Opening files from Cloud storage -- what are your workarounds?

iOS & iPadOS

I have lots of files in cloud storage that I want to access remotely but not have them eating space on my phone. Examples include an MP3 file I downloaded at work and want to listen to on my commute or an M3u I want to stream. I might have a reference I'm studying in html such as the excellent quick reference for iOS gestures from National Braille press, or documentation for a Braille display.
These are files that open fine in Safari. But when I put them in cloud storage, I can sometimes open them and sometimes not.
For example, if I try to open an MP3 in dropbox, it plays just as if I found it online in Safari. But if I try to open it in OneDrive, I end up having to do "open with" and choose an application like Downcast, because Safari is not on the open-with list.
HTML files are also hard to open in Dropbox, which has its own viewer. The google drive app keeps getting updated, so it used to not play music; now it does. I guess what I really want to know is whether someone has found one solution for stashing files they want to access remotely, especially html and audio; files that built-in functions in iOS can already natively access.



Submitted by Carlos Alonso on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hi, I use a Synology Diskstation, it suits my needs, it has a lot of functionality, the setup process is now more accessible although still not what I would call easy. Once you have the server set up though all the apps are accessible. I like not having to use space on my phone to get to all the content I have stored on the server. It's nop the cheapest solution but I've found it worth my investment.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A couple of things. First, have you tried to use the iOS files app? That's meant to help you access multiple cloud storage systems from the one app.

The whole concept of opening and viewing files on iOS can certainly get a bit confusing.

Submitted by Bruce Harrell on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In iOS settings greater than general greater than storage, you can select offload in frequently used apps. This will free up memory space. For the future, you can always buy a phone with more memory. It is always faster to access files stored locally. Best of luck.

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Thursday, March 15, 2018

I did purchase a phone with more memory; went from 16G to 128G but I'm trying to continue the good practice of not filling up my phone with files I only access occasionally, or in the case of a downloaded Mp3, maybe just once. So my question is why is it faster to access files locally? Sure they don't need to stream and eat internet bandwidth, but how would you stash an HTML file on your phone for local access anyway? For Mp3 files, I think I need iTunes, which in Windows isn't that accessible, and lots of times, I have a single or a couple of files that I don't necessarily want to categorize. iTunes assumes you have music or a podcast or an audio book and it's a pain to get the file first in the iTunes library and then on to the phone.
I will fool with the files app today.
I think I'm still frustrated with this paradigm tha tfiles belong to apps. In Windows I can pop in a flash drive and pull up a file and deal with it in multiple programs. On the phone I have to put a copy in each app I want to access it with. Seems so clunky.

Submitted by Bruce Harrell on Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hi Deborah,

sorry. By "stored locally", I meant stored on your IOS device. But do not despair! smile

You have some possibilities for work arounds in your buttons labelled collaborate, shore and and export, all of which are available in IOS Pages, as are mahy copy options, which allows you to copy the entired text to Document Pro (if you have it on your device), mail, mesage, etc., and there are a lot of etc.'s!

Yet another possibility (which itself takes a little time to do) is to sign out of icloud at the beginning of your day, choosing to keep our documents on your device (which work fine with Macbooks, but I haven't tried it with my iPhone),d and then sign back into icloud at the end of the day. IOS icloud will automatically update everything that has been changed.

But really, it should be straightforward to simply save stuff on your phone and access it there.

Last, check in the ibooks store for IOS User Guides, which are free and helpful.

Hope this helps!


Submitted by Jeff on Thursday, March 15, 2018

Admittedly, it's a major frustration that each app needs its own copy of data, but that's the reality of iOS. That said, the Share button can be used to share data between apps in many cases. This ability allows one to avoid iTunes entirely if one so chooses. I've never connected my iPhone 8 to iTunes, for example.

Many apps allow for downloading data directly into the app, and if not, they accept data via sharing. Getting data to your device is most easily accomplished through some cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or iCloud.

