Clearing up the iCloud Drive confusion: No, there's no iCloud Drive app on iOS!

The launch of iOS 8 brought with it the launch of iCloud Drive, and... a whole lot of confusion. Apple stated during the WWDC keynote that while iCloud Drive was coming to both the Mac and iOS, there would not be a standalone iCloud Drive app. That's not a problem with OS X Yosemite because it's built right into the Finder, but iOS doesn't have a Finder either, so the only way to access iCloud Drive on an iPhone or iPad is through an app like Numbers, Keynote, Pages, or an App Store app. Cue the internet pitchforks and torches. So, what's really going on with iCloud Drive on iOS, and how can you get to your files?

There is no iCloud Drive app in iOS 8, so don't look for one

iCloud Drive is currently only available inside of apps that support it and have a use for it, as far as iOS is concerned. Yesterday alone I saw about 20 to 30 of the apps I use update to support both Document Picker and iCloud Drive. For example, PDF Expert by Readdle supports iCloud Drive. What this means is that I can choose to save a document to iCloud Drive with PDF Expert, and I can also pull documents that I already have in iCloud Drive into PDF Expert.

Essentially, iCloud Drive is hooking into third party apps and Apple's own apps much in the same way many developers have been linking with Dropbox and Google Drive for years. The main difference? There is no iCloud Drive app available for iOS. At least not at this point.

So how is this any different than how iCloud handled documents before?

At this point, iCloud Drive will act as a single repository for all files you choose to save to it through other apps. The main difference is what apps can access them. For example, prior to iOS 8 if I created a document in PDF Expert, I was very limited with what other apps could use that document. For the most part, it was stuck in PDF Expert, or whatever document I created it in. If I then deleted that app, my documents and files went with it. Of course you could choose to not discard files stored in iCloud, but unless you re-installed that app again, you had very limited access, if any, to those files.

This is no longer the case with iCloud Drive. If you create a file in one app, it can then be housed in iCloud Drive and opened in any app that also supports iCloud Drive and that particular file format. In other words, think of iCloud Drive as yet another option like Dropbox for you to save files to and bring files in from. The main difference? There is no dedicated iCloud Drive app to manage in iOS like you can with services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

So how do I get my files into iCloud Drive?

In short, you'll need to wait until Apple officially releases OS X Yosemite. On desktop computers, iCloud Drive will be treated in the exact same way that services like Dropbox and Google Drive are treated. You'll be able to drag files to it, rearrange them, and of course, access them with any compatible apps. Any files that you place in iCloud Drive on your Mac or PC will then instantly be available to any apps that support those file types in iOS. Windows users ironically can already update to iCloud Control Panel 4.0 right now and access iCloud Drive. Mac users just need to wait a little longer.

The bottom line

iCloud Drive will offer a lot more manual control over files in OS X Yosemite next month. Windows users can upgrade iCloud Control Panel right now and enjoy iCloud Drive support. However, iCloud Drive is not an all-in-one replacement for apps like Dropbox and Google Drive where iOS is concerned, at least not yet. If you want to organize and access files in one single app on the go from your iPhone or iPad, you'll still need to use a service like Dropbox or Google Drive.

For those that want a better technical explanation of iCloud Drive and Document Picker, be sure to hit the link below as Rene does a great job explaining both.

