Download an app file from iMac/iTunes to iPad

If you upgraded your iMac to iTunes 11.x and you’re confused by what you see, don’t panic.  The old features are still there; Apple just felt a need to jazz up the interface (Windows 8 envy?).

Here’s how to get that doc you’ve been hammering at on your iMac into your iPad for some mobile editing.  But first, some orientation; copies of an iPad app file may be stored in up to three places:

  1. The iPad (note to Windows users; each app manages its own files)
  2. iTunes on your iMac (in an area that’s only visible when your iPad is mounted, creating the impression that this copy is on your iPad)
  3. A folder on your iMac (outside of iTunes)

When you download (copy, transfer, sync) an app file, you’re making a copy of it in a new location (also, you might format it differently); this doesn’t affect the original file.

What we’re going to do is copy the file from its iMac folder to iTunes, and then from iTunes to the iPad.


  • iOS 5.1.1
  • OSX 10.7.5
  • iTunes 11.0.1
  • iOS App used in this example: Pages

What to do:

A.  Get ready.

  1. Locate the document you want to download in Finder.  Let’s say it’s an MS Word document.  Keep this window open to use later.
  2. Plug your iPad’s sync cable into your iMac as usual.  Note that if your iMac is sleeping you need to wake it up first or you’ll get an error.
  3. In iTunes, find the iPad button on the right end of the menu bar.  Click the whole button, not the eject symbol on the button’s right end.05 iPad button
  4. The tool bar changes to tools having to do with your mounted iPad.  In the center of the tool bar, click the Apps tab.10 apps menu

B. Copy the file from the folder to iTunes.

  1. Scroll down the Apps page to the File Sharing section near the bottom.
  2. In the left pane, click the iPad app you’ll use to access your downloaded iMac file; for example, Pages.  The right pane lists the iPad files held in iTunes for the app you picked.15 file sharing section
  3. If the file you want to download is in this list, then you previously uploaded or downloaded it.  Decide whether the iTunes copy of your file is obsolete.  If yes, delete it.  If no, stop.
  4. To delete the iTunes copy of the file, click it to select it and push the Delete key on your keyboard.  iTunes will prompt “Are you sure you want to delete this file from your iPad?”  This prompt is misleading; you aren’t deleting it from your iPad, but from iTunes.  Confirm the delete.
  5. Arrange your desktop so both the Finder window and the iTunes window are visible.
  6. Drag the file from the Finder window to the right pane of the File Sharing area of the iTunes window.45 Pages copy Finder to iTunes

C. Copy the file from iTunes to the iPad.

  1. On your iPad, open Pages If it shows a document for editing, touch the Documents button on the tool bar.16 iPad Pages docs  Pages displays thumbnails of all of its documents.
  2. If you see the file you want to download here, decide if it’s obsolete.  If yes, delete it.  If no, stop.
  3. To delete the iPad copy of the file, Touch the Edit button on the tool bar. 17 pages edit Select the document you want to delete.  Select the Trashcan icon in the tool bar.
  4. Touch the + symbol on the left end of the toolbar.  A menu of file creation choices drops down.
  5. Select Copy from iTunes.50 Pages copy from iTunes
  6. In Pages, a list of files in iTunes appears.  Touch the file you want to copy to the iPad. 55 Pages select file A progress bar appears.  Pages automatically converts the copied file from Word to Pages format.

D. Close down.

  1. In the iTunes window, click the Done button on the top right corner of the tool bar to show you’re done with the Apps tab. 25 done with apps The main iPad tool bar appears.
  2. In the main iPad tool bar, click the Eject symbol on the right end of the iPad button — not the whole button.30 eject iPad
  3. Unplug your iPad’s sync cable.

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