Saving iPad Documents to Dropbox

This is a crosspost from The Cat Convention.

If you’re not familiar with Dropbox by now, you should be. Dropbox is what MobileMe‘s iDisk aspires to be one day. For now, it isn’t.

For the uninitiated, Dropbox is a fantastic cross-platform bit of code that synchronizes files across all of your computers. It also provides a look into the folders via a web browser if you should need it. They also offer an iPad app that allows you to browse and download files to local applications such as Pages.

Alas, Pages on the iPad, however, doesn’t speak Dropbox. It will allow you to edit the documents and export them to:

  • An email
  • iDisk
  • A webdav server

Dropbox is missing from that list. You could save your files back to your iDisk, but then you’d need to go to a regular machine and copy that file from the iDisk to your Dropbox folder. That’s pretty obtuse.

While we wait for Apple to purchase Dropbox and implement it as an iDisk replacement, we can use the magic of Apple Mail and Applescript to create a nifty workaround. Today I spent some time on a script that will do the following:

  • Take the contents of an email message with a particular subject line
  • Extract the attachment
  • Save the attachment in a Dropbox folder depending on the keyword you use in the subject line of the message

Since Dropbox runs all the time on your Mac, it will notice the file change event and automatically sync the file to all of your computers linked to that Dropbox account.

Making an Applescript that will save an attachment to your file system is quite easy. Linking a mail rule to that Applescript is also quite easy. Therefore, the implementation of this is easy. What makes this script a little different is that you can specify keywords in the subject line and it will decide where to put the file inside your Dropbox folder based on the keyword. Editing those keywords are completely up to you.

To implement, download the “Save Attachment to Dropbox.scpt” file below. You should open /Utilities/Applescript and modify the script’s keywords for the subject lines you plan to use. Save the .scpt file to your favorite location for AppleScripts. (For Mail scripts, I use “~/Library/Scripts/Mail”).

Next, create a rule in your Apple Mail using criteria to judge when to fire off the rule. In my case, I told it to look for messages that meet all of these criteria:

  1. Messages coming from a particular email address
  2. Containing a subject line keyword that starts with“-savedb”

The script will execute and look at the subject line of your email message. The subject line should start with “-savedb…” and have some kind of keyword in there. You edited the script to define those, right? Well, you don’t use the rule to define those keywords. Note that I said in the keyword to use “starts with” the string “-savedb”. The script will determine what to do with it based on what you code there.

I also recommend adding an action to move the processed messages over to a folder. In my case, I created a folder called “Processed to Dropbox” and told the rule to move the message there.

An important note: the script will overwrite any files that have the same name as the file. I felt that this was a safe thing to do since Dropbox automatically backs up 30 copies of the file on the site and you can retrieve any version you like. Deleted versions of the files are tossed in the Trash. They are not deleted completely until you empty the Trash. If you still do not like this behavior, feel free to modify the script to remove that action.

Now all you have to do is send yourself an email from the proper address with the proper keyword from your favorite app on the iPad and voila, it’s instantly synced to all of your computers and backed up.

Another way to use this is via “DropDAV” at I was close to using that solution until I read more about it. I decided I wasn’t entirely comfortable with giving another third party my Dropbox username and password, so I developed this method instead.

If you want to encourage the developers of Dropbox to add WebDAV support, be sure to give them a +1 vote here.

I hope you enjoy this script and it helps band-aid the interruption in workflow until Apple purchases Dropbox. ūüôā If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Click here to download “Save Attachment to Dropbox.scpt”.

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Macworld 2009 Thoughts, Impressions, Wrapup

Rather than spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pump out information about Macworld 2009, I thought it would be more appropriate to soak in the entire show and let my brain stew on it a little bit.  I twittered the keynote quite a bit, so that was me trying to play journalist.  For the rest of the week, I intended to take part in the show and ignore the fact that I was collected information to share.

That way, I could let all of the thoughts and information culminate into a wave of thoughts and impressions to share with you while my wife packs for the trip home. ¬†Close your mouth; she likes it that way. ¬†She prefers to be the one that packs and organizes for trips like this and she’s damn good at it. ¬†I asked if I could help and she said no – it was best to stay out of her way.

So, here I sit to write.

