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How to share files between Mac and iPad

Move your documents to your tablet

Article comments

So you’ve got your iPad and some productivity apps (like Pages, Numbers and Keynote), and you want to start being productive. The first thing you need to do is learn how to get documents off of your Mac and onto the iPad, and then—after you’ve edited them or created new ones on the iPad—how to get them onto your Mac. There are two easy ways to do this, so read on to find out which is best for you.

Use iTunes

For apps that use Apple’s File Sharing, such as Apple’s iWork programs, you can use iTunes 9.1.1 as a conduit to get files on and off the iPad. When your iPad is connected to your Mac and iTunes is open, select your iPad in the iTunes Library and then click on iTunes’ Apps tab. Scroll down to the File Sharing section. (If you have no apps that support File Sharing, this section won’t appear.) You’ll see a list of apps that use File Sharing. Click on one and you’ll see any files you’ve already added to, or created on, the iPad.

What's on your iPad
I've got three apps on my iPad that use File Sharing; with Pages selected, you can see two documents that I've added to the iPad.

Add and delete documents

From here, you can add documents to your iPad in two ways. Click the Add button, navigate to a document in the Open dialog box that appears, select the document, and then click Open. When you click Sync, the file will copy to your iPad. Alternatively, drag a file onto the File Sharing list when the appropriate app is selected in the Apps list. This method copies the files immediately; you don’t need to click Sync for the copying to take place. To delete documents, selecting them in the file list and press Delete.

Import iWork documents

When you’re working with the iWork apps—Pages, Numbers and Keynote—just getting the document onto your iPad isn’t quite enough. You’ll also need to import the files before you can view and edit them. To do this, for example in Pages, open Pages on your iPad and tap the folder icon in the toolbar. You’ll see a list of available documents. Tap a document to import it. Now it’ll now show up in your My Documents list and you can work with the file.

Avoid problems

Note that iWork for iPad apps can't import files with special characters in their titles, such as the forward-slash (/). Remove any special characters from your file names before you try to transfer the files. Unfortunately, importing isn’t always a smooth process—not all fonts and document elements will come through. If you're using Keynote, see this Apple support document for tips to avoid iPad import problems with Keynote. Pages users should check Apple's Pages for iPad FAQ. Numbers users should see Apple's Numbers for iPad FAQ.

Import Pages documents
Here's a list of all the documents on my iPad that Pages can see. Tap on a document's name to import it.

Export iWork documents

Once you’re done editing a document on your iPad, you must export it before you can move it onto your computer using iTunes. Tap My Documents (or My Presentations, or My Spreadsheets, depending on the app). Open the document and then tap the send icon. Tap Export, and then choose a file format. (If you’ve been working with a Pages document, for example, you’ll probably want to choose the same format to save it.)

If you’ve made changes to a document you imported using iTunes, you’ll see a dialog box asking if you want to replace the original. Tap Replace to do this. The app exports the file, and you can now copy it from iTunes back to your Mac.

Note that other iPad apps may not require the import/export procedure. For example, GoodReader, which displays a number of file types including PDFs, Microsoft Office files, and text files, merely requires that files be added via iTunes.

Copy documents onto your Mac

To copy documents from the iPad onto your Mac using File Sharing, connect your iPad to your computer and open iTunes. Select your iPad in the iTunes Library and then click on iTunes’ Apps tab. Scroll down to the File Sharing section and select the appropriate app. Select the file in the list and click Save To. In the Open dialog box that appears, navigate to a folder where you’d like to save the file, and click Open. iTunes copies your file right away. You can also click on a file in the documents list and drag it to a Finder window to copy it.

Use Dropbox

Evenflow recently released an iPad version of their free Dropbox, and if you use this file sharing tool on your desktop, you may find it the ideal way to get files onto your iPad. To use Dropbox, download the software and set up an account. (You’ll need to get a Mac version as well, from the Dropbox Website.) Use the same email address and password on both your Mac and your iPad to link the two.

Dropbox for iPadHere's what the list of files in a Dropbox looks like on an iPad. Dropbox makes it much easier to move files onto your iPad, but isn't much help when you want to get them back on your Mac.

Move files from your Mac to your iPad

When you put files or folders into your Mac’s Dropbox folder, you’ll also see them in Dropbox on your iPad. If you have Dropbox installed on multiple Macs (or PCs), the files will get copied automatically, but on the iPad only a list shows up at first.

Tap a file to open it in Dropbox. The program can display a number of file types, including images, music and video files, Microsoft Office files, PDFs, iWork files and HTML and text files.

Tap the Send icon in the toolbar to choose an application that can open the file. Say you have a Word file, and want to view it in Pages. Tap the file to view it with Dropbox, tap the Send icon in the toolbar, and then tap Pages. Dropbox will transfer the file to Pages, and Pages will import it.

Move files from your iPad to your Mac

To get the document off of the iPad, you’ll either need to use the method described above for iWork apps, or send the document by email. Dropbox doesn’t yet sync files from the iPad to your Dropbox account. If the app you use to view the document works with File Sharing, as the iWork apps do, you can also copy it back to your Mac using iTunes, as explained above.

No matter which way you choose, exchanging files with the iPad requires a bit of work, but with these two methods you’ll find that you can move files to and from your iPad without too much of a hassle.


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Anna Cohen said: very cool wonna see beter wayI usehttpsharekagooncomwhichconverts any document type to htmland stores it online without ads orrequirement to install anything

andy said: Having to use itunes to copy files seems dubious What happens if the file contains sensitive or personal information Do itunes guarantee to delete things if you delete a file

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