Using the iCloud Drive App

A new app in iOS 9 called iCloud Drive gives you the ability to access all of the files in your iCloud Drive. Even files for apps such as Preview which has no equivalent in iOS can be accessed. The iCloud Drive app acts as a simple viewer for images and PDFs, and can show previews of other document types. You can then share those documents with other apps on your iPhone or iPad.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with On this episode let's look at using the new iCloud Drive app in iOS 9.

It is important to note that up until now there hasn't really been any kind of file system in iOS. Each app has had docs that belonged to it and sometimes these are shared through iCloud. So you might be able to see the Pages documents that you store in the Pages folder in iCloud on your Mac inside of Pages on iOS.

But now we've got something called iCloud Drive. It is an app that comes with iOS 9 and I'm going to select it. It's the bottom left just to the right of Settings. It takes you in and shows you Files and Folders. This is kind of like a file system but it is something that only shows you the files that are in your iCloud Drive.

This is the iCloud Drive that is associated with your Apple ID. The one you are signed into in the iCloud portion of Settings on your iPad or iPhone.

Now when you run the iCloud Drive app using iOS 9 you can see all of the files and folders in there. Even ones that don't have a way to do anything with them in iOS. You see everything. So this is kind of a first for iOS where it will actually show you things you've got stored even if there is not an app to handle them.

Not only can you see all of these items but you can dig down into folders as you would say in the Finder on Mac. So, for instance, let's take a look inside of the Numbers folder I've got here and you can see there's all my Numbers' files, the same files I've got available on my Mac in iCloud Drive. Also, the same files that I will find if I go to Numbers and I go to open a file and it will show me those files in iCloud Drive.

So inside Numbers I get a little view of just what's inside the Numbers folder. The same with Keynote folder for instance, and the Pages folder. I can only see those files.

So, there's two ways to open these files now. One is to say run Keynote and then open one of the iCloud files and it will show you one of these nine here. Or I can go into iCloud Drive, select one, and then it will run the Keynote app because it knows Keynote is associated with these files.

In addition to these default folders that are created by the apps themselves, I have folders that I've created myself like the Desktop Pictures and Docs folders. If I look inside Desktop Pictures I've got some images here and this is stuff I've just created on my Mac. I've created the folder and stuck these images in there.

So I can have access to them here even though they are not associated with an app. Now when I try to view one of these, let's go back into there, it will actually show it to me. For instance I'll tap on the Tokyo garden photo there and it will actually show me a preview of that. That is kind of the same preview you would get by looking in QuickLook on the Mac. Then once it downloads it, because it doesn't actually have it, it's not going to download everything that you've got in iCloud Drive it is only going to do it on demand, then I can actually see it here and I'm still in the iCloud Drive app.

I could still use, in the upper left hand corner, the back arrow and go back to the folder there but I also have the ability to file it away in a folder here and I can use the Trash Can to delete this and that will delete it off of iCloud Drive so it will effect what I see on my Mac too. I have the Action button here where I can do things like, for instance, Save Image to Camera Roll, I can copy it and print it. I can also open it up in various different apps here. It shows you all the apps that will handle the image here. It is a photo so it is going to have a lot of apps that handle it.

But what happens if I go back up and find a file that I don't have something that can handle it. Well then I can preview it but I might not actually be able to do anything with it. If I go into Pixelmator, Pixelmator is a third party app but uses iCloud Drive, so it creates a folder just like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote does. I can actually select an image here and it will give me an option to download. I can see the preview. I can download that file to my iPad.

Then once it is downloaded, you can see it actually doesn't actually display it because it is a Pixelmator document and iCloud Drive doesn't know anything about the app Pixelmator. It only knows about things like text files, pdf's, and then some certain other Apple created things. But I can still hit the Share button there and you can see that I can copy it to Pixelmator to open it up. Of course Pixelmator itself is already going to have this file available because it is using iCloud Drive. So there is really no reason to do that.

But there might be other apps like maybe Evernote can handle it or the Documents app can handle it. So you still have the ability to access the files but whether or not you can do anything with them depends upon whether or not you have an app that can handle it.

Notice the Automator folder doesn't even allow me to go into it because Automator is a Mac only app. It has no application on iOS so there is nothing I can do with it. But notice if I go into Preview, Preview doesn't have an app in iOS either. But most Preview documents are either images or pdf's and iCloud Drive can be used as an image viewer or pdf viewer. So I can actually go and open this pdf here and it will display it inside of iCloud Drive and I can actually view the entire document in iCloud Drive as well as use this button to Share it to apps that handle pdf's.

