The natural companion computer for iPhone and iPad users is of course, the Apple Mac and there is a great deal of integration of apps and services. Everything works well.
However, not every iPhone and iPad owner has a Mac and there are many Windows owners who have iOS devices. Apple is well aware of this and the company provides Windows software to enable access to iCloud, photos, contacts and so on.
iCloud for Windows can be downloaded from Apple Support and it works OK, but it is not the only way to use iOS devices with a Windows PC. There are other options that are worth considering.
iCloud in a browser
First of all, there is the iCloud website. Go to icloud.com and you can sign in with the same Apple ID you use on your iPhone or iPad. This provides access to many features, such as Notes and Reminders. The apps can be accessed in a browser and it is easy to select text and images and copy them to the clipboard. They can then be pasted elsewhere on your WIndows PC.
Double click an image or a movie in a Notes note and they are downloaded to the Windows Downloads folder. That’s a useful way to transfer them to your PC without needing extra software to be installed.
If you create Pages, Keynote or Numbers documents on your iPhone or iPad, they can be opened in the same apps in a web browser at the iCloud website. Open Pages for example, and all your Pages documents are displayed as thumbnail images.
Click the wrench icon and select Download a copy. There are then options to save it to the PC’s disk as a Word file. The Numbers app enables documents to be downloaded as Excel files, and Keynote presentations can be downloaded as PowerPoint files.
You can edit documents online using the apps in a browser like Microsoft web apps or Google Docs, but downloading them gives you the option of editing them in Microsoft Office.
The Photos app at the iCloud website enables you to browse the photographs taken with the iPhone or iPad camera. Open the app, browse your photos, click one to open it and then click the download button in the toolbar at the top to save it to the PC’s disk.
There are better ways to get photos off the iPhone and iPad as we will see in a minute.
iCloud Drive enables you to browse the folders and files stored by apps like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, and other apps. Select a file and click the download button in the toolbar to save it on your PC.
Although you can download photos from the iCloud website, there is a better way to get photos onto your PC. Use the OneDrive app on your iOS devices. It can be set to automatically upload your photos to OneDrive and since OneDrive is built into Windows 10 and 8, the photos automatically sync with your PC. The result is that any photo you take ends up on the PC’s disk drive just as soon as OneDrive can sync it.
Another option is to use the Google Photos app. This also uploads your photos to Google drive automatically and if you have the Google Drive app on your Windows PC, they then get synced and stored on the PC’s disk.
Dropbox is exactly the same and it syncs photos with your online storage and if Dropbox is on your computer then the photos are downloaded to the PC
Sync your notes
Instead of using the Apple Notes app on iOS, you could use Microsoft OneNote instead. The iOS app syncs notes with OneDrive, with OneNote online at the OneDrive website, and also with the OneNote app in WIndows 10 or Microsoft Office running in Windows 10, 8 or 7. It solves the problem of how to get notes onto your PC.
Google Keep is another alternative note-taking app. It is available on iOS and on the PC in a browser at keep.google.com.
Safari is the natural browser choice for the web, but then there are problems with bookmarks. You bookmark something on your iPhone or iPad, but then have problems getting it on to the PC.
One solution is to install Chrome on iOS. It syncs your bookmarks with your Google account, so if you then use Chrome on your Windows PC you have access to all the bookmarks. Firefox for iOS can perform the same sync task and it makes it easy to browse on your phone and continue on your Windows PC.
iTunes is the obvious choice for buying music and the Apple Music app provides streaming music. You can also install iTunes on your Windows PC too. It works well enough, but there are alternatives that you might want to consider.
Google Play Music provides a streaming music service with pretty much the same content, give or take a few albums. Millions of tracks can be played on your iPhone or iPad.
A nice feature of Google Play Music is that you can upload 50,000 MP3 music files from your Windows PC and store them online. This would obviously take a long time, but it is possible. They can then be streamed to the Google Play Music app on your iPhone and iPad for free.
You can basically create your own streaming music service by uploading your own music. Use Chrome to open google.music.com and then open the menu on the left. use the Upload Music link in the left panel.
It is even easier with Microsoft Groove. This app is available for Window 10 and for iOS. Just copy MP3 music files and folders to the Music folder in OneDrive on your PC and within minutes you can play it using the Microsoft Groove music app on your iPad and iPhone.
The Music folder in the OneDrive folder on the PC’s disk drive is synced with OneDrive folder online. The Groove music app then streams it. You can put as much music in there as you have space on OneDrive. A Microsoft Office subscription gives you 1TB of OneDrive storage, so there’s almost no limit to the amount of music you could stream.