Instashare -An iOS/Mac app for instant transfer of files

After viewing my post on the benefits of FileBrowser, one of my Twitter colleagues alerted me to an app I had not heard of with similar functionality – Instashare. After downloading and checking it out, I thought I would do a quick tutorial and review on Mr G Online as I think, with future planned updates, this app will become a useful addition to the educational setting of iPads I blog about most frequently.

In a nutshell, Instashare is both an iOS app  and Mac application that uses a very simple drag and drop interface to transfer photos, videos and supported files from one iOS device to another with absolutely no set up required other than downloading the app onto your device. Here is the Product Description straight from the App Store.

SIMPLE FILE SHARING
You don’t need to be tech-savvy to share files.

WORKS WITHOUT INTERNET
You don’t need to be connected to internet, just use local wi-fi or Bluetooth to transfer file.

SIMPLE TO USE
No need to pair devices or setup transfer. Designed for quick and easy file sharing.

NO REGISTRATION
Just open app and start sharing files, no need to enter email or passwords.

NO FILE TYPE LIMITS
You can transfer any file type, no restrictions. MP3, images, pdf, presentation and way more.

DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!
Mac version available from instashareapp.com

What the app does, it does very well. Here is a short video that shows how it operates ( no commentary included)

I’ll describe here what is happening in the video. Basically, you open the app on your iOS device ( in this case, the iPad) and any device that has the app open ( the app does need to be open – it doesn’t work in the background), will appear on the screen. You then simply select the file to transfer, drag it to the desired device and it will transfer over to that device, be it Mac computer, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad ( from reading Twitter updates, an Android version may have just been released).

What you will notice on the video is that the first transfer I attempted failed. This was because the app on the other device, the first time you use it, brings up a dialog box to accept the file. If this is not allowed, the transfer will not take place. You have the option of Allow or ALWAYS Allow.

On my own devices, I chose ALWAYS Allow so I don’t have to continue to accept the transfer manually, particularly if I am not next to the computer I want to transfer to. Now, when I drag and drop to the my devices, it happens automatically.

On the iPad, there is enough screen space to drag over to the device. On the iPhone, when you drag the file, the screen switches automatically to the target device.

The drag and drop interface is definitely an improvement on the FileBrowser interface and the direct transfer between iOS devices will come in handy when a student wants to submit a file to the teacher if they both have iPads.

From other apps, Instashare is one of the choices in the OPen in Another App… option so you can quickly transfer a Pages document, a file from the DropBox or Google Drive  app as an example. Also, it is free, unlike FileBrowser.

Instashare, however, still has some major flaws that will keep me using FileBrowser. Having said that, the developer has informed me that some of these deficiencies have been addressed in an update awaiting review in the App Store.

  1. At present, you can only drag and drop one file at a time. This is fine if an individual student wants to send a single file to a teacher, but if you want to transfer 30 photos over to your computer, one at a time is not functional. This is apparently addressed in the next update, although I don’t know if there is a limit. FileBrowser has not limit.
  2. As of publishing this post, the required app needed to be installed on the computer side is Mac only. ( and it won’t work unless you download and install that Mac application, which has to stay open.) There are plans for other systems but at present, with the fast majority of schools being PC, this precludes its use beyond iOS device to iOS device transfer. FileBrowser, on the other hand, can connect to any networked computer and you do not have to install any related software for it to work.
  3. On the computer side, you have to designate a target folder that all transfers download to. You then have to manually transfer to other folders on the computer. FileBrowser allows you to browse to any folder and also allows you to create new folders direct from the app, meaning you do not have to have any access to the computer at all. You can also rename the file.
  4. It’s only a one way transfer service – from one device to the other. Yes, you can transfer from Mac to iPad by the simple drag and drop but you have to have access to the computer. With FileBrowser, you have control over both sides directly from the app, again not requiring physical access to the computer.

Despite these criticisms, I really like the app. If the next update brings in multi-file transfer, I’ll find myself using it a lot because of the drag and drop interface and the direct iOS to iOS option. The Bluetooth transfer can bypass issues on days when the school WiFi is in meltdown as well. Until it allows PC access and the ability to browse folders, though, I’ll be sticking with my very reliable and useful FileBrowser app. But with improvements to come in future updates, Instashare will become a serious rival to FileBrowser and other network apps.

