If you love your iOS device but you’re not a fan of iTunes, there’s a way to manage your device without it. Read on as we show you how to spend less time syncing files and dinking around with iTunes and more time enjoying your device.
Why Do I Want to Do This?
We’re huge fans of the iOS stable of devices, especially the iPad, but we’re not such big fans of iTunes. As old school geeks, we like just opening up a device and dumping files onto it. The file syncing features of iTunes leave a huge amount to be desired (and performing a task like copying over a pile of comic books or the like is needlessly fiddly and complex). Further more, there’s no option to simply open up your iOS device like an attached flash drive and copy files between your computer and your device. We don’t know about you, but when we want to transfer a bunch of files and hit the road, we want to transfer a bunch of files and hit the road–silly fiddly syncing processes just frustrate us.
iFunBox brings back that kind of easy just-sending-it-to-my-flash-drive file manipulation to your iOS devices–no more waiting for iTunes to chug through all sorts of backup, syncing, and other routines just to get the file you want where you want it. You don’t have to totally uninstall iTunes (and we certainly recommend keeping it around to perform iOS device backups), but you will definitely find yourself using it a lot less.
What Do I Need?
For this tutorial, we’ll be using iFunBox on a Windows 7 machine and an iPad, but the application is also available for OS X and works with all iOS devices. To follow along you’ll need:
- One Copy of iFunBox (Free)
- One iOS Device
In addition to the above, it would be handy to have a few files on hand that you’ve been putting off transferring to your device because of the kludgy iTunes transfer process (we have a bunch of comics to load into Comic Zeal).
One thing you won’t need is a jailbroken iOS device. If you want to take advantage of the most advanced features iFunBox has to offer (such as SSH-based communication and file transfer to your iOS device), you’ll need a jailbroken device to installing the required dependencies on the actual iOS device. 99% of the functionality of the app (and all the functionality we’ll be demonstrating today) is available to users without jailbroken devices.
Installing and Configuring iFunBox
The Windows version of iFunBox is available both as an installer and as a simple portable app. If you would like to formally incorporate it into Windows, grab the installer. If you would like to create a portable copy (that you can easily sync to other computers via DropBox or otherwise take with you), grab the portable one. We opted to use the portable version; we like portable apps.
The initial installation is quite straight forward (either run the installer or unpack the portable app’s ZIP). Run iFunBox.exe to start the process. You’ll see a screen like the one above.
If you haven’t already attached your device via the USB sync cable, do so now. When your device is connected, you’ll see a unique tab for it in the upper right hand corner:
Clicking on the tab allows you to switch between attached iOS devices (if applicable), as well as eject the currently selected device or turn on Wi-Fi sharing (more on this in a moment).
The default pane is the Find More Apps panel, which is more useful than it would appear at first glance. While it initially appears to simply be a mirroring of data you could find via iTunes if you so desired (such as most popular free and paid apps), it also includes very useful data aggregation from AppHolic and App Deals, such as price drops on popular apps as well as temporarily free applications–poking around in the Price Drops and Free Today columns is a great way to score serious app discounts.
Three Ways to Import Files
Now that we have installed the app and checked out the default interface, let’s get down the important part: using iFunBox as a really fast and really simple file transfer/syncing tool.
If you want to import files to the core iOS apps–Music, Video, Photos, Ringtones, etc.–the Quick Toolbox tab is the way to go. You can click on the appropriate icon in the Export section up top to dump the contents of that app or you can click the icon under the Import section at the bottom for a fast-access drag and drop pane like so:
We know after years of fiddling in iTunes this is probably shocking to you, but yes, you can really can just drag a bunch of pictures right onto the pane and transfer them to your device.
If you want to transfer files into applications that would normally require the iTunes File Sharing feature, navigate to the Managing App Data tab:
Here we see all the apps that support File Sharing from within iTunes, including the application that started our whole quest for a way to avoid iTunes: Comic Zeal.
If you double click on the icon of one of the apps, you’re presented with a file browser pane in which you can drag and drop files right onto your iOS device:
You can reverse the process, too. If you are at a friend’s house and you want to copy the media you put on your iPad, you can fire up iFunBox and copy things from it instead of to it.
The last way, and by far the most powerful, to copy and manipulate files is the Classic view. Switch over to the iFunBox Classic tab and you navigate the entire directory structure of your device:
Here you can see that we took advantage of the General Storage folder to turn our iPad into a flash drive. Again, it was just a matter of drag and dropping the files from our computer (in this case our /Board Game Info/ folder to copy rules and add-ons for the game 7 Wonders to our iPad). Now we can pull the files off from another location and share them with friends.
Now, instead of jumping through hoops to transfer files to your iOS device (and waiting through the painfully slow iTunes-based transfer), you can drag, drop, and fire off your files to your device as fast as the sync cable can go.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 06/3/13