When Steve Jobs announced iCloud in June, the thing that struck me more than anything else is that at last Apple was providing a methodology to allow easy “intra-personal collaboration” – that is an easy method of syncing documents you are working on between your various devices – desktop, notebook, iPad and iPhone. All the other features (calendar, address book, iTunes in the Cloud, etc) are great, but for me the real promise lays in the integration of iWork, and third party apps into iCloud.
When iCloud was launched in October, I was pleased with how simple it was to setup iCloud on all my devices, and how well it works for iWork documents on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad). I guess I wasn’t alone however in my disappointment that the MacOS versions of iWork don’t support iCloud, meaning a clunky download/upload process would need to be put in place everytime I wanted to work on a document on my Macs.
Lets face it, for many professionals productive work generally involves most stuff being done on a desktop or notebook computer, with refinements, edits and updates being done on-the-go. So syncing between two iOS devices is nice, even necessary, but it is certainly not efficient.
I guess its only been a bit over a month, but the iCloud Documents in the Cloud concept is more gimmicky than anything else if there is no real ability to seamlessly work on documents, regardless of which device you’re working on. The magic will start to happen when I can pick up where I left in a document from one device to another.
So I was really pleased when the folks at Information Architects Inc announced yesterday that the iPad and Mac versions of their iA Writer app now support iCloud.
iA Writer has long supported DropBox syncing, and thats a good way of moving documents back and forth. I use DropBox for many things now, but I’ve always had the feeling that iCloud may one day be something even more special.
This post represents my first use of iCloud and iA Writer. I have so far worked on this post across several devices. I started on my iMac, moved to my iPad, and then to my MacBook. I am back on my iMac now. Whilst this sounds geeky, it does represent how I might very well work on posts and articles.
Unlike DropBox where I have to save documents in a special Finder folder than then syncs, in iCloud I can save anywhere on my system, and just tell iA Writer to add the document to iCloud. Shortly thereafter it appears on my other devices. Edits can be done, and things move back and forth quite nicely.
iA Writer is a lovely app. It is a simple text editor with mark-down capabilities. The screen is simple – black text on a plain white background. Using MacOS Lion’s fullscreen mode, there are no distractions – a really useful feature when writing. It has a similar mode on the iPad, taking away the top bar with its many distrations – not the least of which is the time!
Its too early for me to say whether I like iCloud or DropBox better, but I am certainly intrigued by the possibility of iCloud. Once its really working, it will easier for non-technical people to use, as there are no special setup steps. Just save a file and tell the app to put it in iCloud. When you no longer need the document in the cloud, simply tell the app to remove it from iCloud, then you’re done. Simple as that. But I can say that iA Writer is a winner for me, and for now I’ll keep using that with iCloud, and leave DropBox in other apps and for general data.