An iPad – iCloud – iMac Workflow

When the iPad was originally announced my first (maybe second) thought was buh-bye MacBook Pro. Don’t get me wrong, I love my MBP, but I’d replace it with a 27″ iMac in a heartbeat if I didn’t need to work sometimes when I’m traveling.

Having no user-accessible file system on the iPad, and relying on tethering to iTunes for syncing data also seemed painful. Particularly the file transfer part of using something like Pages to create/edit documents on both iPad and Mac. For the sake of brevity I’ll refer to Pages but this goes for Numbers and Keynote as well.

Dropbox.com eased the file transfer to some degree. And now that iCloud is in the mix, it’s even better. But issues remain.

Even if you stay in Apple’s e-cosphere it’s not as seamless as it should be needs to be.

iCloud syncing with PagesPages for iOS devices is a solid lightweight word processor but there remains a disconnect between it and the desktop. Sure, you can now login to iCloud.com/iwork and anything that you were working on using your iPad will be there. But you have to download that version to your desktop before opening it. How do you then share that with others? You can email them a copy. Or post it to iWork.com, where they can view, annotate or download (with proper permissions set) a copy. But it’s a copy.

And what about collaborating with Office users? Not good… particularly if they use a font that’s not available in Pages, or hope to track changes made to their document.

So what does work?

If you can stay in Pages for iOS for document creation and editing, you’re golden. If you only need to start documents on your iPad to be finished by you or a colleague on a Mac, also golden. You can even send them a Word file. But until Pages for Mac can work on iCloud stored files the same way Pages for iOS can, there’s a major file versioning hiccup that spoils the experience. In fact there’s a major versioning issue with that iCloud document even in iOS. There’s only the last version unless you copy it at various points.

And if you prefer to use Office… I really can’t see Microsoft coming up with an iOS version of Office apps anytime soon. BUT you might be able to spend more money with MS and sign up for their Office365.com service ($6/mo for Plan P) and use Office Web Apps in Mobile Safari for your remote document creation needs.

There are other issues with dropping the MBP for the iPad: storage and intensive image editing give me pause. AKA the photographer’s workflow. But there are pretty sweet iApps for remote file access. And I could make better use of my dropbox account for storing files via the iPad…

Anyway, here’s a list of useful resources related to this topic:

The obvious isn’t lost on me… Apple strives to be something my parents can use with ease. The workflows I would find useful would be either lost or too complicated for them. And maybe iWork apps for Mac will roll in the iCloud functionality with a future release, and even address versioning of a “live” document. Could happen. But I don’t see Microsoft getting into the App Store anytime soon.
Guess I’ll wait for the iPad 3 and a more mature iCloud…

“Create Better Documents”

Talk about a streamlined solution to a narrow niche. This v.1 release looks like it could be useful for approval processes, like design iteration or short copywriting needs, and maybe planning stages, but I wonder if it can handle more complex or lengthier document collaboration.

Free for now. I’m intrigued.