Moving Files Onto the iPad

Back to my iPad 101 series. Last time I gave an overview about how files are managed on an iPad. This time we’ll talk about how to get files onto the iPad.

I think I have mistakenly assumed that most iPad users know how to use Dropbox or WebDAV or wireless networking to get files onto their iPad. After all, many people still move files around by e-mail which is often fine for one or two items. For bigger jobs, I think lots of people still use USB thumb drives via “sneakernet.” So, for many users, it may not be immediately obvious how to move a big bucket of files onto the iPad. I hope to remedy that today.

Let’s take a typical situation: a lawyer needs to move a bunch of PDF files from his or her computer onto the iPad for review and annotation. The files are voluminous and large making e-mail impractical.

For this example, I’ll be using PDF Expert (iTunes link), but these strategies can be employed with other file management or PDF annotation apps. Today I’ll talk about how to use your iPad like a wireless USB drive. In a future post I’ll talk about how to use a cloud service.

Wireless USB Drive

Even though the iPad doesn’t have a USB port, you can still connect your iPad to your computer as a wireless USB drive. The precise steps to do this vary depending on if you use Windows or a Mac and which app you are using. But generally, the procedure is something like this:

Step 1. Find out the app’s IP address. In PDF Expert, you do this by tapping Network in the left navigation pane (image below). The IP address is a four digit number separated with dots like: 172.16.254.1.

Find your iPad’s IP address here.

Step 2. On your computer, you need to mount the network drive.

  • On a Windows PC, you will click “My Computer” in the Start menu and then select “Map Network Drive.”
  • On a Mac, select “Connect to Server” in the Finder’s Go menu.

Step 3. You’ll then be prompted to enter the iPad’s IP address. You’ll precede it with http:// and then the number you determined under step one.

After completing these steps, the iPad will appear as a drive on your desktop computer just like if you plugged in a USB flash drive. Simply drag and drop the files you want onto this drive and they will be copied wirelessly to the app on your iPad. The settings you go through can be saved on your computer so you can easily mount the iPad as a wireless drive in the future.

The help files for all the major file management or PDF annotation apps like PDF Expert describe these steps in more detail if you get stuck. Most of these apps also enable you to add a password for additional security.

Personally, I don’t like USB flash drives because they are easily lost, create yet another version to manage and aren’t secure. I’ve used this method successfully on both my iPhone and my iPad and have never had need for a USB flash drive.

Next time we’ll talk about how to accomplish the same thing using a cloud based service like Dropbox. Let me know in the comments your preferred method for moving documents onto your iPad.

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