The Big iCloud Disappointment for Mac Users

ICloud does not sync Pages documents on the Mac

Consider this post to be a gripe. The gripe is about iCloud, the Apple voodoo that will keep all of your documents, photographs, and music magically in sync between your iOS and OS X devices. Just turn it on and it works, without any further effort on your part. Edit a document on your iPad, and there it is waiting for you when you pick up your Mac. Except that it doesn’t quite work that way if you’re a Mac user.

First a disclaimer: iCloud is in beta, so improvements could be coming on the Mac side of things. So yeah, this gripe is a bit premature. But for all the hype that surrounded iCloud (as with most Apple products), I was supremely disappointed to learn of one of its shortcomings.

Specifically, iCloud does not sync documents on the Mac side. I started using iCloud with photos, and that worked fine. I loaded some photos into iPhoto on my MacBook Air, and within moments they appeared on my iMac. Very pleased, I turned to Pages, a word processor and page layout program for the Mac. Digging around, I couldn’t find any settings that would let me enable iCloud. Looking online, I found the answer. While Pages documents will sync automatically on iOS devices, this doesn’t happen on the Mac. If you want to move Pages documents to or from a Mac, it is strictly a manual affair. You need to log into iCloud, and upload or download the document as the case may be.

Mac users can only hope that this functionality comes to the Mac. I understand why document syncing is important on iOS devices. The achilles heel (or strength, depending on your perspective) of iOS devices is the lack of a file system. iCloud is one way to work around that.

But I can’t be the only one who views working on documents on an iPad or iPhone as a huge compromise. Because it is a better document creation and editing device, the Mac shouldn’t have less iCloud functionality than its less-capable brother. (Yes, you can hook up a bluetooth keyboard to your iOS device, but at that point, why not just use a laptop if you have one? Hacking together a Frankenstein device surely doesn’t jive with Apple’s “it just works” philosophy, and smacks of doing something just for the sake of doing it.)

The bigger concern is whether the Mac is becoming an afterthought for Apple. Given how much revenue iOS devices generate, this wouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps this iCloud disappointment is temporary, and exists in these early days of iCloud because the syncing of documents to and from devices with large storage capacities is a taller proposition. Perhaps Apple wanted to work out the kinks on simpler devices first, since fewer documents are probably created on iOS devices. We can only hope.

Have you used iCloud yet? What are your thoughts?

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.


  1. You are not the only one!! I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in the document sync. Coming from MobileMe, that was the one feature I was looking forward to. We were already suppose to have contact and calendar sync in MobileMe, but now iCloud just feels like a step way backwards.

    The marketing material for iCloud is very misleading. Manually uploading and downloading is not an acceptable solution. I might as well just continue emailing files to my work computer.

    I see no benefit to iCloud documents as is. None. Horrible, horrible implementation.

    • I wonder if it will be coming soon to the Mac. I was listening to the latest MacCast podcast, and David Sparks (from Mac Power Users and author of iPad at Work) was a guest. He indicated that his book is erroneous right now, because he was led to believe (from materials he reviewed?) that syncing would be automatic on the Mac side, too. So let’s hope it comes soon. For now, I continue to use Dropbox.

  2. Lucky me, I have not experienced your dilemma. Thanks to your blog you free me from this mess since I am planning to purchase iCloud.

  3. I completely agreed — I was totally underwhelmed with iCloud. I’ve actually turned it off on my iPad and iPhone. It may be touted as wireless backup but it is not — there are so many things that it does not backup. So if my device fails I can get some of it back from the iCloud but the rest will need to come from an iTunes backup. Very disappointed.

    The worry is that people now assume they are safe with their backups in the iCloud!

    • I turned the backup on, but I’m going to make sure that I do manual iTunes backups as well. The biggest danger is what you point out – the casual user will assume they’re getting the same type of backup through iCloud that they got through iTunes.

  4. Hi Evan, how did you make the photos show up on your other mac? Was it just to the cameraroll?

    I want to be able to iCloud my entire iPhoto library to be able to download random pictures to my iPhone (from iCloud). Is that possible?

    • Hi Jeppe. You need to make sure that you have the most recent iPhoto update installed, and then you’ll see “Photo Stream” in the left sidebar under “Recent.” Photos that you add subsequent to activating iCloud will show up there. You can also drag photos from other albums onto the word “Photo Stream” in the sidebar, and they’ll be copied there.

  5. Thanks Evan, ok, I was just curious to hear if there where other possibilities than the photo stream…which there appearantly isn’t. Apples promises to sync our content are miles away from reallity… Sounds more like Microsoft Exchange

    • Yea, it’s got a ways to go yet. I guess Apple would remind us that it is still in beta, but the beta stuff seems to be more on the Mac side than on the iOS side, which is disappointing.

  6. iCloud SUCKS! I’m not sure who is suppose to use it. it doesn’t store PDFs, you have to download the Pages file just to be able to see if it’s the file you want. It’s a crime and joke. Having paid to used mobil me for years and this cloud doen’s serve any real purpose but sync your photos and backups for the mobile devices. It really cripples pages. very sad, wish they would fix it.

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