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« War of the PDF Apps: Who's the Winner? | Main | Dealing with App Failure »

An "Open In..." Rant (and a call for your Open In Faves)

It happened to me again today.  I downloaded a few new apps, and want to test them out using documents on my iPad.  I go to GoodReader or Dropbox, find the document I want to use, and then press the "Open In..." button in each app.  As I suspected, neither of the new apps appears in the list.  Apple's iOS inexplicably limits the number of apps that appear in the "Open In..." box of any app on your iPhone or iPad - a "feature" or "bug" that really needs to be changed.

Conventional wisdom says the number of apps in the "Open In..." box is 10, but I can say differently.  Just testing out different types of documents in my GoodReader app, most of the document types limit me to 10 apps in the "Open In..." box - Word, PDF, Excel, and PPT all offer me 10 different app from which to choose. However, I also have an RTF (Rich Text File) in my list of files, and when I press "Open In..." for that, I am presented with...twenty-five app choices!

Theoretically, when you click on "Open In..." you are given choices that apply to the file type you are trying to open.  For example, when I want to open a PowerPoint file, Keynote is always the first option in the list. It's clear that an RTF file can be viewed in a lot of different apps - otherwise, why would it give me so many options?  And if that's the case, why can't iOS give me that many options for all of the files I try to open?  It's a puzzling conundrum that has yet to be figured out, and one on which Apple has so far been silent.

Jeff Richardson had a great writeup on this very issue over at iPhone J.D. back in January - he sets forth the problem succinctly, and offers some workarounds.  I agree that the best workaround is simply to delete apps that do show up on your "Open In..." list until the apps you actually want appear in the list - then reinstall all of the apps you had to delete.  But as Jeff explains, this approach is inelegant - and as far as I'm concerned, a real pain in the butt.  

I'd Apple to fix this feature/bug, but I'm not going to hold my breath - it has been a known issue for nearly two years, and still nothing from Cupertino.  So I guess my plea goes out to the app developers themselves - if you intend users to view documents or other files within your app, then give us another option than an "Open In..." button.  The most direct way of doing this is to allow us to connect to our Dropbox or Box or other file synching accounts - that way, we could open the documents directly, without getting other apps involved.  And easy access to our files is what all of you developers want for your users - right?

Given that the "Open In..." list isn't likely to change any time soon, I thought I'd open up the comments below for you to chime in on the question:  What are the 10 Must-Have Apps in your "Open In..." box? If you're limited to 10 apps, which are the apps you absolutely need to have there?  Here are mine - looking at the list, it's pretty basic:



What about you?  What apps make your ideal "Open In..." list?  I realize that not all of these apps open the same types of documents - but if this was the same every time I tried to open a document, this would open just about everything for me.

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Reader Comments (1)

I've been banging my head and iPad against the wall for the 2 years trying to isolate some rule to explain and come up with a workaround (aside from the deletion Grecian formula--I'm literally going gray from this). I've been unsuccessful and have pinged all the "AppsPerts" in shared frustration. It's worse than nothing because there is literally no rhyme or reason. And my number one "GoodReader" (over iAnnotate for PDF annotation), is deleted from the list anytime I add a new one to test out. I've tried last open, first open, file format attempts, etc...
It is flatly unacceptable.
Other notables in reply to the question are Adobe reader (over sign n send) for signing, Quickoffice (over Docs To Go), neu Annotate, and Notability (if i have to though I'm a bit plussed at the forced convergence of annotation being lobbed on me in my notetaking Apps), and TrialPad, but never, I repeat Never will it occur in the Kindle App, which despite being used very infrequently is likewise included in my open in list along with the even less used CloudOn.

April 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark I Unger

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