Your iOS device is a killer pocketable computer; your desktop is more powerful with a bigger screen. They need to play better together. Here’s how to break down the barrier between the two and shuttle text, files, media and more seamlessly between your desktop and iPhone.
It’s a common annoyance if you’re a smartphone user: You’re looking at something on your desktop, and you want to move it to your iOS device. Or vice versa. Below, we’ve pulled together the best tools for doing just that: quickly shuttling data between your desktop and iPhone for a more seamless, harmonious smartphone experience.
Two-Way Tools: iPhone to Desktop to iPhone
The following tools push information and data in both directions — back and forth between your desktop and iOS device.
Downloading and creating files on your iPhone used to mean they were stuck there; when it was first released, the only good way to get a file from your desktop to your iPhone was to email it to yourself. Fortunately, a couple of iOS apps elegantly solve the problem of file transfer, helping you move various files you need between your iPhone and your desktop.
Next time you’re eyeball-deep in an article on your desktop or iPhone and want to finish up on the other, turn to these tools.
Instapaper and Read It Later
Notes, URLs, Phone Numbers, Other Small Bits of Data
Sometimes the most frustrating aspect of the smartphone/desktop wall comes when you want to move short piece of information between the two. When the iPhone was first introduced (before copy and paste), often your best (tedious and most annoying option) option required you to manually transcribe text off the iPhone’s screen or off your desktop — not terribly efficient on a software keyboard. Now plenty of applications are great at transferring little pieces of data, such as URLs or text files, between your computer and your iPhone. (For more feature-rich one-way tools, jump down to the desktop-to-iPhone section below.)
Contacts, Tasks, Calendar Items
Some of the most important data moving between your phone and your desktop is the information you use to communicate and get things done. Here are a couple of ways, from free to pay, to keep your calendar and contacts in sync between your phone and your computer.
Google Sync for iPhone syncs your contacts, mail and calendars between your iPhone and the web and to your desktop. While it’s going to your Google account and not the desktop directly, if you’ve got your syncing with Google on your desktop (which you can do), it’s basically the same thing. As an added bonus, it’s a nice access point for all your Google stuff. [Free, Setup Instructions]
MobileMe / Mail2Web
Newsreaders aggregate your reading material into one place, which is great if you only have one device you use for reading. If you have multiple, it gets really annoying when you’ve read an article on one device, but it still shows as new on the other. Here are a few options to keep your mobile reading in sync with the desktop.
NetNewsWire, NewsRack, Reeder
One Way Tools: Desktop to iPhone
Not every tool in this toolkit works both ways. Here are some of the best tools that work specifically to shuttle information from your desktop straight to your iPhone.
Your Current Browser Window or Session
Nothing’s more annoying that staring a link in the face on your desktop but still needing to either manually search for it or type it in on your tiny software keyboard. These tools make it easy to push a page or session from your desktop browser to your iPhone.
Chrome to iPhone/Firefox Home
Last but not least, AirLink is a bookmarklet that works with any browser, so it doesn’t require an extension installation on your desktop or an app installation on your iOS device. It’s just a desktop bookmarklet and an iOS bookmark.
Access Your Music, Movies and Photos on iOS
Your iPhone’s storage isn’t bad, but it’s still nowhere close to fitting all the media on your desktop. But as long as you’ve got a wireless connection, you don’t need to.
Sync Passwords to iOS
Get Desktop Notifications on iOS
Push Your Clipboard, Make Phone Calls, Write Text Messages and More
One Way Tools: iPhone to Desktop
Most use cases for iPhone/desktop communication are covered in the two-way section above. The one remaining: remote controlling your desktop from your iPhone.
Remote Desktop Control
When partial measures won’t do and you need full access to your home or work computer, you’ll need an iPhone app capable of VNC or RDP (both are common protocols for remote controlling desktops like you’re sitting in front of them). These tend to be pretty expensive, but you do have some options.
Mocha VNC Lite
VNC for the Wealthy
Got a tool you count on to break down the barrier and shuttle information back and forth between your desktop and iOS device? Whether we mentioned it or not, feel free to sing its praises in the comments.