Syncing files between devices with iCloud Drive

If you’re a long-time Mac Tips subscriber, you might remember an article from back in May about using Dropbox on your Mac. This free syncing service lets you keep a special folder the same across multiple Macs, PCs, and mobile devices like iPads and iPhones. It’s a great tool, one that many of us have used for years now.

With the release of iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite, Apple has launched a new service that they hope will eventually replace Dropbox completely: iCloud Drive. You might’ve noticed an alert pop up on your iOS device offering to upgrade to it, or you might’ve seen it show up in the list of apps under the iCloud menu in Settings or System Preferences. So the question is: should I upgrade? Read on to find out.

Dropbox and iCloud Drive: What’s the difference?

The Dropbox app works by hosting a special file in your user folder, which it keeps synced with another folder on their servers. Your Mac sees this just like any other folder, meaning you can save, copy, and move things to and from it, and create new folders to further organize things inside of it.

iCloud Drive works much the same way, indicating with a progress bar how much of the file has been uploaded since you placed it in the iCloud Drive folder. You can also see your files online, just like you can with Dropbox, by visiting the website on any computer (Mac or PC).

You can also edit files in iCloud Drive right from the web using Apple’s suite of online office tools: Pages, Keynote and Numbers. When you log on to, you’ll see these three apps labeled as beta versions. Go ahead and choose one of them and you’ll see any compatible documents you can work on from any computer.

iCloud Drive on iOS, and why you might not want to quit Dropbox just yet

The essential differences come when you look at using iCloud Drive on your iOS devices. In iOS, your Dropbox folder shows up as a special app, which you can use to browse your Dropbox folder and view different files on it. With iCloud Drive, you can only access files through apps that are capable of opening them.

For example, say you save a Textedit document to iCloud from your Mac; on your iPad, you could open the Pages app, press the plus (+) button, choose iCloud, and tap on the document you made. This works for compatible apps, but if you were planning to look at pictures you moved in there, for example, you’re out of luck.

So where does this leave us?

As it stands, iCloud Drive is still pretty new. It doesn’t have quite the same set of benefits that Dropbox has, and depending on what you’re planning to do with it, it might not have enough benefits to outweigh those drawbacks. There’s certainly no harm in turning it on, but we aren’t planning to delete our Dropbox accounts just yet.

Want to set up iCloud Drive or Dropbox but aren’t sure how? We can help. Drop by the store or call or email in to book an onsite, where one of us can work with you to figure out the best option for syncing your data between computers.

That’s for this week’s Mac Tip. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please hit reply and let us know. Thank you for reading Mac Tips!