Monday, February 18, 2019

Moving Files Around on an iPhone and iPad

In a recent post I discussed a slick way to transfer files among iOS, Android, PC, and Mac wirelessly at sea (away from the internet)—or at home as needed using your normal wifi connection. The process works great, and away from the internet you can use any local network of your own. The Iridium Go device creates such a network, as does the RedPort Optimizer and the Ocens SideKick—the latter two being devices used to wirelessly share files downloaded from a sat phone to apps on other devices.

We also show (in a video linked in the post) that the $20 HooToo portable router does this job fine if you do not have any of those satcom instruments, and it is literally plug and play. Just use the USB cable provided to plug it into your computer or a phone charger, and you will see, in the wifi setup of all devices in the room, a new network (TripMateNano-xxx) that you can use to share files.

At this point, if you only care about Apple products (iOS devices and Mac Computers), you are done.  Connect all devices to your local network and use Airdrop to move them around.

The bigger challenge is connecting PCs and Android devices into the Apple devices, and that takes a couple extra easy steps.

We also need a free app from the App Store to carry out the transfers. There are several free options. Such things are also numerous on an Android system. Transfers then work among iOS, Android, PC, and Mac... or whatever else you have with a wireless connection option.

The only snag in this system, it turns out, is handling the files within the iPhone or iPad itself. This step is tied to the app you choose to do the transfer.  The first free app we tried (described in the post) worked fine for a while, then failed.  Now we have found a better one called, fairly enough, File Transfer App.  Also free, and so far I have not seen any ads.

Having now attempted several videos to illustrate moving files around in the phone, I realize we need an outline of what it involves and a review of how the phones work with files.

• Phones deal with photos and videos in a special way. Generally if they see anything with an image or video extension they try to force it to the Photos directory on the phone.  That is not a problem, because all of the transfer apps we are dealing with assume the main thing you want to transfer is photos, music, and videos so they have this all dialed in. Usually with special buttons for each of these and then another button for "files."  The navigator can need to transfer images, but we are mostly involved with files: GRB, GPS, TXT, PDF, etc.

• The primary app for moving files on an iOS device is called, simply, Files. I believe this is a stock app that comes with the iOS, but not sure since this one can be deleted, and most stock apps cannot be deleted. If Files is not there (a blue folder icon) then it can be downloaded from the App Store.  The attached video shows the use of this app.

• We also must be aware that there are only certain iOS apps that can work with external files. Any GRIB viewer app is an example, as they download and display GRIB files and then save them, and some offer the opportunity to share these files. A navigation program is another example, as they can create and then share GPX files of routes, tracks, and waypoints. Likewise some can import a GPX file created elsewhere. And the Mail program is another one that can send and receive attached files.

• Some but not all apps that work with external files provide access to them through the Files app, but many others do not, i.e., ebooks apps Kindle and Apple Books keep books in their own private libraries.

• Email attachments such as GRIB files from Saildocs can be transferred without using the Files app.

• In fact, any file in the phone that can be shared can usually be done without the Files app, but the Files app is often a convenient holding tank.

• In many cases the extension of the file is associated with an appropriate app on your phone. This facilitates some aspects of moving files around.

If we get, for example, an email attachment with extension .pdf, then a long press on the attachment will reveal a list of all the apps that can read a PDF file. When you choose to open the PDF in Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) for example, it will copy that file into its own library. On an iPhone—in contrast to an Android phone—that then is a dead end for the file. You can access it from the ADE app but can't move it from there, only delete it.  If you had subsequently deleted the email that had it as an attachment, then that file is gone.

What you can do is, instead of immediately loading into a specific app, save the file in the Files app, just putting it any convenient folder. Then from there you can open it later in any of several apps.

The contrast with Android is, we can go into the Android file directory and see where ADE is storing their library files, and so on, which is not doable in an iOS device.

• The other two videos show how the transfers work, the main step left to cover is the preparation of the files in the phone so the app can send them. Here are some scenarios to be demo-ed.

1) Import a GRIB file as an email attachment and move it LuckGrib folder or open it directly from the email.

2) Transfer a LuckGrib GRIB file to a transfer app so it can be sent to a PC.

3) Move a Bad Elf GPX track to Files app then share it to MotionX GPS

4) Take a screencap or photo and send it to the Transfer app via Files app (only option).

A video demo of the above 4 operations.

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