So, for example, many podcast and RSS reader apps allow for downloading their data directly into the app and storing it on the device. Likewise, the BARD app and Audible app both allow one to download audiobooks to the device.

Apps that don't download data directly may still allow sharing data from/to cloud services such as Dropbox. For example, if I have an audiobook in mp3 format, I can zip the book's files into a zip archive, place that zip file into my Dropbox account, and go grab that file from Dropbox by Voice Dream Reader which I prefer for listening to these audiobooks. Voice Dream Reader can play any unprotected mp3 files, so it can be used to play music files just as easily.

I know Apple Music allows for downloading music to your device and I'm pretty sure that Amazon Music does as well, although to save space on my device, I prefer to just stream my music, so I'm not positive about music downloading.

I haven't had any reason to save html documents on my device, but Safari may have a "read offline" option which would allow html files to be saved on the device. There are also many other apps that can view html files, including the formentioned Voice Dream Reader as well as Lire and even iBooks I believe.

Also, the apps for some of the cloud services can play/view some files natively. The Dropbox app can play mp3 files and view pdf files for sure and other file types as well. So the key is to find apps that perform the tasks you desire and that will either download their data or allow sharing with your preferred cloud service.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Friday, March 16, 2018

Wow, this has turned into quite the discussion hasn't it? I think at least part of the problem is that file access and opening as of iOS 11 is in a bit of a transition. It's getting a lot easier to handle files in iOS without copying them everywhere, but it often depends on what the app youre using supports.

Anyway, as someone who uses an iPad as a primary computer, and who stores a lot of files as well as accessing them from remote, my advice is still to download a finder type app, and preferably these days, one that will work with the iOS files app. The one I use is Documents 5.

It's not the easiest thing to use with VO, but you get used to it, and it gives you a place to store stuff that you can get to from any app that supports the iOS file browser. It also has a network mode that let you copy files to and from it without iTunes.

As for viewing files, it really depends on the file and what youre doing with it. HTML files, though, never open in Safari itself. Unlike on a desktop, the safari app is remote only. If you just need to read it, load it into voice dream or something. If you need the links, most apps including the files app should be able to load it into a standard browser that looks a lot like safari. I don't actually have much experience, since I keep most files as markdown, not HTML.

Submitted by Luke on Friday, March 16, 2018

Considering smart phones were never really intended to be full-fledged disc operating systems like you would find on a desktop or laptop computer, I think the Files app is one of the best things Apple has done in years! It really feels like I can finally reign in the chaos of various files being stored in various ways on the phone, and have something more closely resembling an organized file system. Just my two cents. Hope you figure out something that works for you

Submitted by Stephen on Saturday, March 17, 2018

There are a number of apps that will stream files directly from the cloud, a couple of good ones are NPlayer, vlc, RManager. Check out file managers specifically, lots of them stream from the major cloud providers

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Well, it's One-Drive that seems the most limited. Dropbox and an app for google drive called gdrive can natively handle most formats. No need to open in another app. But with one-drive I'm having the most trouble. I don't pay for iCloud storage so I don't have much space there as it stores my backups. I do pay for OneDrive, plus my employer pays for even more one-drive storage because we use Windows at work. So I see no reason to pay for Dropbox. I do wish One-drive wasn't so picky about file types and would play the random audio book or podcast MP3 I download during the day.

I often download something I think is interesting listening, such as audio from Blind Bargains while I'm at work, and yeah I know they have an app. But what happens is I get partly through listening on my lunch hour and want to finish listening on my commute, so I stash the thing in OneDrive where I have lots of space. Then I commute home and discover that one-drive's app can't handle that format. Kind of a bummer since Microsoft research is doing so many cool things.

Submitted by Yvonnezed on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In reply to by Deborah Armstrong

Well, I don't use one drive, but as far as I can see it supports the files app. Try accessing it through that and you might have better luck.