Files App: File Management for the iPad

For many people, the iPad has become their everyday computer. Browsing the web, checking email and watching videos are all tasks that the iPad is incredibly suited for. However, one of the features missing from iOS that is readily available on Android is a file management system. Though, with the introduction of iCloud and Versions in OS X, it’s obvious that Apple doesn’t think too highly of deep folder systems, and doesn’t wish to include any form of file system in iOS.

However, there are times when it would be nice to access all of your files in one convenient place, and developers Sonico Mobile felt strongly enough about this concept that they created Files App. Hit to jump to see if Files App can make file management work in iOS.

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Getting Started

When you launch Files App, it immediately feels like it’s part of iOS with the familiar weave background. You’ll be prompted to tap the + icon in the upper-left and then tap the “Add some sample files” button, which will then load various content to help familiarize yourself with how Files App works.

You'll need to load up sample content when you initially launch the app.

You’ll need to load up sample content when you initially launch the app.

Adding Content

Files App offers a multitude of methods to add content, all of which are performed by tapping the + icon I mentioned previously. You can add photos and videos from the Photos app; login with your Dropbox, Google Drive and/or Box account; or enter a URL for a file you wish to download. You can also send attachments in emails to Files App, or add files from Safari by using the Share button and tapping the Files App icon.

The Add Files menu offers numerous sorting options to make it easy to find the content you wish to import.

The Add Files menu offers numerous sorting options to make it easy to find the content you wish to import.

If you wish to transfer files from your computer, you can choose the Mac or PC option under the Add File menu. Files App will then provide you with an IP address, which you will need to enter into your computer’s browser. Once loaded, you can simply drag files from your computer into the browser, which will then download onto your iPad. It’s worth noting that this method only works if you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network. There’s also a method to add files via iTunes, which is the smart option if you want to add a large movie file.

Importing content from a computer over WiFi works well, but isn't recommended for very large files.

Importing content from a computer over WiFi works well, but isn’t recommended for very large files.

While Files App does work with cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Box, it’s really a one-way relationship that requires you to download content from those services to be saved on your iPad. Likewise, if you import photos or videos from the Photos app, you’re essentially creating duplicate files. Therefore, if you own a 16GB (or even 32GB) iPad, you’ll need to be conscious of the amount of space you’re using to store files in the app.

Folders & Content Management

If the Apple weave background doesn’t make Files App feel like a native iOS app to you, the folder system most assuredly will. Similar to iOS, you can create folders by performing a tap and hold on one file until it’s selected, and then drag it on top of another file (you can also create a folder by tapping + button, and then the New Folder option). Once performed, you’ll need to name the new folder. What’s different about Files App, though, is that folders can be placed within folders — achieved by using the same method.

Files App’s design certainly takes a number of cues from iOS.

If you have a lot of files to manage, you certainly don’t want to drag them individually into a folder. Instead, tap the Edit button in the upper-right, then tap and highlight the files you wish to move, and finally tap the Move button the upper-left and select your desired destination. From this menu you can also delete, share or duplicate (under the More button) files, and even create a .zip file, which is a great feature that I’d really love to see get baked right into iOS.

You can initiate changing the name of a folder or file by simply tapping on its current name.

You can initiate changing the name of a folder or file by simply tapping on its current name.

Consuming Your Content

Most of the files you add to Files App can also be consumed (so to speak) within the app itself. Many video file types will playback within the app, making it a great way to store movies without needing to sync with iTunes. Photo slideshows within the app are nearly identical to experience found in the Photos app. The manner in which you view text documents and PDF files is no different in comparison to opening said files in Safari or an email.

Files App is great for reading text or PDF documents.

Files App is great for reading text or PDF documents.

If you choose to add music or audio files, a built-in player is available for playback, which is triggered by tapping on any audio file. However, in my experience it’s best to steer clear from this feature, as the player is limited to playing files located within the same folder. If you’re the type that doesn’t mind keeping all of your music in a single folder as a giant playlist, this won’t be an issue. In contrast, I prefer to separate my music by artist and then albums. Therefore, I’m only capable of listening to one album at a time. Another minus is that you can’t use the app to browse other content during audio playback.

The audio playback feature is nice to have, but is rather limited in functionality.

The audio playback feature is nice to have, but is rather limited in functionality.

The Bottom Line

Files App is certainly an interesting concept, but ultimately not one I find useful for managing all of my files. When it comes music, the limited player doesn’t offer much incentive to move away from using the first-party Music app. Likewise, while I like the concept of managing photos with the app, but the idea of importing and then deleting photos from my Camera Roll seems like a giant hassle.

However, I do think that Files App is useful for managing text documents and PDF files. In addition, I like the idea of using the app to add video files to my iPad, thus bypassing iTunes syncing. With that said, I can always use Dropbox or Google Drive to store documents and video files (the save for offline options would work just fine for viewing video files when I’m not connected to WiFi), which is exactly what I’ll continue to do.


Summary

Store and manage all of your files.

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  • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

    Nice write-up Jesse. From what I’ve seen here, I think they’ll have a very hard time selling when there are apps suchs as Documents from Readdle, free and far superior in my opinion.

    • http://www.recapps.net Jesse Virgil

      Thanks Pedro! I checked out Documents from Readdle when it was released and found it to be a well put together app. I ended up not sticking with it because I really like using Dropbox’s app, which is really the only service I use to manage most of my files (I use Drive, but mainly to house first draft’s of my reviews).

      But in comparison to Files App, I agree that Documents is superior.

    • Albert Kinng

      Yep. I bought it but Documents ended up living in my iPad for ever now. Bye bye Files App!