The Keynote

I’m not going to bash on the keynote as much as some folks have. ¬†I didn’t come to it with unrealistic expectations. ¬†I knew to expect an update iLife and iWork suite – how the press sites completely missed this clue I’ll never figure out. ¬†The last build of Snow Leopard before the show had all of the iLife apps missing. ¬†How much more of a clue do you need? ¬†I also expected an updated 17″ Macbook Pro. ¬†Steve Jobs had pretty much thrown that secret away with the press event that introduced the unibody Macbooks. ¬†This was an easy one to figure out.

So the keynote was underwhelming to most everyone, but fulfilled my expectations nicely. ¬†I suppose that’s the reward I get for not having outlandish expectations. ¬†I did hope for an updated model of the Apple TV or Mac Mini, but I didn’t have any data to indicate those were in the mix, so I didn’t have my hopes up.

Oh. ¬†And the iTunes announcements were neat. ¬†I’m glad I can use iTunes again without feeling dirty and resorting to Amazon.

Phil Schiller as a speaker was subdued and nervous. ¬†You could hear his voice crackling with pressure. ¬†He knew he wasn’t the front billing and was just hoping for a warm welcome. ¬†He got a warm welcome, but he was nervous nonetheless. ¬†Did this reduce his effectiveness as a speaker? ¬†Perhaps. ¬†I wouldn’t say he delivered a total mess, but it wasn’t a Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

The proclivity to bite his nails caught up with him at the end when he slipped and mentioned “this last Macworld,” when was he meant to say was, “this last Macworld that Apple will be a part of” or something of that nature. ¬†He caught himself – again, you could hear it. ¬†His voice crackled with the “Oh shit”‘s one can expect when you’re not a polished stage presenter. ¬†I’m sure IDG wasn’t thrilled, given the amount of effort they were outputting to pique your interest in next year.

Next Year

So yeah, let’s talk about Macworld 2010, since IDG wants us to remember that Macworld will continue on without Apple next year. ¬†As a matter of fact, IDG is so visibly nervous about interest waning in their show that banners at every corner enticed you to come back next year, even on the first day of the show.¬†¬†To me, this was the biggest clue that IDG is absolutely terrified. ¬†They should be. ¬†Not just because of Apple’s desire to back away from this show but because the show itself wasn’t all that interesting. ¬†To me, that was the largest death knell. ¬†Everywhere you went you could hear people talking about how this was the last show they will be attending.

I’m jumping ahead here too, but this is relevant. ¬†Five minutes after I arrived back in my hotel room Friday night, I received an email from IDG begging me to go ahead and register for the Expo next year… and if I did, it was free! ¬†Whee! ¬†IDG is terrified folks.

Not to mention the rumors now that Apple wants a booth and presence at CES, which goes against their “we just want to get out of trade shows” press release. ¬†What this tells me is that there was some kind of cost/value dispute over Macworld and Apple ultimately feels like they no longer need to be a specialized entry in the computing world. ¬†They want to play with the big boys now. ¬†They want the computing world to be unified, not split over some terrible operating system preference rift. ¬†Good for them.

Now that IDG has reminded up that there is a Macworld next year, we can move on to the rest of the show.

Powertools and Conference Sessions

I had a platinum pass, so just like every one platinum pass owner I was completely overbooked on sessions.  I sat in on the first session about directory services for the Mac, in particular, the server.  It was a decent session, but the first day managed to cover the topic I was interested in.  I made plans to attend other sessions and do some show floor walking.

Let’s discuss the platinum pass for a moment, since I brought it up. ¬†Why does IDG insist on selling an overpriced pass that completely overbooks you on the conference and sessions? ¬†With this pass you have free an unfettered access to almost any conference topic or session, which is fine… however, if you actually try to attend both powertools sessions and a market symposium, your entire agenda is shot. ¬†You do not even have time to walk the show floor. ¬†That means that eventually you have to skip class just to get out on the floor and see what’s going on with the Expo. ¬†I would think that IDG would give platinum pass goers an extra day or extend the evening Expo hours to give those folks some time to walk the floor. ¬†Maybe someone brought that up in the town hall session.

Anyway, the sessions were interesting. ¬†By far the best talk was Alex Lindsay’s chat on podcasting that lasted most of the day Friday. ¬†(@alexlindsay on Twitter). ¬†For those of you who don’t know who he is – he is one of the founders of Pixel Corps, a guild of filmmakers and new media masterminds. ¬†Alex also works with @leolaporte on the TWiT network producing podcasts like Macbreak and Macbreak Weekly. ¬†His speech was outstanding – but the most valuable part was the fact that he was having an open dialogue with his attendees. ¬†I got lots of information out of that chat and should Alex ever run across this blog for any reason, he should know that this was just awesome.