Edmodo just got a lot better on the iPad

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One of the justifiable criticisms of the iPad was that it was difficult to impossible to transfer files between many apps or networks. With the addition of some apps like PocketCloud and FileBrowser, and the improvement of the Open in… function in later systems , especially iOS 6, this has become even less of an issue. Still, in terms of downloading files on web based apps, you were often limited to photos from the camera roll. This was the case with the Edmodo app.

An Edmodo app update earlier in the year allowed access to the Camera Roll and Google Docs. This however, was still too limiting to use the Library/Backpack feature of Edmodo to upload, store and download most files.

Today that changed. The latest Edmodo iPad app now adds File Sharing functionality, both uploading and downloading to Edmodo’ s Library (for teachers) and Backpack (students).

To upload files to Edmodo on an iPad, simply use the Open in.. Function, which now includes an Open in Edmodo option. This opens your file, whether an email, a document from Pages or any other word processing app on iPad, or from a file sharing app like Dropbox or FileBrowser, straight into Edmodo and saves it.

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To download a file from Edmodo, you select it from the library/backpack, select the file icon, which opens the Open in… Window and choose the app you want to open the file. Once you have worked on the file, you can then upload it back to the library as described earlier. Once a file is in the Library/backpack file system, you can add it to an Assignment or discussion stream.

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For schools that are 1:1 iPad schools who also use Edmodo, this is a big improvement that will make it easier to become more independent of laptops and desktops.

Transferring files to and from iPad using FileBrowser

Many users bemoan the lack of connectivity when discussing the iPad. True, I would love Apple to include native wireless networking similar to the Mac Finder that has access to all files on either iPad or Mac/PC. There are very useful options out there, however, that do the job very effectively. My favorite app for connecting to computers without iTunes or a cable is FileBrowser (available as a universal app for both iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad ).

I’ve been using Filebrowser for a long time and I find it great for transferring work to and from any computer that shares the same wireless network as my iPad or iPhone. It is very simple to set up – all you need is file sharing/network name of the computer you want to access and the username and password for connecting to the computer. At school, I had no problem connecting to a Windows based server with security settings without the IT technician’s assistance. (For full set up instructions and user guide, visit the app creator’s website. They will also give you good email support if you need it.)

Many apps will open in …. Filebrowser, especially PDF and document apps ( annoyingly Apple’s iWork apps don’t – wish Apple would make their apps more open to sharing options; clearly the system allows it when all other apps do   UPDATE – As of iOS 6, Apple’s iWork Apps ( Pages, Keynote and Numbers now work with FileBrowser as well as DropBox and Google Drive). This enables you to transfer a Word-compatible document or PDF file to your computer or workplace network. Any app that can save its content to the iPad’s photo library as a movie or image is accessible to Filebrowser network transferring as well. This is what I want to share with you today.

Working in a school with iPads shared with all the grades, it is important that students and teachers can easily transfer their work from the iPad to the school network. It doesn’t take long for an iPad to fill up if photos, comic strips, movies, slideshows and the like from 28 different grades at left languishing on it. While you can connect the iPad to a computer via USB connector, it can be inconvenient and timeconsuming, particularly with iTunes file sharing as an option for documents. Sure, Dropbox can be used in many cases but not every grade or teacher is using Dropbox at school at present. So a good option for transfer is FileBrowser.

While not as easy as drag and drop or using Save as…’ , the Filebrowser system is a simple matter of selecting, copying and pasting. I have had the opportunity to show some of my staff through morning training sessions but to assist in school wide adoption, I have made this video tutorial using the Explain Everything App and posted it on YouTube.

While it is aimed at my staff, the steps outlined are relevant to any setup you may have. It is predominantly about transferring photos but the same steps are required for saving any document. I hope you find it useful if you are considering this as an option. If you have found other options for network connectivity with the iPad, I would love to find out about alternatives. Filebrowser is not free ($5.49AU at present, but has been as low as $2.99) so will set back a school a bit of money when deployed to a lot of iPads. For me, though, it is worth the money, certainly for individual iPad users who want access to their computers.