macOS Catalina Features: iCloud Drive Shared Folders

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I love iCloud Drive, but there’s always been one missing feature that has forced me to use another cloud storage solution (Dropbox) as well as iCloud. That missing feature? Shared folders.

macOS 10.15 Catalina finally brings shared folders to iCloud Drive. In this short preview of one of Catalina’s new features, we’ll take a look at how simple it is to share a folder for collaboration with others. By the way, the shared folder feature is also coming to iOS 13 and iPadOS, so anyone with an iPhone or iPad that runs the new versions of these operating systems can use iCloud Drive Shared Folders as well.

Shared folders are different from the current “Share” menu item that appears when you right-click on an iCloud Drive folder. In macOS 10.14 Mojave, “sharing” an iCloud Drive folder with someone causes the operating system to copy the folder and its contents to whatever you’re attempting to share it with — Mail, Messages, and so on. There’s no way for a group of people to collaborate on documents in a folder.

That’s not the way that Dropbox and other cloud storage services enable sharing. For those services, sharing a folder simply sends the recipient a link that they can then use to have controlled access to that folder. By controlled access, I mean that the folder owner has the ability to make the folder read-only or give the recipient full access to open, edit, and even delete documents in that folder.

Catalina finally brings true folder sharing to iCloud Drive. A right-click on a folder brings up the familiar share menu item, with choices to share via Mail, Messages, AirDrop, and Notes. What’s new is the “Add People” item, which add recipients to an access list (see screenshot below):

The Catalina iCloud Drive Share menu item looks almost identical to the one used to share files and folders in Mojave, but it's actually sharing access to the file or folder instead of trying to send that file to the recipient.
The Catalina iCloud Drive Share menu item looks almost identical to the one used to share files and folders in Mojave, but it’s actually sharing access to the file or folder instead of trying to send that file to the recipient.

To send sharing permission to an individual or group, using “Add People” brings up a dialog that is once again familiar to those who have used the file sharing feature in Mojave:

The Add People dialog can let you share access to the folder with people on an invitation list, or anyone you send the folder link to.
The Add People dialog can let you share access to the folder with people on an invitation list, or anyone you send the folder link to.

The Permissions share option (once again, exactly like that used for file — not folder — sharing in Mojave) gives read-only or full change access to that folder:

By finally providing full folder sharing in iCloud Drive in macOS Catalina, iOS 13 and iPadOS, Apple may make a dent in the adoption of other cloud services like Dropbox by its users.



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