If you want to use your iPad for any kind of productivity tasks, the ability to really manage your files is a must. The good news is that, while not as capable as a Mac in this area, there are plenty of file management options for the iPad that provide the functionality that most people will need on their iPads.
Here are the best file management apps for the iPad.
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Introduced in iOS 11, the Files app replaces the iCloud Drive app, offering the same functionality while vastly expanding the app in other ways. Instead of just renaming the Home for the contents of your iCloud Drive, Files aims to be a more centralized hub for your documents from multiple services. Files from cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive will be available alongside those from local document providers such as PDF Expert and your iOS devices' own local documents.
Files will be available with the release of iOS 11 later this year, and if you ever delete it from your device, you'll be able to find it again on the App Store.
Dropbox has long been one of the most popular cloud storage services out there, keeping everything in sync between devices no matter the platform. Whether you're all-in on Apple devices, dabble in Android, or sync between a Google Pixel, iPad Pro, and a Windows PC, Dropbox is available for you. Create as many folders as you want right in the Dropbox app to store whatever you can think of, including documents, images, and video. Dropbox for iOS also allows you to automatically upload photos taken on your device directly to Dropbox, while the action extension lets you add files from other apps to any of your Dropbox folders.
Dropbox is free to download and use, though you'll have a 5GB space limit. For $9.99 per month or $99.99 a year, you can subscribe to Dropbox Plus and get 1TB of storage for your files.
GoodReader is a PDF reader and file manager that can read or play just about any type of file, including PDFs, Word documents, books, images, videos, and audio. The app offers a wide range of tools for marking up PDF documents, allowing you to draw on them, easily highlight sections, and even sign documents. GoodReader has tools for connecting to cloud services and your own servers so you can access documents that aren't readily available on your iPad. Like other file management solutions, you can create folders and move files between them, and you can also Zip your files to share them with other people.
PDF Expert is a long-serving app in my personal rotation for a very good reason: it's great at what it does, and what it does is quite a bit. While I mostly use Files these days as a central location for all of my...files, PDF Expert is my go-to for working with PDFs in almost any capacity. But while it's primary focus is that type of file, you can use PDF Expert to manage and view several file types, including Google documents and photos. There's even a built-in media player, which allows you to play audio and video files that you have stored. In addition to local files, you can also link cloud services like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and Dropbox to PDF Expert, and everything can be kept in sync between your devices with iCloud.
You can get PDF Expert on the App Store for $9.99, while another $9.99 for the in-app purchase will unlock the professional-level PDF editor, which lets you completely edit the content of PDFs like text, images, and links.
Evernote helps you keep your thoughts and documents organized and in sync across your devices. Create new notes in several way, including text, audio, video, and sketching. Add PDFs to your collection, even scan in physical documents with your device's camera. Evernote offers powerful search capabilities, letting you find relevant text in any document, including your scanned hand-written items. Share notes or collections with other people, and perform actions such as photo annotation to offer feedback quickly.
Evernote is free to download and sync between two devices, though you'll need a $3.99 per month Plus or $7.99 per month Premium subscription to sync to an unlimited number of devices, get more storage, and access your notes offline.
LiquidText is the kind of app that I wish I had access to back when I was in school. While it does offer a central location for your PDF documents, including those pulled from services like Dropbox, the real power of LiquidText is in its markup capabilities. This app was built for research, offering unique tools to help you make connections, both within and between documents. As you read a document, drag a section of interesting text out to the workspace beside it, or write your own notes, connecting it to a bit of text with a line. Tap the line to jump to that bit of text. Have two documents with interesting overlap? You can make connections between both of them, so all of your research and are easily accessible in just a couple of taps.
You can download LiquidText for free, while there is a $9.99 to unlock LiquidText Pro, which includes access to the app's ink features that support the Apple Pencil.
What your favorite apps for managing documents on your iPad? Be sure to tell us in the comments.
Updated April 2018: Removed iCloud Drive from the list because it's no longer available as of iOS 11 and added PDF Expert because it's great.
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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.