DigiDNA has revamped its flagship DiskAid application ($10; for Macintosh and Windows). With this 4.0 upgrade, DiskAid becomes a must-have utility for anyone who expects to frequently share document files between their computer and iOS devices (iPhones, iPod touches and iPads). It certainly improves on Apple’s iTunes-based method.
To use DiskAid, connect your desired iOS device to your Mac via the standard USB-Dock cable and launch DiskAid. From the window that opens, you can now transfer files from your Mac to the iOS device — and vice versa. Just drag-and-drop the desired files and you’re done.
With prior versions of DiskAid, data transfers were restricted to the Media folder on the iOS device (unless you jailbroke your device, as I explain more below). This allowed you to use your iOS device for data storage, acting as a quasi-external drive. Conversely, any files in the Media folder (which includes photos and music files) could be copied, moved or deleted via DiskAid.
The other main use of DiskAid was to transfer documents, such as text or PDF files, from your Mac to an iOS device for viewing on the device. To do this, you copied the files to the DiskAid folder created in the Media folder. These files could be then viewed via DigiDNA’s companion file reader/manager app, FileApp.
Unfortunately, all of this changed when Apple imposed restrictions on FileApp that prevented the app’s access to USB-transferred files. The only file reader app I know of that can still view files in the Media folder is GoodReader. It is limited to items in the Media > DCIM folder (which is the original location of the DiskAid folder). [Update: This feature has been eliminated from the latest versions of GoodReader.]
DiskAid 4.0 changes all of this. With the new DiskAid, USB-based file viewing returns — with a vengeance. DiskAid can now access the separate document storage locations used by a variety of iPhone apps. This includes FileApp as well as Air Sharing and DocsToGo. DiskAid 4.0 can further work with apps that use the file sharing method included as part of iOS 3.2 on the iPad (and also included as part of iOS 4). This means you can use DiskAid to transfer files to and from iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) on your iPad as well as any third-party apps that that employ the same technology (such as GoodReader).
To do a transfer, drag-and-drop any compatible file on your Mac to the folder for the desired app, as listed in the Applications section of DiskAid (see Figure). Immediately thereafter, you can view the transferred file from the relevant app. You can transfer a single file or several files at once. You can also delete items from these app folders.
If you’re like me, you’ll find this is much more convenient than having to launch iTunes for app file sharing (as I described in a previous article). This alone made DiskAid 4.x a must-have purchase.
The one downside of this file sharing approach (for which there is no easy solution, as it is forced by Apple) is there is no way to post a file once to a single location and have it accessible to multiple apps.
DiskAid 4.0 retains its access to the Media folder. Additionally, it provides access to the Camera Roll and Voice Memo folders. With the separate purchase of TuneAid and PicsAid, you can also use DiskAid to copy music and photos — complete with metadata (such as a song’s rating).
I discovered a few glitches in the initial 4.0 release of DiskAid. Happily, all but two have been fixed in the current 4.02 update. The main remaining bug is that, if I connect an iPhone or iPad after launching DiskAid, I periodically get a Connection Error. The work-around is to quit and relaunch DiskAid, while leaving the iOS device attached. Also, the program occasionally crashes.
If you are willing to jailbreak your iOS device, DiskAid offers an added treat: root access to the entire contents of your drive. If you used the popular Spirit jailbreak application, you will need to do one additional step before DiskAid opens up the root level: Launch Cydia (added to your device as part of the jailbreak process) and install the afc2add package.
Having root access in DiskAid offers several advantages. For example, you can transfer your iPhone’s voicemail messages to your Mac. To do so, go to: root > private > var > mobile > Library > Voicemail. Look for files that end in .amr and copy them to your Mac. QuickTime Player will play these files.
[Coming attraction: In a forthcoming column, I’ll tell you about another great use for DiskAid and root access.]
PadSync ($10) offers file sharing features similar to DiskAid. Both programs allow you to transfer files to and from apps such as the iPad’s iWork apps. PadSync offers a more attractive interface — displaying large Finder-like icons for each file rather than DiskAid’s text-only names. However, it doesn’t provide access to the Media folder or (even if you jailbreak your device) to the root level.