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

62 Comments
  • I will be sticking with OneDrive I think :) Thanks for clearing that up.
  • Do you happen to know where the new "hidden" photostream (or I guess, "Recently Added") folder is in Mavericks? Now that iOS 8 is out and the Photostream folder is gone, I can't seem to find the matching folder on Mavericks anymore. In the past you could setup a sidebar folder to Photostream on your Mac like this: http://www.webtechgadgetry.com/2013/12/mac-osx-tip-add-icloud-photo-stre... however this no longer shows recent photos. Would love to know if anyone has found the new location. Thanks
  • There isn't anything new in Mavericks just yet. All your Photos just feed into Photo Stream in iPhoto as they did before. At least that's my understanding until Yose comes out.
  • Hmm...I suppose I'll have to wait then. I was hoping there was something now. For those of us who don't use iPhoto, having an easy way to copy photos and video down to my Mac is important without having to go through iPhoto.
  • You can already use iCloud Drive with Windows via iCloud Control Panel 4.0, which was just released yesterday.
  • I thought it was still classified as beta?
  • That I don't know. I'm not a developer and I was able to update iCloud Control Panel with the Apple Software update application in Windows. No trickery on my end. However, I do not have iCloud photo library as an option.
  • I just downloaded it via Apple Update, so I'm assuming it's no longer beta. It does give me access to my iCloud Drive from my Windows machine too. Pretty cool.
  • So ironic, windows gets iCloud Drive before OS X haha
  • But on beta.icloud.com you can access iCloud Drive and upload files and whatnot to it. Sent from the iMore App
  • Am I the only one that got the iCloud for Windows 4.0 update?? That has iCloud Drive just like the OneDrive in my Documents. Also my iCloud.com has the iCloud Drive readily available.
  • Oh, great, but give it a try to upload some pictures into it, and for surprise of us, those picture doesn't appear on Photo app, so, were did it goes??
  • I had it for 2 months. In july already a beta 3 of this icloud panel was going around on the internet. In Windows explorer you see a folder under favorites only named icloud drive. You can browse through your icloud drive. But while you can copy files to it, you cannot save directly from windows apps to it. You don't see icloud drive in the file dialog of windows apps. You can save it to another location, and then copy and past the file back to you icloud drive. Another problem is that it can take a long time before your file is 'uploaded' to your icloud drive. In some test even after 20 minutes the file didn't show up in my icloud Drive. In others it was visible in seconds. Also nobody knows how the panel works, are files stored locally and synced, or saved on my icloud drive? I preffer that it is not stored locally but my best guess it is. You cannot set the location of the local stored files.
  • Here's what I've found out experimenting with Windows7 iCoud Drive so far: 1. Any folders/files dropped into the iCD folder are COPIED to the cloud, AND to any other PC running windows iCD... 2. I CAN open and save files from/to it (I'm using AutoCad 2008) - you just have to navigate through the file system to find it - C:\users\[username]\iCloudDrive This is all very good for me & the way I work - I plan to MOVE all my work files into the iCD folder on my desktop, have them all replicate on my laptop for remote working, and open/save files directly to the local iCD folder.
    This then means if one (or even both) of my PCs broke/stolen, there is still a further copy in the cloud which I can use to re-populate a replacement PC.
    And of course I can switch between machines and both should update to the latest files. I would, however, like to move the default location of iCD folder from C:\users, to my D: (data) drive - anyone know if this can be done? EDIT: I might add that I don't expect (or want) the files replicated on my iPhone/iPad (there could be up to 200GBs), but to be available to view/update using the relevant App would be great. (I use AutoCad 360 App for dwgs - not sure it's been updated to iCD compatable yet tho).
  • I got the update for iCloud for Windows version 4.0 (not sure I got the name correct) yesterday from the Apple Software Update app for Windows. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm sure Apple didn't purposely mislead people regarding iCloud drive, but they didn't make it clear. I was looking forward to a Onedrive replacement. I want to store ALL my files in one place and I decide what app to use to open them. As it stands right now, this is a disappointment.
  • And that's why Apple should have made it an app too. So what if someone wants to view all they have stored in there but don't have a Mac or PC close?. Hopefully they will understand the confusion and release an app. Sent from the iMore App
  • just make an app like dropbox or something.
  • Thanks for pointing out iCloud Drive CP for windows guys, I'll uodate!
