How Apple's Files app is getting better in iOS 16 & iPadOS 16

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in iOS
Updates to the Files app in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 bring it closer to the macOS Finder. Here's what's new.

Apple brought some much-needed improvements to Files in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16
Apple brought some much-needed improvements to Files in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16


The Files app brings basic file management functionality to iPhone and iPad. While it isn't as robust as Finder on Mac, it can accomplish most of what a user would need for managing files.

Files started as a way to see everything stored in iCloud Drive, then expanded into third-party cloud services like Dropbox, and finally ended up with local and network storage options. Now, the feature set has expanded again with a few much-needed updates to navigation and file control in iOS 16 and iPadOS 16.




Files app updates

Most of the changes made to the Files app focus on making interaction paradigms similar to macOS for better ecosystem parity. These new updates make it easier to locate, manipulate, and organize files.

Save, open, and transfer functions

The "Save to Files" function has been improved with a new modal window. Any time a user is saving something to the Files app, the entire app UI appears with options to select the save location, add a tag, and rename the file.

Saving, moving, and opening files get better user controls
Saving, moving, and opening files get better user controls


Opening files using third-party apps get a similar UI when the developer properly targets the Files app as a storage location. The modal window shows all the navigation UI for finding a file, including the new navigation options described below.

When moving a file to a different storage location, like from one cloud service to another or to an external SSD, a file transfer progress bar appears.

View options and navigation

Apple has enhanced the List view with better controls over organization. The file or folder is shown on the left, as usual, with the modification date and file size on the right with column titles in blue.

Navigating through folders and manipulating files gets easier with more controls
Navigating through folders and manipulating files gets easier with more controls


Tap on a column title to organize the list by that data point, and tap it again to reverse the order. Grouping by file type, date, size, or who shared it offers more organization options.

The navigation toolbar also got a small but welcome change. Instead of showing the parent folder or previous folder in the top left, the Files app now shows forward and back arrows next to the name of the current folder.

Tapping on the name of the folder opens a navigation view of recent folders and offers a few control options like rename, copy, and move.

Organize files and folders using groups and listing options
Organize files and folders using groups and listing options


Within the view menu, selecting "View Options" shows the "Group By" options for any given view mode, plus a "Show All Extensions" button we'll discuss below.

New menu actions

When interacting with a file, a handful of new interactions are available depending on the file type and context. These are hidden under the "right click" or press and hold menu.

Using "Get Info" on folders will now reveal the size of the folder's contents. Previously, this wouldn't show any data for size. Also, the "where" section shows the file structure leading to the selected file or folder.

Files app menus have new options for altering files
Files app menus have new options for altering files


When selecting certain file types, new quick actions will appear in the menu. For example, image quick actions include rotating the image, converting to PDF, or removing the background.

When "Remove Background is selected, a new PNG image is saved with the object within the same folder.

The Columns layout offers a hybrid view of information and action buttons normally found when an image or file is selected in the file selection menu. The hamburger button reveals additional file actions similar to the ones listed before.

Also, some actions can be performed with multiple files selected. For example, select several image files to have them all added to a PDF file which is saved separately.

Other batch operations include changing file extensions, removing backgrounds from all selected images, or creating a new folder with the selected items. However, the Files app cannot batch rename files.

File extensions

File extensions tell you what kind of file you're dealing with, like an image file could be JPEG, PNG, or HEIF. Users can now convert an image freely between these extension types using the "Convert Image" action in the quick actions menu.

Change file extensions in the iOS 16 Files app
Change file extensions in the iOS 16 Files app


For more advanced users, use the "Show All Extensions" toggle in the layout menu to see the file extension after the file name. With this enabled, simply rename a file and change the extension shown after the period to actually change the file type.

Take caution when performing file changes in this manner. Some file containers have more information like location, tags, or notes, which won't appear in a new file type.

Understanding the Files app

The iPhone and iPad are fundamentally different computing platforms from Mac, so users shouldn't expect Files to have feature parity with Finder. One of the most significant differences between the two is system file access.

On Mac, users can dive into hidden file structures and alter program files for installed applications or even system files integral to normal operating system operation. On iPad and iPhone, the only thing users have access to is user-generated files.

Apple hasn't opened that up at all, and users shouldn't expect that philosophy to change anytime soon. Instead, Files updates focus on quality-of-life improvements that make file management easier.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,247member
    Still no option to always keep a local copy for specific files/folders? That's the single most sorely missing feature for me. 
    williamlondonappleinsideruserwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Any option to format empty/un-initialized media into HFS, APFS, or exFAT? If not, then before you can use an empty disk with the iPad and its Files app, you still need a computer first.  What about the option to unmount media, so as to protect from data loss? Android can unmount.. can the iPad safely unmount media?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Wesley HilliardWesley Hilliard Posts: 76member, moderator, editor
    Any option to format empty/un-initialized media into HFS, APFS, or exFAT? If not, then before you can use an empty disk with the iPad and its Files app, you still need a computer first.  What about the option to unmount media, so as to protect from data loss? Android can unmount.. can the iPad safely unmount media?
    Most drives are going to be compatible with iPad out of the box. I'd assume if you have a drive that is in an incompatible format, it means you formatted it in the first place and can do it again on your PC/Mac. It is unfortunate that iPad can't do it, but I'd be willing to guess that the number of people who need to do that in 2022 is in the dozens, if that.

