has suggests possible.
     
  15. yukhalilsel macrumors member

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    Feb 16, 2014
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #15
    iOS Workflow - Your Suggestions

    Have you had a look at IFTTT ??
    (https://ifttt.com/mobile)

    It will automate a lot of stuff you're doing on iOS.

    Have a look at it, maybe there is a so-called recipe which will make your workflow easier.
     
  16. notrack macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2012
    #16
    Can't do that in iOS in a usefull way. I have tried it for two years and came to the conclusion that there is no workaround to utilise iOS for productivity.

    The bottleneck is file handling. I'm open to alternatives of a traditional folder hirarchy but iCloud in-app storeage isn't working out.

    A first step would be if iOS apps could read and write to outside their sandbox.

    Until then, my iPad is demoted to web browsing on the couch. The MacBook Air 11" is the far better alternative for now.
     
  17. sahnert macrumors 6502

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    Seattle
    #17
    One idea for using tags:

    I too have projects where I am using several apps including some that are Mac-only and some that are iOS-only.

    If the apps are not iCloud-aware, their files go in Dropbox and get tagged (using finder tags) with the project name and any other relavent tags (for you maybe two tags: subject and lecture)

    For apps like Pages that use iCloud and are available on both Mac and iOS, the files are stored in iCloud and also tagged with the relevant tags.

    On the Mac, I can go to Finder to see all the files tagged a certain way including both iCloud and Dropbox files.

    On iOS I know that I either have the right app for the file to edit (e.g. Pages) and I edit. Or I just need to read a file that has no iOS app (e.g. PDF) and I use Dropbox.

    I also make heavy use of the "date modified" sorting and arranging features on both Mac and iOS to quickly access recent work.


    I agree that there has to be a more elegant solution forthcoming, but this works well for me.
     
  18. dr.wong, May 10, 2014
    Last edited: May 10, 2014

    dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #18
    @yukhalilsel :
    That looks promising! I'll take a look at it in more detail sometime. At first glance it looks like its more geared toward social networks etc.

    @notrack :
    I hope this isn't the eventuality. We have 64-bit architecture in these devices and they're glorified GameBoys without this simple functionality.

    @sahnert :
    That's ingenious, I'll definitely make use of this.

    This is exactly the problem I'm trying to overcome (and that isn't solved). You've found a good way of using tags on OS X, which one could argue is the "step away from file systems" that Apple is trying to achieve, but when you come over to your iOS device, all of that work tagging etc means nothing. There's no centralised place that you can go to. If you step away from your Mac with your iPad and want to continue working where you left off (which is the point of mobile computing in my opinion), you're even worse off since you can't identify your tagged files at all.
     
  19. KUguardgrl13 macrumors 68020

    KUguardgrl13

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    #19
    My problem is that I start something on my iPad or Mac, work on it on the other machine (moved via copy-paste from Evernote or Google Drive; super smooth, I know), and then have to get it onto a school PC to print.

    The two methods I've done so far are writing something in Evernote on my iPad and then copy-paste to a Word doc on a PC. The other one was staring it in Word on my Mac, start over in Google Docs on the iPad, merge the two via copy-paste, save to flash drive, print on PC.

    It's clunky, but it works. Unfortunately it won't be any smoother unless my school fixes web print so I can print from my MBP and take the PC out of the equation.

    I've found that Notability works pretty well for class notes. It can import PowerPoint slides and syncs notes as PDFs to Dropbox or Google Drive. I like the UI better than Evernote despite the lack of an OS X app.
     
  20. sahnert macrumors 6502

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    #20
    I do wish there were a way to see the tags on iOS, but in reality, moving from mac to iOS to work is quite easy (for me) even without the benefit of tags due to the following factors:
    1. Files that need to be worked on are in Pages, Numbers, Keynote - so I know right where to go
    2. Recent items filter to the top, so continuing where I left off is even easier than having to look things up by tag. Additionally, I can organize by folder or even search if needed.

    Not saying that improvements can't be made (they can and should), but I find the current system makes it simple to quickly move from one "screen" to then next (iPad, Mac, iPhone) and continue where I left off.
     
  21. dr.wong thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 20, 2009
    #21
    That's all true, but you still have to keep track of your files in your mind. If you want to refer back to a collection of related files (of differing file types) from a few weeks ago, you're going to have a hard time remembering what files are where and which ones form a part of the collection. Your previous tags solution would solve this to some extent on iOS.

    I still wonder about the elegance of a "Finder" app that lists all of the tags you've created - I can't see how tags will fit in intuitively.
     
  22. CutterSlade macrumors regular

    CutterSlade

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    #22
    A file manager would not necessarily make things more complicated. They don't have to add a full-featured file manager. Even two folders such as "My Documents" and "Downloads" that can be modified by all apps would be enough to mitigate the problem. Basic users could simply ignore it and continue to use it the way they were using it before, and others could create new folders inside them as needed.
     
  23. profets macrumors 68040

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    Mar 18, 2009
    #23
    It's true. What isn't necessary would be full blown file system with access to all files, system files, etc.

    Something very simple could work fine. And people who would be intimidated by it would never have to open it. But even then, it could be as simple as the Photos app, but for documents.

    Honestly, at WWDC 2013 when they were first showing OS X 10.9, and they previewed Tags, I thought for sure it was an idea they were going to use to get files shared onto iOS devices. That could be a possibility in the future as well.
     
  24. notrack, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014

    notrack macrumors 6502

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    #24
    I don't mind files showing in apps, but that's not quite useful for me if they only show one file type.

    I'm organised in contexts and projects which all involve different file types. On iOS they would be inside different apps, depending on their file type. Imo thats the wrong direction.

    The app should be secondary and the actual content should be primary. A basic document browser would be a significant improvement if apps could read and write to that file without moving or duplicating it.
     
  25. CutterSlade macrumors regular

    CutterSlade

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    #25
    That's right, but it seems like majority of the iOS users don't mind the lack of this capability. That's why there is absolutely no sign about its introduction to iOS in the near future.
     

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