  • Am I the only one who's suffering an icloud drive stuck on upgrading? Sent from the iMore App
  • How are you supposed to open files deep in a directory structure without an app to find them? What, for example, is a PDF viewer supposed to do, give you a menu containing every PDF (which may be hundreds) stored on iCloud?
  • Still haven't found the UI to access iCloud Drive in Pages.
  • Me neither and nobody seems to explain why or if it's an error. Can't find anything....
  • In my opinion, in using a file-based cloud system, it needs to work without mystery. I should be able to view ALL of my files with ease on all my devices. These are MY FILES which are IMPORTANT. If I want to quickly check to ensure that I file is present, I shouldn't have to go to a specific app, they should all be visible in a single application. This iCloud Drive appears to make a cloud file storage system confuses. It doesn't need to be. You shouldn't have to be locked in.
  • iCloud Drive is available on Windows. Got an update and now it's showing in the icon taskbar and from the Explorer under Users folder. Can see my documents, etc.
  • That's cool.
  • Dropbox has an iOS app. If indeed iCloud Drive functions in a similar manner, it should also have an app to go along with it. Fact is, other cloud storage companies (OneDrive, Box, RealPlayer) have apps. I must be missing something...
  • I can tell you that its a (bad) choice made by Apple, since iCloud runs on Microsoft Azure, just like OneDrive, and OneDrive has an app and a webpage where you can see all your stuff.
  • Are documents that are placed in iCloud also stored on your hard drive?
  • The problem for me was the inability to understand how iCloud Drive worked. It seemed similar to how, on a Mac, you could save PDF files to iCloud, but there was no way to retrieve them.
    However, I am glad to hear there is a file system on the Mac, and hopefully Apple will introduce a eloquent way of using iCloud Drive on iOS. At least I now understand and I can start playing with it. Thanks for the clarification article Allyson. Sent from the iMore App
  • I still don't get it. The article says that you can access iCloud Drive through apps like Pages, Numbers, Keynote and PDF Expert. I have those four apps. iCloud Drive is set up on my Mac running Yosemite and on my iPad. But I cannot find a way to access iCloud Drive through compatible apps.
    Could someone - or maybe you Allyson - explain how you manage to access iCloud Drive or Document Picker through Pages, Numbers, Keynote, PDF Expert? :)
    Thx for some help
  • Same here, the document picker doesn't show up in Pages/numbers/keynote. Don't know why. You need a future update of PDF expert which according to their blog will be released soon. They are running a beta now which has the picker inside. Also if you have for Readdle pdf converter (updated yesterday) you can enable the picker already in the settings. Same you can export to your icloud drive in Readdle Scanner Pro (select export, ..more, icloud export).
  • XrrgsThanks, Xavalin. The article was very confusing for me because I can't replicate the screenshot in the article in Pages, Numbers, Keynote or PDF Expert.
  • You need to drag the documents right into the Pages map on your iCloud drive, then they are available on your Pages app on your iPhone.
    I think this is very strange because you are not able to see your own maps because it shows your documents randomly!
    I think this is a way for Apple to have all their customers use iWork instead of office
  • I have the same problem. I've looked everywhere long and far and am not able to get the iCloud picker that is shown in all these websites.
  • Thank for the great article Allyson it really cleared up a lot! I do have a question about iCloud Drive on iCloud.com. When I delete a file in the iCloud Drive section of iCloud.com is it deleted immediately or does it go into a trash can that I then have to empty? Sent from the iMore App
  • So how do I view a sound file or an image file on iOS saved in iCloud Drive from icloud.com or Windows control panel? What apps would I need to view those file types and is there a chance those apps don't (yet) exist?
  • My problem remains unanswered. I wish to have all my photos uploaded to iCloud drive. Since my iCloud drive has a larger capacity than my iphone, I want to upload the photos to iCloud drive and then delete them from my iphone in order to save space. How can I do that? I am not looking for an app, but I want to see how things "just" work with iCloud drive as Apple claims.
  • Please tell me how I can get the windows in your screenshots, especially the ones just under the heading: "So how is this any different than how iCloud handled documents before?" What do I have to tap?
