How do I browse the files stored on my iPhone (or iPad)?
Good question. And there’s no surprisingly easy answer to finding a file on an iOS device (like an iPhone or iPad). There is no Finder app for the iPhone (Finder is the Mac application used to display folders and files on the Desktop) and you have to hunt for files using a variety of different techniques.
So without Finder how do you go about finding files? That’s what we are going to look at in this tutorial.
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Find files on an iPhone using the app that created the file
The first thing you should know is that files are stored inside a folder relating to an app. So if you are looking for a Pages file then the easiest way to find it is by opening the Pages app; ditto use Numbers to look for a Numbers document. This is often different to how people store documents on a Mac (where they are grouped by type, such as Documents, or by a project folder you have created).
When you open each app you will see a list of all the recent files saved for that app. The files are organised by Date, but tap the Name button in the top-right to switch to alphabetical listing. At the top is a Search for Documents box that enables you to locate that file.
Find files using iCloud Drive
When an app creates a file it is stored inside a folder (with the same name as the app) in iCloud Drive. This is Apple’s cloud storage service. Weirdly there is no iCloud Drive app in iOS, but you can access iCloud Drive and view stored files using any iCloud Drive app. Tap Pages > Create Document > iCloud to view iCloud Drive files.
It’s not an elegant solution though, so you might want to consider installing an app such as
Documents. This enables you to quickly view all the files stored in iCloud Drive and copy and move files around.
You can also view files stored in iCloud Drive on your Mac OS X computer. Open Finder and a new Finder window. Choose the iCloud Drive icon in the sidebar to view all your iCloud Drive files. You can also browse the files on a connected iPhone using an app such as
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Find files: images from the Camera Roll
If the file you are looking for is a photo captured with the iPhone then it will be stored in the Photos app. Open the Photos app to locate all of the images captured with your device. If you have iCloud Photo Drive turned on it will display all of the photos from all of your devices.
Find files using Spotlight
Other files on your iPhone, especially media files (music, videos, podcasts) can be found using Spotlight. This can save you from opening the corresponding app. Here is how to use Spotlight to find files on your iPhone:
- Navigate to one of the Home Screens (press the Home button once).
- Slide your finger down from the middle of the screen. The Spotlight Search window will appear.
- Enter the name of the file you are looking for using the keyboard.
- As you type search results will appear. You can tap the Search button but you don’t need to.
Search results appear from the Music, Videos and Mail apps. You also get results from Contacts, Notes, Messages and other apps. You can limit the results from Spotlight using Settings > General Spotlight Search.
What you won’t see in Spotlight are files saved inside apps like Pages, or from iCloud Drive. To access these you need to open the app itself.
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