iDisk slips

Bottom line readers will perk up at the thought of being able to access and backup their iPad files wirelessly with iDisk. Sadly, that perk is probably from their quadruple espresso shot Latte because iDisk remains a disappointment to iPad users:

iDisk for iPad

  • Is better than the iPhone version we’ve been stuck with all these months
  • Allows you to open backed up iWorks and iWorks compatible files directly into your iWorks apps
  • Allows you to share files with friends and colleagues

Sounds great, but

  • You still have to get your files from your iPad to iDisk, and good luck with that
  • iDisk is free, but MobileMe, which iDisk requires to operate, costs serious coin

In addition, I ramble on about information theory, data compression (both analog and digital) and how they can be explained by the example of a single conversation from my marriage. I also snark at Apple once again for failing to support their own device with the software they’ve already developed.

I’ve decided that marriage is about miscommunication, more than communication. It’s about codes, deciphering codes and learning to speak in earthly tongues. It’s about finding ways of saying what you really feel, without really saying what you really feel because….well, just because.

For instance, the other day Carol asked me, “What is this empty bottle doing in the sink?”

I said, “What bottle?”

She said, “This bottle,” and held up an empty Nyquil bottle that I’m assuming she found in the sink.

I said, “I don’t know.”

At which point, she took the bottle, held it out in front of her with a great display of disgust and threw it away.

Married readers, or readers in any long-term relationship, will know that a lot more information is being transmitted in this brief conversation than what was actually being said:

  • Declaration: There is a bottle in the sink.
  • Implication: I am not happy that there is a bottle in the sink.
  • Accusation: I think the person who left this bottle in the sink was you.
  • Exposition: You really must be lazy to leave this bottle in the sink instead of replacing it, or, at least, throwing it away.
  • Concluding implied rhetorical question: What the hell is wrong with you?
  • Emotional outburst: I am disappointed, not with this innocuous little bottle, but with you.
  • Unspoken but implied by tone of voice: As usual.

Since I couldn’t possibly reply to that entire chain of questions, implications and accusations without making things worse for myself, I offered the response “I don’t know.” This statement, in turn, served as a symbolic cypher for:

  • Rebuttal: Of course, I left it there. Who else would have left an empty bottle in the sink?
  • Counter-proposition best left unspoken: Do you expect me to get up now and throw it away when you’re right there and perfectly capable of doing it for me?
  • Consoling proverb that will not actually prove to be very consoling: In a hundred years, who’s going to care about an empty bottle in the sink?

You see, basically I said absolutely nothing and chose instead to respond in the great passive aggressive tradition honed by guilt-inducing Baptist and lapsed Baptist families everywhere. We know that a misdirection takes far less time than a head on confrontation (which in a Baptist family could be annotated with any verse from the Bible that, in this particular moment, seems relevant—which could be all of them).

Nor did I say anything when I discovered Carol’s water bottle and the toothpaste in the sink that very same evening. It was after we had taken our evening shower together (which is the only time we can spend alone together without being crowded by cats). I chose not to return to the earlier conversation as an alternative method to compress a conversation involving an enormous amount of data—the analog equivalent of closing a file without saving.1

Besides, she would have simply said, “I’m just following your example.”

In the digital world, this conversation could be called a compression algorithm, a method for reducing a lot of digital information to a very small space. This brings us to the point of today’s blog: iPad’s have no compression routines like StuffIt or ZipIt to reduce file size. This means our only real choice is to move the files off device to free up room on the iPad’s internal drive.

The logical choice would have been iDisk, but for months Apple ignored iDisk leaving iPad users with a crippled, quite ugly iPhone version. As it stands now, iDisk is only half a solution, but that half-solution is an improvement over what went before.

Users who wanted to move their iWorks files off disk (or to move files onto their iPad) faced few choices, none of them ideal. Users could physically hook their iPads to their home computers and use iTunes to manually move their files to and from their hard drives.

I stress the word “manually” because the iTunes stores automatic sync doesn’t move physical files between devices. You must first open the iTunes application on your home computer, navigate to the applications tab, scroll to the very bottom to find the application you wanted to sync and then drag and drop the files you want to copy.

