Under iCloud in the Settings app, I have "Optimize Mac Storage" checked and "Desktop & Documents Folders" checked under "Apps that store documents and data in iCloud will appear here:"

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This will cause some files in my "Documents" folder to be offloaded and replaced with a small file ending in ".icloud". I can download them by clicking on the cloud icon in the detail view in the Finder. I can also use "find" from the command line to show which files have been offloaded, eg "find . -name *.icloud | more".

Is there a command line way to cause these files to be downloaded, either by file or directory?


To my knowledge, there is no command included that allows you to directly download an iCloud file or folder.

But since I had exactly the same problem as you, I found that it was possible to do it in Swift with the startDownloadingUbiquitousItem function.

So I wrote a really simple Swift script for downloading both folder and file. You can download it on Github: iCloud Downloader

I hope I have answered your issue.

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The command you are looking for is brctl (located in /usr/bin). man brctl will tell you all you need, but basically just brctl download /path/to/filename (without the .icloud extension) and evict will purge the locally cached copy.

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  • Really nice! I much prefer using built in utilities! Oh...and Welcome to Ask Different! – Allan Feb 18 at 20:58

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