iOS 11 brings a self-contained file system to the iPhone and iPad in the form of the new Files app. The Files app replaces the iCloud Drive app, which was nothing more than a glorified document picker. Files app brings an experience that is much closer to Finder on the Mac, while still following iOS conventions of sandboxing and privacy.
While the Files app is available on both platforms, it really shines on the iPad – with drag and drop and Split View support. The first developer beta of iOS 11 is out and we’re taking the Files app for a spin.
1. Files from Local Storage and Cloud Services
The Browse tab has a Locations section in the sidebar. In the first beta, it only supports iCloud Drive. While there’s a section for local files, I’m not able to add files or folder there. By the time iOS 11 ships, you’ll be able to add third party sources here as well – Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and more. And by then, I hope the local storage feature works as well.
2. Classic Nested Folder Structure
What makes Files app similar to a file system is the folder structure. And you’ll get a classic nested folder structure here. Tap on a folder and then tap and hold in an empty space to create a new folder.
3. Grid View and List View
By default, you’ll see files and folder in a grid view – with icons for all folders and files. But you can switch to the list view by swiping down in the folder view and tapping the list view button. List view shows more details – file size, modified date and a shortcut to download it.
Another Finder feature that makes it to Files app is tagging. You’ll find the default tags like Red, Orange and so on. But you can create your own as well.
5. Intra and Inter App Drag and Drop
One of the biggest productivity features in iOS 11 is drag and drop and how intuitively it works across the entire OS and individual apps. This is going to be a key feature in how we interact with the Files app. We can use the feature for file organization inside the Files app and to move files and documents to and from other apps.
On both iPhone and iPad, drag and drop in Files can do a lot, like moving multiple files of different types, in one gesture.
You start by tapping and holding one a file until it starts floating. Keep holding this on screen with one finger while you use your another hand to navigate to different folders and select different files. They’ll all be added to the files you’ve selected for moving. Now, you can go to another folder and release your finger to drop it there. Or drop the files on a tag to tag them.
On the iPad, to drop it into another app, like Pages, you can either bring it up in Split View, or you can just bring up the dock, and open an app like Keynote (with another hand, while you’re “holding” the files with one finger) and drop them there. The entire process is really intuitive.
6. Preview and Open Documents
Files app can preview some documents right inside the app – images and text files for example. But if you have the corresponding app installed, tapping on the file will directly open it in the associated app, instead of opening the preview.
7. Open Zip Files
While you can’t archive files, you can open and preview zip files in the Files app.
8. Search Feature
Unlike other iOS apps where you have to swipe down to reveal the search bar, the one in files app is persistent, in every screen that has files or folder in it. Also, the search feature is quite basic and searches across the app. You won’t find filters for limiting the search to a particular source or folder.
9. Info Panel for Files
When you tap and hold on a file, you’ll see a contextual menu. Tap the Info button and you’ll see a Mac Get Info style panel here that shows what find of file it is, the size, where it’s located, when it was created and modified and its associated tags.
10. Multiple Sorting Features
When you swipe down in a folder, you’ll see options to sort files by name, date, size, and tags. There’s no option for reverse sorting. For example, when you tap on Size, it will sort by largest to smallest. There’s no option to sort it the other way around.
How Do You Deal with Files on iOS?
What does your file management workout look like right now on iOS 10? Do you think the Files app will help you interact with files in a better way? Share with us in the comments below.