Dropbox yesterday announced a new feature to allow you to drag URLs from websites into your Dropbox folders to store them alongside your files. The feature is available on both the desktop and web versions of dropbox, and is as easy as dragging from the address bar on a web browser and dropping the URL into a local Dropbox folder or the Dropbox web app in a browser window. The URL is stored right alongside the rest of your files. Clicking on it from a Finder window opens it right away, while clicking on it from the browser version will open a page with a large "Open in new tab" button in the center. You can open the same page on the Dropbox mobile app, and open the URL in Safari from there, but there's no way as of yet to store URLs to your Dropbox from mobile.
The new feature is reminiscent to me of a similar feature in the upcoming iOS 9/OS X El Capitan version of Apple's Notes app. You can save URLs directly into your notes, which allows you to easily keep relevant sources or other web media close at hand while working on or reviewing the note. Dropbox's take on this allows that type of easy organization of sources or relevant web media without forcing you to use a proprietary file format. While Notes may let you view previews of the URLs inline, in exchange the files can only be opened in the Notes app. If you want them elsewhere you'll need to export them to PDF and lose any interactivity with the file or the associated URLs. With Dropbox's new URL storing feature, you can store websites alongside files no matter what the project that you are working on may be, and then access them from any platform.
The lack of support for adding URLs from mobile does seem like a shame to me. I often go through Twitter on my iPad or iPhone, and it would be great to be able to quickly save URLs to my Dropbox via the iOS share sheet when I come across something relevant to a project I'm working on. That said, it seems like such an obvious feature that I would be surprised if it was not implemented eventually. Hopefully we'll see it soon.
While I'm not certain right now if I will go all in with this feature and start saving all of the sources for projects I'm working on into Dropbox alongside the project files, it's definitely nice to have the option. In fact that's my favorite part of the implementation: it will integrate directly into existing workflows without requiring any changes whatsoever. Since the URLs are stored separately from the files, the most you'll need to do is move your project into it's own folder (but let's be real, who doesn't keep projects in their own folders anyway?) and then you can drag links on top of the folder to store them alongside the rest of the project. You can do this right now, the feature already works.
This feature is an excellent example of Dropbox innovating on its platform while still staying true to itself. Rather than getting sucked into the modern trend of proprietary file formats with fancy inline previews and interactivity, Dropbox kept things simple, and kept their hands out of our file extensions; yet they still made a way for us to achieve the same overall goal that apps like Notes and Evernote have shown to be useful. I love seeing implementations like this from Dropbox, and I hope they continue finding new ways to make their system more powerful without adding layers of complexity for their users to deal with.
We think of Dropbox as a service for synching our directories, but the real value they bring is in applying a level of thoughtfulness that no one really applied to files before. A lot of that is part and parcel with storing this stuff in the cloud, which affords many user benefits—including availability of one’s files to countless third-party apps. But a lot of it is very particular to Dropbox’s superb design of the user experience.
I agree with Khoi Vinh's assessment of Dropbox's strengths in the era of apps and hidden filesystems. My work depends on Dropbox: all my text files are on it (through Editorial); it's the fastest way to share images across devices (I can't get AirDrop to work reliably between my iPhone and iPad most of the time); and, it's the backbone of the apps I use every day to publish articles and organize my research. I could work without Dropbox and use something like OneDrive or iCloud, but my workflow would considerably suffer. I'd be slower and live with the constant fear of losing control over files or, worse, the files themselves.
I also agree with the comment on the design of Dropbox. Features like versions, shareable links, and the recent addition of comments and recent files are all powered by a tasteful design that hides complexity and makes everything seem easy and seamless. I hope Dropbox continues to remain relevant.
I was excited to discover Revisions For Dropbox, a Mac app for viewing a history of changes for any file or folder in your Dropbox account. I'd been looking for precisely this solution, and it didn't disappoint.
With an update released today on the App Store, Dropbox has brought file comments and a new Recents tab to its iOS app for iPhone and iPad. I've been trying both features today, and I can see how they're going to speed up the way I rely on Dropbox for personal and collaborative use.
Dropbox updated its official iOS client earlier today, adding the ability to save files to your account from any app using the iOS 8 share sheet.
The other day, Federico asked about why people use web services such as IFTTT. I have a few of these that I use frequently, but the geekiest one is this: controlling my Mac with my car.
More specifically, when I turn my car’s ignition on or off in the parking lot at my office, Automatic triggers an IFTTT recipe, creating a text file in a special Dropbox folder which is monitored by launchd and runs a shell script depending on which file is created.
It sounds more complicated than it is. No, really.
The official Dropbox app for iOS was updated today with much needed renaming capabilities for files and folders. Dropbox has added a new Rename button that you can reveal by swiping over folders or hitting the “More” button in the file preview screen. On the iPhone, this extra panel (pictured above) also shows information about the selected file such as size, filename, and last modified date.
I've long used Boxie to rename Dropbox files directly on iOS, so this is good news given the app's demise. You can find version 3.6 of Dropbox on the App Store and read their blog post here.
With a blog post, Dropbox today announced that they are partnering with Microsoft to extend integration with Dropbox storage to the Office mobile apps for iOS and Android. “In the next few weeks”, users will be able to open Office documents in Microsoft's apps directly from the Dropbox app, and Dropbox sync will be bundled into Office for iPad to create, edit, and sync documents across devices. Dropbox will coexist with Microsoft's own OneDrive service, and users will even be able to browse their Dropbox account and copy shareable links to files without leaving Office for iOS.
From the Dropbox blog:
We know that much of the world relies on a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft Office to get work done. In fact, Dropbox is home to over 35 billion Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. That’s why we’re partnering with Microsoft to help you do more on your phones, tablets, and the web. Soon you’ll be able to access your Dropbox directly from Office apps, and edit Office files from the Dropbox app.
Tom Warren writes at The Verge:
“Access to Dropbox content popped as one of the very first [iPad for Office] requests that customers had,” explains Kirk Koenigsbauer, head of Microsoft’s Office Engineering team. “They want access to where their content is. We’re doing it to make sure customers have a great experience.” Although Microsoft has its own OneDrive cloud storage, Dropbox will appear alongside Microsoft’s own service in the Office for iPad apps, allowing users to natively browse, open, and edit Office documents stored on Dropbox from directly within the app.
I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Microsoft was long criticized for ignoring Office on mobile devices, but, under CEO Satya Nadella, they appear to be actively listening to how people want to use Office on the go – Dropbox is an obvious choice for file storage and sharing, but Microsoft still requires an Office 365 subscription to fully use the iOS apps (side note: Word for iPad is a regular fixture of the App Store's Top Grossing chart).
It's also notable that Microsoft has chosen to develop their own custom integration rather than simply rely on Apple's new document provider feature of iOS 8. As you can see from the screenshots, Word for iPad will have a custom Dropbox file browser with support for multiple accounts that doesn't require you to open a document picker to switch between file storage locations. Given the complexity of sync and the strategic importance of this partnership, it makes sense for Microsoft to control this integration with a custom, full-featured approach.
In yesterday’s coverage of iOS 8 for my daily workflow and Transmit, I mentioned that I hadn’t had much time to test document pickers and provider extensions in iOS 8 and that I couldn’t grasp the full potential of Apple’s document management changes in practice. While that still holds true today, I’ve been playing around with the iOS 8 update that Dropbox launched yesterday and I thought it’d be useful to collect my thoughts on the site for future reference.