Sharing files between apps

Q: Has there been any word on sharing files between applications on the iPad? Will I be able to open a Pages file with another word-processing application? Will I be able to download an email attachment and edit it? How will file sharing work between the computer and the iPad? I use Dropbox, which simply allows me to sync files between computers, and while there’s a Dropbox app for the iPhone, it’s basically a means to access files stored on line and is read-only. It would be nice to share files without having to drag and drop them back and forth so that when I’m finished editing a file on my computer it’s available for editing (after wireless sync) with my iPad, without copying and pasting into a separate folder.

– Wes

A: The information that is available at this point indicates that it will be possible to have documents opened by more than one application. The iPad is expected to use a shared document folder that can be accessed by any application and there is apparently a framework in the 3.2 OS that will allow documents to be associated with applications. Whether or not the iPad will have a file browser application is unclear, but it would seem that as long as a third-party application such as a word processor can register to support a given file type then it will be able to open that file.

File sharing on the iPad itself is expected to work via USB mass storage access where the shared file space will be directly accessible to a computer connected via USB. There has been no word on any kind of wireless file transfer capabilities in the iPad OS itself, but it’s safe to assume that third-party developers will be pretty quick to provide this capability if Apple doesn’t. It should be a relatively trivial matter for most of the existing iPhone OS file storage applications to add support for reading and writing files into the shared storage space. Even the cloud-sync apps such as Dropbox could be updated to provide this capability, although the lack of background support in the iPhone OS means you’d still have to actually open the app in order to sync your files with the cloud.

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