iPhone Discover/DiskAid/Briefcase : share&view

Posted: November 18, 2008 in Apple, Troubleshooting

A new utility for iPhone, Discover, is available for free at the AppStore. It allows to exchange (through Wifi) files between an iPhone and a mac (or PC), or between two iPhones. It uses the WebDAV protocole (based on HTTP). Once the application (WebDAV server) is installed and started on the iPhone (and connected to a Wifi network), some of the iPhone files directories can be accessed from a client (mac, PC, or another iPhone) : Public, Private, Photos folders (the iPhone server application allows to create new folders). Connecting from a mac is easy, by just launching Safari and clicking on the Bonjour discovering link in the bookmarks (so no IP to provide- the same for discovering from another iPhone using Discover). From a PC we have to download a specific application, as Windows doesn’t manage natively the Bonjour discovering system.
Moreover the iPhone Discover application allows opening of the browsed files. It manages many formats (problems are reported with very large PDF files) : PDF, HTML/WebArchives, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, text files, video and audio files managed by QuickTime. We can finally set a login and password to protect the published directories.

We can also find DiskAid, a free application that has to be installed on the client side only (mac or PC). It is a files browser that allows to transfer files from/to an iPhone using USB connection. However it doesn’t allow then to browse and open files on the iPhone side, and is intended for files carrying only.

When lacking Wifi connection at home, it should be possible to combine the two softwares : transfer the files from the computer to the iPhone through USB using DiskAid, and then use Discover on the iPhone to browse and open files.

UPDATE : Briefcase Lite by Hey Mac Software (free – 4,99$ for the full version) provides the same features as with Discover (files transfer through wifi, display), but with a more polished and powerful interface (that includes downloads and uploads management, with resume option), and brings a new optimized reader : full screen view, quick navigating in PDF documents files as with Preview (scrollbar, scroll and zoom using touch). The connection uses SSH and devices discovering (iPhones, macs) is also based on Bonjour. Briefcase Lite allows connection between an iPhone and a mac (browsing of the mac filesystem, and then Download or Upload), but it doesn’t manage connection with a PC (a partial support is provided in the full version of Briefcase, however as it doesn’t include a Windows client application for the Bonjour discovering system – contrary to Discover -, the SSH connection has to be setted manually). Between two iPhones the Lite version only allows Download (no Upload), so actions triggering can’t take place (only available with upload, that is to a mac with the Lite version and/or to another iPhone with the full version), like disk image mounting or installer package launch after files have been copied/transfered.

By default the access point on the remote mac filesystem is at the user home directory (the same user as the one specified for the connection), but we can go up to the root /Volumes directory if needed. Once a computer has been bookmarked in the remote devices list (initial Bonjour discovering through wifi) on the iPhone side, it can be accessed through 3G network if wifi isn’t longer available.
We can see a demonstration video here.

  1. In fact folders managed by Discover (Private, Public and added subfolders) are virtual link to files stored on the web server document root (the purpose of WebDAV exchange system is to present an ftp like browsing while using a HTTP server behind the scene), so there isn’t really corresponding folders in the filesystem, at least not at the volume (or user home) root. Then these folders cannot be accessed through USB using DiskAid files explorer.
    The later however displays the DCIM folder that stores photos, and Discover also provides a virtual link (named Photos) to the DCIM photos content folder (not the same as the iPhone root folder Photos, that stores the photo library files). Then putting documents into that folder would in theory allow to get them from Discover Photos virtual link. There is however to know if it is risky to put other file types in the DCIM folder.

    Brifecase Lite simply doesn’t list any folders if a wifi connection isn’t available, and the Briefcase Lite folder created by default for download content isn’t shown (it is perhaps created the first time a file is downloaded), so it cannot be accessed from the mac using DiskAid (and when created it would probably also be a vritual folder link to something in the web server document root, that isn’t accessible from DiskAid).

  2. Leon Sodhi says:

    If you’re having trouble getting briefcase lite working with Windows then check out an article I wrote here:


  3. […] files transfers to/from to iPhone through USB. To remember, the combination of Discover and DiskAid didn’t allow to access files (DiskAid doesn’t have access to the WebDAV document root folder used by […]

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