When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions!


“When all else fails,” a wag once observed about using high tech gear, “read the instructions.”

Yes, it’s getting very hard to keep up with all the technology we haul around in our camera bags these days. To ferret out the answers to some of the issues I have to figure out on a new camera, audio recorder, wireless microphone, speedlight, flash remote system, or camcorder, I often have to refer to the instruction books. 

But who wants to carry around a 2 pound brick of poorly written, but usually informative paper in his or her bag? And having them back home or at the hotel or even as PDFs on your laptop isn’t going to help you when you desperately need an answer to solve a problem in the field.

What’s a body to do? 

Well, if you usually carry an iPhone or an iPod Touch in your pocket or on your belt, you’ve got the answer right there. You can install a $5 app that lets you copy and read PDFs (and all sorts of other word processing files), even large ones.


It’s called Air Sharing Pro (there’s a lite version for free, but it doesn’t have all the features) and it essentially turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a mountable disk on your desktop, and includes document reading capability for PDFs and a long host of other word-processing apps. It also lets you access remote servers like MobileMe and Bonjour.

The great thing is you bypass iTunes and the annoying synch thing and just drag and drop the PDFs of your instruction manuals right into the program. And voila!

There they are, all beautifully-formatted and searchable. Now, when I have to switch radio frequencies on my wireless mic, I no longer have to punch at buttons blindly…I just grab the iPod Touch and look it up. 

Now, if someone would just invent an app to make those instructional manuals lively and well written….that would be true genius!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hey Bob,

    Have a look at Dropbox (http://db.tt/6O2PGSx), the first 2G are free and you can easily share all your manuals and other stuff between your PC/Mac and your mobile devices. It synchronizes between the different devices automatically. On the road, you can log-in into your account and get your files from any internet connected terminal.
    It has a built-in PDF and image viewer too.

    For me, Dropbox is the best file sharing application out there.


    1. Daniel: Dropbox is nice, but I’m not sure it has the PDF formatter for the mobile devices…plus it kind of takes over your PC/Mac from my experience. We’re not talking file sharing so much as we are file formatting for mobile devices.

      Have you downloaded a PDF of a camera manual from dropbox to your iPhone/iPod? Try it and let us know.

      thanks! B

      1. Yes, I have all my manuals as PDFs in there and use them on my iPhone. It provides the option to open the PDF in iBook etc in case the built-in viewer is not sufficient.

        Initially I used AirSharing too, but Dropbox is now my preferred way to take documents with me.


        1. Dan: Thanks for sharing that! Bob

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