Outside of that, the conference sessions were ho hum. ¬†There wasn’t much in the way of new information in any of them and the attendance numbers were pretty dull. ¬†The chatter on the floor indicated a dull attitude toward the conference sessions as well, unless you went by the Apple booth. ¬†The Apple booth certainly had garnered a lot of interest with the new iLife and iWork suites. ¬†They had tons of iMacs and Macbooks set up with the new software and one employee at each computer, ready to show you all they had. ¬†Oops, I digress, this section is about the powertools and conference sessions.

As far as feature presentations go, Leo Laporte gave a fantasic speech on the state of new media and why old media is dying. ¬†My coworker went in to the speech completely skeptical, but by the end of the speech he was totally in line with what Leo was talking about. ¬†The turnaround was pretty amazing. ¬†If Leo were here, he’d be happy to see that he converted someone to his point of view.

Hey Leo!

Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!
Leo Laporte sat down and geeked out with us over lunch!

We kept running into Leo Laporte, oddly enough. ¬†As fans, we instinctively shouted out his name. ¬†At one point, we were sitting at a table and I saw him wander up, looking lost. ¬†He was holding a salad. ¬†I just suddenly shouted, “Hey Leo!” ¬†He spotted us and walked up. ¬†My coworker invited him to sit and eat and to my surprise, he did. ¬†We sat and geeked out with him for about 20 minutes, having some enlightening conversations about Microsoft and Apple. ¬†Leo is a man who¬†gets it.¬†¬†It’s fun to idolize him because he doesn’t seem to mind much.

We managed to see Leo at least two more times. ¬†Once as we wandered the show floor we spotted him checking out the SMULE booth. ¬†(The Ocarina app is the most incredible application I’ve ever seen, incidentally). ¬†Later in the week, we crossed paths with him in the tunnel connecting north and south Moscone. ¬†I congratulated him on his fantastic speech that morning and he seemed rather appreciative.

Between talking to Leo Laporte and Alex Lindsay, two heroes of mine in the new media space, it was like a dream come true.

iPhone Case World

As far as the show floor went, Apple owned the north hall.  Without their presence next year, Macworld will probably be able to squeeze into a single event hall.  Seriously.  They had a huge contingent of computers and employees there demonstrating iLife and iWork.  Good for them.

A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09
A row of iMacs used to demo iWork '09


The rest of the show floor was really underwhelming.  Everywhere you looked, some new company was coming out with a new case for iPods or the iPhone.  Srsly.  That was about it.  There were some great show buys that I immediately picked up on Рa 30% discount on Omni products, a 10% discount on Delicious Library 2, but by and large there were only two stories on the show floor: iPhone/iPod cases and gadgets and the complete surprise of geotagging suddenly becoming important.

That’s right. ¬†Nikon and Canon were completely thrilled¬†about the geotagging support being added to iPhoto. ¬†Not. ¬†Both booths said everyone was now asking for geotagging support in the cameras because of this but they were completely unprepared. ¬†The Canon booth was even worse about this topic – they were downright combative about the subject. ¬†When we asked if any of their cameras supported geotagging, they said, “Why do you ask?” ¬†We looked at them as though they had turkeys on their heads. ¬†The Canon rep continued, “Just because iPhoto has it? ¬†What makes that useful?” ¬†We still stood there, speechless. ¬†Finally, he seemed to relent a little bit. ¬†“No, seriously, Canon would like to know if you want this and how much you’re willing to pay for it.” ¬†Okie, that’s a decent question, but his delivery could use some work. ¬†So it seems Apple is ahead of the game again – no one is ready to do geotagging as part of the full camera gadget just yet. ¬†Buyer beware.

That about covers the show as I saw it. ¬†We’re packing up to head home, but I don’t think I’ll be coming back to another Macworld. ¬†I’ll make an effort for WWDC, but if Apple thinks that CES is the place to go and Macworld isn’t, then I suspect that’s where the flock will go next as well.

IDG blew something. ¬†I’m not sure what it was, but they blew it. ¬†You could feel that evidence everywhere.

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