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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.

Moving and sharing iCloud Drive files

iCloud Drive lets you move files between your Mac and the cloud. There are two ways to do this. The first is to simply move a file in the Finder. When you do this, the Finder displays a dialog, warning you that when you move it to your Mac it will be deleted from your iCloud Drive.

The other way to move a file is from within an app itself. If you have a file open and you want to move it between your Mac and iCloud Drive, choose File > Move To, and then select a location. The file will be moved but you won't be warned about it being deleted from your iCloud Drive.

In the Finder you can also copy a file from iCloud Drive and paste it into any other folder. Just select the file, press Command-C, navigate to a folder, and press Command-V. If you do this, though, remember that you now have two copies of the same file.

And you can send an iCloud Drive file to others in a variety of ways. Within the Finder, open your iCloud Drive, select a file, and then click on the toolbar's Share menu. You'll find options for sharing via Mail, Messages, AirDrop, and More. Select More and System Preferences launches and the Extensions preference appears, where you can select additional sharing options (not all of them may be compatible with sharing particular file types, however).

iCloud Drive on the web

iCloud Drive is also available from your browser. Sign into and click iCloud Drive. From within the resulting window you can manage all your files and folders — download and upload files, create new folders, and move files into new folders or to the root level of your iCloud Drive. Any changes you make on the web or on your Mac are propagated to all your devices, but it may take a minute to see them.

Using the web versions of the iWork apps — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote — you'll be able to work with compatible documents stored on iCloud Drive. For example, launch the web version of Pages and the Pages documents you've stored on iCloud Drive will be available to you. Select one and get to work.

Using iCloud with iOS 8

There is no iCloud Drive iOS app so you don't have Finder-like access to the files in your iCloud Drive. Instead, you access them through an Open command within individual apps. Let's use Pages as an example.

On your Mac you've saved a .txt file into iCloud Drive's TextEdit folder. On your iPad, launch Pages, click the Plus (+) button in the top-left corner, and choose iCloud. An iCloud window appears that displays the contents of your iCloud Drive. Tap on the TextEdit folder and then tap a compatible file (Pages won't open RTF files). A copy of that file will open in Pages.


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