The lazy man's guide to streaming iTunes movies to your iPad

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Reader Paul Inglis is interested in transferring media wirelessly to his iPad. He writes:

Okay, I’m lazy. But my Mac is upstairs and I’m downstairs on the couch with my iPad where I want to watch a movie. What’s the best way for me to do that without having to plug my iPad into my Mac and sync the movie using iTunes?

Never fear, Apple designed this stuff with you in mind. You have a couple of options.

The first requires that, if you haven’t done so already, you sit down at your Mac and fiddle with an iTunes setting. Within iTunes choose File > Home Sharing > Turn On Home Sharing. Enter your Apple ID and password. Keep iTunes running and head back to the couch.

Launch the Videos app on your iPad and tap Shared. You’ll see an entry for your iTunes library. Tap on it and wait while your library loads. Once that’s finished, pick a video to watch and tap on it (see the image above). It will stream to your iPad.

“But,” I can hear you mutter in a drowsy drawl, “my Mac is running but iTunes isn’t. Take pity on me and let me do this without having to launch iTunes.”

Because I admire your Can’t Do spirit, I’ll provide an answer for this as well.

I’ve spoken fondly of Stratospherix’s $5 FileBrowser app more than a time or two. This fine utility allows you to browse the contents of volumes on your local network and transfer files between those volumes and your iOS device. There are other utilities that let you do this as well, but I like FileBrowser because it doesn’t demand that you know the IP address of other computers or NAS devices on the network. Tap Scan and any accessible devices appear in its list of volumes.

FileBrowser makes it easy to view the contents of volumes on your local network.

Tap that Scan button, locate the volume where you store your media, tap the blue icon to the right of it, and choose Open In. The file will download to your iPad. Once it’s downloaded an Open In window appears, which lists any apps that your iPad believes can play the file (note that not all of them can). Tap the app you’d like to use and the video may begin to play.

May!? Well, yes. There’s the slightly sticky issue that protected media (videos you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store) won’t play in third-party apps. They must be played in Apple’s Videos app. Regrettably, this app is not one of your choices in the Open In window. In such a case you’re stone out of luck. You must either stream the movie from iTunes via Home Sharing or copy the movie to your iPad via iTunes.

Once you've downloaded your video, choose an app to play it.

If you’re in the clear because the video you want to watch is unprotected I can offer a couple of options for viewing it. NXP Software’s $4 CineXPlayer HD can play a wide variety of video formats including those compatible with iTunes. But I might recommend instead Good.iWare’s $5 GoodReader for iPad. Although the company touts it as a PDF reader, I keep a copy on my iOS devices because it can open most files I throw at it, including common audio and video files.

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