How to copy your documents to an iOS device from a PC

Coming from a background of Symbian, Windows Mobile and Android, copying documents from my PC to my smartphones has always been a straightforward process. I plug my device to the PC with a USB cable, the PC recognizes the smartphone as a drive and, presto I can copy and paste or drag and drop my files.

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iOS is a different kettle of fish however. It has no mass storage mode and no file system. Actually, iOS is all about the apps. I remember that after getting an iPhone 3GS last year, a reader here wished me luck getting my files unto it.

While it takes a different route, it is not impossible to get files from a PC to an iOS device. The method I will outline below avoids cloud solutions like DropBox and SugarSync. This is all between your iOS device, a USB cable and your PC.

The first lesson of using iOS is probably something I already mentioned above and which I will repeat again: its all about the apps. As such, you will need an app that recognizes the file types that you want to copy.

For office documents, you have iWork, QuickOffice (my preferred), or any of the other available titles in the App Store. Most of them are commercial apps though, so you have to hunt a bit to find free ones.

QuickOffice, which is my preference, takes care of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, text and PDF files. Install the document app of your choice, then follow these steps:

  1. Connect your computer to the iPad using the USB cable
  2. Launch iTunes on the computer
  3. In the Devices section of the left-hand menu on iTunes select your device
  4. Click on the Apps tab and scroll to the bottom of the page. If you have any apps on your iPad that support file sharing, they will be listed in the left section
  5. Click on an app and you will see a list of the documents for that app on your iPad presented on the right
  6. To copy a file from your computer to the iPad, simply drag and drop it into the document list. You can also click on the Add button at the bottom of the iTunes window and browse to the file on your computer and select the files that you want to copy
  7. The file will be copied to your iPad. Note that it can only be viewed and edited from within the application it was copied to

How to copy your documents to an iOS device from a PC 1

There you go – a relatively easy way to copy your non-media files (iTunes handles media) from your PC to your iOS device. now, you can read (and edit, if your documents app has editing capabilities) on the go. Enjoy!

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31 thoughts on “How to copy your documents to an iOS device from a PC”

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  2. This will probably endear more people to iOS devices knowing it’s possible to copy office files. Personally, I move around alot so it would not make sense for me to have a mobile device to which I can’t transfer files and edit same there. This definitely should sort out that issue. Thank Yomi for the head’s up. I’ll definitely bookmark this and retweet it.

  3. Reminds me of the martial Arts film ‘The hard Way;the Only Way’

    The hard Way;the APPLE Way’

    All these just to copy a file? Hmm.

    What about if you merely want to use the iToy for general file backup? Obviously, no deal there!

    A real royal pain in the nether region!

    LIMITATION:
    Synonyms : iYoys,

    RESTRICTION, curb, restraint, control, check; impediment, obstacle, obstruction, bar, barrier, block, deterrent.
    2 he is aware of his own limitations: IMPERFECTION, flaw, defect, failing, shortcoming, weak point, deficiency, failure, frailty, weakness, foible.

  4. Yes, that’s a neat way to get files to your idevices via Pc/USB. Another method could be via another App called Goodreader. In this case you have the option of using either Wifi-Direct or USB too. What Yomi mentioned above also applies to the Goodreader app. Via iTunes. 

    The other option is to type an address on a browser on your PC. Then all the files on your Goodreader will then show in the browser. You can now transfer/upload files/documents to and from your app. That simple. The catch is that your idevice and the Pc must be on the same wifi network. 

    Yomi failed to mention that wifi transfer also applies to the Quickoffice app too. You just click the wifi button on the quickoffice app after launching it. Afterwards you type the provided address in a browser on your Pc and the file system of the quickoffice app is revealed in the browser. You could now transfer files To and fro!

    1. This idea of typing an address on a browser on your PC is an even more royal pain in the butts. Those long addresses?

      When is Steve jobs going to give us something that just works?

  5. Eyebeekay, good point. The iPhone and iOS devices manage multimedia much better than they document. This ought not to be. That’s one of the shortcomings. But will be corrected in iOS 5.

    IG, You don’t say!??? That simple? I don’t know Linux/Ubuntu well; But it appears to be a Killer Pc OS, from what you’ve just described!

