I really like iCloud. It syncs my contacts, my apps, my photos and more, all without really asking for much in return. But there’s one area where iCloud falls over repeatedly – and it’s an unacceptable failure for a service which (at face value) looks like yet another move by Apple to dislodge the MS Office behemoth from the default position in spreadsheets, presentations and documents. The failure I’m talking about, is Documents over iCloud.
At first, it seems like a dream come true. Syncing on an iOS device, just like dropbox for the mac. Sure it only works for 3 apps, but those apps are well designed, great to use and make for any must-have app list today. But the current implementation of this syncing is painful to say the least. I can’t count the number of times I’ve opened up numbers.app (it seems to be worst in numbers, but I don’t use pages or keynote anywhere near as often), only to have the spreadsheet I want to work in ‘updating’ over the air. I can’t open, edit, delete the spreadsheet, and worse I can’t manually control the sync (there are no play/pause, or selective sync features to iCloud), so I’m stuck watching a file upload to the cloud with no recourse to prevent this. Up until now I’ve just given up and waited for it to sync, but it’s worsened to the point that I can’t even work on the single spreadsheet file I have on the iPad because it’s perpetually syncing to the cloud.
To make a bad situation worse, from time to time I’ll spot a mysterious ‘document deleted in other location’ message, with that one spreadsheet disappearing with no other explanation. Sometimes it comes back, other times I have to quit the numbers.app, then reopen it for my document to reappear. The iCloud document sync behaves more like a beta level service, and it’s disappointing to see such an immature syncing service being touted as a big selling point for iOS 5. The sync service is just not good enough for me – I expect it will mature over time but right now it’s going to be turned off.
So today I made the call to cut off iCloud syncing for my documents. I’ve left on the sync for all other features, but documents are off the cards – at least for the meantime. You might think that the documents I synced via iCloud would be wiped from the machine, given their somewhat temporal status – but that the documents created on the iPad and then synced over iCloud would be kept on the device. Not so. This was the last slap in the face for my iCloud experience – after turning off iCloud sync, i opened numbers.app to discover that all of my files had been erased, with a reassuring message that they were safely in the cloud. Not good enough.
I won’t be turning iCloud document storage back on anytime soon, once bitten, twice shy. I love dropbox, I love the rest of the iCloud features, just this one is so patchy and jarring it completely turned me off. I would love to hear if you’ve had the same experience, or if you’ve had a much better experience with the cloud.