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Sharing Text and Images Between Your Mac and iPhone

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Gift

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Sometimes you have something on your Mac that you really need on your iOS device, and sometimes it's the other way around. This has long been a problem with few good solutions but improvements in iOS’s handling of background applications and notifications have allowed for some new ways to solve the issue. In this tutorial I will show you how to quickly and easily transfer text and images between your Mac and iOS devices.

The Problem

In this tutorial I'll demonstrate the best method I have found for transferring text and images between your Mac and iOS devices. There's a number of situations when you might find my solution useful.

For example, typing long messages on an iOS device can be a spelling mistaken laden disaster. Sometimes it can be quicker to type the message on your Mac and then send it to your iPhone to paste into a text message. 

The text you are transferring needn't even be that long, if you are sending someone a URL, or opening a website on your iPhone that you already had open on your Mac, a single mistyped character will result in a useless URL. Using the method I describe in this tutorial will ensure you never spend an hour typing on a touch screen or accidentally break links.

It's not just text that can transferred but also images. There are two main situations you might want to transfer an image between your devices: when you take a photo with your iPhone and want to open it on your Mac, or when you need to insert an image into a message. The method in this tutorial will account for both situations.

The (Hypothetical) Perfect Solution

Unfortunately there is no perfect solution, the one in this tutorial has some trade-offs; but fewer than any other method. For most cases it is near perfect.

A good method for moving content between devices one that is low-friction. If you have to open two different apps on your iPhone and another two on your Mac, just to transfer a URL between the two devices, there is a problem with how you are doing things. 

Ideally, the method will also be instant or near to it. Generally when you're transferring things between your devices its for immediate use, so every second spent waiting for things to sync feels like a minute!

The Bad Solutions

The problem of sharing text and images between your devices is easy to solve badly. For a long time I used emails to myself to send images between my Mac and iPhone. This is a horribly inefficient way to do things and it filled my inbox up with needless emails and wasted storage in my email account.

There are many other similarly bad ways to solve the problem. Services such as Evernote or Simplenote are capable of being used to transfer text but that is not what they are designed for, and so, despite potentially being quite quick, they are not frictionless.

Sharing Text With Command-C

The best solution I've found is an application called Command-C. It has a Mac menubar app and a corresponding iOS app. Command-C works by syncing your clipboard, in the background, between the two devices. This makes it really easy to sync text from your Mac to your iOS device, and also to sync text back from your iOS device to your Mac.

Command-C eliminates the app switching problem by using keyboard shortcuts on OS X and background processing on iOS.

Setting Up Command-C

Command-C works by sending the clipboard over your local area network. For it to work, both devices must be connected to the same wireless network.

  • Download and install the Command-C Mac app and iOS app. The Mac app is free but the iOS app costs $3.99.
  • Make sure that your Mac and iOS device are connected to the same wireless network.
  • Open Command-C on both your Mac and iOS device.
  • The iOS app will detect your Mac. Tap on it in the device list to connect the two.
Setting up Command-C on iOS
  • The Mac app will offer you the chance to reject the connection. Click Accept to link the two clipboards.

Sharing Text From Mac to iOS

Command-C makes it really easy to send your clipboard from your Mac to your iOS device.

  • Copy what you want to send to your clipboard with the usual copy shortcut, Command-C.
  • Use Command-C’s global hotkey, Command-Shift-X by default, to open the menubar app.
  • Use Arrow-Up and Arrow-Down to select the iOS device you want to transfer your clipboard to and press Return.
  • The Command-C menubar icon will flash green for a few seconds as it sends the information. The iOS app will run in the background and save the text to the device's clipboard. As soon as the menubar icon stops flashing you can paste the text as normal on your iOS device.
Sharing text from Mac to iOS

Sharing Text From iOS to Mac

Command-C also makes it easy to send text from your iOS device's clipboard to your Mac's. This is most useful when you need to quote a text message in an email or send across contact details.

  • Copy the text you want to send to your Mac on your iOS device.
  • Open the Command-C iOS app and select your Mac from the list of available devices.
  • Wait a few seconds for the text to transfer across your wireless network. You will get a notification on your Mac when it has happened.
  • Paste the text on your Mac.
Sharing text from iOS to Mac

Sharing Text Between iOS Devices

Command-C also supports sending text between two iOS devices. The procedure is the same as for sharing from an iOS device to a Mac. Copy the text, open the Command-C app and select the iOS device you want to share it with from the list. After a few seconds the text will be on the other iOS devices clipboard.

Sharing URLs With Safari and Google Chrome

For sharing URLs, both Safari and Chrome offer tab syncing across platforms. This potentially reduces friction even further by eliminating the need for Command-C. It, however, requires that you use the same browser on your both Mac and iOS device. 

If, like me, you use Chrome on OS X but Safari on iOS then it is not a working solution and you will have to stick with Command-C. If you do use the same browser then this solution may be perfect!

Sharing Images With Command-C

Command-C is not as good at sharing images as it is at sharing text. While it is good at sharing images from iOS to OS X, the way iOS handles images on the clipboard means it is not as frictionless when sending images from OS X to iOS, or iOS to iOS.

Sharing Images From iOS to OS X

Command-C shares images the same way it does text, using the clipboard. To send an image from your iOS device's Camera Roll to your Mac:

  • Open the Photos app on your iPhone and copy the photo you want to send to your Mac to the clipboard.
  • Open Command-C and select your Mac from the list and wait a few seconds while the photo transfers across.
  • If you want to save the photo to your Mac, click on the notification that appears to open it in Preview.
  • Save the image to whatever location you like.
  • If you want to paste it into a document, it is on your clipboard so you can do that directly.
Sharing an image from iOS to OS X

Sharing Images From OS X to iOS

Unfortunately iOS offers no way to save photos from your clipboard to your Camera Roll that does not involve using a third-party app such as Google's free photo editing app, Snapseed. You can, however, send an image to your iOS device's clipboard and paste it into messages and emails as you would text. 

  • Copy the photo you want to share on your Mac. You can copy the file.
  • Use Command-Shift-X to open the Command-C menubar app.
  • Select your device from the list and hit Return.
  • Wait until the menubar icon stops flashing green.
  • Paste the image into a message, email or anywhere else.
  • If you want to save the image to your Camera Roll, open Snapseed.
  • Touch the + icon to open a new image and choose Paste Image as your Image Source.
  • Select Save to Photo Library to save the image.
Saving an image from the clipboard in Snapseed on iOS

The process of sharing from iOS to iOS is identical and has the same limitations as OS X to iOS.

Conclusion

In this tutorial I've shown you how to share text and images between your Mac and iOS devices using the best solution I have found, Command-C. I've laid out what my criteria were for a good solution and also touched on bad ways to approach the problem, such as email, so that you can understand why this is the approach I've chosen.

Have I missed an even better method? Think email is good enough and I’m just looking for solutions to problems that don’t exist? Let me know in the comments.

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