iDisk & Gallery: Your MobileMe Connections

Apple’s MobileMe service is a full-featured “cloud” service. With email, calendar, a photo gallery, and cloud storage app, they’ve really made a one-stop shop. It’s far from perfect, but works well for many people. One area lacking is that, until recently, there was no mobile counterpart for several of the MobileMe features. Most notably photo galleries and iDisk.

You’ll be pleased to know that in recent months, Apple has stepped up to fill that gap in the shape of iDisk and Gallery. With these, your MobileMe experience is complete (when coupled with the apps built into your iPhone already). This review will take a look at both pieces of software, and see what they have to offer.

iDisk

iDisk is the older of the two apps; it’s simply a nice way to access the contents of your MobileMe iDisk. When you open iDisk, you’ll see a file explorer. With true Apple simplicity, you can browse your files; all common file formats can be viewed in the app.

At every level of the file hierarchy, scroll to the bottom to see how many items are in each folder, as well as the amount of space you have left in your MobileMe account. Each item in the hierarchy has a line of metadata underneath it: for folders, that tells you how many items are in it; for files, you can see the file size and sharing info.

Working with Files

When you view a file, iDisk will download it to your iPhone, so next time it will be even quicker to view. There will be toolbars at the top and bottom of the window when viewing the file. From the top one, you can go back to your folder or view file details such as location and date last modified, as well as sharing information. From the bottom toolbar, you can share the document or delete it. As in many apps, you can tap the screen once to hide the toolbars.

To see what you’ve been viewing recently, tap the “Recent” tab at the bottom. Predictably, you’ll get a list of the files you’ve looked at lately. You can clear this list with a tap of the clear button.

Browsing and Viewing Files

Browsing and Viewing Files

Sharing Files

iDisk is made to share. Within any file, you can tap the sharing button to quickly share it with a friend. You’ll then provide email addresses to send a link to, and you can even set a link expiry date and password if you’d like. You can view all your shared files (shared from both the iPhone app and the web app) from the “Shared Files” tab at the bottom of the main screen.

Viewing a Friend’s Public Folders

Your MobileMe iDisk has a Public Folder, for anything you want to make available to the public. You can easily keep track of your friends’ public folders by adding them under the “Public Folders” tab. Just click the plus sign, and enter a friend’s username and a description of the folder. They work just the same way as your own folders, and they’re just as easy to browse.

Sharing

Sharing

Tweak to Taste

There are a few basic settings on the iDisk app, which you can get to by tapping the settings button in the top left corner of the root iDisk folder. You can choose how much local storage to let it use (from 50 to 500 MB) as well as whether or not to show file extensions and system folders. You can also get to the iDisk help documents from here.

Gallery

The MobileMe Gallery app is a great way to view your photos and movies, as well as those of your friends. Start by logging in; once you do, you can view your galleries, or add a friend to your list so you can keep up-to-date with his/her media.

To do this, tap “Add a Friend” and enter the user’s MobileMe name and a description for them. You can also choose to select a person from your contacts; Gallery will only show you those contacts who have a me.com or mac.com email address.

It’s just as easy to remove other people’s galleries; simply tap the edit button and press the red button.

Browsing Galleries

Browsing Galleries

Once you’re viewing a user’s galleries—your own or a friend’s—you can see a list of all their photo albums and movies. To the right, photo albums show the number of images in them, while a movie displays it’s duration. At the top, there’s a “ticker-tape” of recent photo “teasers” scrolling across the screen; tapping one of those will take you to that photo. Of course, tap an album to view a grid of photos.

When viewing a photo gallery, its an experience very similar to the built-in photos app. Swipe left or right to page through the album. From any image, you can tap the email icon in the top right corner to send a link to that particular image. From the gallery view, you can do the same to email a link to the gallery. And from the list of your galleries, you can… guess what? That’s right – email the link to your galleries page.

Sharing

Sharing

From the settings (found through the main screen), you can choose how much local storage to give to the Gallery app. You can also select whether or not to show hidden galleries and choose to configure Safari to open MobileMe Gallery links with the Gallery app.

Conclusion

Both iDisk and Gallery are certainly well designed, solid applications. It would be nice if iDisk offered editing of select file types. Gallery could improve by offering a slideshow mode akin to that offered by the built-in Photos app (currently, you have to swipe through the photos yourself). But overall, these apps are simple, reliable, and do exactly what you’d expect

So, should you use iDisk and Gallery? Well, both the apps are free, so the question really is “Should you use MobileMe?” I’ll leave that to another reivew; but if you are a heavy MobileMe user, then these two apps are definitely worth adding to your iPhone!


Summary

Apple's iDisk and Gallery iPhone apps extend the functionality of MobileMe right into the palm of your hand. They offer fairly basic feature sets, but come with all the reliability and style you'd expect from Apple.

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