Uploading Files Online in iOS / by Erin Wade

For folks who use iOS devices as primary work machines, there have been a couple of limitations in the operating system that can be challenging to work around. A major limitation has been an inability to upload files to websites. For example, my daughter, who participates in online schooling, has historically done most of her schoolwork on an iPad. This is great for flexibility in terms of work location and it's clear in watching her do things like edit video in iMovie that many of her skills are iOS specific - she can do things faster and more effectively on an iOS device than many people can using similar software on a laptop.

When it came time to upload assignments, however, she was stuck. There was no way to upload the work through her school's web interface using the iPad. We set up a workaround by saving the assignments to Dropbox, and then uploading from a desktop machine. This fall, when the 2007 white MacBook she was using for this purpose came to a premature end (hardwood floors, LCD screens, and spinning disks do not a good combination make if introduced at speed), I broke down and bought a used 2013 MacBook Air from Dan Benjamin's online garage sale (@danbenjamin was a delight to interact with, incidentally, and included 5by5 network stickers and a Bacon Method magnet and coffee cup in with the MacBook Air when he sent it - very cool!)

The MacBook Air is a fine computer in general, and the one I purchased from Dan works quite nicely - my daughter was very excited to have it join the household. But it turns out my purchase was, apparently, unnecessary.

I discovered this listening to the inaugural episode of Canvas, a podcast by Frederico Viticci and Fraser Speirs, with a focus on mobile productivity. The episode itself covers a lot of territory, primarily looking at apps that allow for downloading and managing documents on iOS, of which there are multiple options - I can heartily recommend listening to the episode if you are interested in meeting that particular need. For myself, having worked off of iPads for the past several years, it offered a couple of apps I had not heard of, but I'd otherwise already solved the downloading problem for myself, and so I was somewhat impatiently waiting for them to talk about how to upload documents.

It seemed to me a bit like they were giving the uploading side of the conversation short shrift, but when they got to it I realized why:

Apple added the capability to the operating system when they released iOS 9.

I've been using iOS 9 since it came out in September 2015, but I was completely unaware of this change until listening to the Canvas episode earlier this week. Once I heard it I took the first opportunity to find a site that took mobile uploads to see how it works:

Uploading files to the web using iOS

The document picker essentially gives you access to any files in iCloud, as well as any file serving service that works with iOS (for us that's Dropbox).

This change functionally eliminates one more barrier that some people may have encountered when considering iOS as a primary platform, taking one more reason off of the list of needs for keeping a "real" computer around the house.

While I'm pleased to see that the feature is now available, I am a little frustrated that it doesn't seem to have been announced in any way by Apple (I've double-checked, and I cannot find it mentioned on the website for iOS 9). If it weren't for the discussion on Canvas, I'd still be unaware of it and, as it stands, iOS 9 came out a full month before I decided to buy the MacBook Air. Had I been aware of this capability, I may not have made that purchase (though it's probably a good thing to have around - the only other family Mac available in the house is nearly a decade old).