    As far as un-mounting a drive? You technically don't need to given how modern file systems operate. They run at a buffer to prevent data loss. The drive eject system is archaic and outdated and I wish I could disable the warnings on my Mac. I don't think I've ever unmounted a drive or SD card from my Mac.

    The reason you wanted to eject attached drives was because of write caching. But now, unless you're actively writing to a disk, there's not really any need for caching since SSD speeds are so fast.

    Do what you like, but I personally don't eject any drive and have yet to run into corrupted data. Don't think I will either.
    doozydozenwilliamlondonStrangeDaysradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 13
    xyzzy-xxxxyzzy-xxx Posts: 131member
    Hopefully Apple will not try to bring Finder into line with Files – I really don't like macOS becoming like iOS (the new System Preferences in macOS Ventura are as confusing as Settings in Windows). Why I fear such a change could happen to Finder? Because Finder has many bugs that haven't been addressed for a long time – the reason may be, that Apple thinks they should make both platforms more similar and they are working for a big "solution" (hopefully not)!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 13
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,223member
    I will be the odd one out here. I like Files. I’m looking forward to the added features, but it works well already. When it first came out, yes I seldom used it because it was so limited. Now I have an icon on the Home Page because it’s my go to to find things or open things. True, there are a few functions that it doesn’t have, yet. But overall it works quite well. 
    williamlondondewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 13
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,299member
    Any option to format empty/un-initialized media into HFS, APFS, or exFAT? If not, then before you can use an empty disk with the iPad and its Files app, you still need a computer first.  What about the option to unmount media, so as to protect from data loss? Android can unmount.. can the iPad safely unmount media?
    Apple has said, and continues to say that you should remove the drive.
    StrangeDaysjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,391member
    It would be nice to be able to browser, open and save from network shares. In a corporate environment, there are things that aren't always in the cloud nor can they be stored in the cloud. 
    edited August 2 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,368member
    That was a nicely made video, and Andrew is a great host.  What's going on with the beard though?
  • Reply 9 of 13
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,208member
    macxpress said:
    It would be nice to be able to browser, open and save from network shares. In a corporate environment, there are things that aren't always in the cloud nor can they be stored in the cloud. 
    I have network shares on my NAS that show up in Files on my iPadOS currently. 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    I really don’t understand why I can’t access my recorded video files. Why do I need to import them to photos first? Which doesn’t even work for really long movies. 
    williamlondonOferwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 13
    thttht Posts: 4,507member
    macxpress said:
    It would be nice to be able to browser, open and save from network shares. In a corporate environment, there are things that aren't always in the cloud nor can they be stored in the cloud. 
    I have network shares on my NAS that show up in Files on my iPadOS currently. 
    Yup. SMB has been supported in iPadOS for 2 to 3 years now.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 13
    Any option to format empty/un-initialized media into HFS, APFS, or exFAT? If not, then before you can use an empty disk with the iPad and its Files app, you still need a computer first.  What about the option to unmount media, so as to protect from data loss? Android can unmount.. can the iPad safely unmount media?
    Most drives are going to be compatible with iPad out of the box. I'd assume if you have a drive that is in an incompatible format, it means you formatted it in the first place and can do it again on your PC/Mac. It is unfortunate that iPad can't do it, but I'd be willing to guess that the number of people who need to do that in 2022 is in the dozens, if that.

    As far as un-mounting a drive? You technically don't need to given how modern file systems operate. They run at a buffer to prevent data loss. The drive eject system is archaic and outdated and I wish I could disable the warnings on my Mac. I don't think I've ever unmounted a drive or SD card from my Mac.

    The reason you wanted to eject attached drives was because of write caching. But now, unless you're actively writing to a disk, there's not really any need for caching since SSD speeds are so fast.

    Do what you like, but I personally don't eject any drive and have yet to run into corrupted data. Don't think I will either.
    Most is not all.  Some drives do not come with any filesystem... they're completely uninitialized with no filesystem and need to be formatted first.  Hence the question, can the files app in iPadOS16 format an uninitialized drive in a relevant file system? If not, then you need to format the drive using a computer first... I don't know why iPad doesn't have a format drive option.

    Second, regarding your comment about not needing to unmount drives before disconnection... I politely disagree.  If you disconnect a drive while the device/computer is writing to the drive you risk data loss.  That is why modern OSes including Linux, Windows, macOS have a disk unmount option.  There is a risk for data loss, even with iPad. Also, consider the fact that there are different filesystems which have different levels of resilience to a sudden disconnection without a proper unmount first... NTFS, APFS, exFAT, HFS+, etc.  APFS seems to be very resilient but other filesystems like exFAT and even NTFS can be more finicky.  macOS has had an unmount option for decades, so why doesn't iPadOS? Since the iPad now has the ability to read/write to thunderbolt storage (which could contain gigabytes of data), you'd think Apple would give iPad users the option to safely manage their data (i.e., disk unmount) and minimize the risk to data loss.
    edited August 3 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 13
    mrmemrme Posts: 1member
    > File extensions tell you what kind of file you're dealing with, like an image file could be JPEG, PNG, or HEIF. Users can now convert an image freely between these extension types using the "Convert Image" action in the quick actions menu.


    Cringe. No, dude.  You’re not converting between extension types. You’re converting between file formats. Merely changing the extension is generally only appropriate  when the extension is missing or incorrect. 

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