iPadOS and iOS 13 bring two welcome feature additions to the Files app.

Firstly, you can now at long last share an anther folder in your iCloud Drive rather than just files. And secondly, and way more importantly, it is now totally possible to access files from external storage devices like SD cards and USB flash drives from within the Files app.

iOS 13 and iPadOS were released for developer testing following the June 3 WWDC 2019 keynote. Both software updates will release to everyone in Fall 2019.

iPadOS: new features for the Files app

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll like about the updated Files app.

Column view

In addition to the current icon and list views, the app finally lets you browse your files in the super-handy column view. Not only does it make it easier to browse your files, but also see a great visual preview of the selected item along with a richer set of metadata. Use the Column view to really dig deep into fickle hierarchy or access the all-new Quick Actions with a tap.

Browsing the Files app in Column view is now a reality.

Quick Actions

Similar to Quick Actions in the Finder on macOS Mojave, iPhone and iPad owners can now select a file and quickly perform common operations like marking up a document, rotating an image or creating a PDF.

Local storage

With support for local storage, the Files app can be used as a source in apps like the upcoming Photoshop for iOS to import images from external storage devices. This is much, much better than having to first copy a document to the Files app so that it could be imported into another app. This direct method of importing files into apps also saves you storage.

Importing files from external storage directly into Photoshop.

The Files app has always appeared as a source in any document-based apps for iPhone and iPad, like Keynote or Pages. But without proper external drive and local storage support, connecting your DSLR camera to an iPad via USB-C does nothing.


The ability to compress or unpack a single file or an entire folder is now part of the Files offering, too. Just tap and hold a file or folder and choose Compress or Uncompress to do just that. The Files app uses the popular ZIP and UNZIP tools that are available on all platforms to ensure the widest possible compatibility.

Zipping files like a boss, no additional apps needed whatsoever.

Keyboard shortcuts

The Files app has gained keyboard shortcuts so if your iPad has a keyboard cover or you happen to use an external keyboard with your iOS device, you can now navigate the Files app almost like in the Finder on your Mac, thanks to support for keyboard shortcuts.

The Files app now has many of the same keyboard shortcuts like the Finder on your Mac.

For example, the familiar Shift-Command-N shortcut creates a new folder, just like in macOS. Or, you can press Command-I to invoke the Get Info command which displays file metadata, size and more. You can even press the Spacebar to instantly preview the file without opening it in its creator app. Yup, QuickLook has come to iOS.

To display all of the available shortcuts in any app, just press and hold the Command key on your external keyboard.

External drives

The Files app was added as a dedicated file-manager app to iPhone and iPad more than two years ago with the iOS 11 update. In both iOS 11 and iOS 12, the Files app allows the user to directly access files stored locally on their iOS device and in cloud services, provided your cloud-storage client like Dropbox includes an iOS extension allowing it to integrate with the Files app.

Ever since the Files app made its debut, people have been wanting to access their photos, videos and documents stored on external storage devices through the Files app. In iOS 13, you can do just that.

The Files app has received its biggest update yet in iOS 13.

The Files app now lets you can view and manage files on external storage devices. In other words, iOS 13 lets you plug in USB drives or SD cards to your iPhone (using a USB dongle) or iPad (directly, via USB-C) and do things like copy items from external storage to the Files app, and vice versa.

You also get search suggestions in the Files app.

Now you’ll finally be able to transfer those high-resolution DSLR images and videos to your device without having to go through the Photos app.

SMB file servers

The Files app on iOS 13 and iPadOS lets you easily log in to an SMB file server for easy access and management of remote documents. Coupled with external drive access, this turns the Files app into a powerful mobile file manager. With SMB support, sharing files from your work or home PC is now possible out of the box on your iPhone and iPad.

The Files app now works with SMB file servers.

For those wondering, SMB is an acronym for Server Message Block. Think of it as intermediary protocol mainly used for providing shared access to files and devices like printers between nodes on a network using an authenticated inter-process communication mechanism.

iCloud folder sharing

Earlier versions of the app allows you to share a file from iCloud with one or more people who could view and edit the file. What you couldn’t do is share multiple files. iOS 13 sees to that with iCloud folder sharing.

A folder of files in iCloud Drive can now be shared with a link, no need to send multi-megabyte attachments.

Now when you want to share a bunch of files like your DSLR photos with someone, simply put them all inside a folder in your iCloud Drive. From there, you can quickly share its contents with others by sending them a link to the folder.

iPadOS compatibility and availability

iOS 13 is compatible with the following devices:

  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

iPadOS is compatible with these iPads:

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Air 2

To learn more, read Apple’s press release or visit apple.com/ipados/ipados-preview.

Your take

If all Apple did was lower the latency, I’d be happy.

As someone who has been a very happy iPad Pro + Apple Pencil user for two years now, I’m very much looking forward to installing iPadOS on my daily driver to give my stylus a boost.

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iPadOS is the iPad-specific iOS release we’ve been hoping for. iPadOS will let us use our USB thumb drives to import files onto iPads, import images from digital cameras directly into our favorite image editors, use widgets on the Home screen, enjoy the awesomeness of all-new productivity gestures for cut/cop/paste, undo/redo, multitasking and more.

Let us know in the comments about your favorite Apple Pencil enhancement in iPadOS!