Home Markdown Moving Data with Images between IOS and OSX

Moving Data with Images between IOS and OSX

by Kerry Dawson

At first blush, you would think an article on moving data between IOS and OSX would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, it’s not. I have a variety of techniques to get software out of IOS and into OSX. One method is of course just to ensure you buy a package that sync’s between the two environments. However, there are some packages that are good, such as Drafts that only resides in IOS. You’ll have to employ a technique to move the Drafts text to OSX. Fortunately, in the case of Drafts its only text or Markdown. Either can be, using one of the techniques I’ll outline, allow you to get that text to Drafts. So there are techniques to do this. It is not a straightforward, cut and dry process though.

It gets worse. Software that syncs between these two environments will allow you to move data relatively seamlessly between IOS and OSX but not data fully in tact with images depending on a number of variables. That’s because IOS is not built the same way that OSX is. You can have a textual article in IOS and sync it to your Mac and it will appear there totally fine. Now let’s say you read an article you’ve stored in Pocket which has valuable pictures. Copy this article to another IOS app that supports rich text and see what happens. You’re text will be there but your images will not. You could, at this point go to your Mac and go in reverse. Images will always copy from one environment to another Rich Text environment on the Mac but not IOS. In some cases, these images will sync to certain IOS apps and in some cases they won’t. What if you don’t feel like going to your Mac to do this but just want to stay with your iPad or your Mac isn’t available as you’re in portable mode. Now what.

Data with Images can be Transferred but there are Tradeoffs

There’s only one system I have found that will move anything from one IOS platform to another in tact and then to OSX and that’s Evernote. Everything else you will use will require a different approach which is primarily converting that document to a PDF. This then will transfer to anywhere. The only other system that I’ve seen that comes close to Evernote but can’t do what we want to do is Notebooks. You can copy your Pocket article to Notebooks in RTF under IOS and the document will retain the images. All other IOS environments, even if they’re in RTF mode strip out the images. However, as soon as you sync your Notebooks document to OSX it looses all the images. Even worse, Notebooks is one of the only apps I’ve come across in OSX wherein you cannot paste a document with images and those images are retained. It looses all the images. To be fair though, Notebooks OSX app is a beta product. This might not be its final result but as of today it is the result.

First just getting the Data to OSX from IOS or the Reverse

There are two ways in which you can easily move your data between environments and continue working with it. Of course, the best is just purchase an application that runs in both environments. Many applications run in both environments and sync their data between platforms. This is ideal. It saves a lot of headaches and in most cases is a pretty seamless process.

For those situations where the application only resides in one of the two environments, you’ll have to use a different approach. You can either send your data to an application that does sync and that will move it to OSX or vice-a-versa or you can use a cloud clip utility. There are more than one of these but the one I like is Cloud Clip. It can actually replace a multiple clipboard manager that you’re using say in OSX with the added benefit that it will sync with its counterpart in IOS. Copy your information to the clipboard and Cloud Clip will capture that copy and store it as clips. Those clips can be chosen in OSX, as an example and be pasted into other applications.

Cloud Clip will synchronize all its clips to and from IOS and OSX. These clips are identically available in both environments and the information can then be pasted to the right spot. However though, there is one problem. In some cases, that which you say paste in OSX with images is lost in IOS. Yet, at least you can get your data there. Copying information say from a Pocket Article to Cloud Clip looses the images once again.

The Loss of Images in IOS

The loss of images in many of these circumstances relates to limitations around IOS. For most of us though the maintenance of the images with the text of an article, either it be from the internet or saved to Pocket for later reading is important. If we’re doing research an article which is image rich may not mean nearly as much without the original images. There are basically two absolute techniques for maintaining the full formatting of your document with images either from a web page or saved to Pocket and that is to either convert the captured page to the clipboard as a PDF or use Evernote.


For some people, Evernote is a perfect option as they are either using it or they aren’t using any Note taking system and could use one. This is by far the simplest method I’ll outline. No matter what you copy and paste to Evernote or send to Evernote, as it is supported directly by a number of other applications, it will hold all the images and text exactly as is in the sending document. You can capture your information in either OSX or IOS and it will sync through perfectly. All the loss of striped out images in the other apps just doesn’t happen with Evernote. However, if you now copy that Evernote text and image document through the clipboard to another IOS RTF app the images will be stripped out. Again, this is a limitation of IOS.

