How to use Files app to manage files on iPhone/iPad

The Files app for iPhone and iPad gives iOS and iPadOS users more control over their files than previous versions of the mobile operating system. This article describes how to use this feature to organize projects.

These instructions apply to devices running iPadOS 15 and iOS 15 and later.

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 the iOS device and created in other applications.

Previously, the only way to get these local files was to plug your iPhone or iPad into your PC and launch iTunes. Using the Files app, you can copy these documents to any storage location.

The drag-and-drop feature introduced by Apple in iOS 11 provides an easier way to manipulate files on your iPad or iPhone. Here's how to move items using this method.

  1. Open the Files app.

    It's easier to transfer files via drag-and-drop when your hands are free and your device is on a flat surface like a table or on your lap.

  2. In the Places list, tap On My iPad or On My iPhone to display folders labeled with apps that contain files stored on the device.

    If the target app you want to use (such as Dropbox) isn't listed, tap the three-dot icon in the upper right corner of your iPhone and select Edit . In iPadOS, tap the three-dot icon at the top of the sidebar and select Edit Sidebar . Turn on the toggle switch for available apps and tap Done .

  3. Click and hold on the file you want to move. It pops out of its place on the screen, and a translucent copy appears under your finger.

  4. To move multiple items from the same folder, while holding down the first file, tap the other items with another finger to add them to the file stack.

    The number of files in the stack is displayed in the upper right corner.

  5. Use another finger to tap the destination of the file stack.

    If your hands are in an awkward position, move the set of files from one finger to another. Click and hold with another finger next to the finger that controls the file stack, then release the first finger.

  6. Drag the item to a new destination, which can be a folder or menu. When the file is in a valid location, the blue number in the upper right corner turns green.

  7. Lift your finger to transfer files to the selected folder.

You can also move files using the on-screen buttons. This method is faster and more convenient than using multiple fingers and hands to manage documents and photos.

  1. Open the folder containing the items you want to move and click Select .

    On iPhone, the Select option is available via the three-dot icon in the upper right corner of the app.

  2. On iPad, tap to select an item; a checkmark appears in a circle to indicate that the file is selected.

    Tap and hold the file you want to move on your iPhone, then select Move from the options menu.

  3. Click "Move" to transfer the item to another cloud storage location or your iPad.

  4. Click the destination, then click the folder (if there is one).

  5. Click "Copy" to move the file to the cloud service or to another location in the "On My iPad" folder.

    For example, if you were to move a file to Dropbox, the file would be copied to the destination location and still appear in the original location.

Tags mark individual documents or folders for quick access later. The labels section includes color-coded labels (red, orange, blue, and other colors) and specialized labels such as work, home, and important labels.

To add a label to a document or folder, drag a file or a bunch of files and drop the file on the label.

Tagging the file will not move it.

Clicking on an individual label displays a list of files and folders with that label. You can also drag and drop from this folder to another label, or move the stack of selected files and folders to another location within the file.

When you select a bunch of documents in Files, you're not limited to dragging and dropping them into other areas of the Files app. Use the multitasking feature on your iPad to open another app as a target, or click the Home button to close the Files app before launching a new app.

The requirement is that you hold the stack of files with your original finger pressed against the display, and the target must be able to accept the files.

For example, you can drag an image to the Photos app and place it in an album, but you cannot drag a Pages document to Photos.