  6. Yomi, of course, the iOS devices have a file system, it’s just that Uncle Jobs would rather you do not have access to it.

    Like Afewgoodmen mentioned, GOODREADER is probably one of the best apps you can use for document storage on the iPad. Apart from it’s ability to read most document formats, it also allows for you to open your documents in other apps and not just itself.

    The app seems to be getting more popular as the price has moved up from $0.99 to $4.99.

    It is not the most fancy document app you can get but it is the most functional.

  7. @Afewgoodmen, I first noticed the feature in Ubuntu 10.04. Apart from copy and paste, you can also tether your device to use it as a modem. I also use an application called gtkpod to sync music to my device all from Ubuntu.

    But the real killer app is an iOS app called iFile. It lets you browse to anywhere on the device’s filesystem. It can also natively open pdf, txt, html, mp3, mp4 and 3GP files.

    Talking about office app for iOS, one can also try DocsToGo. I find it richer than QuickOffice.

  8. The edge the IOS platform has over other tablet OS is the abundance of apps for everything, well, almost everything. How come there is still no good blogging app?

    @Yomi, can you look into enabling email notifications to replies made to posts in the forum section.

    1. Artwales, email notification is enabled on the forums. To receive notifications of new posts to a topic, add that topic to your favourites. You’ll find the ‘Add this topic to your favourites’ link beside the heading of each topic.

  9. A good post for people who want to be tied to the Apple bondage. Of course the Apple fanboys won’t see anything wrong with that.

    The Apple system is more like the matrix where you’re meant to believe only in what is good for the Apple business.

    I certainly won’t be cought in Apple’s web of deceits and autocracy.

    1. The first opportunity i get, i would dump Apple but the fact still remains that those guys still have a big edge. I mean, those guys have made so much money they are building themselves a new headquarters.

      No point buying another fancy product with limited apps, buyer remorse will set in almost immediately. Except i am corrected, Apple ipad has the highest rate of adoption amongst all tablets. The availability of apps is second to none.

  10. @Harry Echemco; of course you are entitled to your opinion but it would also be good to be tolerant to others. Comparing Apple and iOS to the MATRIX is rather extreme and melodramatic, don’t you think? Of course iOS isn’t perfect, and so are other platforms.

    IG; interesting. I think I should give Ubuntu a try. DoctoGo is something I should give a try too immediately I reload my pre-paid credit card. The good think about DataViz’s Doc-to-go is that it is both an iPhone and iPad app at the same time!

    Artwales;
    Goodreader is an awesome app. When I bought it it was just £0.59; now it is £2.99 ($4.99).

  11. @Harry, you sound very much like the typical apple hater, the flipside to the fanboy. You guys seem to think that anybody that uses an apple product is a fanboy. I use an iPhone and I believe I have more control over my Device than many people not using apple devices. For example I have more open source apps on my phone than proprietory apps. That’s freedom, but the blind haters don’t see that. If people are really serious about avoiding vendor lock-in, I think they should start by abandoning Windows on the desktop.

  12. @Afewgoodmen: You said, “Comparing Apple and iOS to the MATRIX is rather extreme and melodramatic, don’t you think?” I think we all do have a touch of it when it comes to defending that we believe to be a worthy cause. I might really sound extreme but the fact remains that Apple isn’t far from the matrix even as I concede that you have the right to disagree with me.

    At this stage we’re in today, how come there’s no good file manager out there for iOS devices? Just like Yomi said, Uncle Jobs wouldn’t want you to have access to the file system [because that wouldn’t be good for his business]. No memory card slot because that a loophole to circumvent the dungeon he has crafted. You can’t exchange files with other Bluetooth devices except one belonging to one of his matrix ecosystem.

    There’s just too many things Steve will not let you do because he would want to tax you for whatever goes in and out of your device. A device that you’ve already paid duly for.

    Microsoft maybe guilty here mostly because of their size rather than their controlling nature. Can you imagine what our lot would be like if Apple is in the dominant position that Microsoft is occupying in the desktop PC OS?

    @IG: You said that I sound like the typical Apple hater. The truth is that I might not be far from being an Apple hater, but I didn’t hate Apple just for their name’s sake. I simply hate anything that limits my freedom unduly. Apple represents a threat to my freedom.

