File sharing with iCloud on Apple Macs, iPhones and iPads has been around for some time, but now you can share whole folders. This guide shows how to share an iCloud folder on an iPhone.
Sharing a single file with someone else is easy and there are multiple ways in which to do it. It can be emailed, sent via iMessages, or shared on iCloud Drive. Until iOS 13.4 though, it was not possible to share a folder.
This is clearly a problem if you have a lot of files you want to share with someone. You don’t want to have to send dozens of files separately via Mail or Messages, especially if they are large, and setting up shares for multiple files on iCloud Drive is tedious and slow. It is much easier to share a folder with people and then simply place all the files they need in that folder.
Apple iCloud folder sharing was promised a long time before it became a reality, but it is here now and it seems to work well. In this guide I will show how to set up a shared folder using an iPhone. After all, you are not always sitting at your computer when you need to share files.
Create a new folder
Open the Files app on the iPhone. I will create a new folder for shared files, but you can share an existing one just the same. My folder will be in the root of iCloud Drive, but a shared folder can be anywhere, such as a subfolder of another folder.
Pull down the screen to expose the options bar at the top and then tap the three dots in a circle to display a menu at the bottom of the screen. Press New Folder.
The folder you want to share can be called anything you like, but I prefer to keep things obvious and have simply called mine Shared. You could call a folder Work Shared if you share it with work colleagues, Family Shared or some other name that describes its purpose.
Share a folder in iCloud Drive
Press and hold on a folder in the Files app on the iPhone to display a menu of actions. The folder I am sharing is called Shared, but yours may be called something different. The same menu appears though. Press the Share option.
Add people to shared folders
You have to be careful here and the first couple of times I shared a folder, I actually ended up sending a zip of it to someone instead of sharing it. I’m not sure if this is something I was doing wrong or is a bug. Just try it again if it happens to you.
Ignore any people displayed in the menu, (nearby people or favorite contacts might be suggested), and ignore all those sharing methods. Instead, press Add People.
You can go right ahead and select a method to send an invitation to the people you want to share this folder with, but before you do, tap Share Options at the bottom. This is important.
Set iCloud sharing permissions
In the Who Can Access section, choose whether to allow only people you invite or anyone who has a link. Under Permissions, choose whether they can make changes or just view the files.
I made another shared folder called Public and set it to Anyone with the link and View only. I can put files in there I want others to be able to see, but not change.
Send the invitation
Return to the previous screen, Add People, and tap your preferred method for sending the invitation. Swipe left and right over the icons to see all the options, including Messages, Mail, Copy Link and others. I chose to send an iMessage and all you need to do is add some text to the attached item.
Using someone’s shared folder
When you receive an invitation to a shared folder, click it if you are on your computer, or tap it on an iPhone or iPad. Here you can see my Shared folder on someone else’s iPad. It says the number of items it contains and who is sharing it.
It looks like any other iCloud Drive folder and it can be used in the same way. Both you and the person sharing it can see the files. You may be limited by the Share Options or you may have full access, depending on how they set it up.
The shared folder can be used like any other iCloud folder, provided you have the permissions. For example, in the screenshot above, photos were selected in the Photos app on the iPad and the share button pressed. Swipe up to see all the options and then press Save to Files.
The shared folder can then be selected and the photos saved. I called my shared folder Shared, but you can tell it is shared because of the people on the blue folder icon.
iCloud folder sharing with non-Apple users
Can you share folders with non-Apple users like Windows PC users? Yes, but they must have an Apple account and be able to sign into the iCloud website with an Apple ID.
You might already have one if you have iCloud on your Windows PC or own an iPhone or iPad, but if not, go to the icloud.com website on a Windows PC for example, and in tiny writing right at the bottom is Create Apple ID. It is free, so use it, get an account, and then sign in to access a shared folder. It is added to your iCloud Drive.