Mac - That Syncing Feeling

5/19/2012 3:44:40 PM

On Apple’s plans for document storage and personal sharing

Craig Grannell is a writer, designer, occasional musician and permanent loudmouth. He’s owned Macs since 1996, when Apple was facing certain doom, and is therefore pleasantly surprised by its current success. Find Craig on Twitter at Craiggrannell.

Unsurprisingly, given my Mac ownership and the fact I write about all things Apple for various publication, I trawl the Mac App Store on a semi-regular basis. Although I still use other ways to discover software I might find interesting (such as Twitter, MacUpdate, and, obviously, superb psychic powers), the Mac App Store’s curation-oriented bent is helpful in filtering the insanely large number of apps available for the platform.

Description:  Apple Plans Further China Investment

Apple, trying to be increasingly accommodating, also often provides themed pages on the store, such as ‘retro games’ and ‘apps for photographers’. One such page that recently caught my eye was ‘better together’. The badge on the store’s home page looked rather like an Apple advert, or the results of my office after someone with OCD had done a tidy up: a Mac, iPhone and iPad were face-on, against a white background. A click provided a list of apps that showcased three different kinds of communication between Apple devices: ‘pair and control’, sync and iCloud.

Each of these offers a different kind of thinking when it comes to the relationship between iOS and the Mac. The first – pair and control – assumes (for relevant apps) an iOS device is an accessory and secondary to a Mac. But the others were all about working with data across various devices, in a seamless manner. Some of the apps – for example, Reeder (a Google Reader client) and Evernote – clearly rely on existing and well-known cloud-based systems to feed data to local clients. However, it was interesting to see Apple leading its page with iCloud. The selection of compatible products was small, but along with Apple’s own photography apps (iPhoto, Aperture), it included DJ controller djay, graphics app SketchBook Pro and writing tool iA Writer.

With iCloud ‘officially’ arriving on OS X as of Mountain Lion, I can only image this selection of apps will be much, much bigger in a year’s time, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Having data easily accessible, no matter what device you’re using and where you are, is clearly a major plus, and I’ve increasingly fallen for Dropbox over the past few years. But I’m also a slave to the file system, which is clearly something Apple’s trying to do away with, replacing it with an app-specific flat ‘gallery’ of documents, with relatively limited iOS-style folders for collections of items. Assuming iCloudd is robust (and, given my experience with iCal, that’s not a given), being able to pick up a document on a new device where you left off on a different one will be a boon. But really, iClould’s going to have to be more than merely robust – spectacular, even – to convince me to ditch the traditional app-agnostic file system and Dropbox.

App of the fortnight: xScope

Although the Mac App Store hasn’t quite followed the iOS equivalent’s race to the bottom regarding pricing, many of the niche apps a re pretty cheap; it therefore comes as a bit of a shock when you discover one costing $30 that’s essentially just for ‘measuring stuff’ on your screen. But that’s xScope, and it’s utterly fantastic. It boasts various rulers and guides, including one that automatically and intelligently finds the dimensions of on-screen elements, and there’s also a basic app for firing windows to iOS devices. For the home Mac user banging out the odd letter in Pages, there’s no value here, but for any jobbing designer, xScope will pay for itself within a day or two at the most. Find out more about the app at

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