This is the first in a 7 part series about basic apps needed to outfit an iPad into a serviceable work machine for a lawyer. First up: File Storage and Access.
File Storage and Access. When I talk about file storage and access I’m talking about a way of getting your documents onto your iPad. Sure, Apple provides a way to move files on and off the iPad using iTunes but after using it a few times, I concluded that there must be a better way. Fortunately, there is.
All of the alternatives discussed below use the cloud (aka, Internet) as the medium through which your files are transferred. Each of these alternatives in one form or another provide you with a certain amount of storage to do with what you will. These storage services are typically paired with an app for accessing those files or in other cases, app developers build in compatibility with those file access services. In my experience, most work quite well and in many cases, the services described below will work similarly enough that you won’t be able to tell the difference. That said, I do have my own favorite which I mention below along with a couple other great alternatives.
Yes, I can’t seem to go more than a couple posts without waxing rhapsodic about Dropbox. As hinted above, signing up for a free Dropbox account puts a folder on your computer and, with the free app (iTunes link), on your iPad as well. Anything you throw in Dropbox at your computer shows up on your iPad and vice versa. Install Dropbox on all your computers and all your mobile devices to have a virtual filing cabinet everywhere you go. What’s better, the starter 2 GB of storage is free. If you have significant file needs, you can get more space for a fee (e.g., 50 GB for $100/yr, 100 GB for $200/yr). Dropbox has north of 4 million users which means that app developers often include Dropbox compatibility as quickly as possible.
The other big name you see providing this service is Box.net. Apps that can access files from these types of services very often support Box.net in addition to Dropbox. While Dropbox and Box.net provide some of the same basic functions, Box.net appears to position itself more of an enterprise solution.
To be sure, there are lots of options in this area. Apple provides its own iDisk solution as part of MobileMe. Google Docs is also a common alternative. Considering most people already have a Google account of some sort, this is nice simply to avoid having one more account to keep track of. This will be an even more interesting alternative when considered alongside the ability edit your Google Docs on the iPad (though some reports suggest that iPad editing of Google Docs isn’t ready for prime time). Many apps also allow downloading files to the iPad from any webDAV server.
When buying apps use files, be sure to check whether the app works with your file storage/access solution of choice. Some lawyers may wonder about the ethical issues of these types of online services. While the answer is beyond the scope of this blog, to me the issue seems more conceptual than real for the modern lawyer.
So, if you invest in my recommendation, Dropbox will set you back exactly $0: heck of a deal. Next time, we’ll look at basic writing tools. Check out the series outline for info about what else we’ll be covering.