Navigating the iPad file system jungle – could it have been more poorly designed?

Written by Gary on November 23rd, 2010

OK, so the iPad is really just for dummies with more money than sense – well I got sucked in by Apple’s lack of documentation as to its considerable limitations – see all my previous posts on the iPad.

Each application you buy or download has its own discrete data storage area which is NOT shared with other apps.

It seems the only data storage area within the iPad which is shared amongst various apps is the Photos app folders and albums.

Let’s explore a few little process issues for iPad  users – processes which should be very simple.

The photo albums:

  • while you can create various photo albums on your main computer and select these in iTunes to be copied to your iPad, you cannot use the iPad itself to create new albums, or move photos between albums, or even delete these photos, but you can Copy to the clipboard or email them.
  • any images saved from Safari or other apps will go ONLY into the Saved Photos folder and then cannot be moved to another folder.
  • any images copied from your camera or SD card are added to Event folders and to All Imported and Last Imported albums where they CAN be deleted, emailed or copied to the clipboard.
  • thus you cannot create your own albums or slideshows using the iPad alone and the Photos app – you need iTunes on a computer, or you need to copy photos to a different application with its own folders.
  • furthermore if you re-connect to your computer, you do not get access to these images via iTunes (but a warning that iTunes may indeed delete them during sync if you are not careful) – you must try to find it as a drive in My Computer if it is being nice to you and showing up as a drive.

Download a file from the internet:

  • open up Safari web browser, navigate to the web page you want
  • let’s say there is a photo on that web page you would like to add to your album of photos on iPad
  • well this is at least easy, hold you finger on the photo and you get two options – Save (which does add the image to your Saved Photos folder accessible by Photos or many other apps – but bad luck if you want to move it to a different folder – that is not possible!) or Copy (which copies it to the clipboard, but you can’t paste it into Photos or any of the Photos albums).
  • but what if you wanted to download a pdf file?
  • using Safari to open and display a pdf is possible, and you can have it saved as a separate Safari tab for future use, but you can’t save the pdf file anywhere, nor can you copy to clipboard or email it, let alone even think of editing it.
  • you can partly get around this mess by buying an app such as Downloads HD – but you still will not be able to copy a photo to a photo album of your choice.

Paste a file:

  • well, you have selected Copy from Safari or Photos which copies that file to the clipboard memory space so you can paste it somewhere else
  • but where can you paste it?
  • not in Photos or its albums, not in apps which you would expect would support pasting of files such as Air Sharing, DropBox, Documents or Stash
  • you CAN paste these files into some apps such as USB Disk (which has a rectangular icon at the bottom which is supposed to indicate how many items are in the clipboard and available to paste BUT unfortunately does not seem to show them).

Instead of being a device to make you more productive, it has the opposite effect – frustration after frustration once you get past the novelty of the nice touch interface.

Perhaps Apple’s philosophy is “Let the buyer beware ” instead of being a bit more transparent in documenting what in can and can’t do!

Oh, and if you are wondering, the iPhone uses a similar folder management system, but at least with an iPhone, you are not really expecting it to be your main web browsing and file management tool as is the case with the iPad.

If there are ways around all this, please feel free to add comments, as I am sure there are thousands and thousands who are just wondering why they spent their hard earned cash?


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Sven says:

    Hmm Yes you can use attachment saver. I think its also usable if you have an iPad. Than you Need a good really good file Browser like ifile. Than you can Manövers to the file which you have dowloaded or a program. If you want to concentrate your Downloads on the Same Place you Need to Link (ln) These Folders centrally to One Place. Goodreader is a very good pdf viewer and adds als Download cabilities. Theta it. Greets Sven

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the tips Sven, I have now bought the iFiles app and it does seem to be a reasonable workaround for some of the issues, but you still do need to create a second copy of your photos to place them in the iFiles folders.

    I will buy the Goodreader pdf viewer app as well as that might come in handy as the iPad seems very slow and reading large pdf files.

  3. Sven says:

    no problem. a other was or workaround is to usw one folder that you set a link the first folder to the second folder. for this you need the console and maybe a jailbreak. then you could set the command: ln folder1(main picture folder) folder2(second picture folder) <– folder1 is the target folder and folder2 must be deleted and new created as the name before. it works similar like windows links.

  4. admin says:

    hmmm… maybe someone can help with another problem – you can’t display a chart on an Excel spreadsheets if there is more than one chart on the sheet.

    I have tried in Downloader HD, AirShare HD, Goodreader, iFiles and none will display multiple charts.

    Any ideas to solve this one?