Automatically add PDF Files to iBooks / iTunes via Dropbox

If you’ve just recently upgraded to iOS 4 (aka iPhone OS 4), then you are eligible to download iBooks version 1.1. Why is iBooks version 1.1 so exciting? Because it provides support for PDF files, natively, on the iPad and the iPhone. Previous to iBooks 1.1, I was using GoodReader GoodReader for iPad - Good.iWare Ltd. as my primary application for reading and manipulating PDF files. GoodReader is a great, very solid, application and has served its purpose. However, having all of my books in one place (or 3 places as the case may be: iBooks, Kindle, and eReader) has a lot of appeal.

Getting your PDF files into iBooks is as simple as dragging and dropping them on iTunes. This is great if I’m on the computer where I synch my iPhone. However, if I’m not near a computer or I’m on my work computer, then I have to email the PDF to myself, then remember to extract it on my home computer, drag it onto iTunes, and synch my iPhone / iPad. I usually forget, right up to the point where I want to read the PDF. Enter Dropbox.

Dropbox Automation

I’m a big Dropbox fan. My wife and I use it all the time to communicate purchase receipts, wishlist items, and share photos. However, were you aware that the Dropbox folders on your Macintosh are just folders? That means you can assign AppleScript Folder Actions to those folders, which will run those AppleScripts anytime something is added to the folder. I originally got the idea to use Folder Actions with Dropbox from reading Ken Clark’s Blog Post: Use Dropbox to Create a Yojimbo iPhone App. In fact, I still use his ideas and scripts so my wife and I can have purchase receipts automatically entered into Yojimbo (for me to add them to Quicken). I recently realized after reading a post on SimpleHelp, How to add PDFs to iBooks using Dropbox , that the two ideas could be combined. The SimpleHelp article points out that it only works on the iPad, though they give some work-arounds for iPhones and iPod Touches. By combining the two ideas, you can have a folder in your Dropbox that automatically adds them to your home system’s iTunes LIbrary, where they will be synchronized to any device you connect. This solution will also work well if you have a large number of PDFs (say at the office) that you want to put into your iPhone without having to tap every one. You can always use the SimpleHelp tips to gain access to individual PDF files immediately.

The Setup

  1. First create a new folder in your Dropbox to handle all of your PDF needs, PDF is a good suggestion

  2. Second, copy and paste the following script into AppleScript Editor
    on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving these_items repeat with x from 1 to the count of these_items set theFile to item x of these_items try tell application "iTunes" set t to add (theFile) end tell end try end repeat end adding folder items to

  3. Click Compile and make sure there are no errors

  4. Save the script to your Macintosh HD:Library:Scripts:Folder Action Scripts folder

  5. Right-click the PDF folder in your Dropbox and select Folder Actions Setup

  6. Select the new script, it should now appear on the right-half of the Folder Actions Setup screen

  7. Test it by placing a PDF file into the PDF folder, it should open iTunes and import the file into your Books area

Alternative Method

If you don’t mind paying for an application in the iTunes App Store to solve this problem, then there is another, very clean, way of putting PDF files into iBooks. AirSharing Pro/HD Air Sharing HD - Avatron Software, Inc. will allow you to open PDF attachments from MobileMail directly into iBooks. These attachments are then saved in iBooks and will synchronize back into iTunes on your Macintosh, similar to the SimpleHelp article, but it works on iPhones and iPod Touches.

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