iPhone OS’s Document Sharing

This image described by iPad, iPhone, Photo-3

If you‚Äôve installed one of the productivity apps for the iPad, you might have noticed a document sharing function; a new feature that lets you pass a file from one app to another. 

When you receive a Pages document in your e-mail inbox, tapping and holding its icon brings up a notification that asks you if you just want to Quick View the file or open it in Pages.

This is a new feature, called “Document Support” that Apple put into version 3.2 of iPhone OS, which runs on the iPad. With a new iPhone OS dropping soon, it's assumed this functionality will make it onto the iPhone as well.

Document Support allows an app to register itself as the designated handler for a particular file type. Any app can then use the same functionality to discover whether another app can handle a file and pass it on to it.

This has significant implications for a platform like iPhone OS, where apps usually, rarely talk to each other.

Document Support allows for communication between apps while giving the app that owns the file complete control over whether it can be transferred elsewhere on your device.

The big advantage of Document Support is it allows apps to access data beyond their own boundaries. 

Several iPad apps, like Apple's own iWork suite, already take advantage of this feature. Because it is publicly available to developers, you can expect Document Support to make its way into more applications.

Apps like ReaddleDocs and GoodReader already offer the ability to open documents they support from compatible apps, such as Mail.

The power of Document Support extends to Quick Look only in a limited fashion. If you tap on an iWork document in Mail or Safari, a panel will slide up and present a quick view of the document, with the opportunity to open the file in the appropriate iWork product.

This image described by iPad, iPhone, Screen shot 2010-04-16 at 11.09.51 AM

It doesn't work with non-Apple apps, because the Quick Look is currently a private API that is not yet available to outside developers.

Apple has announced that Quick Look will be available to all developers in iPhone OS 4.0, which should be available to iPad users this fall.

What this means to the IPhone and iPad is apps like Tom Tom (hopefully) will eventually be able to use information from your contacts or mail.

With apps talking to each other, or allowed to, what will this mean for iAd? Will we see 'Minority Report' styled ads tailored to users?

Document Sharing looks to be, at least another step toward some kind of user file management system.


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