iCloud, introduced in October 2011, is Apple’s attempt to offer a seamless service for syncing data between computers and mobile devices. Among other features, iCloud automatically syncs documents and application data without the need for an end-user file system. While many prefer this seemingly simpler approach, some users want to keep tabs on their files or want to be able to access them in order to create a manual backup.
Users with a Mac can find their iCloud documents by navigating to the ~/Library/Mobile Documents folder. But for those with only iOS devices, or for Mac users who are away from their computers, Apple has created another way to see and retrieve iCloud files.
The iCloud Developer Portal allows iCloud developers to access tools for integrating iCloud into their apps. But it also allows any iCloud user to see and download files they have currently stored on the service.
First, head over to developer.icloud.com and log in with the iCloud account associated with the files you need to access. If you’re not a developer, all you will see after logging in is a single “Documents” button. Click it to access your iCloud file list.
Once inside, you’ll see a list of folders identical to that found on your Mac in the Mobile Documents folder. These folders, which each contain a single app’s iCloud documents or data, are not meant for the average user to interact with so they do not have normal names. In general, however, you’ll be able to easily figure out which folder belongs to which app.
In the screenshot below, for example, the “com~apple~Pages” folder contains all of the iCloud documents from Apple’s Pages word processing app. The folder ending with “www~fishlabs~net~gof2hd” folder contains the save files for the iOS game Galaxy on Fire 2 HD.
With this method, users can quickly grab a copy of text document they forgot, or make a manual backup of their application data. Many files won’t be compatible outside of iCloud, such as configuration files for iOS apps, but the ability to at least see and access the files stored “behind the curtain” will be welcomed by some users.