I love Apple’s services and I love to embrace them as much as I can. However, they definitely are not without their own issues. File storage is an interesting one with iCloud. With many of the file sharing and storage cloud based services out there we are presented with a typical file system structure. Drop all your folders/files into one folder and it’ll sync across all your devices that use the same service. You browse your files and open a file with whatever appropriate software you have installed to view the file.
iCloud is a bit different and I think it suffers heavily because of it. With iCloud you don’t have an open file system, but more of a closed system. It is more application centric rather than file centric. Each application creates its own little file system in which you open and edit files within that application only. So yes, you can store files on iCloud so long as you have the application to store the files.
The problem with this approach is that you are now limited on how you use your files. Your created content is now stuck with just that application. Let’s say, for instance, you started writing out some simple ideas or topics in TextEdit on your desktop. You stored the text file in iCloud. Later on, You want to take what you started in that text file and expand it in Pages. You can’t. Well, you can, but you can’t just open that text file in Pages. You have to first, remember where you stored it by remembering which application you wrote the text file in. Once you open up TextEdit, open the file in iCloud, select everything and then paste it in a new Pages document. It would be so much easier if you could just open that cloud based file in Pages. However, this is not allowed.
I can see some reasoning on why. Mostly for security reasons, but it doesn’t mean it has to be this way. It would be nice if one of two things changed within iCloud…
The first idea would be to allow applications to access other application’s data and documents based on user discretion. Ask the user for permission if you can access other application’s data. If given access you can then present to the user all the possible files that your application supports and can open/edit/view. The security concerns around this would be in the hands of the user to make the decision if they want a particular application accessing their data. It wouldn’t be any different from how many applications ask the user if it is okay they access the user’s camera roll.
The other idea, which I favor more, is to have a private and public section of iCloud data storage. Any files put in the public section or marked public can be accessed by any application that supports that file. Anything private remains private to only the application that created the file.
Maybe we’ll see something like this in the near future. Maybe something like this already exists and I’m just completely unaware of it at the moment. Either way, it would be very helpful and these small changes would help continue to nullify the use of exposing the full-blown file system structure to the user.