Apple’s iCloud is pretty much an unobtrusive cloud storage service that works well for syncing files between Apple supported devices and supported applications. I’ve written before about how to use iCloud for document sharing, but one shortcoming of iCloud is that it doesn’t easily enable you to access iCloud stored files in your Mac Finder, as you can with files stored in your Dropbox or Google Drive account.
If you’re a heavy Mac and iOS user, there probably will be times when you need to access files stored in iCloud without having to haul out their respective applications. For this purpose, Cloud Mate [No Longer Available] or Plain Cloud (donationware) may just do the trick. These two Mac OS X apps can see all of your iCloud-compatible apps and can reveal their respective folders in the Finder.
iCloud Files In the Finder
If you don’t already know it, there is a way to locate your saved iCloud files in the Mac Finder. They are in the Mobile Documents folder in your Home library. To reveal the Home Library, hold down the Option key and click on Go > Library in the menu bar of the Finder.
The only problem with Mobile Documents is that it may have a ton of difficult to read files and folders that will make locating files pretty difficult. Some apps, though, like Pages, Notes, and TextEdit are readily visible.
I don’t advise that you tamper much with the iCloud folder unless you know what you’re doing. Plain Cloud and Cloud Mate offer a cleaner and more direct way to get at those files.
Plain Cloud [No Longer Available]
Plain Cloud is an application that accesses your iCloud apps and reveals their documents and files in the Finder. The app has a simple, clean interface that lists your iCloud supported apps, except for Photo Stream. When you click on an app it opens the folder in the Finder where the associated files are stored.
So, for example, clicking on the Pages app will reveal all your Pages documents that you have saved to your iCloud account. This saves you the trouble of opening Pages just so you can view or open a file. The same goes for your TextEdit and supported iOS apps. However, you should know that some iOS files cannot be opened on your Mac because there’s no supporting application to do so.
Cloud Mate ($6.99) works pretty much the same way as Plain Cloud, but it includes a visual user interface, and it also locates the contents of applications like iPassword and Photo Stream. Cloud Mate has a Finder-like interface that allows you to click on a listed application and browse its content in List, Column, or Icon view. Files can also be arranged by Name, Date Modified, or Size.
Cloud Mate will also look for your iOS apps in your iTunes library and display them in its application column. Unlike with Plain Cloud, you can preview iCloud files before you click and open their respective folders. You can also preview supported files, as you do in the Mac Finder, using the Quick Look feature in Cloud Mate. This feature works great for iWork applications and viewing your Photo Stream photos without resorting to iPhoto.
Cloud Mate does not let you to drag files from to its user interface to, say, your desktop. You can right-click on a file in List or Column view and select to reveal it in its respective iCloud folder in the Finder.
The Cloud Mate toolbar also contains a button for quickly opening the Finder folder of a selected application. A big plus for Cloud Mate is that you can select and share files via Mail, Message, or AirDrop. Again, this is a useful time saver for when you don’t want to open an application just get at an iCloud stored file.
As noted before, there are many iCloud stored files that you won’t be able to open on your Mac, and it’s probably not a good idea to tamper with those files. In the Preferences area of Cloud Mate, you can select to hide applications in the user interface that you will probably never need to access, or that you no longer even use on your iOS device.
Cloud Mate also contains a monitor window that tracks the iCloud status of files when they are being uploaded or downloaded. This status monitor is also a Notifications feature that you can use instead of the Cloud Mate monitor window itself.
For many iOS and Mac users, accessing iCloud files in the Finder will rarely be needed. Most users are satisfied with locating files in their respective applications. But for power users, Plain Cloud or Cloud Mate prove very handy.
If you find that you need to access your iCloud files on a regular basis, Cloud Mate includes a feature for actually adding iCloud to the Finder where all the application folders and their contents can be viewed. It’s interesting that Apple hasn’t (yet) thought to do this. The iCloud folder can be ejected from your Finder if you no longer need it. There’s also a Cloud Mate iOS app ($3.99) that functions pretty much the same way as its OS X counterpart.
Have you used either of these applications? Let us know what you think in the comments.