How do I move files *from* my Mac *to* my iPhone?
August 28, 2012 5:58 AM   Subscribe

MacBook -> iPhone Filter: I have a MacBook Pro (running 10.6.8), and I have an iPhone (the last model before Siri; not jail broken and would prefer to keep it that way). Since I spend more time on the Macbook, I generate most of my files there, besides .mp3s (such as documents/text files, PDFs, and .jpegs found on line or taken with Photo Booth, etc.), whereas except for listening to iTunes and making actual calls, I mostly use the iPhone for killing time, or would like to anyway, only I haven't found a good way to move my text files, PDFs, and .jpgs from the MacBook over to the iPhone. How do?

Seriously, I'm a bit confused when it comes to understanding how the iPhone is set up and why:

1) When it comes to moving files, all the discussion I've found seems to be about going *from* iPhone *to* laptop, etc.; yet my needs are pretty much the opposite. Are there any options without making things too complicated?

2) More generally, on the one hand, I hear constantly about what a powerful computer the iPhone is, way beyond just a phone. On the other, the iPhone's desktop kinda baffles me: how come it doesn't look like a small version of my MacBook's desktop and behave like one? I mean, Apple has gotten pretty good at the whole desktop interface over the years, and I've gotten pretty good at using it, so why change a good thing?

3) On a related note iTunes seems to work well enough for music (I don't play games or watch video/movies/tv, but I'm guessing it does fine with those media too), but it seems a strange interface for other sorts of files, like those I mentioned above. Or if Apple wants the iPhone to be just a revved-up media player, then why add all the much-hyped computing power? (BTW, I realized that doing heavy text editing or extended reading of PDFs isn't very practical on the iPhone's tiny screen. Instead, for me it's more about the creature comfort of being able to futz with my files/waste time on the go, etc.)

4) As one concrete example, I've used the MacBook's default note taking app., Stickies, to generate lots of items like grocery lists and call numbers for books to get at the library, but I don't find the Stickies app on my iPhone nor a way to transfer my Stickie notes over to the iPhone in any form. Conversely, the iPhone has apps like Notes and Reminders that seem in the same vein as Stickies, but neither shows up on the MacBook. What am I missing here, which app. should I be using, and why don't the same default apps show up on both machines?

5) Finally, as a second, admittedly pretty trivial example, suppose I have a .jpg on my MacBook desktop that I'd like to attach to a text message I'll be sending from the Messages app on my iPhone. It seems like a plausible idea, but is it possible?

Anyways, apologies for missing the obvious, but that's why I've always preferred Macs…. ;-)
posted by 5Q7 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Apple has gotten pretty good at the whole desktop interface over the years, and I've gotten pretty good at using it, so why change a good thing?

This is a complicated question to answer, but look at the sales—it turns out the iPhone's interface is a lot more popular than the Mac's, and that's where the momentum is.

[W]hy don't the same default apps show up on both machines?

Your iPhone 4 was released in 2010. The version of OS X on your MacBook Pro is from 2009, before that particular device existed, and there have been two major updates since then (10.7, aka Lion, and 10.8, aka Mountain Lion). In the past three years Apple has done a lot to better integrate the applications between the Mac and operating system that runs on your phone, so there are now applications for Messages and Reminders and Notes that will sync right up with your phone using a system Apple calls iCloud. In many cases, the desktop has gotten more iPhone-like, including a view that shows your applications in a big grid the way they do on the phone.

If your Mac is compatible, consider upgrading to Mountain Lion via the App Store. It's $20. Make sure you've backed everything up first using Time Machine, and double-check that any older applications you're using will be compatible (like old versions of Office, Adobe Creative Suite, etc) so you won't get an expensive surprise.

An interim solution is to use an application like Dropbox, which gives you a folder on your Mac where you can dump pictures, PDFs, etc, and have them accessible via their app on your phone.
posted by bcwinters at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Basically, the simplest way to have the same files on your phone and your computer is a generic cloud storage account like Dropbox. You put a file into the Dropbox folder on your computer, and within seconds it is uploaded and available in the Dropbox app on your phone.

I believe the Notes and Remiders apps are more integrated with later versions of OSX, so if you can upgrade I would recommend it.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:17 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Notes and Reminders will sync between your Mac and your iOS device (using iCloud) if you are running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on your Mac.

Otherwise, you can drag and drop files into iOS apps using the Apps > File Sharing section of iTunes (visible when your iPhone is plugged in and selected in the left-hand sidebar of iTunes). Or set up Dropbox, as mentioned above.

iOS was designed to hide the file system from the user. Rather than using a file to launch an app (as you do on the Mac) iOS expects you to launch an app first to view a file. That's the fundamental disconnect between the two operating systems, and is at the root of a lot of these inconsistencies.
posted by Nothlit at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2012

1) Nthing Dropbox
2) Because Apple's stated purpose with their OSes is to make the desktop more like the mobile, not the other way around
3) Either Dropbox or Google Drive (formerly known as Docs) might be a better fit here
4) You can upgrade your desktop OS as mentioned, or use a free service and app like Evernote, or use Dropbox/Drive
5) You'd probably have to sync it via iPhoto

FWIW (and not to start an argument), the whole file manager thing is one of the reasons I prefer Android. Apple doesn't like people looking behind the curtains of iOS, and most people probably don't care to.

(on preview, basically what Nothlit said)
posted by zombieflanders at 6:25 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think Dropbox is an interim solution. I think it is the solution. Once Dropbox is integrated into your laptop's file system and you get used to using it for active docs, then the iPhone/iPad starts to feel like a window into that directory. The limited functionality of the iDevice begins to match its limited capabilities.

It's also possible to use programs like Simplenote and WriteRoom to keep information flowing between phone/pad and laptop/desktop. I use Simplenote for daily notetaking and WriteRoom for project-specific brainstorming. Both work really well, in my opinion.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:29 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might be helpful to know that Notes synchs to the Mail app. Open it up and there's a tab for Notes. I thought this was really unintuitive, especially because I don't regularly use the Mail app, but knowing this would at least allow you to use Notes on your phone as easily as you use Stickies right now.
posted by estlin at 6:30 AM on August 28, 2012

DropBox. I have ALL my work files in DropBox. At a meeting, I can pull up documents, spreadsheets, etc quick as a wink. The sync is automatic and almost instant.
posted by HuronBob at 7:44 AM on August 28, 2012

Fourthing (?) SimpleNote *and* Dropbox
posted by omnidrew at 8:09 AM on August 28, 2012

If you don't want to use Dropbox for any reason, my approach is to drag my documents into iBooks. You can do this with PDFs easily; for other stuff, I've been [sigh] creating ePubs (using Pages), which is a bit of a pain, but it works.

To create ePubs, I start with the ePub Best Practices document described on this Apple support page. I paste my notes and whatnot into there, then export the document as an ePub.

Once you have a PDF or ePub you want to copy onto your iPhone, just do this: If it's a PDF or ePub, iTunes will automatically add it to iBooks for you. I then go into iBooks and move things around, if necessary - so I have a folder/bookshelf for notes for appointments, and if I've just copied over an ePub with notes about an appointment I have, I'll go into iBooks and move it into that folder.

I wish it were a lot more seamless, too. This approach is clunky, but it works well enough for my needs.
posted by kristi at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2012

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