Are iCloud Drive and iCloud Different?

Apple’s iCloud Drive and its iCloud service are both part of the online synchronization service collectively named iCloud.

But, iCloud does a lot of things so it’s reasonable to ask, "Is there a difference between the contacts, calendar events, and photos we have been syncing between our computers and iOS devices and other document types we create and edit?" Yup.

Each contact, calendar event, and image file syncs with its respective app that is designed to accommodate its particular file type. The Contacts app lists and sorts vCard files in ways that we can search and view easily, the Calendar app displays iCal files in the familiar calendar formats we have used since childhood, and Photo app arranges JPG files as Events or Albums (that’s the idea anyway).

On the other hand, document files are usually of a variety of types, many of which can each be opened by several different desktop and mobile apps that can read and write to these commonly used file types (.pdf, .doc, .xls, .txt, .rtf, .jpg, et al).

Document files may be saved any way a user likes — think a file drawer stuffed with bank statements, insurance policies, bills, legal documents, love letters, snapshots, receipts, recipes, hand notes and more all tossed in — all churned with gusto.

With the release of iOS 8 and the introduction of iCloud Drive, Apple now has a cloud storage service that works more like Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive do and which accommodates more file types (but not all) than its previous version. These cloud storage services offer familiar folders as aids to filing.

You can view your document files in iCloud Drive by logging into your iCloud account using any modern web browser on a Mac or Windows PC, and by clicking the iCloud Drive app. You can upload and download most types of files from and to your Mac or Windows computer.


Edits to non-iWork files are made using most any compatible desktop app, say Word or Excel, after being copied to a Mac or Windows PC desktop. Edited files can then be copied back to the iCloud Drive browser page for upload. Files, even really big ones, can be easily shared with other users without attaching to an email.
Browser versions of iWork apps (currently in beta versions) enable file creation and edits on Macs and Windows PCs and they work very well. Changes to files edited in browser versions of iWork apps are saved automatically to the cloud. Simply close the browser window to exit.

Desktop versions of the iWork Suite of apps; Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are available for Mac OS X. Documents created and edited using both desktop and mobile apps appear in the iCloud Drive app. Sweet.

When Mac OS X Yosemite is released later this fall, a folder on a Mac will also automatically sync its contents with iCloud, much like Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive cloud storage services do now.

For more about iCloud syncing of iCloud email, Safari bookmarks, Reminders, Notes, Passbook, iOS device backups, Keychain passwords, and the location of your various devices, as well as iCloud Drive see the Apple overview: https://www.apple.com/icloud/

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