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

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 We're driven to outdated filesystems like Dropbox because Apple hasn't yet provided a next generation alternative.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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Thom_Holwerda
Member since:
2005-06-29

But if that 'KISS' leads to more complexity... Isn't it time to stop pretending it's KISS in the first place?

The search for simplicity can actually create complexity. iOS' handling of files is a textbook example of that.

Reply Parent Score: 9

sergio Member since:
2005-07-06

It totally depends on the type of user you are targeting to.

In my humble experience, common people don't care about files because they don't understand what a file or a filesystem is. xD

And I think iOS should be a product for common people like my mom or my dad. Tech-savvy people, like you and me, can install a 3rd party app and access the FS... it's not a problem.

Reply Parent Score: 0

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Tech-savvy people, like you and me, can install a 3rd party app and access the FS... it's not a problem.


Uhm... That's the whole problem: on iOS, you cannot.

What you are describing is the situation on Android.

Reply Parent Score: 7

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

But if that 'KISS' leads to more complexity... Isn't it time to stop pretending it's KISS in the first place?

The search for simplicity can actually create complexity. iOS' handling of files is a textbook example of that.


Not that Im arguing against your point (I get it), but just to nitpick...

File handling is iOS is incredibly simple - there is almost no complexity at all. Its only "complex" when you are trying to do something that the system doesn't directly support. I.e. it is complex to try and "work around" the system, but it is extremely simple to use the system as it exists without workarounds - its braindead simple.

What you are calling complexity is not in fact complexity - it is a combination of the side effects of sandbox security and omitted features.

1. Its security in the sense that the designers took the approach that apps should be sandboxed and should not have a view of the entire file system (i.e. each app is an island). This in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

2. Its omitted features in the sense that there is literally no OS mechanism to cross sandbox boundaries as far as local IO goes, short of things that are in central system repositories like music and whatnot. It just doesn't support doing that at all. All the complexity you see is due to developers/users attempting to plug this gap in the featureset.

Im only saying to point out that if you want 1 (and Apple strongly wants 1 because they run a curated app store and anything short of that is chaos), then you cannot have a "file picker". It just doesn't work...

There are probably a few ways to solve the problem, some of them generalized solutions (intent system ala Android), some of them more specialized (adding more system level repositories for certain kinds of data) - but the one thing that is not a solution to this problem is "add a file picker".

Just saying. It is a problem. It is a horribly bad problem. It is frankly ridiculous that they still have not addressed this problem. But the solution to this problem is not opening up the file system and adding a "file picker", because doing so cannot be done while maintaining the existing security model the OS is built upon...

Im sure the "but its my damn files and I should be able to do what I want with them" crowd will find this explanation woefully inadequate, I expect nothing less. But it is simply reality. You will never see a generalized file browser on iOS - it just isn't built to ever support doing that, and I strongly suspect it will stay that way.

Reply Parent Score: 4

brion Member since:
2010-11-04

I wouldn't expect a totally generic Unix filesystem browser (though I'm sure you can get them for jailbroken iOS) -- but there are a few possible 'middle road's.

* iOS already has a document-management model that uses iTunes on the desktop as a manager: each application that supports file transfers basically has a subfolder, lists its supported types, and says "you can drop files in and out of here". In theory, a system app could provide a similar view in a Files.app with no changes to the data model, and allow deleting files, transferring files to/from online services or between apps, etc without having to hook up to iTunes.

* Windows Store apps on Windows 8/RT/Phone have a similar sandboxed model, but there are specific extension points in the OS that allow an application to serve as a provider for the standard in-app file picker, both for loading and saving. Whether they literally use the filesystem, a database, or an online sync service to do it is up to the app and abstracted away.

* Over in another thread somebody mentioned document providers on newer versions of Android -- https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/providers/document-provid... -- offhand this seems to fall in this spectrum as well.

In theory it should be possible to create an interface for opening files belonging to another app... and for instance letting the Dropbox app handle *all dropbox files* might be a lot nicer than every app having its own half-assed Dropbox support with no central point of management.

Reply Parent Score: 2

spronkey Member since:
2009-08-16

I disagree that it can't be done. Add a new permission that apps must be granted to access a common file storage area.

Old apps wouldn't ever try to access it, so no harm done. New apps can just ask the owner for permission.

Reply Parent Score: 4

thegman Member since:
2007-01-30

Totally. In many ways, a Segway is simpler to ride than a bicycle, but it's a vastly more complex and trouble-prone machine. In attempting to make something simple, they added enormous complexity.

Apple did the same with iOS, is making it simple for 50% of tasks, they make it very complicated for 40% and downright impossible for 10%.

I would suggest though, that it's easier just to stop battling with it. Accept iOS is not for getting work done, and just about doing small tasks and consuming media.

Reply Parent Score: 6

jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

I am not really addressing you main point (which I generally agree with) but I will quibble with this:

..In many ways, a Segway is simpler to ride than a bicycle, but it's a vastly more complex and trouble-prone machine. In attempting to make something simple, they added enormous complexity...


As someone who has put more than 6300 miles on my segway over the last 7 years, I definitely agree about the first part, but I am not sure I agree on the second.

I, and the other segway owners I know wouldn't call them more trouble prone than a bicycle. But then again it depends on what you mean.

If you mean in terms of reparability then your are right, most electronics aren't that repairable that were made in, say, say the last 30 years. But if your Bike throws a chain, you can fix it on the side of the road. If one of the gearboxes goes out.

If you mean in terms of problem rates, I am not sure if there is good data that compares the two.

In terms of maintenance, I would suggest the average segway owner and the average bicyclist have about the same, but the advanced bicyclist probably has a little more.

But the thing I find most interesting is that you are the far from the first to compare the segway to a bike, and that is IMHO a flawed analogy. To someone disabled (like myself) it is comparable to a mobility scooter.

For general purpose riding/commuting it is like an electric bike, or a motorcycle, etc etc.

Reply Parent Score: 2