If you connect your iPad to your computer and load up iTunes, you’ll notice that the colour-coded capacity bar shows how much of your device’s storage is consumed by ‘Audio’, ‘Video’, ‘Photos’, ‘Apps’, ‘Books’ and ‘Other’.
‘Other’ consists of data stored directly by apps, including saved games, documents created by productivity apps such as Quickoffice, music in PDF form commonly used by sheet music apps, site details and passwords saved by password vaults, background images and animations for apps like Magic Window, issues of Newsstand magazines such as the iPad version of the magazine you’re reading right now, maps stored for offline use, and so on.
Some apps also store data you might expect to be categorised under one of the other storage categories. For example, TED lets you save favourite videos, and these consume ‘Other’ space, while a photo editing app such as PhotoForge 2 stores your edited photos within the app itself, consuming ‘Other’ space. Similarly, some of the replacement camera apps store photos internally until you specifically instruct them to save them to your iPhone’s camera roll.
Depending on the sort of apps you use, ‘other’ may balloon to consume gigabytes of storage. You can get a better idea of what’s stored on your iPad by tapping ‘Settings > General > Usage’. Wait a few seconds for the display to update and you’ll see a neat list of all installed apps and the space each app and its data consumes.
Tap an app in the list to see more details, including the size of the app itself and the amount of space the app uses to store ‘Documents & data’. Some apps, particularly Newsstand apps, gobble through the data. Even apps that don’t store files may contribute to the ‘Other’ total by using a few kilobytes to store your preferred settings.
Adding files directly
Most of this other data that gets created from within the apps you use is when you create a new document in Quickoffice and save it locally, when you make multiple edits to an image and PhotoForge 2 saves a series of snapshots of your edits, when you download the latest edition of TechLife, and so on. Some of this data is stored in a proprietary format or is accessible only via the app itself, but not all of it. Some apps let you transfer files to your iPad from your computer using iTunes. To discover which apps let you do this:
- Connect your iPad and open iTunes.
- Click your iPad in the ‘Devices’ list.
- Click the ‘Apps’ tab and scroll down to display the ‘File Sharing’ section. You’ll see a list of all apps that can store data in this fashion.
- Click an app to see the files stored by that app.
- At the bottom of the file list you’ll see ‘Add’ and ‘Save To’ buttons; using these you can transfer files between your computer and your iPad. It’s not immediately apparent, but you can also rename or delete existing stored files as well.
To rename a file stored on your iPad, simply click a file in the list, click it once more and edit the name. Remember to keep the extension the same (.PDF, .JPG, and so on) or the related app may no longer recognise the file. To delete a file from your iPad, click it and then press ‘Delete’.
To add a file, click ‘Add’, use the ‘Browse’ box to select the file and then click ‘Open’. There’s no need to sync your iPad or even click the ‘Apply’ button for the transfer, deletion or renaming to take place; it all happens immediately and transparently.
Alternatively, you can add files to an app by selecting the app in the list in iTunes and then dragging files from the desktop or Explorer (in Windows) or the Finder (on the Mac) directly into the file list. Once again, the file is immediately transferred to your iPad.
Form, not content
Many apps only care about the format of a file and not its content. For instance, if you use a sheet music app like ForScore that reads music stored in .PDF files, there’s no reason why you can’t transfer a non-music PDF to the app. Why would you do that? Well, ForScore and other sheet music apps are designed to make page turning as simple as possible. That’s essential when you’re playing music, but also handy at other times; for example, when you’re giving a speech. By transferring your speech to ForScore, you can use the app’s simple tap-to-page-turn interface to move through the pages of your speech. Or, couple it with a Bluetooth AirTurn and foot pedals from airturn.com and you can wow your audience by never having to touch the iPad at all.
Clearing out the chaff
If you want to create some space on your iPad, tap ‘Settings > General > Usage’ and use the list of apps as a guide. The apps are listed in order of space hoggishness with the biggest apps — stored data included — first. Tap an app to see the space it occupies plus the space its data occupies, and then, if you decide you can live without the app on your iPad, tap ‘Delete’ to reclaim its space. You can always reinstall the app at a later date, although your data will be lost unless you’ve backed it up.
Docs by mail
Another way to get data into an app is via email. When you receive an email containing a PDF, Word, Excel or other attachment in a supported format, tap and hold the attachment’s icon in the email and you’ll see a menu of options including ‘Open In…’. Tap that option to see a list of apps that support the document format and then select the app to open the document. The document will be opened and saved by the app.
Newsstand magazine and newspaper apps can be ferocious data hogs, so it’s important to remember to archive back issues. Open Newsstand, open the publication and on its home screen, check the issues you currently have installed. Any issue that has an active ‘Archive’ button is currently chewing up space on your device. Click ‘Archive’ to free up that space; you can always re-download an issue for no charge if you want to read it later on.