14 August 2012

iOS project organization thoughts

There is one big thing I find missing when working on my iPad.

On my Mac, I might have a directory with these subdirectories and files.

  • Skylands
    • For the players
      • Character Sheet.ink
      • Player Map.hxm
      • NPC Pictures
        • Abe the patron.jpg
        • Bob the retainer.jpg
        • Chuck the merchant.jpg
      • Q and A.html
      • Player Guide.pages
    • DM eyes only
      • Dungeon key.md
      • Dungeon map.ink
      • Reference.numbers
      • Secrets.md
      • Unmet NPC Pictures
        • Victor the minor villian.jpg
        • Xavier the major villian.jpg

There you see files created and edited by about seven different apps. For the most part, I don’t need the apps to see or access the files belonging to another app. I put all these files from different apps into the same directory, however, for organizational purposes. Everything I collect or create or edit for this project is kept together.

On iOS, data is generally organized by app. At a basic level, this is good. Plus it avoids the complications of a traditional file system which is both hard for many people to understand and which may not serve most people as much as the complication it brings. On the iPhone especially, this “each app manages its own docs” tends to work well for me. On the iPad, though, I really miss the ability to organize everything for a project in one place.

You might be able to workaround this a bit by using an app like GoodReader or FileBrowser. (There are a bunch more too.) These apps essentially work like a file system. The problem, though, is that the interaction between this file system and other apps is limited.

Apple could provide a system-wide file system and a Finder app. Lots of people have been calling for that, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

Maybe there could a project organizer app. Other apps could let it know what documents they have. The projects app would then let the user arrange these into projects. Then, tapping a document name/icon in a project would launch the document’s app and load the document. The actual data remains managed by the originating app. The projects app just provides a way to bring together and organize links to documents inside multiple apps.


Brendan said...

If you don't mind the general quirks of filesystems (for example, needing to use links when something should belong in two folders/categories), Dropbox works pretty well for this on the iPad, and has the added benefit of keeping the data consistent over multiple platforms.

I tend to treat the iPad side as read-only though, and do actual content creation on a desktop Mac. I don't know if any iPad apps are able to save data back to Dropbox reliably. And of course it's a semi-proprietary service.

For what you describe in your post though (RPG campaign materials that need to open in different apps), I think Dropbox would work fine.

I still find context switching and PDF page turning to be too slow for active refereeing on the iPad though (and I do have the most recent one).

Robert Fisher said...

When you say links, do you mean Mac aliases, Unix-style hard links, or Unix-style symbolic links? Or something else? (Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve looked closely at aliases since OS X to see how they’re implemented.)

For good or ill, I depend on doing creation from the iPad. And vector graphics I actually only create on the iPad right now. Hexographer is the one thing I have to use the Mac for. I’m also currently only editing my system doc on the Mac; I’m considering whether editing on the go is worth living within the limits of Pages for iPad. (Though, in a pinch, there’s always iTeleport to operate the Mac remotely.)

I do use the iPad when DMing, but I can certainly see how it could be too much latency for other DMs/groups.

Brendan said...

You could use hard links or symlinks for the same purpose. Hard would probably be more elegant, but then you run into cross-filesystem problems. I'm not familiar with the implementation of Mac aliases, so I wouldn't rely on them (primarily a Unix person, in terms of knowledge, though most of my interface devices are Apple products).

I just don't type fast enough on the iPad to make large-scale text production pleasant. And the autocorrect often gets in the way.

Robert Fisher said...

Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Auto-Correction -> off

I’ve got a Bluetooth keyboard. (A tablet that I can occasionally convert to a laptop is more useful to me than a laptop.) Which works well for me. Voice dictation works well for me too, though there’s a lot of situations in which it is unfortunately impractical.

That said, anything that could encourage me to be more concise is probably a good thing. ^_^