Photos for Mac isn’t a long term photo library option – Colin Devroe by an author (cdevroe.com)

If you want to use iCloud Photo Library to sync your photos between devices, and even use it as a way to have a full backup of your photos, I suppose you can. However, after doing that for a few years and then wanting to move away from it – I would not recommend Photos on Mac or iCloud Photo Library as a long term photo library solution.

I've been advising friends and family about this for years. I switched from iPhoto (what Photos used to be) to Adobe Lightroom several years ago. The Adobe Lightroom CC mobile app syncs my iPhone photos (over cellular or Wi-Fi) via Adobe's Creative Cloud back to the Adobe Lightroom CC app. My backup software, CrashPlan, takes care of the rest.

I know some people will be bothered by Adobe's and CrashPlan subscription but ... isn't iCloud a subscription service?

The following information is based on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. If you are running an earlier version of OS the information might still useful but you may have to look in different system preferences.

I love iCloud. iCloud connects all my Apple devices in ways that make it easy for me to work from any device . I always have the latest versions of my most important things — like documents, apps, notes, and contacts — on whatever device I am using. It lets me easily share photos, calendars, locations, and more with my friends and family. It even helps me find my iPhone if I lose it.

But what about the Mac? How does iCloud improve and extend the capabilities of OS X?

iCloud Drive is very similar to Dropbox and Google Drive. If you click Options.. you can see the list your apps that use iCloud Drive to store information. You can disable any of these apps at any time by de-selecting from the list. With iCloud Drive all your presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, and any other kind of document stored in iCloud is accessible from a special folder on your Mac. Open the Finder, click on the icon, work your way through the folders and open any document.

To upload your files to iCloud, simply drag them into the iCloud Drive on your Mac running OS X Yosemite. Or start a new document using an iCloud-enabled app on your iOS device. Then you’ll be able to use those documents appear on your Mac.

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Access iCloud Drive directly from the Finder.
Access iCloud Drive directly from the Finder.

With iCloud, you get an @icloud.com email account that’s ad-free, is up to date everywhere you check it, and includes e-mail at iCloud.com. Just select Mail in iCloud preferences and follow the onscreen instructions. Once iCloud is enabled on your Mac, you can use Mail, Calendar, and Contacts so send email, schedule your day and keep important information on your contacts.

iPhoto also has support for iCloud. You can sync photo to and from your Mac to your iPad or iPhone.

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iCloud can sync data from Apple and third-party apps.
iCloud can sync data from Apple and third-party apps.

Using iCloud Drive means you’ll always have access to the latest version of all your documents from any device. For example, you can start creating a presentation on your Mac at home, then make final edits and present it in class using your iPad. The changes you make along the way appear automatically on all your devices.

How do you enable it?

It's easy. Open System Preferences on your Mac. Click iCloud, enter your Apple ID, and select the services you’d like to enable. Boom! That's it. Feature enabled and ready to use.

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iCloud, OSX, Preferences
Select all the iCloud services you want to enable.
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David Sparks:

Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better.

There are just 3 iOS devices in the Blanc family: my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone, and my iPad. They’re signed in with the same Apple ID for the store, and with our own Apple ID for email and calendar. It works great… for now.Shawn Blanc

The Williams family has 8 iOS devices: One iPad and iPhone for each of the four of us (two adults and two children). We each use a separate Apple ID for email and calendar but share a single Apple ID (mine) for purchases. We love being able to keep a shared Family calendar.

The “Ask Permission” feature has not worked as we’ve expected it too. I never get any notification when my kids want to purchase an app (they are willing to use pocket money for apps) so they still have to find me and get me to enter the iTunes account password. My wife gets the notifications but when she attempts to approve the request she is prompted to enter her Apple ID password.

Perhaps I did not set it all up correctly. I’m sticking with it for now.