Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Apr 2014 19:09 UTC

I deeply, truly, desperately want Apple to add a Files app and DocumentPicker controller to the iPhone and iPad in iOS 8. I've wanted it going on 4 years, and every year more than the last. It is, in my very humble opinion, one of the biggest, most frustrating holes remaining on Apple's mobile operating system, and all the more so because it seems like a model for fixing it has been in successful use for years already. Right now we're saddled with the complexity and frustration of iOS documents locked in app and iCloud jails. We're driven to outdated filesystems like Dropbox because Apple hasn't yet provided a next generation alternative. It needs to happen and so I'm once again asking for it this year and for iOS 8.

iOS has many complexity-inducing frustrations born out of "keep it simple", but none as big as this one. File handling on iOS is so incredibly frustrating and needlessly complex that I have a hard time considering it a mature operating system at all. My line of work requires constant opening and closing of a quarter metric frickton of files, and that kind of stuff is simply impossible on iOS.

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Member since:

I'm thinking there's a couple distinct use cases here...

1) Pipelining a single document through multiple applications

Here, having a filesystem that's not tied to the apps allows the freestanding object to be opened and processed in different ways.

Android's model can potentially work well here, sending data from app to app via Intents until you end up saving back.

iOS's inter-app communications are pretty limited right now -- basically you can send a URL or you can send a file to an app, and that's it. Smarter communications could be built on top of that perhaps, for two-way communications but it's kinda ugly.

2) Grouping documents from different applications into a single project

A single work or fun project might include images, text, movies, etc. The iOS model really, *REALLY* doesn't play nice with this unless you use a monolithic app that handles projects of multiple document types. (So we have word processors and presentation tools that embed images and text into a single document, and you either are limited to what that app can do, or you have to export/import through another app.)

In particular things like archiving and version control are really hard in this model.

As a programmer, most of what I do lives in this world of grouped projects with heterogenous document types and source/edit apps, which is why tablets haven't been a huge productivity win for me. (They're great for poking at the web, checking email, games, and occasional video editing or whipping up a skeleton for a presentation... but I can't code on one!*)

* Actually I've played a little with coding with AIDE <> on Android, but it doesn't handle any of my real-world projects.

Reply Score: 6

robmv Member since:

1) ...

Android's model can potentially work well here, sending data from app to app via Intents until you end up saving back.

Android applications doesn't need to do that either, they can grant temporary permissions to a file, without sending the data, only the URI [1] or better yet a Storage Access Framework [2]. iOS needs more than the simple sending and data duplication of early Android versions.


Edited 2014-04-30 19:51 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

brion Member since:

Oh nice, I hadn't encountered those before. Especially the document provider system looks very flexible...

Reply Parent Score: 1

roverrobot Member since:

I am a little confused:

1) Pipelining a single document through multiple applications

How is multiple programs opening a single file different than sending your file through a sequence of applications? Currently, the only part missing is programmers thinking in a cooperative way.

2) Grouping documents from different applications into a single project

When you group different type of files to form a meta document, it is more natural to treat the group as a single file. This is essentially the way most office suites adopted. Suppose you want to update a figure in an office document, theoretically, in iOS, you could send it to am image editor, and after editing, you would then send it back to your office suite. If the office suite app is well designed, it would then automatically replace the figure in your document.

Reply Parent Score: 3