Send Any File to an iOS Device from Mac OS X with iMessage

Feb 19, 2012 - 7 Comments

A little-known feature of iMessage lets any Mac send files to another iMessage user (or yourself) using an iOS device, and vice versa. Yes, this means iMessages can function as a full-fledged file transfer app for both OS X and iOS users, providing for simple transferring of files, pdf’s, text and rtf documents, movies, pictures, and just about anything else.

Send Files to iOS from Mac with iMessage

To use this awesome feature, you will need to be sure to have iMessage set up in iOS and/or the Messages for Mac client as well. Having both lets you send files between yourself and your Apple devices, but if you only have a Mac or an iOS device then you can still send files to other users through the messages apps. Once you have the necessary apps configured, using the feature is surprisingly easy, here’s how to do it:

Send Files Between Mac OS X & iOS with iMessage

Sending files from a Mac is just a matter of drag and drop, then opening the file in iOS:

  • Drag a file from the Mac into a Messages chat window
  • Click send from the Mac
  • The user on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iMessages will receive the file in a familiar fashion to iChat file transfers

The iOS user is then able to open the file, be it an mp3, video, picture, whatever. This is a great feature that is easy to use and welcome for all Mac and iOS users. It can go both ways, allowing you to send files from mobile devices back to the desktop world as well.

Send Files from iOS to OS X through Messages

There are two ways to send files from iOS through the messages app, one uses Copy & Paste and the other uses the more traditional sharing approach from the photos app:

  • Use the tap-and-hold feature in iOS to access “Copy”
  • Open Messages app and in a message to the user who you wish to send the file to, tap and hold and choose “Paste”
  • Send the message as usual to transfer the file

Sending files through the Sharing feature is also possible in some apps like Photos, which lets you send movies and photos from the Camera Roll to a Mac. All you need to do is tap the Share button then choose Message and select the appropriate recipient.

Use iMessage With Unsupported File Types & As SFTP Alternative

Now, what is less known is that you can technically transfer just about any file type between the two OS’s using the same technique, even obscure file formats. This means iMessage can be used as a simple method of moving any files to an iOS device without using SSH and SFTP, although the destination folder of these files creates some limitations.

Files sent to and received by the iOS device end up at the following location:

/var/mobile/Library/SMS/

This is where the limitation comes in. Accessing that directory isn’t possible without a jailbreak and an app like iFile to navigate around the hidden iOS file system, and moving files around within the iOS file system after the fact requires an SSH client like Prompt, in addition to some knowledge of the command line. This makes it a useful feature for advanced users who are comfortable with jailbreaking, but for the average person sending anything other than standard media files and documents isn’t too useful.

A lingering question is now if Apple will maintain support for any file type. Keep in mind that while this is active in the Messages for Mac beta, it’s possible the support for additional file formats will be abandoned in the final shipped release, which is due out with OS X Mountain Lion this summer. Let’s hope it stays.

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Posted by: William Pearson in iPad, iPhone, Mac, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

7 Comments

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  1. Hello osxdaily,
    My name is Dany Lisiansky and i’m the one who discovered this feature, not iDownloadBlog.
    This is the exclusive article (which has the original video I made):
    http://www.iphoneil.net/?p=87011

    You can also notice that iDownloadBlog itself refers to iPhoneIL as the source of the article.

    Have a good week,
    Dany Lisiansky

  2. Colin fox says:

    Kinda pointless if I can’t get the file without a jailbreak.

    • RenĂ© Dubois says:

      You can get to pictures, videos, music, pdf, text, documents. The only files you can not access are those of unsupported formats, and that is simply because iOS doesn’t know what to do with them.

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  5. KASK UVEX says:

    Wow, what a video it is! Actually nice quality video, the lesson given in this video is actually informative.

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