Top 10 Ways to Use the Files App on iOS Like a Pro

The Files app in the iOS 11 update was a welcome addition to a mobile operating system devoid of basic file management for a very long time. While the app has some long distance to cover when compared to full-fledged desktop applications, it’s still a blast to use on your iPhone or iPad.

Files Featured

However, Files isn’t the most intuitive of apps and, unless you know how to really make use of the various features present, it's not going to make sense most of the time.

Did you know that Files can multitask with other apps, move files between different cloud storages, or save files locally? Well, you’d be surprised to learn what else it does.

1. Don’t Limit Yourself to Just iCloud

The Files app looks quite boring with only the iCloud Drive in its list of available locations. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to just that. Third-party cloud-storage providers such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Dropbox all work in conjunction with Files.

Provided that you have the respective apps of these cloud-storage services installed, tap Edit.

Files Add Locations 1

Now, tap the toggles next to the listed services to enable them as new locations.

Files Add Locations 2

Once you've done that, you can now start accessing the files stored within each cloud storage directly via the Files app itself. Also, choose to add, rename, move, or delete files from a single unified location.

Note: While OneDrive appears as a location, its functionality is rather limited within Files. You may have trouble performing certain actions such as moving files with other locations.

2. Manage Files Better With New Folders

Creating new folders within any listed location – iCloud, Box, Google Drive, etc. – can be done directly via the Files app itself. You now have no reason to clump files together when instead you can easily create folders to manage them.

However, the option to create new folders is hidden by default.

Get to any location and swipe downwards. You should now see the New Folder icon under the search bar.

Files New Folder 1

Tap the icon, and you are prompted to name the folder. Tap Done to create it.

Files New Folder 2
Cool Tip: Swiping down also brings up the filtering options – Name, Data, Size, and Tags. You can use them to easily sort items within any folder or sub-folder.

3. Easily Move Files Between Locations

The host of new locations combined with the ability to create new folders would go to waste without any option to move files in between, right?

Fortunately, the Files app provides us with a couple of ways to do just that.

Tap Select from within a location and you should be able to choose multiple files or folders. Once you’ve done that, tap Move.

Files Move Files 2

Select any location, folder, or sub-folder via the pop-up pane that shows up, and then tap Copy.

Files Move Files 3

That's it!

The other technique relies on iOS 11’s new Drag feature. However, it’s limited to simply moving files to a sub-folder within the same location. Let's see how it works.

Tap and hold a file till it hovers beneath your finger and then use another finger to tap any other files that you want to move. You should see each file starting to stack up.

Files Move Files 4

Now, drag the stack of files over a folder and release your finger to instantly move them inside it. Awesome, right?

4. Save Files Locally on Your iPad or iPhone

By now, you may have gotten the gist that the Files app only supports cloud-based file saving and not local storage. 

While certain cloud-storage locations do let you download files for offline use, you can also make use of a workaround to completely save files locally.

This method involves the On My iPad or iPhone folder within Files. Apps such as Pages, Numbers, or Keynote use this folder to store files. However, you can use the generated sub-folders for each app to save whatever else that you want using other apps as well.

When accessing the Share options - via the Photos app, for example - just tap Save to Files and select a sub-folder within On My iPad or iPhone to save any selected files locally. You can also move files via other cloud-storage services to this location using the Files app itself.

Files On My I Pad
Note: Any file is deleted automatically whenever you remove the app associated with the sub-folder, so be careful.

5. Categorize Files Under Tags for Faster Access

Getting tired of organizing your files into folders? Not to worry. With the Tags feature, you can pretty much categorize files and folders stored anywhere.

Select an item or items, tap Share, and then select +Tag.

Files Add Tags 1

Choose a tag. You can also create new custom tags with any name and color that you want.

Files Add Tags 2

To access files categorized under a particular tag, just select the tag from the Tags section.

Files Add Tags 3

6. Share Files From Multiple Locations

Files can be shared directly via the Files app itself. Just select the file, tap the Share icon, and you can choose to either email or share it over instant messaging services.

But what if you want to share a bunch of files from different cloud-storage locations all in one go? That might feel like a long and cumbersome process but it actually isn’t. Just categorize them under a tag to make the selection process easier.

Files Share Files 1

Once you have everything selected, tap Share and then share them via any available method.

Files Share Files 2

7. Multitask with Other Apps in Split-View

If you are on an iPad, you can make use of the split-view feature to easily transfer files into or out of the Files app.

Do you want to add an image to your notes? Just open both apps side-by-side, and drag and drop the file into the note.

Files Multitask

On the other hand, transferring files into the Files app from another app is just as convenient – just drag and drop to a location. The possibilities are endless, so just experiment with various app combinations to see what works best for you.

Cool Tip: Certain cloud-storage locations or apps may not support dragging and dropping. The best way to determine support for the feature is to wait for a green-colored "+" symbol to appear when dragging over a file.

8. Quickly Recover Any Deleted Files

Deleted a file that you really didn’t intend to delete? The Files app has a convenient location labeled Recently Deleted but how do you recover the file?

Just tap and hold the file and select Recover. To recover multiple files, tap Select to enable multiple file selection. Once you are done selecting, tap Recover.

Files Recover

9. Find Recently Accessed Files Easily

Did you access a file that you now don’t have a clue about its location? It might be tricky searching for the file if you can’t even remember the file name properly, but don’t worry.

Just tap Recent and you should see a list of your recently accessed files and folders. The app also displays anything that you’ve accessed under their respective file tags.

Files Recent

Once you are done, tap Browse to switch to the normal Files app mode.

10. Open Files Within Dedicated Apps

When you tap on a file, it tends to open directly via the Files app user interface itself. It is a great concept that lets you preview stuff without opening a ton of apps in the process.

But what if you want to just edit the file or open it in another app altogether?

To do that, simply tap and hold the file, and then tap the Share option on the pop-up menu.

Files Open 1
Cool Tip: In case you didn't know, tapping and holding an item – otherwise known as the long-press gesture – also brings up the Copy, Duplicate, Delete, and Rename options. A useful gesture to keep in mind for individual files and folders.

You should now see a bunch of actions that you can perform with the file. If it’s a PDF, for example, you can choose to open the file in iBooks or Adobe Acrobat Reader. Pretty much self-explanatory!

Files Open 2

Bonus Tip: Folder Favorites

Favorites work pretty much the same as tags, except that you can do so only for folders. 

Just tap and hold a folder that you want to add, and then select Favorites from the pop-up menu.

Files Favorites

A very useful feature to have when you want to group a bunch of folders from multiple storage locations.

Yeah ... That's About It!

Files is a neat addition to the iPad and iPhone and very easy to use once you’ve figured things out. The app does have notable limitations such as a lack of native local file storage and restrictive drag-and-drop support, but the present set of features is more than enough for some serious file management.

So, let us know what you think of the Files app. Any tips that you want to share? Just drop a comment below.

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Dilum Senevirathne has written about tech and finance for over five years. When he isn’t messing around with the latest iOS apps, you can catch him tweaking a collection of IoT gadgets. Dilum is a management accounting student and a prospective charterholder.