Tag Archives: iCloud

Finding Trust and Delight in the Apple Ecosystem

I am increasingly happy to be in Apple’s always improving ecosystem. No, more than happy, I’m delighted. Really. It’s fantastic. The devices and services tie together so smoothly. I cannot imagine a better experience. iCloud has evolved into something that just works all of the time. I can’t think of the last time I encountered something that didn’t work. From Music to Photos to the syncing of documents, notes, Safari data, etc.

Example. A few minutes ago I was listening to some music via my Apple TV and browsing Twitter. I came across this tweet:

David Chartier @chartier

This stuff is so much fun. Upbeat, instrumental, little quirky, foot tappin work music. https://itun.es/us/kHQC6?i=980592724

I’ve clicked on his Music suggestions before and enjoyed them so I tapped. I paused playback on the AppleTV and began listening to the this new album on Apple Music on the iPad. Perfect. With a tap I added it to my library and marked it as loved. I know that when I go for my walk in 10 minutes that album will be waiting under the recently played category on my iPhone. It’s also showing up now on my AppleTV. Because it’s something my sister and brother might enjoy I shared it with them via Messages with a couple taps.

Another example. I finally enabled iCloud Photo Library on my phone and two iPads. I’ve not turned it on my Mac yet as that library is long overdue for a clean-up. Within a day the photos on the three iOS devices were synced. This could be better if the people/face recognition synced between them. But as is it worked flawlessly.

Syncing between devices seems flawless for everything. Whether I’m adding a reminder or calendar event, a note or link for Safari’s Reading list, I know that it will be there. Same for editing documents. Same thing for podcasts. I happily choose to use the Apple Podcasts app. It gets the job done. And it’s super nice to know that when I pause a podcast on my iPad and grab the iPhone for a walk I can pick-up playback right where I left off.

Siri and HomeKit

These are getting progressively better. I’ve been using Siri fairly consistently for the past three years and the improvements have been easily noticeable. It’s not 100% but it is so much better. I still get misses but they are, by far, the exception. And I’m not just talking about asking for the weather or setting timers or alarms. I can ask how late a business is open or request Siri to call a business. Or ask her to do math. Or ask her when my niece’s birthday is.

And when used with HomeKit devices it truly seems like magic. Walking up in the driveway in the evening after a walk and asking Siri to turn on the porch light or the window AC and then seeing (or hearing) the result seconds later makes me smile every time. My last action each evening before going to bed is to ask Siri to turn off my light across the room. So much better than trying to convince my cat and dog that they need to move so I can get up and do it. That’s right, it’s all for the comfort of my animal companions. I do it all for them. Also worth noting, devices with Hey Siri do a great job of negotiating which device will answer.


What can I say that hasn’t been said by many others? AirPods are fantastic. I wear mine many hours everyday, usually with the iPhone while walking but sometimes while at the iPad. Regardless, I know that they will work with any device with no hassle with what seems like magic switching between devices. It’s not likely that I will ever buy another non-Apple speaker or headphone set. What’s the point? And I’ll add that a part of what makes these seem like magic are two details: Siri and the extended range. If I happen to leave my phone and go into a different room or outside while listening to music or having a conversation my connection is solid for at least 25 feet. It’s nice to have the freedom to forget the phone or to deliberately leave it sitting on a desk or table knowing that my connection is fine as I roam about. Also, Siri’s accuracy is even better with the AirPods. Using Siri with AirPods is, currently, the best possible Siri experience. We’re a long way from the AI found in the movie Her but until then I’ll happily use Siri and the AirPods.