The other option was iWork.com, but even that was clunky. You had to transfer the file from inside your iWorks apps, notify yourself with an email providing you with a link to your file, then log in and download the file to your home computer. With a wireless connection this could take forever (as many as fifteen minutes for a 20 page Pages file with 10 images).

Fortunately, Apple made a move in the right direction with an iPad capable version of iDisk as part of their MobileMe suite. I say move in the right direction because it still needs a lot of work.

Half an app is better than none, but far from desirable

iDisk provides the wireless solution iWorks lacked until now, or at least it starts to provide a wireless solution as we’ll see in a moment.

The iPad capable version is a huge improvement over the iPhone version which looked pixellated on the iPad and really did little more than let you look at your iDisk files. It was more a reminder of what you could hope for than a functional app.

Wireless file management

The iDisk serves as a wireless hard drive for storing your files. It’s one of the apps in Apple’s MobileMe suite. You can access any file on your iDisk and open it in iWorks or one of the many apps based on Microsoft’s Office Suite.

If nothing else, this beats having to hook your iPad up to your computer and moving files using iTunes.

You can manage your work and media library.

iDisk also allows you to share your documents, to allow friends and colleagues to collaborate, and provides you with complete information on file size and sharing.

iDisk allows you to share and keep track of shared files/

One of the most convenient features of iDisk is the ability to open your iWorks files in iWorks or a compatible office suite app (provided the files are saved in Excel, Word or Power Point format).

You can also open native iWorks files or PDFs from iDisk in an office suite app, but they will be read only.

You can open your files directly into any compatible app.

This all sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

So why would I say iDisk is half a solution? Because Apple hasn’t revised the iWorks software to let you send your files to iDisk. iDisk remains, as far as iWorks is concerned, a one-way solution.

iWorks files only transfer one way

You can open files on your iDisk in iPad iWorks apps, but you can’t save them directly to iDisk. In fact, the only way to move your iPad iWorks files to iDisk using Apple solutions is to sync with your home computer using iTunes and transfer them to iDisk using MobileMe on the web.

This solution seems doubly preposterous because other apps based on Office Suite, such as QuickOffice, and DocsToGo all allow you to open files from iDisk and save them to iDisk.

These apps do provide an opportunity for an iDisk workaround. If you have any of those apps, you can email your Pages files as .doc files to yourself, open them in the other application and save the .doc file to iDisk. Unfortunately, only DocsToGo keeps graphics included in .doc files.

This still leaves the problem that Numbers and Keynote don’t export as Excel or PowerPoint files, so the workaround options only help with Pages files.

It still seems bizarre to me that Apple’s third-party providers are months ahead of them with wireless solutions for their own device using their own software.

I’m not sure why Apple has been so reluctant to support iPad iWorks with iDisk. I suspect it’s because they really thought users would prefer the iWorks.com solution. iWorks.com does have one distinct advantage of over iDisk. It’s free. Slow (really slow), but free. Which brings us to the second problem with iDisk as an iPad file transfer solution.

iDisk is very, very expensive

The iDisk app is free, but in order to access iDisk you have to subscribe to MobileMe, which is a very expensive solution, adding an additional hundred dollars a year to the cost of your iPad in addition to your 3G contract. No wonder Apple wanted to steer users toward iWork.com.

On the other hand, if you do a lot of word processing on the road, it’s a great way to back up your files without the hassle of iTunes hookups or constant emails to yourself.

And, hopefully, one day soon Apple will realize that they have a lot of Mac users with MobileMe accounts who also bought iPads and that they ought to offer them the same wireless support they receive on their desktops.

Jenny Manytoes rates iPad iDisk

Jenny Manytoes takes a nap whenever I open use iDisk. She wishes Apple would get off their asses and provide full two-way file transfer support to so I’ll stop saying some of the things I say when I’m frustrated and have more time to spend with her.


1Astute readers might point out that I did indeed say something to Carol by including it in a blog that she proofreads. I would contend this is not actually saying anything to Carol so much as honest reporting.back

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

iPad Envy is created entirely using apps from my iPad
iPad Envy.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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