Understanding How the iPad and iPhone Handle Documents

As you know, Apple has made iTunes the preferred management tool for iPads and iPhones, handling everything from activation and initial setup to daily synchronization and updates. iTunes is also the preferred tool for adding most types of documents to the iPad and iPhone directly or deleting them from it.

The main exception to this is incoming photos and video, which iTunes doesn’t handle. On the Mac, that’s iPhoto’s job–so if you’re on a Mac, iPhoto is the application you’ll normally use to copy or remove photos, videos, or screen captures from the iPad or iPhone. (You can also use Image Capture or Preview’s File | Import From Device command if you want only to copy the items rather than adding them to your iPhoto library.) On Windows, the iPad’s or iPhone’s photo and video storage area shows up in the Windows Explorer as a digital camera. You can then copy the photos to the PC’s file system and enjoy them in whichever program you prefer.

Apart from this digital camera that Windows sees, the iPad and iPhone don’t appear in Windows Explorer. On the mac, Finder acts as if completely unaware of the iPad’s or iPhone’s presence. This is to encourage you to use iTunes (and iPhoto on the Mac) to manage the device and avoid you stamping around sensitive parts of its file system with hobnailed boots on.

Within its file system, iOS gives each apps a separate storage area for documents–its own document silo. iOS largely confines each app to its own silo and prevents it from accessing any other silos. But apps that can receive incoming files, such as Mail and Safari, can provide those files to other apps. For example, if you receive a Word document attached to an e-mail message on your iPad, you can choose to open that document in Pages for iPad (if you have it installed) or another app that can handle Word documents. Mail makes the document available to Pages or the app you choose.

iOS doesn’t give you a file browser that you can use to browse files and open them in their apps, let alone choose which app to open a particular file in. Instead, you open the app that can handle the document, then open the document from the app’s document silo. Or you use Mail or Safari to pick the app you want to open a document stored in one of those apps.

Similarly, when you need to get documents off the iPad or iPhone, you need to use iTunes and the limited sharing capabilities built into specific apps. For instance, to get a Numbers workbook off an iPad, you first export it from Number to the File Sharing area, where iTunes can access it. You can then copy the file to your computer using iTunes, send it via e-mail, or upload it to Apple’s iWork.com sharing site.

Understanding the iOS File Viewers

iOS has built-in viewers for major file types, including these:


– Word (both the .docx and .doc formats)

– Excel (bothe the .xlsx and .xls formats)

– PowerPoint (both the .pptx and .ppt formats)

– Rich-text format (RTF)

– Text documents


Various file sharing apps for iphone that enable you to transfer files to or from the iPad or iPhone can display the documents using these viewers but cannot open the documents for editing. The viewers display the documents for viewing but don’t provide full features. For example, if you open a PDF file for a second time, the viewer doesn’t remember the last page you read the first time you opened it; and you can’t follow internal links within a PDF file. But as far as straightforward reading goes, the viewers are pretty good.


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