People jailbreak their iOS device for a variety of reasons. Some do it to enable piracy. Other people do it for the sake of messing around. But I believe most users jailbreak their device to extend its capabilities.
By default iOS apps are entirely sandboxed. They see only a subset of the iOS file system, and can affect only a limited part of the user experience. This is great from a security perspective—apps can wreak limited havoc. But for the experienced user, this mostly stifles the capabilities of a great device.
And so we jailbreak our iPhones and iPads. We tweak our system to enable infinite icons on the dock, and add better messaging capabilities. We could go on—great Cydia tweaks are legion—but there’s one specific tweak I’d like to highlight here today. iFile, which allows you to access and play with the iOS file system, is the main reason I’ve taken to jailbreaking my iPad.
iFile – Imagine Finder
Imagine Finder, but for your iOS device. Or for the crossover people, Windows Explorer. That’s a very simple way to look at iFile; the imaginary offspring of Finder and iOS. Of course, iFile is not developed by Apple, but it might as well have been. It looks and feels native, as if it was supposed to be shipped with iOS, but someone forgot to add it to the package.
The interface, too, is reminiscent of Finder, yet stays true to the familiar iOS layout. In landscape mode, a simple sidebar graces the left side of the screen with shortcuts the user’s home folder and applications. Other folders can be added to the sidebar, or bookmarked for more fleeting access. In portrait mode this sidebar is initially hidden, but can be called back on stage by tapping the sidebar button.
Tap folders and files in the main portion of the screen to navigate, or to open a file in another application; almost any other application. More elaborate manipulation is enabled by tapping the Edit button in the top right corner of your screen. This lets you add directories, archive, delete or copy files, and transfer data via email or Bluetooth (premium).
The Applications directory contains your installed applications, but also the sandboxed application data. This is where you’ll likely find the MP3 and AVI files that were previously trapped in that third-party music or video player. Some applications let you send a file to another app on your iOS device using an ‘open in…’ shortcut, but not all. Using iFile, you can easily transfer data across sandboxed apps.
Alas, when you open the Applications folder you’ll be met with a long list of incomprehensible folder names; long alphanumerical strings that appear designed specifically to make navigation a living hell. You can use iFile’s search capabilities, but that might take a while depending on the amount of apps you have installed. A better solution is to let iFile resolve the application names for you, as shown in the screenshot above. You can enable this feature by pressing the settings icon in the lower left portion of your screen and toggling on the ‘Application Names’ option.
You can use iFile to easily transfer files between different sandboxed iOS apps or to other systems. As we talked about earlier, you can send these files over email. However, an easier way to share files locally is to use iFile’s built-in Web Server. More experienced users can reach a similar, but less temporary result by configuring your own iOS file server.
Pressing the wireless icon at the bottom center of your screen will start this web server. With the web server running, you can access the entire iOS file system from a computer connected to the same network, simply by entering the specified URL in a browser. It’s a great way to transfer a few small files on the fly. In fact, I just used it to transfer this article’s screenshots to my computer.
Alternatively, iFile also integrates with Dropbox. Just open iFile’s settings and go to Remote Servers to link the app to your Dropbox account.
Free versus Premium (Price:$4)
iFile comes in two flavors; a free version with limited functionality, and a premium version with a four dollar price tag. In reality, the free version is a non-expiring trial. Unless stated otherwise, it contains the features described above. It does the job for most users, if you don’t mind seeing an upgrade prompt once a day.
Upgrading to the full version not only removes the upgrade prompt; it also adds some additional feature juice. Most useful among these are the ability to share files over Bluetooth and open multiple tabs (local folders and FTP servers) at the same time, allowing you to swipe through them with Cover Flow-style.
Find it on Cydia
iFile is distributed by BigBoss, which is one of the sources normally added to Cydia by default. To install iFile on your jailbroken device, simply open Cydia and search for it. Usually, iFile is even listed on the main Cydia page.
Let your fellow MakeUseOf readers and us know how you’re going to use iFile in the comments section below the article!