There are lot of functions you can perform that are similar to the Finder. For instance, I can hit the Select button in the upper right. I can New Folder. I can select items and delete them or remove them. I can do that inside of folders. So I can go in here and I can create a folder. I've created a test folder in here on my iPad and that will show up on my computers, my Macs and my iPhone. I can select something, move it into test for instance. I've got a Search field at the top. I can also drag down and you can see if I drag down I've got the ability to sort by Name. I can sort by Tags.

I can also press the button in the upper right there to change to a list. So I can actually now see things as a list rather than looking at it by icon. So you have a lot of control here in iCloud Drive in the app just like you would in the Finder. So it is not quite as capable as the Finder on the Mac but at least it is something that allows you to play with files and folders.

Comments: 20 Responses to “Using the iCloud Drive App”

    9/23/15 @ 8:04 am

    Wait I have an iPhone 6+ with iOS 9 but I don’t have that app wtf?

      9/23/15 @ 8:09 am

      When you updated to iOS 9, it asked if you wanted the app on your Home screen. If you selected no, then you can still turn it on later by going to Settings, iCloud, iCloud Drive, and selecting “Show on Home Screen.”

    9/23/15 @ 6:15 pm


    Can we lock iCloud Drive with Touch ID? If not, is there any way to incorporate some type of security option?


      9/23/15 @ 6:17 pm

      You can lock your iPhone with Touch ID. With your iPhone locked, no one can get to the apps, including the iCloud Drive app.

    9/24/15 @ 8:17 am

    Is there a way on this iCloud app to access my contacts and specifically my contact groups from my iMac?

      9/24/15 @ 8:31 am

      You access your iCloud contacts through the Contacts app, not iCloud. But iOS doesn’t support groups.

        9/24/15 @ 9:32 am

        I must be confusing it with access. I cannot seem to access that on my iPad. On a pc, I can use that to access my contacts and groups.

          9/24/15 @ 9:35 am

          Do you mean the website You can certainly do that on an iPad (or anywhere).

    Wendy Farkas
    9/24/15 @ 8:37 am

    Thanks for mentioning “settings / show on home screen”. When I went into the app to explore, I found two Keynote presentations I made last year. But (sheepishly, she says) I can’t remember how to get files into the iCloud storage. Can you remind me, please? Thanks.

      9/24/15 @ 8:43 am

      From where? If from your Mac, just open iCloud Drive (left sidebar of any Finder window) and drag files into there.

    Donald Geiling
    9/24/15 @ 4:47 pm

    I see my numbers files in iCloud drive but when I click on a file, I can see the contents but not edit it even though I have Numbers on my iPad. Is this the way it is supposed to work?

      9/24/15 @ 4:49 pm

      It seems so. Wouldn’t be surprised if they changed it. But for now it is easy enough to simply access it from Numbers, which was your only choice before.

    Peter Eckle
    9/26/15 @ 6:33 am

    I’m using I-Cloud photo, but why do these not show up in the I-Cloud Drive app when I open it up?

      9/26/15 @ 6:34 am

      iCloud Photo Library is how you share photos between Photos apps. The photos do not show up as files on iCloud Drive. You access them in the Photos app.

    Eric Aird
    9/26/15 @ 10:16 am

    Can I use the iCloud Drive App without having iCloud Photo Library in the App?

      9/26/15 @ 11:54 am

      Not sure what you mean. iCloud Photo Library accessed through the Photos app. Files stores in iCloud Drive are accessed in the iCloud Drive app. You don’t need to use one to use the other.

    Eric Aird
    9/28/15 @ 12:26 pm

    What I meant was do I have to put my photos in the iCloud Photo Library to use the iCloud Drive App when I install ios9?

      9/28/15 @ 1:05 pm

      They are separate things. Using iCloud Photo Library (or not) will not affect your documents stored on iCloud Drive.

    Jon Norris
    10/4/15 @ 4:25 am

    I see my numbers file (Household) in the numbers folder. But I had moved it into a folder I made called Finances, where I also keep a couple of Pages docs. Question is, are these two files (as they still appear in both folders) the same, do they both get updated etc.? Thanks

      10/4/15 @ 6:18 am

      If you see it in both places, then you probably copied the file to the second location instead of moving it there.

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