Trust and Delight

Those two words sum it up for me. At this point I trust this ecosystem. As a whole it performs at something like 99% and thanks to that dependability I am constantly delighted. It’s been a long road getting here but I really feel like we’re there and it’s very nice to have arrived.

iPad Journal: iCloud and DropBox as iPad File Systems

A consistent criticism of iOS and the iPad is the lack of an easily assessable file system but this is only partially true. When the iPad first shipped in 2010 it certainly was much more limited. But eventually Apple added iCloud which has evolved into Apple’s version of an cloud-based file system and it works fairly well at this point. It’s not perfect but it has been rock solid in my use of it. But, still, time and again, some continue to say the iPad has no file system and no access to a file system. Well, it’s certainly not the full featured Finder that the Mac has and it’s true that it accumulates folders for apps (Mac or iOS) that use iCloud for saving files. But, it IS a file system.

There are different methods to access iCloud files. From within an app is probably the most common way. By default when I open an iWork app I see that app’s documents as they reside in iCloud. But it is also possible to view iCloud folders via the iCloud Drive app or from the file picker. So, for example, if I want to attach a file to an email I can browse through my iCloud folders. It works pretty well. But in many ways the iCloud Drive app is clumsy and somewhat limited. For example, creating new folders in iCloud Drive app is not obvious. I must first select an existing folder or file and then I am then given an option to create a new folder. Also, customizing the iCloud Drive app is very limited. I can choose to view in a grid of icons or as a column/list view hybrid. It is possible to sort by date, tags or name but not possible to add new tags. There is no way to “Get Info” for a file.

I interact with the iCloud file system (usually from within apps such as Pages or Numbers) on a daily basis and it does work very well in that regard. But it is no Finder replacement. Rather, it presents a simplified, iOS version of the Finder. It’s the sort of thing that will frustrate power users coming from the Mac but be perfectly fine for less technically experienced users such as my granny.

By comparison, the DropBox app feels like a step towards being a Finder replacement. Well, it’s clumsy in its own way but it feels a bit more like the Finder. It does not offer a list or icon view but the column view it presents works fairly well. I can pretty easily navigate through a hierarchy of folders and when I land on a file I get a preview of the file. Even better I can create new folders, add files, etc. Just as I might on the Mac I can browse files and open in their native apps or import into another app. So, I can click on a Word document and open into Word or into Pages. Or I can share it using the normal DropBox method which creates a link which can be shared via email or Messages or any other way I might send text. Or I can export the file and share it as an attachment. If it is a file in a folder shared with a client it’s also possible to have a conversation via comments on the file right in DropBox.

I use DropBox everyday and consider it an indispensable part of my iPad workflow especially when it comes to collaboration. In fact, when it comes to collaboration DropBox on iOS even surpasses the experience on the Mac. For example, commenting on shared files which cannot be done from the Finder. Also, Inviting others to a shared folder or managing the share settings for a folder are all easy to manage from within the DropBox app. All of these things require using a web browser if you’re working on a Mac.

The DropBox app is updated on a regular basis and recently was updated to add support for Split View which is a great addition and very helpful.

The DropBox app is updated on a regular basis and recently was updated to add support for Split View which is a great addition and very helpful.

And of course anything in DropBox is available on any device connected to the internet. I’m not using my Mac as much as I used to but when I do I know that any files I’ve got in DropBox will always be up-to-date regardless of which device was last used to edit the file. This leads me to one last bit that is very specific to my website management workflow. At the moment I have nearly 20 client sites1 that I manage. Before switching to my iPad as my primary device I used to use Coda on the Mac and configured each site to have it’s “local” files in a folder on DropBox. It worked very well as I could switch between my MacMini and my MBP and know that the local files were always in sync. With iOS, Coda does not offer DropBox as a choice for the local files. Instead they are truly local files on the iPad but luckily they are shared with Transmit on the iPad. My super easy solution to back-up these files to DropBox? I open up Transmit on the iPad and connect to my MacMini which is always on as my media server. I can very easily sync multiple folders, files, etc. to the DropBox “Websites” folder on the Mac and it all goes to the cloud automatically. It’s not as easy as it would be if the iOS version of Coda offered DropBox as a “local” file option in the first place but it’s relatively painless and a good example of how a local Mac can serve as both a local back-up and a gateway to DropBox.

  1. Usually only 5 or so are “active” in any given month.