    1. Harry, you seem to be missing the point. I can bet that no one here is an Apple fan, their product just happen to suit our purposes now, it may be different as early as tomorrow.

      I am an Apple hater, still is, but i have come to admit that 15 million people (?) can’t all be wrong.

      There is some comfort when you are using a product that millions are using, you are guaranteed of adequate support.

      Personally, it took me a year to make up my mind, no regrets so far.

      Personally, i will advise, go for what suits you, Apple is not the answer to everyone’s needs.

  13. IG; Well Said! Extremists in the Tech world consist of both fan boys and device-haters. It is good that one takes deliberate steps not to be engulfed in the quagmire as it could very simply take over anyone.

    People yapping about Apple not being free and locked down are really over-zealous or getting it wrong. There is no mobile platform that’s 100% free. EVEN Android apart from the Nexus series comes with network or manufacturer’s proprietary software overlay which affects its openness and upgradeability. Recently there has been news about malware posing as apps in Androids own application store! Google was able to put some down. But no one knows the actual number that still remains. That’s what differentiates Android and the Apple app store. Before an app is approved on iOS for instance, it has to go through an approval process; so you are sure any app you buy works and is compatible with your device. It isn’t so in the Android store. Google just publishes any new app without screening and only takes it down whenever there are legitimate complaints about the app. And that’s why malware/viruses can find their way into their application store. Too much freedom isn’t good. There must be some sort of censure and rules for Sanity to exists otherwise there is bound to be chaos! Why couldn’t we drive on the opposite lane on the highway and claim ‘freedom’ and ‘openness’? although sometimes Motorists do that in Nigeria!

    People also forget to remember that Windows phone 7 is as ‘locked down’ as Apple’s iOS. Also the open Source Community as well as the Linux Group criticizes Windows for being locked down and “proprietary” and not ‘open’ enough. No OS is the “Best” or without faults. What we can do is take the ones that meet our needs and move on!

    And no one forces anyone to buy into any platform. And as such one shouldn’t feel intimidated. Steve Jobs is not a machine or the matrix and cannot force you to succumb and remain enslaved in the Apple ecosystem. Those of us that use their products – like Artwales rightfully stated above – are doing so not out of compulsion but desire. I can choose to stop using Apple products anytime I want.

    By the way IG, How do I get UBuntu software or laptop to buy? I think me need to try that one out! That is ‘Openness’ at its peak!!

  14. @Afewgoodmen: You probably would only tell us malware just to give substance to your argument. Well if you visit other tech news sites you may have heard of a malware affecting Mac OS X. That’s with all their scrutiny. It is also easy for Apple and their supporters to use malware as an excuse for locking down everything.

    What has a file manager/browser to do with malware if everything would still have to be scrutinized before approval?

    What has blocking Bluetooth interoperability with other devices to do with malware and viruses if you can still get same from your internet access?
    That’s why Apple is the real matrix because they fed you these excuses as reason for lockdown and you assimilated them without doing your own thinking. Apple simply does the thinking for you.

    1. Harry,

      I am sure that you are conversant with my criticisms of iOS and of Apple’s restrictions. Still I own an iPhone 3GS (which I don’t use because it cramps my style; I use a Nokia E7 as my everyday smartphone) and an iPad (which has replaced my netbook when I am out and about, and even for most tasks when I am at home or in the office).

      It is always a case of looking at what works best for each user’s specific scenarios. I stand by my criticisms of iOS, as they are very valid, but to dismiss it outright because of it’s flaws is an extreme. Pretty much the same as those who diss Symbian (or any other OS for that matter) for it’s flaws.

      The diversity we have on ground is good. Lots of options to pick from and to meet different needs.

  15. @Harry, have you ever used an apple device? I think it is important to know something before judging it.

    For example I believe I can criticize/praise Linux or Windows because I have used both OSs. That puts me in a good position to judge them not based on what I hear people saying. But most of you blind haters just follow the crowd without forming an independent opinion.

    Talking about file browser, I said something about iFile above. It is a full blown file browser that does more than the file browsers you find on other devices. But you will not understand because you have already taken a stand.

