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 open and view your files directly on your iPhone or iPad and run a variety of commands on them.
Several handy features and options were added to the app in 2019. You could access files downloaded onto your iPhone or iPad through Safari, connect to external drives and network drives, compress and uncompress ZIP files, and search for files across your various locations. With iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the Files app now lets you access encrypted drives. Let’s check out the Files app on iPhone and iPad to see how you can work with your documents.
Tap the name of a service you want to load. 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. Otherwise, sign into the site. Do this for each site you’ve added.
Add Other Locations
You can also access files downloaded in Safari through the Files app. But you must first have to download a file in Safari, such as a PDF, audio file, or a document. In response, Safari creates a Downloads folder on your device. Tap the entry for On My iPhone or On My iPad. You’ll see folders for other apps and services along with the folder for Downloads. Tap the Downloads folder to open it and access the files inside.
Connect to External Devices
You can connect to a USB stick, SD card, or external hard drive. To do this, you must physically plug the stick or drive into your iPhone or iPad using the right adapter cable. You can then access that drive and its content through Files.
Connect to a Network Server
You can also connect to a network server or NAS. Make sure your network or NAS 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 type your 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.
Connect to an Encrypted Drive
By upgrading to iOS/iPadOS 14 or higher 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 flash drive or USB stick, or connect to an encrypted network share. Select the drive, tap the link for Lock, enter the password for the drive, and then select Unlock. You’ll now have access to that drive.
Search for 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. At the top of the left-hand sidebar, tap Recents to view files that have been recently added, moved, or viewed.
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, or delete the file. You can get info on it, preview it through Quick Look, tag it, rename it, and share the file.
For multiple files, tap the Select link the upper-right corner and tap each file. The bottom of the screen displays links to share, duplicate, move, and delete the selected file. Tap the link for More to see additional commands, such as Download and Compress.
View Your Files
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 image, audio, and video files this way. Photos and other static images can also be edited with built-in drawing and coloring tools.
View Info and Add Tags
The Files app lets you view key details and even tag each file. You can 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. Even further, you can add tags to a file to categorize it. Tag a file with a specific color or a specific category, which can help when you’re trying to find that file.
To do all this, press down on a file and select Info from the menu. Tap the Show More link and swipe down the screen 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 list or tap the option Add New Tag and create a new tag based on specific criteria.
Zip and Unzip Files
You can also compress a file or folder with the Files app. Press down on an item to open a pop-up menu. Tap the Compress command to create a ZIP archive of the file or folder. To uncompress a ZIP file, tap on it, and it will uncompress. Alternatively, press down on the file and select Uncompress from the menu.
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 location in the left pane of the Files app. This will show you all recently deleted files across all your file storage services. Tap the Select link and then tap the file you wish to restore. Tap the Recover link to restore the file to its storage service.
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