iOS 8 Document Pickers, Providers, and Dropbox

iOS 8 Document Pickers, Providers, and Dropbox – MacStories

Text and screenshot by Federico Viticci

In yesterday’s coverage of iOS 8 for my daily workflow and Transmit, I mentioned that I hadn’t had much time to test document pickers and provider extensions in iOS 8 and that I couldn’t grasp the full potential of Apple’s document management changes in practice. While that still holds true today, I’ve been playing around with the iOS 8 update that Dropbox launched yesterday and I thought it’d be useful to collect my thoughts on the site for future reference.

A brief recap: document provider extensions allow you to bring up a third-party document management interface to pick and save files. These extensions are meant to offer an alternative to Apple’s new iCloud Drive UI, and, unsurprisingly, their only extension point is the default document picker of iOS 8. You won’t be able to use third-party document providers with any other menu that’s not Apple’s share sheet, which, like photo editing extensions, requires you to manually activate third-party providers before using them.

Apple’s goal with document providers is to extend iOS’ file management capabilities without losing the convenience and consistency of the new extensibility features in the OS. Instead of adding a system-wide filesystem layer to iOS, Apple is reducing the filesystem, once again, to a document picker; in iOS 8, however, the picker can be extended and multiple apps can open and edit the same file without creating duplicate copies of it.

Furthermore, as I noted in my review of Transmit, document provider extensions are able to relay changes to the main app that’s offering the extension without forcing you to open it: in Transmit’s case, this means that you can open files from a server configured in Transmit in any app, and, when done, changes will be automatically relayed to the source through Transmit.

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