  • This seems like a perfect opportunity for a third party app developer to create an iCloud Drive file browser app. The purpose of the app would be what people are looking for in here, the ability to simply browse and manage all of your iCloud drive files at a glance (like DropBox, One Drive, etc). I wonder if Readdle Documents 5 is able to tap into iCloud Drive and act as a file browser. I'll have to check on my iPad tonight. My biggest disappointment with Drive so far is that you still can't download and upload from/to a website on iOS using iCloud Drive. Clicking an upload button in Safari still only gives you the option to load photos. This is a disappointment and prevents iOS from being a full PC replacement platform.
  • Can you state which iOS apps can access iCloud Drive Thanks
  • Question for Allyson Kazmucha DO YOU THINK THAT ICLOUD DRIVE WILL BE IMPLEMENTED IN SAFARI OR CHROME AS FILE SYSTEM TO SUPPORT "BROWSE" FUNCTIONALITY TO BE ABLE TO UPLOAD FILES TO A WEB PAGES?
  • Do you always shout when asking questions? And do you think author works at apple or has insider knowledge that she'll be answer it?
  • I'm totally confused ! I have loads of PDFs on iCloud drive but I don't know how to view them on iPhone. 1) They are not appearing in ibooks - which is the repository Apple uses for PDFs. And where I kind of expected them to pop up. 2) There is no iCloud drive app to view them in - despite the fact that such an app is clearly visible on the apple website and displayed above in this article. I think the article states than it doesn't exist - but clearly it does as shown (even if not available to users)... Grateful for any clarification !
  • PS I can successfully get a powerpoint presentation from Mac to iPhone Keynote app using iCloud drive - it's cool !
  • I think Allyson is still causing a lot of confusion here. I've been using Yosemite and it's still not possible to simply add, say, PDFs in Yosemite and have them be found by an iOS pdf reader. It looks like iCloud drive is much more limited than other platforms. Dropbox doesn't have to be concerned here...
  • I installed scanner by Readdle and it created a directory into icloud drive. Icloud drive is accessible from the windows icloud drive program and also from icloud.com. But now the directory of Readdle cannot be deleted, I tried from the windows drive I couldn't; the moment I delete it comes back right away, I also tried from icloud.com the trash icon is greyed, I tried to remove the readdle app from the iphone or disable saving to icloud drive from within the app the readdle directory stays in icloud drive! does anybody know how to reset the icloud drive, I want to get rid of that readdle directory!
  • I ve got the same issue and it's not only about the readdle app unfortunately! It could be a real mess if we try to download several apps that we can't even remove! I hope they will allow us to delete whatever app we want cos I think we are not free enough at this time!
  • We definitely need a 3rd party app that approximates the dropbox experience, right? But would Apple approve it?
  • I have contacted Apple Support with basically all the questions in this forum...
    - How to access the cloud on IOS?
    - Where is the ICloud File Picker which is used on many Apple Websites... The first support person at apple did not get my problem in the first 15min before the Chat Service of Apple crashed.... I almost lost my mind with that "student who received a 10min apple training before...".
    The second person got my problem, but did not know an answer.
    His supervisor finally acknoledged, that there is no app and there is no way to access ICloud from IOS and he did not know if there is an app coming. He also did not know what the picture on the apple icloud site (File picker) is actually showing. He speculated, that it is some sort of "example how an interface could look like"... This is a joke... and if Microsoft would release such a Product in early "alpha" stage, everybody would scream... but when apple does it, then it is ok.....
  • Readdle PDF converter 2.1.1.0 has the iCloud file picker. After starting up this app, you see iCloud Drive as the first option in the left menu. Readdle Scanner Pro supports export to icloud drive. Choose 'export' (box with Arrow out), choose ... more, choose iCloud Export. You will see your iCloud Drive with folders and choose the location to export the scanned file. Readdle PDF Expert, Readdle Documents don't support the iCloud file picker yet. It is already available in a beta version of both apps. On readdle blog they say that the app updates will be available soon. So wait a couple of days. Goodreader supports icloud drive, but has no icloud file picker. It means it can only view the content of the Goodreader folder in iCloud Drive. Pages/Numbers/Keynote supports the icloud Drive too, but none of them has the icloud file picker. They only show the content of their own folder in iCloud Drive. You can use www.icloud.com (or beta.icloud.com) to view your files in iCloud Drive. You can upload/download/create folders there. If you are a windows user you can update the icloud control panel to version 4.0 and in windows explorer it gives you a access to the iCloud Drive.
  • Sorry Apple, this is completely ass backwards and I'm very disappointed with icloud drive. Fortunately Google Drive works well until Apple creates an ios app to view and access icloud.