Apple’s Files app lets you view and access files stored on online services, such as iCloud Drive, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive, all in one place. You can also view your files directly on your iPhone or iPad and run a variety of commands on them.
With the update to iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Apple has spiced up the Files app with some interesting new features. You can now sort your files by groups, more easily multitask with multiple windows, and select several files by dragging across them with an external mouse.
To get these features, open Settings > General > Software Update and make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of your OS. Your device will tell you that your software is up to date or prompt you to download the latest update.
Let’s check out the Files app to see how you can work with your documents.
Connect Services to the Files App
The first time you launch Files, you’ll need to enable and connect to the services you use. Tap the ellipsis icon at the top and select Edit from the menu. The app displays all the available file storage services. Turn on the switch for any online locations you want to add. You can also press down on the hamburger icon next to your favorite services and drag them into a new order.
Tap the name of a service you want to load and sign in. The first time you do this, authentication is required to view items in this folder. In some cases, you may receive an authentication message, which means you need to open the mobile version of the app first in order to use it in Files. Do this for each site you add.
You can also access files downloaded in Safari through the Files app. If you download a PDF, audio file, or document from Safari, a Downloads folder will appear in the Files app. Tap On My iPhone or On My iPad, and you will see folders for other apps and services on your device, along with a Downloads folder. Open that folder to access any files downloaded from Safari.
Connect to External Storage
You can connect your device to a USB stick, SD card, or external hard drive. To do this, you must physically plug the storage device into your iPhone or iPad using the right adapter cable. You can then access that drive and its content through Files.
If you have a network server or NAS, you can connect to it with your device and access it through the Files app. Just make sure it supports, and has enabled, SMB (Server Message Block), a universal network protocol that lets different systems access and share the same files.
To set this up in the Files app, tap the ellipsis icon in the upper right, then tap the Connect to Server command and type the name or IP address of the server. (For example, to access my Synology NAS, I had to type smb:// followed by the name of the NAS and then .local, as in smb://SynologyNAS.local.) Then enter the username and password for that device.
Initially, I was unable to connect to the NAS. Through a helpful online forum, I discovered that I had to set the maximum SMB protocol to SMB3. If you have trouble connecting to a server or NAS through the Files app, you may need to contact the vendor for help.
You can access an encrypted drive, either one directly connected to your iPhone or iPad or one set up on your network. However, only drives formatted using APFS are currently supported. To try this, connect your encrypted storage device or connect to an encrypted network share. Select the drive and tap the Lock link. Enter the password for the drive,then select Unlock to gain access to the drive.
Find and View Files
You can search for files across different locations. In the Search field at the top, type a word or phrase for the file you want. The app scans your various locations and displays a list of search results in response.
If you frequently use the same folders, consider marking them as Favorites to quickly access them in the future. Press down on the folder and select Favorite in the menu or simply drag the folder into the sidebar. Any folder marked as a Favorite will be available in the left-hand side bar under the Favorites section.
Recently accessed files can be found quickly inside the app. Tap the Recents entry in the side bar to view files that have been recently added, moved, or viewed.
From the Files app, tap a specific service to see the folders and files stored on it. Tap a file to open it and the app downloads and displays the file. You can view documents, PDF files, images, audio files, and videos this way. Photos and other static images can even be edited with built-in drawing and coloring tools.
Manage Your Files
You can perform basic file management by copying, moving, or deleting files. Open one of your online storage services to view your saved folders and files. To run a command on a single file, press down on its thumbnail. From the menu, you can copy, duplicate, move, rename, preview, tag, share or delete the file.
To run a command on multiple files, tap the Select link in the upper-right corner on an iPad (the button is hidden behind a three-dot icon on an iPhone). Tap each file you want to include. The bottom of the screen displays links to share, duplicate, move, and delete the selected file. Tap More to see additional commands, such as Download and Compress.
Now that your iPad works with an external mouse, you can select several files at once without using the Select option. Make sure your mouse is connected to your iPad, then click and drag across a range of files, and they should be selected.
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Tag and Sort Files
The Files app lets you view key details and even tag each file. Press down on a file and select Info from the menu to see the file type, size, creation date and time, author, and other details. With a photo, you can find out the size, resolution, exposure time, focal length, and ISO speed.
If you want to add a tag to categorize the file, tap Show More and swipe down to see all the details on the file. At the bottom of the screen, tap the Add Tags link. You can then add a tag from the existing color-coded list or tap Add New Tag to create a new one based on specific criteria, which can help you find that file.
You can now also sort files in a folder based on groups. To try this, open a folder, tap the three-dot circle icon, and select Use Groups. The files in that folder are sorted into different groups, with the default criteria being Kind (file type).
To change the criteria, tap the three-dot circle icon and select Group By. You can then arrange the files into groups based on date or size. To undo the group arrangement, tap the icon once more and uncheck the Use Groups option.
Zip and Unzip Files
The Files app also allows you to compress and uncompress files and folders. Press down on an item and select Compress from the pop-up menu to create a ZIP archive of the item. If you have a zipped file you need to open, simply tap on the ZIP file to uncompress or press down on the file and select Uncompress from the menu.
Manage Deleted Files
If you want to delete a file, press down on it to open a pop-up menu, then select the Delete command. Any file deleted by mistake can be brought back by tapping the Recently Deleted entry. This will show you all the recently deleted files across your various file storage services. Tap the Select link, then select any file you wish to restore. Tap the Recover link to return the deleted file to its storage service.
Multitask With Multiple Windows
Your iPad includes a range of multitasking capabilities that have been enhanced in iPadOS 15. You can more easily view and work with your files when you have multiple windows open at once. Open a folder in the Files app and tap the ellipsis icon at the very top of the screen to open the new multitasking toolbar.
Tap the center icon to open in Split View mode. You can then open a second instance of the Files app and view a different folder at the same time.
Now if you want to view a file, tap it to open a floating Slide Over pane that you can position on top of either of the two existing windows.
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