  16. @IG: Well I have actually used an iphone, though I never owed one. My brother has iPhone 3GS. Sure for basic telephony functionality, testing and ‘internet access’, it’s good. I wanted to download opera mini browser for him but I was required to register and Nigeria is not even in the list of supported countries.

    I wanted to also access his yahoo mail account through their mobile safari and was required to register the device with Apple first which as you know is not possible from Nigeria.
    I wanted to transfer some MP3 files through bluetooth, to customize the ringtone, but that is also not possible. Mr. Jobs is saying that you can’t enjoy the phone fully unless you owe a PC and their itune software.

    You can see that I’m not entirely basing my arguments on hearsay. I think I have to call it a day on this for now.

    Thanks Uncle Yomi.

  17. It’s funny, going on two years, opinions are still divided about the superiority or otherwise of Apple IOS products, especially the iPad. Probably a continuation of the battle between Apple Mac and Personal computers.

    One thing is very clear and which is agreed to by everyone, Apple has EXTREME (pardon the caps) proprietary restrictionson their products, which is probably the reason why most hate the company and all it stands for. Harry has thankfully reminded us of some of them and i can give a lot more! But another fact is also agreed to by almost everyone, the quality of their products are usually incomparable to any.

    If you rumage through comments on this blog, you would probably find comments made by yours truly crucifying those capitalists in Cupertino (Apple), especially after the sudden demise of my iPod touch.I said as much as Harry did and more to those that cared to listen. So what made me become “born again”?

    I am mostly not an early adopter, more of a sceptic i would say. I never believed in the ipad. Funny thing is, two years on, how many tablets can compare to the ipad? I did my search for about a year and that is my conclusion. Forget about it’s limitation, what matters is what you stand to enjoy from the device at the end of the day. Oh, by the way, my ipad is jailbroken, so even less restrictions. For all i care, you may find your comfort in one of the “grey” chinese products.

    One tablet that has been mentioned that would upseat the ipad in most measuring indices is the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 but as usual, i would wait a year to see how it fares, though by that time ipad 3 may be out, redefining the tablet standards all over!

  18. @Harry, you don’t need to register to access Yahoo. You need to a U.S address to register in the appstore because Nigeria is not supported, that’s true. But you will be surprised at the number of online services that do not support Nigeria. But I think Nigeria is now on apple’s mind since we now have apple.com/ng. By the way Android only recently started supporting Nigeria.

    Your bluetooth and itunes arguments are valid but I overcame them with iBlueNova app for bluetooth and gtkpod for music synchronization.

    If you can’t do that, then the iPhone is not for you. You can keep flaming apple and it’s customers but it won’t change a thing.

  19. @IG: If Apple in their wisdom chose not to support Nigeria, a single Nigeria or even a couple of them flaming might probably not change a thing at least on Apple’s. side. But I was trying to make a point.

    Android only recently started supporting Nigeria. True but even before that, free applications on the Android market were available to Nigerians even before the official support but the registration hurdle in Apples App Store wouldn’t let me get opera mini that is free.

    You said that I need a U. S. address to register in the Appstore. What of the credit card requirement?

    1. You do not need a credit card to register in the Apple store. Just make sure that you don’t attempt the registration in iTunes. iTunes will insist on a credit card.

  20. Harry,

    Android only just started supporting Nigeria this year. You can also get an itunes account for free and also download free apps in Nigeria from the Apple app store in Nigeria presently. I believe Apple may soon support Nigeria considering their unique Nigerian site that began late last year; http://www.apple.com/ng/

    If you are having problem opening an itunes account and if you want to get paid free apps in Nigeria; there is now an easy way to do it.

    There is a MAC store in Ikeja that help Nigerians/people to open itunes account for a small fee. In addition they can also send itunes credit gift cards to your itunes account. With that you can buy paid apps from the app store. All for a small fee.

    If you are interested I could give you their address and number to contact them.

    For Naijas, there is always a way out. Deoladoctor has gotten some gift cards from the Mac store at Ikeja and has started downloading PAID apps from the app store. I might do same next week because of the challenge I’m presently experiencing in re-loading my Virgin pre-paid Card!

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