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How to use iCloud Drive

Kirk McElhearn, Christopher Breen | Oct. 28, 2014
Much as you may have been satisfied with the way iCloud synced your data in the past, if you'd hoped for comprehensive file syncing between your Mac, iOS devices, and the cloud, you were likely frustrated. Prior to OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iCloud's file storage was sandboxed, meaning that you could only access files created with a specific application by that application. You could, for example, launch Pages and access the Pages files you stored in the cloud, but you couldn't use that same app to open TextEdit files stored in iCloud.

Much as you may have been satisfied with the way iCloud synced your data in the past, if you'd hoped for comprehensive file syncing between your Mac, iOS devices, and the cloud, you were likely frustrated. Prior to OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iCloud's file storage was sandboxed, meaning that you could only access files created with a specific application by that application. You could, for example, launch Pages and access the Pages files you stored in the cloud, but you couldn't use that same app to open TextEdit files stored in iCloud.

Enter iCloud Drive. Taking its cue from Dropbox, which is a simple file repository accessible from any app, Apple has changed the way iCloud manages files.

Using iCloud Drive on a Mac

In the past, with iCloud-compatible apps, you could choose to save your files locally or to iCloud. With Yosemite that option is available to all apps. And it's not difficult to access it. Open a Finder window and you'll see an iCloud Drive entry. (If you don't see it, choose Finder > Preferences, click Sidebar, and check iCloud Drive.) Click on this icon and you'll spy a group of folders that represent the apps associated with the files within. (You won't find data synced with the Contacts, Calendar, and Notes apps as these are strictly application files.)

To use a file on a Mac, open the folder that holds it and double-click on it (see the screenshot above where there are folders for Numbers, Pages, and TextEdit) or launch an app, use the Open command, and navigate to it on your iCloud Drive.

In cases where apps have been updated with iCloud Drive in mind the app's name will appear under the iCloud heading in Open and Save dialog boxes. (If you're using an app that hasn't been updated for iCloud Drive its files will be stored, by default, at the top level of iCloud Drive, though you can create your own folders for them.)

For example, in the image below you can see the Open dialog when you launch Numbers. At the top of the sidebar is the iCloud heading with the Numbers entry below. This is a shortcut to the Numbers folder stored in iCloud Drive.

You can now also access files you created with other apps (and other apps can access files you've created with iCloud-compatible apps). Let's say you're writing a report in Pages and you use a compatible text file that you created in TextEdit — a file saved in Microsoft Word .docx format, for example. You can launch Pages, choose iCloud Drive in the Finder sidebar, select a compatible document in the TextEdit folder, and open it.

 

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