Living with iCloud

30 September, 2012
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The late Steve Jobs once proclaimed that iCloud was going to be one of the biggest revolutions for Apple users. It hasn’t been the perfect solution, and has only been available in dribs and drabs, but thanks to Mountain Lion and iOS 6 the vision for iCloud is now complete and we have to learn to live with it.

If you’re running Mountain Lion and using apps such as Pages, Numbers and Keynote you’ll notice that Mountain Lion wants you to store your documents in iCloud. You can opt out but it’s always presented as the first option.

Clearly documents in iCloud has some great advantages. The first and most important is the ability to access and edit your documents from anywhere.

This feature is great for novices who have struggled to keep their documents in sync across multiple devices. But in my view, documents in iCloud is an almost useless feature for those who need anything more than very basic file functionality.

For one, iCloud documents are impossible to share with others beside yourself. Compare storing a document in iCloud to using a mechanism such as Dropbox. If I store a document in Dropbox it’s available across all my devices (Windows and Android included) but importantly I can share it with others, something currently impossible to do with iCloud.

If you’ve got a good grasp of how the file system works, using a system like Dropbox also allows you to have a proper file/folder structure. If you use iCloud your filing ability is limited to a basic one-level hierarchy; you can create iOS-like springboard folders that contain files but you can’t nest folders in folders. So this functionality is all but useless to anyone with more than simple filing requirements.

While documents in the cloud feels like an early implementation that needs time to mature, Photo Stream is awesome. It’s the kind of set-and- forget that make Apple products so great.

If you haven’t turned it on, stop reading this and do it now.

Photo Stream automatically uploads all the photos you take on your iOS device into iCloud and makes them available on all of your other devices. If you enable Photo Stream on your Mac it can automatically import every photo you take on your device for easy storage. Likewise, when you import photos from your DSLR into iPhoto or Aperture it can automatically push these up to iCloud so they are available on all of your iOS devices

Best of all, Photo Stream is free so there’s no reason not to enable it.

I’d love to see Photo Stream become an iPhoto backup. Many of us have multiple iOS devices (an iPhone and iPad) and multiple

computers. I’d love for future iterations of Photo Stream to actually backup my entire iPhoto library and make it available on all my devices, functioning as a complete photo backup and also as a way to work effectively on all my devices.

I know it’s a big ask, given the ever expanding size of iPhoto libraries but it’s a service I think many would pay a reasonable amount for.

Another handy feature I love about iCloud is iCloud Tabs which makes it super easy to pick up browsing wherever you left off on any device. Simply select the iCloud Tab option in the Safari menubar and you’ll get a list of all the open tabs on all your devices.

Reading List, a companion feature to iCloud Tabs, has also been extended through iCloud and now keeps a copy of the web page you added to your reading list and makes it available offline.


2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Bill Poulos says:

    After being a Mobile.Me user and now having tried Apple’s iCloud, I have found it necessary to spend $100 per year for cloud storage and back up services with other providers.

    iCloud is just too restrictive in what documents it will accept for storage. I have found iCloud to be useless except for syncing my Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone, Reminders, and Notes. The iWorks folder just rejects too many document that are not Apple products.

    I am frankly shocked that iCloud can’t do what Dropbox or SpiderOak can already do. Maybe someday, but in the meantime, Apple is leaving a lot of money on the table as I pay Dropbox and SpiderOak to do what Apple iCloud can’t do.

  2. Alex says:

    I have to agree with this article. My solution is to use Documents in the Cloud for working documents and when I’m done to move the document to another location. I think Apple are going to have to look at this in the future. The app based file system is an interesting idea but it’s not really a useful solution in its current form.

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