When Evernote isn’t an Option

However, for many Evernote is not what they use to store their research articles or for that matter some people use Evernote for nothing. In this case, what you need to do is capture the document to the clipboard and save it as a PDF and place that PDF in the application of your choice such as DEVONthink. PDF’s are, as the name implies, truly portable documents. They can be stored in any application. In the case of the Evernote solution, the article can only be stored there. In the case of a PDF, you can store it where you want as long as the target accepts PDF.

Further, the sync of a PDF document‘s structure in either direction is always maintained. This is a good solution if you don’t want to be locked into an environment. To do this though you’ll need a tool for IOS to convert your captured document in the clipboard to a PDF.


To create a PDF out of your captured document open Save2PDF. It will immediately ask you if you’d like to process the clipboard to which you will agree. Within no time, a PDF is created ready for export to your target application. To do this use the Open In command in Save2PDF. Choose from a list of applications where you want to send it. For the sake of this example, choose whatever you have that displays and will accept a PDF. As an example, I might send it to DEVONthink To Go. Send it there and your perfectly formatted PDF now resides in DEVONthink To Go. Sync with your desktop and now the identical information is in both OSX and IOS.

Granted, this is a bit more work that say Evernote but you may not want to be stuck in one environment or you may not use Evernote. You can send that PDF to any number of applications that is supported Open In such as:

  • Notebooks
  • MacJournal
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox
  • Notebook
  • Cloud Clip
  • NoteLife HD
  • Copy

and whatever you have on your IOS device that is supported by Open In App.

What about including Images in a Written Document in IOS

The above is ideal for articles or web pages that you want to retain to read at another time or for reference purposes. However, what if you want to write an article such as this in IOS and images won’t paste into a Rich Text Editor. For this, I’d recommend that you write in Markdown and pull the images from a hosted server. Markdown is simply written text that with the proper syntaxing (Markdown) you end up with a formatted document. Now to add images, store the image you want on a server that can display images like WordPress, Dropbox (Images) and Cloudapp. As you write and you want to include a picture or an image at a point load the image to a server meant for displaying images (above are good examples). After uploading the image to the server, grab it’s URL. In your written document, at the point you want to put the image, use Markdown syntaxing for an image and place the URL in the syntax. Voila, a written document that will display your images.

The above image is pulled from CloudApp not the server where I’ll actually post this article

There are a great many benefits to writing in Markdown that I’ve gone into in previous articles so I won’t repeat them here. However, Markdown is a wonderful way to write. It‘s open as it is just using plain text and the Markdown code can be displayed on any devices that has an app that supports Markdown such as Byword. Further, you take this document and paste it to the web maintaining all your images. In fact, your images will always be there as long as you leave them on the server hosting them.

Knowing the Limitations will free you

At first, it can be very frustrating and confusing as to why your pictures and images in a document captured in IOS is showing as pure text in IOS. It is a limitation of IOS itself. Knowing though that there are techniques to deal with this either by using Evernote or if you want to work in a fully open environment converting your captured image as a PDF will allow you to accomplish what you want. You’ll be able to send information back and forth between IOS and OSX no matter where it was generated and have complete information transferred using one of the previous techniques listed above.

Additionally, you can write using Markdown and using a hosted server such as Cloudapp you can put pictures on Cloudapp or the like that will serve up those pictures in your written document. With the ability to grab articles and maintain their original content or write knowing that you can include images in your document whether you’re on a Mac or IOS device. At the end of the day, something that looked very frustrating becomes doable and although there is somewhat of a nuisance factor to this, the more frequently you do it the less you’ll even think of it and just do it automatically.

Longer Term

Longer term however, these two critical environments, OSX and IOS, have to work in a fully compatible fashion. You should not be forced to an Evernote for a complete solution when there’s a plethora of apps that might work for you more to your liking. Nor to work with these apps should you need to convert a web page or a page from Pocket to a PDF for proper display in other apps that support RTF but don’t in the manner supported on OSX. That is, in IOS they should be able to hold the entire content including the images and pictures.

Regardless, there are ways and means to get around the problem of interaction and consistent interaction of content between OSX and IOS. Knowing these will put you ahead of the game and reduce your frustration and time you might waste looking for the answer. By employing these solutions, whichever one best suits your needs, you’ll be one more step a long the path of an enriched and productive working environment.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.