So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Having been one of the people in my social circle to have an iPad, I have been answering a lot of questions for others who don’t have an iPad, or that can’t be answered by playing with one directly. One of the most frequent questions I get is “How do you load PDFs (and other personal documents) onto the iPad?” If you look at the iPad by itself without a computer running iTunes, you can only explain this verbally. And it’s not the most intuitive process (in fact, not very Apple-like). So, rather than re-answer the same question multiple times, let’s just go through it here with images stepping through the process…

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

In this post, I’m going to go over how to put content onto your iPad. In a subsequent post, I will explain the various methods for viewing PDF files on the iPad, followed up by another post comparing a printed page to the iPad viewing PDF and ePub books.

When the iPad was announced and the iWork applications were discussed, it was mentioned that you could copy your own content onto the iPad for viewing and editing. I was hoping we would have the ability to have a portion of the iPad’s storage set aside as a USB mass storage device so I could simply copy and paste content onto the iPad. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy.

Each application can state whether it can handle documents, and those applications have their own, separate data storage area. The main way that Apple provided to copy content into an application’s data storage is via iTunes. Only if an application has explicitly stated that it can handle document types will iTunes make it available for copying content. To make matters more complex, you can only copy files in when the iPad is connected, and files are copied real-time onto the iPad. There is no way to “stage” content to copy on once you connect the iPad.

First, you must connect your iPad to your computer and launch iTunes. Select your iPad from the Devices section on the left-hand pane, and then click on the Apps tab:

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Scroll to the bottom of the window (I know, very intuitive, right?):

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Choose a particular application from the list and click on the Add… button, which brings up a file picker dialog:

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Once you’ve chosen your files, click the Choose button:

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

iTunes will then show the files in the list for that particular application, and it will automatically sync the files to the iPad, even if a backup is currently going on.

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

You can also choose a file from the application’s list and click the Save to… button and save it back to your computer if you happened to edit or create a file on your iPad.

But… How do you delete a file? Click on it and hit the delete key on your computer. Then you’ll get a dialog box asking if you want to remove the selected item:

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Once you’ve done this one time, it’s not that difficult. It’s just a bit unintuitive and not very Apple-like.

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

Another method to get files into an application is for the application itself to provide an in-application way to download or create content. Those documents also appear in that application’s document/file list. For example, the GoodReader PDF application allows downloading of content from a variety of online sources.

So How DO You Actually Load Your Own Documents onto the iPad?

I understand the need to use iTunes as a conduit to get your content onto the iPad. That’s how you put your music, videos, audiobooks, and other content onto your iPod and iPhones, so why not do this for the iPad as well? Well, unlike the rest of the content, the documents are only available to a particular application and have to be copied on real-time. iTunes doesn’t actually manage that content for you – it’s not even stored in your iTunes library anywhere, like other content. Even if you load your own ePub eBooks for use in the iBooks application, it gets a dedicated tab in iTunes and the content is stored within your iTunes library. I hope that this helps explain the document copying process!