The Files app was introduced to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 11 in 2017, and it brought much-needed file access to iOS. In typical Apple fashion, its real power is well hidden. Here’s how to turn Files into Finder for iOS.

If you’ve ever ventured into the Files app, you’ve no doubt seen it in its most basic form. Before you add any additional sources of files—which Files calls “Locations”—things can look pretty sparse. Sure, browsing files that are saved locally to your device is way better than what we had before, but things get super interesting once you start adding more locations.

Locations are areas of storage that iOS apps can present to the Files app, essentially allowing you to dip into those apps and the data they have stored, all from within Files. That doesn’t sound all that amazing until you think about the kinds of apps that support Files. Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive immediately spring to mind, and with any of those added as a location, you can browse the contents of those cloud storage providers right from within Files. Everything syncs just as it would from within the apps, so if you add a file to your Dropbox folder on a Mac, it appears in the Files app and vice versa.

It’s this kind of integration that goes a long way to making Files act like Finder, but there’s more, too.

Apps that you wouldn’t normally associate with storage can also present information to Files. One example would be the excellent Keep It, an app for organizing files such as PDFs, images, and more. Keep It also presents everything it holds as a Location in Files, giving you instant access to everything without opening the app. Want to add a file to Keep It to be processed at a later date? Just drop it into the Keep It location in Files, and it’ll be waiting for you no matter whether you open the app on your iPhone, iPad, or even your Mac.

So, how do you make all of this magic happen? It’s surprisingly easy!

Adding a Location in Files

To get started, open the Files app on your iPhone or iPad.

To start adding a new Location, tap the “Edit” icon in the top-right corner of the screen.

You will now see a list of potential Locations with toggles beside them. Any app that is installed and also supports Files Locations appears here. To enable a Location, flick its toggle to the “On” position. You can also re-order Locations by dragging their grab-handle up and down the list.

After enabling the Locations you want, tap the “Done” button in the top-right corner.

That’s all there is to it. To start browsing a Location, tap it in Files. You’ll see the folder structure within the Location, and you can work with all your files from there.

Oliver Haslam Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam is a professional freelance writer with nearly ten years of experience. His work has been published on Macworld, PCMag, 1Password's blog, and other websites. He writes about all things Apple.
Read Full Bio »