Files app in iOS and iPadOS 18 has two hidden power features

iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 let users reformat external drives as well as keep a copy of a file on iCloud permanently stored locally.

Both features were found by developers tinkering with the first betas of these operating systems, and will make the iPhone and iPad File manager more useful.

Gradual improvements to iPadOS and iOS 18 Files app

iPads have been able to access the contents of external drives through the Files application since iPadOS 13. Years later, the application is still fairly basic, but Apple keeps improving it. And iPhone users have benefitted, as well.

The latest changes apparently aren’t dramatic enough to warrant mention during the big unveil of iPadOS 18 during the WWDC24 keynote, but they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Reformat external drives in Files

Last year, the Files app in iPadOS 17 added new features for working with SSDs, flash drives and SD cards. iPad could users could finally erase a drive and see how much open space remains.

When iPadOS 18 launches this autumn, it’ll be possible to reformat a drive into a variety of formats. As spotted by ByteBits, the options are ExFAT, MS-DOS (FAT) and APFS.

For those already testing the developer beta, go into the Files app, switch to Browse, then tap and hold on the name of the drive. This will open a pop-up window that includes Erase. Tap on that option to open a window with the new drive formatting options.

As noted, this is also an option for iPhone users. It’s a feature that will mostly benefit those with an iPhone 15 series model with a USB-C port as many external drives can plug in without an adapter.

‘Keep Downloaded’ option for iCloud Drive files

iCloud Drive makes collections of files easily available to any Apple device. The service offers terabytes of capacity making it an excellent way to keep extensive collections of files organized into folders. But because the intent is to store files in the cloud, copies of files stored on the local device are temporary. Users who need frequent access to a large file might get frustrated when they have to repeatedly download it from iCloud. Or want to ensure a file is always accessible.

iPadOS 18 includes a new option: Keep Downloaded. Set this and a copy of the file stored on iCloud will also stay on the iPad. The option is also available to iPhone users in iOS 18.

Using the features in the initial beta involves simply tapping on holding on the name of the file, which opens a pop-up window. One of the options in that window is Keep Downloaded.

Obviously, another option is to simply store critical files on the iPad or iPhone. But then the files aren’t kept collected and organized with other associated ones on iCloud. With Keep Downloaded, the files are both online and local.


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