I love my iPhone but I really don’t care for iTunes. I also use Exchange for email, contacts, and calendar so I a spoiled when it comes to online automatic syncing of my data. I have to use iTunes for getting my .MP3 files onto my iPhone and I have to use it for backing up my iPhone, but other than that I try to use it as little as possible. One thing that really bothers me however is that in order to get my pictures off on my iPhone I either have to plug in a USB cable and use iTunes or I have to pay $99/year for mobile me. For a phone that is so well connected to the Internet this seems really silly to me. Sure I could email them to myself or put them on Flckr but what I really want is to sync the full resolution .jpegs to my computer.

If you look in the iTunes App Store you’ll likely find a bunch of picture syncing apps. A lot of these will let you sync your pictures to your computer but most of them all have a very specific sequence that you have to go through each time, which usually goes something like this:

  1. Start the app on your iPhone
  2. The app will display a random HTTP address
  3. Then you go to your computer and type in the address in your web browser, which will then show your pictures
  4. Then you click and save each picture

There are a few other apps but they all seems to suffer from similar complications. Virtually none of them just push the pictures from your iPhone to your computer with a single click. Many of them also suffer in that they don’t send the full resolution pictures but instead send resized versions. However I’ve figured out something that can do this. It’s not quite automatic but it’s all done by using free apps and services.

First you’ll need an account on Pixelpipe.com. Pixelpipe is an interesting app/service. It lets you set up “pipes” that you can use to send pictures to online services such as blogs, file sharing, and picture sharing sites. To use Pixelpipe you set up “pipes” which tell Pixelpipe where to route the pictures that you send to it. You can send your pictures to Pixelpipe via email, SMS, or the free iPhone app called Pixelpipe. They also have plug-ins for many applications such as Lightroom and Picasa which allow you to directly send your pictures from within these applications.

The next step is that you’ll need an account at box.net. Box.net is one of many file sharing sites on the Internet. You can get a free account with box.net that will allow you to store up to 1GB of data. For transferring pictures, that should be plenty. If you plan to store your pictures online in your box.net account (which might be a good idea as a simple to use backup), then you can upgrade to any of their reasonably priced premium accounts.

Once you have your box.net account, you need to set up a “pipe” in Pixelpipe to route all pictures sent to it to your new box.net account. To do this, start up the Pixelpipe app and go to settings and add a new destination, using your box.net account information.

Now whenever you want to sync your pictures from your iPhone you simply start the Pixelpipe app, select the pictures, and upload them. You can optionally add a title, caption and keywords for each picture at this time as well.

Now this gets us almost there. Your pictures are now on your box.net account but still not on your computer. You could go to the box.net web site and view them but to download them, box.net will make you select each picture one at a time for download (at least with the free account). There’s a trick though that will allow you to drag/drop all of your pictures straight from box.net to any folder on your computer.

The trick is to open your box.net account as a WebDAV or Web Folder. This is something that Windows has supported since at least XP. Box.net however doesn’t officially support this but it seems to work for me, YMMV. (I’m also told that Macs support this as well, just search for WebDAV folders to learn how to set them up).

On Windows Vista, to open your box.net account as a Web Folder you first need to open your “Computer” folder. Then you want to right-click and choose “Add a Network Location.” Next you want to choose “Add a Custom Location” and type in https://box.net/dav and click to finish. When you open this new network location, simply use your box.net account information to log it. This Web Folder can then be opened in Explorer just like any other folder except that it is a remote folder.

Once the Web Folder is open, you can simple drag/drop your uploaded pictures to any folder on your computer. You could even set up automatic syncing via one of the many file syncing tools available since many of them support WebDAV folders as well.

While it’s not the most straightforward thing to set up, once it is set up I find it reliable and easy to use and best of all, free for something that really should have been free all along.

Flux and Mutability

The mutable notebook of David Jade