iCloud and your devices
Find out how iCloud Drive works on your Mac, iPhone and iPad
One of the least appealing aspects of cloud-based storage and syncing services on the Mac has been their tendency to require some kind of special folder. Whether you’re using the likes of Dropbox or Google Drive, you have to alter where you save your files by default, to make them accessible on all your devices. Apple’s thinking with iCloud Drive is to have the process cause the least amount of impact on your existing habits.
Apple’s at its most audacious here with Sierra’s single-click moving of the Desktop and Documents folders, which we explore overleaf. Elsewhere, apps increasingly have the capability to save documents to their own dedicated folder in iCloud Drive, which can be immediately accessed in the app’s iOS version, should it be fully compatible with the Mac version’s files. Pages, Keynote and Numbers work like this, for example. GarageBand, however, does not, because the Mac version is more advanced than the one you get on iPhone and iPad. These folders are all readily accessible in Finder, too – click the iCloud Drive icon in Finder sidebar; if it isn’t visible, go to Finder > Preferences, click the Sidebar tab, and ensure iCloud Drive is ticked in the iCloud group.
Note that should you later move a file from iCloud Drive to a folder on
your Mac’s local storage, an alert will interrupt the action. For example, drag something from TextEdit’s iCloud Drive folder to your Downloads folder and you’ll be prompted to confirm that you’re sure, and stating the item will be “deleted from iCloud Drive and your other iCloud devices”. However, should you delete a file that’s located in iCloud Drive by sending it to the Trash, you get no such warning. Although there’s variation in how Mac apps handle file management, differences are much more overt on iOS, which can have a substantial effect on how you interact with iCloud Drive. In the early days of iOS, it was common for apps to save documents in their own dedicated folders. As far as you would see, your documents were being saved ‘inside’ the apps. So, if you want to open a Pages document, you would open Pages first, then the document; contrast this with the Mac, where you can use Finder to locate a document and then double-click it to open an app, or use an Open dialog within an app to navigate the entire file system, rather than one app-specific folder.
A more flexible future
In many cases, this is still how iOS works. Plenty of apps haven’t moved on at all – you still only get access to files housed in the app’s dedicated folder. Others, such as Apple’s iWork apps, give you access to such a folder, but add further options. Using the Share icon, you can move a file elsewhere in iCloud Drive, or tap Locations to gain access to alternative locations (which you can use to grab items from remote servers using the likes of Panic’s Transmit) or iCloud Drive’s document picker.
The last of those things is also accessible in the iCloud Drive app. If you don’t see its icon on the Home screen or in Spotlight, search for the app’s name on the App Store to get it. (In iOS 9, the app is instead added by going to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive and turning on ‘Show on Home Screen’.) If you remove the app, it won’t affect your documents in iCloud Drive.