How to Manage Files on Your iPhone or iPad

Keep your files in order on your iOS mobile devices

Apple introduced the Files app for the iPhone and iPad in iOS 11. It offers iOS and iPadOS users more control over files than previous versions of the mobile operating system. The closed system Apple uses in its software makes the iPad easy to use and difficult for malware like viruses to gain access.

Here's everything you need to know about the Files app.

These instructions apply to devices with iPadOS 14, iPadOS 13, and iOS 14 through iOS 11.

What Is the Files App?

The Files app is a centralized hub for available cloud-based storage options such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud Drive. It also contains documents stored on iOS devices that were created in other apps.

Previously, the only way to get at these local files was by plugging the iPhone or iPad into your PC and launching iTunes. With the Files app, you can copy these documents to any storage location.

How to Move Documents in Files With Drag and Drop

The drag-and-drop feature Apple introduced in iOS 11 provides easier ways to manipulate files on iPad or iPhone. While it is possible to select and move files using buttons on the screen manually, it's faster to pick up files and move them.

  1. Open the Files app.

    It's easier to transfer files when both hands are free. Place the iPad on a flat surface such as a table or rest it in your lap. Tap the Files icon in the dock. On an iPhone, locate the Files app and tap it.

    The Files app in iPadOS and iOS
  2. In the Locations list, visible in the panel on the left side of the app, tap the location of the file. Tap On My iPad to display the app-labeled folders that contain files that are stored on the device.

    If the destination app you want to use (for example, Dropbox) isn't listed, go to the left panel and tap Edit in iOS. (In iPadOS, tap the three-dot icon at the top of the panel and select Edit Sidebar.) Turn on the toggle switches for the available apps and then tap Done.

    Locations section of Files app panel
  3. Tap and hold the file you want to move. It pops out of its place on the screen, and a translucent copy appears under your finger.

    Files app with a file selected for moving
  4. To move multiple items from the same folder, tap the files with another finger to add them to the stack of files.

    The number of files in the stack displays in the upper-right corner.

    Multiple file indicator in iOS and iPadOS Files app
  5. Use another finger to tap the destination of the stack of files.

    Shift the group of files from one finger to another if your hands are in an awkward position. With the other finger, tap and hold next to the finger controlling the stack of files, then release the first finger.

    File destination in Files app for iOS and iPadOS
  6. Drag the items to a new destination, which may be a folder or a menu. The blue number in the upper-right corner turns green when the files are over a valid location.

    iPadOS and iOS Files app
  7. Lift your finger to transfer the files to the selected folder.

How to Move Documents With Buttons

You can also move files by using buttons on the screen. This method can be faster and more convenient than managing documents and photos with multiple fingers and hands.

  1. Open the folder containing the items you want to move, then tap Select.

    iOS Files app with Select highlighted
  2. Tap the items you want to move. A check mark appears in the circle to show that the file is selected.

    Files with check marks in iOS Files app
  3. Tap Move to transfer items to another cloud storage device or your iPad.

    File app options for file management
  4. Tap the destination and then tap the folder (if available).

    Destination options in Files app for iOS and iPadOS
  5. Tap Copy to move the file.

    Files app with Copy highlighted
  6. The files are copied to the destination. The files still appear in the original location.

How to Use Tags in Files

Tags flag individual documents or folders for quick access later. The Tags section includes color-coded tags (red, orange, blue, and other colors) and specialized tags such as work, home, and important. To add a label to a document or a folder, drag a file or a stack of files and drop the files on a tag.

Tag options in the Files app for iOS and iPadOS

Tagging a file does not move it.

Tap an individual tag to display a list of files and folders with that tag. You can also drag-and-drop from this folder to another tag or move the stack of selected files and folders to a different location in Files.

Drag and Drop Outside of the Files App

When you select a stack of documents in Files, you aren't restricted to dropping it on another area of the Files app. Use multitasking to open another app as a destination or close the Files app by clicking the Home button before launching the new app.

The requirements are that you keep the original finger holding the stack of files pressed against the display and that the destination must be able to accept those files. For example, you can drag an image to the Photos app and drop it on an album, but you can't drag a Pages document to Photos.

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