Review: Veiosoft DataCase
On August 19, 2008, we reviewed a collection of four different file storage applications for the iPhone and iPod touch in a roundup entitled iPhone Gems: Every File Storage App, Reviewed, updating it on August 22, 2008 with two new entries. This review contains a review of one application from that roundup; additional comparative details can be found in the original full story.
Though iPods have included this feature for years, Apple did away with Disk Mode—a way to store non-media files for transfer to a different computer—when it released the iPhone and iPod touch. Fortunately, as with other features missing from the iPhone and iPod touch in their native configuration, enterprising third-party developers have stepped in to fill the void, albeit in somewhat different ways than you may expect. New apps not only store and transport your files, but also let you actually view them on the device itself if they are in a supported format.
However, these tools don’t actually provide the old-style “Disk Mode” that the traditional iPod models do—rather than operating over USB and appearing as an external storage device, these applications all work over Wi-Fi using various network protocols. Your iPhone or iPod touch and your computer will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network if you want to transfer files to and from your device.
DataCase was the third entry in the App Store offerings, arriving shortly after Files. Much like Files, DataCase presents your iPhone or iPod touch to your computer as a network file server. However, unlike Files, DataCase uses the AFP, HTTP and FTP protocols, rather than WebDAV. In particular, its use of the AFP protocol combined with Bonjour advertising means that it will seamlessly appear in Mac OS X Finder as a network device without any additional effort required by the end user. In fact, starting DataCase requires no pre-configuration—you’re simply presented with the main DataCase screen.
This screen displays a listing of space occupied by each of the different document categories supported by DataCase and the amount of free space available. The large central ring also serves as a form of pie chart to graphically indicate how much space is taken up by your different file types as you fill the device. At the bottom of the screen, the IP address of your device is displayed for connecting via HTTP (from your web browser) or FTP (using an FTP client). For Mac users, however, the use of AFP makes the connection to your computer almost completely seamless. As long as your iPhone or iPod touch is connected to the same network as your computer, simply starting DataCase will cause it to show up as a network device in your Finder window.
Selecting your iPhone from the Finder window will present a list of “Volumes” present. By default, these include Drop Box and Shared Files, although you can configure additional virtual volumes (up to 16 in total) from DataCase itself. Rather than using a user name or password configuration, DataCase provides security by prompting you on the iPhone or iPod touch each time a new connection request is made to your device. Selecting one of the default volumes from Finder will pop-up a window in the DataCase application prompting you to accept or reject the incoming connection.
Accepting the connection will allow all files on that particular volume to be accessed via Finder. Note that requests for access are approved on a per-volume basis each time a new connection is established to DataCase. Once you are connected to DataCase from Finder, you can copy, move, rename, add and delete files as you normally would for any other network volume.
Windows users may find little benefit from the AFP support in DataCase, as most Windows workstations do not have AFP enabled by default. Instead, DataCase provides FTP access for Windows users, although the process is not quite as seamless as it is on Mac OS X. Windows users must manually connect to the FTP URL displayed in the DataCase application in much the same way as they do for the Files application. Once this FTP connection is established, however, files can be managed through Windows Explorer in the same way as they can for any other network volume.
To actually view your files in DataCase, you tap either on the specific category of files you would like to view (ie, “Documents” or “Photos”) or simply tap on the large folder icon in the center of the screen to browse all file types. The first browse screen will show each of your virtual volumes, and you can then drill down from there into each individual volume to view your files.
From the top-level volumes screen, you can also edit the properties of existing volumes and create new ones. DataCase supports up to 16 volumes and each volume can be configured with individual security settings, including whether it is even visible from your computer, whether DataCase prompts for connections to it, and the level of read/write access available when connected to it. In addition, an “iTunes Backup” flag allows you to determine whether the files contained on this volume are automatically backed up by iTunes as part of its normal iPhone and iPod touch backup process.
Browsing and viewing files on the device is handled in much the same way as it is for the other applications, though DataCase lacks support for Apple’s iWork format. Other common formats are supported, including JPG, PDF, HTML, text, and Microsoft Office documents, as well as any video or audio file format that could otherwise be transferred by iTunes.
You can delete files directly from the device interface in the usual swipe-and-tap manner, but you cannot move files between folders or create new folders directly on the device—for this you will have to return to your Finder or Windows Explorer interface. The Filter button in the bottom-right corner of the browse screen can be used to filter by file type, but unlike Files does not provide any additional searching capabilities.
To view a file, simply tap on it and DataCase will open a file viewer window in much the same way as FileMagnet and Files.
Turning the iPhone or iPod touch sideways will render the display in landscape mode, however unlike the other applications we’ve reviewed, DataCase reorients the entire user interface into landscape view.
In fact, DataCase can run entirely in landscape mode. As an additional nice touch, when in landscape mode the file sizes are also displayed beside each file.
In addition to reading and writing files via AFP or FTP, DataCase also provides support for reading/viewing your files through your browser using HTTP, simply by pointing your browser at the supplied HTTP URL shown on the main DataCase screen. A basic HTTP listing of your files and folders will be shown, and you can browse, view and download files directly from the device.
DataCase stores its additional settings under the iPhone or iPod touch Settings screen. From here you can turn each protocol on and off individually, set whether the file size is always shown—as opposed to only being shown in landscape mode—and choose a color scheme. Additionally, you can also set DataCase to prevent your iPhone or iPod touch from going to sleep when it’s running, a useful feature since your device will disconnect from your computer when it enters sleep mode.
In our testing, DataCase rendered files at about the same speed as FileMagnet, and had no problem loading and rendering our 27 MB Free iPod + iPhone Book 4 test file in about 10 seconds. Like FileMagnet, some minor lagging was notable with this large file when rotating and scrolling, but this again was reasonable considering the size of the file and the amount of graphical content contained inside. Typical Office document files and average-sized PDF files loaded and rendered without any noticeable delays.
In summary, DataCase is a very simple and straightforward app for transferring and viewing your files, particularly for Mac users with its AFP and Bonjour support providing seamless integration with the Mac OS X Finder; it rates an A- for those using Mac computers. Windows users may want to take a look as well for some of its more advanced volume management features, but won’t find it quite as seamless, the reason it rates slightly lower on this platform. The lack of support for iWork documents is the only other significant limitation to DataCase, which will hopefully be addressed in a future update.