- Editor's Rating
Air Sharing HD is a file management utility for the iPad that incorporates remote file access, wireless file sharing, an advanced PDF viewer, and wireless printing. It is currently available for $9.99 at the Apple App Store.
After you purchase and install Air Sharing HD for iPad, you’ll have to set up a few things to take full advantage of everything the app has to offer. If you already use a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or MobileMe, you’ll need to enter your username and password for each service. The same is true for any email account you want to set up, though if you already use the built-in Mail app on the iPad you may not need to complete that step.
If you want to share files wirelessly with your computer, you’ll need to press the small Wi-Fi button at the bottom of the screen to discover the necessary IP address information. You will then open an internet browser window on your computer and type exactly what you see in Air Sharing HD into the address bar.
Once the page loads in your browser, you will see a listing of the files you have on the iPad. You’ll know instantly whether or not you set it up correctly, because Air Sharing HD comes preloaded with several sample documents, including a spreadsheet and PDF.
Features and Controls
Each time you start Air Sharing HD for iPad, you will begin at the Servers screen, where you can select from all of the services you’ve already set up to work with your device. The plus sign icon at the top left corner of the screen is what you’ll tap to add other services. Air Sharing HD supports just about every remote sharing service I can think of, aside from Box.net and SugarSync, as well as SSH and FTP if you have your own server.
The Edit button at the top right corner allows you to delete any service you have set up but no longer wish to use. Icons allow the bottom of the screen allow you to access the comprehensive help file, determine your network address, and access the settings.
Settings include the ability to set a password to limit access to the application (which is important if you choose to place any files in the public folder), whether your iPad is allowed to go to sleep while Air Sharing HD is active, and control the look of the file browser portion of the app.
If you’re having a hard time remembering exactly what you marked and you have several PDF files stored on your iPad, you can view a list of all of them by tapping on the open book icon at the bottom of the My Documents window. This is an especially handy feature if you like to annotate your PDF files as you read and refer to them.
If you select several files at once by tapping them with your finger, you can tap the export icon at the bottom left corner of the screen and choose email to attach all of the selected files to a new email message. This isn’t quite as convenient as actually zipping everything up into one neat little folder, but it works.
If you want to create an actual zip archive, duplicate a file, or move a file into another folder, you must first select the relevant files and then tap the gear icon in the lower right corner to see the list of available actions.
The controls are almost identical when you are in document view, Instead of having difficult-to-decipher icons spread out all over the screen, they are all contained in one area. When you tap on the gear icon at the bottom right of the screen, a menu pops up that allows you to go to a specific page or bookmark, search within the file, go to the table of contents, or switch to thumbnail view. It’s elegant and works well.
Performance and Ease of Use
Air Sharing HD for iPad generally performs as it should, though there were a several issues and the app did crash a couple of times. The crashes occurred when I was viewing the PDF user manual for my old Fujitsu Lifebook, which weighs in at 3.6MB in size. There was no data loss involved with the crashes, though they were somewhat surprising since the app is supposed to be an advanced PDF viewer that can handle large documents.
Documents open very quickly, though retrieving documents from Dropbox or my Gmail account it seemed to take much longer than it should have. I also had a few instances where I wasn’t able to access my Dropbox files, though it is impossible to determine whether the issue was with Air Sharing HD or perhaps the Dropbox service was temporarily unavailable at those times.
Once you read the rather detailed instructions, Air Sharing HD for iPad is easy to use. Most of the time you aren’t doing much more than tapping on the file that you want to access and the controls are very simple. The hard part comes in when you try to set up Air Sharing, and even that isn’t too difficult if you read the instructions first, or have experience with similar apps.
The help file also includes detailed instructions on how to set up an ad hoc wireless network if you would like to transfer files from your laptop to your iPad and don’t have access to a Wi-Fi network.
Air Sharing HD for iPad sounds like a great value at $9.99, because it promises a great many things — wireless file sharing, an advanced PDF viewer, wireless printing, and much more. If you plan to use this app in a Mac or Linux environment, you’re all set, and it will be particularly helpful to corporate users who want to share and refer to documents on the go, using the iPad much like a flash drive or document repository.
For Windows users however, one of the most important features, wireless printing, is not available. Wireless printing requires a Mac or Linux computer. For that reason Windows PC users would be wise to consider another option such as GoodReader, which performs all of the same functions (except printing) for one-tenth the price of Air Sharing HD.
If all you need is a wireless option to get your documents on your iPad and you already have a preferred editing solution such as Pages or Documents to go, you would be better served by the free client apps that many of those services, such as Dropbox and SugarSync, offer in the App Store.
Air Sharing HD for iPad has the potential to be an excellent tool, but I feel that it is somewhat overpriced compared to apps like GoodReader. If your main interest is the ability to print documents wirelessly, Air Sharing HD can be a valuable asset in your mobile arsenal. It has some nice features, and certain aspects of the user interface are elegant.
Unfortunately my experience was marred by a few crashes and relatively slow document retrieval. As with some of the other iPad apps I’ve reviewed recently, the ultimate purchase decision comes down to which desktop platform you use. Hopefully future updates of the application will also smooth out some of the performance issues, offering users a more stable, more robust experience for their $10 investment.