How to create Dropbox-style links in iCloud Drive

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Cloud storage.
Cloud storage.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you keep your stuff in Dropbox, it’s easy to grab a link to a file or a folder. Then you can send that link to another person or store it in, say, your to-do list so you can quickly open it with a click. You can even grab the link inside the iOS Files app.

But if you use iCloud, this simple task is no longer simple. In typical Apple style, a clean UI comes at the expense of hiding almost everything behind multiple taps and cryptic pop-up boxes. But all is not lost. You can actually grab a link to any file stored in your iCloud Drive — and use it in any app you please.

iCloud sharing in Files app

This is much easier if you use Dropbox.
This is much easier if you use Dropbox.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

 

The idea for this tip came from Matthew Cassinelli, who details several ways to force Files to cough up links to your documents. I think my method below is the easiest, with the bonus that you can send the resulting link straight to your app of choice.

In this example, I’m going to tap on a Pages document stored in iCloud Drive and, with a few more taps, save its link into the Drafts app. You could also save it directly into a task in your to-do app of choice. (I would have done that for this post, but I would have had to redact everything else on the page, which would have made for some really ugly screenshots. Who says I never think of you?)

How to get a link to any iCloud file

Open up the Files app, and find the file you want to link to. This works for any file stored in iCloud Drive. Tap on the file, and in the black popover that appears, tap Share. Then Tap the Add People button in the resulting share sheet. You may have to scroll through the bottom row of icons to see it.

Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to add any people.
Don’t worry. We’re not actually going to add any people.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

 

Then, ignore the Share Options button at the bottom. Instead, tap straight on whatever app you want to save the link in. In my case, I want to save the link in Drafts.

Ignore everything, and tap the app you want to send the link to.
Ignore everything, and tap the app you want to send the link to.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

 

Then, in the next panel, ignore everything and tap Continue. Note: You do not have to add any email addresses to the address field.

Ignore the email and phone number field and hit Continue.
Ignore the email and phone number field and hit Continue.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

The link will be generated, and it will open in your chosen app. In my case, Drafts pops up its own sharing panel with the link already in place. Just hit Save to save it.

Keep that link anywhere

Here’s the link! No actual sharing was required to get this.
Here’s the link! No actual sharing was required to get this.
Screenshot: Cult of Mac

Now you’re done. Next time you’re in your to-do app, or wherever, you can tap the link and it will open the file. Obviously this is too much of a pain for one-off file access. But if you regularly open the same file, over and over, then this is an ideal method. You’ll never have to brave the inadequacies of the Files app just to get your work done.

But seriously though, isn’t this ridiculous? Clearly iCloud Drive is designed to provide links, so why is it so hard to get to them for your own use? And even worse, don’t bother trying this with a folder. If you want to share a folder with someone else, then you’re back to Dropbox.