How-To

How to Use the Files App on iPhone

Like Mac and Windows computers, you can now easily access files and folders on your iPhone and iPad. Here’s how to use the Files app on iOS.

The Files app for iPhone and iPad is where you’ll find documents, photos, videos, and audio stored across multiple locations. First introduced with iOS 11, the Files app includes local and iCloud content; you can also find documents stored on third-party services such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Here’s how to use the Files app.

Files App

The Files app offers two tabs, Recents and Browse. The former includes links to recently added or edited files, while the latter breaks down records into three sections, Locations, Favorites, and Tags.

Locations

Under Locations, you’ll find the links, On My iPhone (or iPad), iCloud Drive, and Recent Deleted. When applicable (see below), you’ll also see links to third-party services.

  • On My iPhone: You’ll find files stored on your device specifically from third-party apps here. These are typically high-level documents required to run the app. Generally, you shouldn’t delete these files unless you also remove the app from your device.
  • iCloud Drive: It’s here where you can manually store, access, and edit individual files. You can access stored content through the Files app on your mobile devices or by logging into iCloud.com across all your computers, Mac or otherwise. You can also have all the files in the Desktop and Documents folders on your Mac stored automatically in iCloud Drive. By doing so, you can save files right where you usually keep them on your Mac, and they become available on iCloud.com and all your devices.
  • Recent Deleted: When you delete a file from your iPhone or iCloud Drive, it’s sent here for easy restoration, as needed. You have 30 days before the data are deleted permanently.

Files app on iPhone

The list of third-party cloud services that support the Files app continues to grow. It includes services like Box, DropBox, OneDrive, ibi, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Drive, and more. When there’s an available third-party app on your device, you’ll see a link for More Locations show up under Locations in the Files app.

To activate access to a third-party drive in the Files app:

  1. Tap on the Files app on your device Home screen.
  2. Choose More Locations under Locations under Browse.
  3. Toggle the drives you want to add.

Toggle third party drives in Files app

The Files app lets you add your third-party cloud services — like Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Drive, and more — so that you can access all of your files on all of your devices. The records you keep in iCloud Drive automatically appear in the Files app, but you need to set up your other cloud services to access them in the Files app too.

Favorites

In the Files app, you can make any folder or file a favorite. In doing so, they will always show up under Locations in the Files app under Browse.

To create a Favorite:

  1. Tap on the Files app on your device Home screen.
  2. Choose the Browse tab.
  3. Long tap the file or folder you wish to make a favorite.
  4. Choose Favorite from the menu.

The file or folder you selected is now listed under Favorites on the Browse tab in the Files app.

Files app add favorites

To delete a Favorite:

  1. Tap on the Files app on your device Home screen.
  2. Choose the Browse tab.
  3. Long tap the file or folder you wish to un-favorite.
  4. Choose Unfavorite from the menu.

Tags

By adding colorful and custom labels called Tags, you can make it easier to find content in the Files app, regardless of the location of the document. Tags, when created, carry over to macOS devices, when applicable.

To create a Tag:

  1. Tap on the Files app on your device Home screen.
  2. Choose the Browse tab.
  3. Long tap the file or folder you wish to tag.

Files add tag

Next:

  1. Either choose from the list of tags or Add New Tag. If you’re creating a new label, add a name and color, then tap Done.
  2. Select Done.

The recently created tag is now available under the Browse tab in the Files app.

Files app adding tags

To rename a Tag:

  1. Tap the More icon at the top right of the Browser tab in the Files app.
  2. Choose Edit.
  3. Tap the name of an existing tag.
  4. Enter the name of your new tag.
  5. Tap Done.

change name of tag

Moving and Sharing Files

You can move or copy files to different locations in the Files app. Moving files typically means changing the site of an existing file onto the same drive, while copying is used to copy a file from one drive to another.

For example, you would Move an iCloud file from one location on iCloud to another, but you would Copy the file when you wish to save an iCloud file onto the local device drive.

Moving/Copying Files

On iPad, you can drag files to different locations in the Files app to move/copy data. On iPhone or iPod touch, the process takes a few more steps.

  1. Go to the place where the file is you wish to move to a new location.
  2. Choose Select at the top right.
  3. Tap on the file you wish to move.

Files app move location

Next:

  1. Select the folder icon at the bottom.
  2. Tap on the location where you wish to move the file.
  3. Choose Move/Copy at the top right.

Files app moving location of file

Sharing Files and Folders

Finally, you can share files or folders in the Files app. You can share any folder or data stored in iCloud Drive only. If these are Pages, Numbers, or Keynote files, you can allow the other person(s) to collaborate and make changes to the document. Otherwise, you’re sharing the data just as you would any other.

To do so:

  1. Go to the location where the file is you wish to move to a new location.
  2. Choose Select at the top right.
  3. Tap on the file you wish to move.

Files app move location

Next:

  1. Select the sharing icon at the bottom left.
  2. Tap Add People.
  3. Choose how you would like to share the folder or file. Choices include AirDrop Messages, Mail, and more.

Files app sharing

Summary

Like Mac and Windows computers, you can now easily access files and folders on your iPhone and iPad. The Files app offers different features, including the ability to see third-party drives. From there, you can add favorites or tags, and much more. The Files app is free to use across Apple mobile devices.

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