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Posts tagged with "dropbox"

Dropbox Announces Forthcoming Integration with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Today on its blog, Dropbox announced an exciting piece of news: the company will soon add integrations between its service and Google's G Suite. The most prominent of those new ties involves Google Docs:

Dropbox users will be able to create, open, edit, save, and share Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides directly from Dropbox. And when you’re working in Dropbox, you’ll be able to save Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to your Dropbox account.

Considering how much effort Dropbox has poured into building its own Google Docs competitor in Dropbox Paper, it's surprising to see the company embrace the competition wholeheartedly with a full-fledged integration like this. It's certainly good news for Dropbox users though, as Google Docs has long been the gold standard of web-based, collaborative document services.

Today's announcement post is unfortunately short on details of exactly when this integration will launch (besides saying "later this year"), or what it will look like. It's unknown, for instance, if the change will primarily impact Dropbox on the web, or if Dropbox's mobile app will be also optimized to do things like preview Google files and open them in their appropriate iOS apps for editing; one would hope mobile will reap the benefits too. The solid implementation of Dropbox's existing support for Microsoft Office gives hope that the service will play just as nicely with Google when the time comes.

One related piece of news from the post is that Dropbox is also building native integrations for Gmail and Hangouts Chat, so you'll be able to select files from your Dropbox account while using those services, plus a couple other small things.

Dropbox is pushing forward as a platform-agnostic, service-agnostic file hub for your working life. Whether the strategy will lead to long-term health for the company remains to be seen, but for me personally, it's one of the points keeping me from giving Dropbox up and going all-in on Apple's iCloud.


Installing tvOS Betas Over-the-Air from iOS with iCab and Dropbox

I was trying to update my two Apple TVs (a 4K model and a 4th generation one) to the latest tvOS 11.2.5 beta earlier today to test AirPlay 2 (more on this soon) and, because I remembered there was a way to install tvOS betas without a USB-C cable, I was attempting to download Apple's tvOS beta configuration profile using Safari on iOS. However, as soon as I tapped the Download button on Apple's developer website, I got this message instead of a new tab showing the downloaded configuration file:

I don't know when Apple changed this behavior, but I recalled that Safari wouldn't try to install tvOS configuration profiles on an iOS device. Without a way to manually fetch the .mobileconfig file and save it to my Dropbox, I was going to unplug my TVs and connect them to my MacBook Pro (which usually sits in the closet until it's recording day for AppStories or Relay) to finish the process.

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Dropbox Integrates with iOS 11’s Files App in Latest Update

Fulfilling its recent promise of integrating with iOS 11’s Files app during the OS’s launch week, Dropbox today released an updated iOS app that does just that. It is now a full-fledged file provider in Files, allowing you to access and manage all of your Dropbox files directly from the Files app.

Adding Files support means Dropbox files can now live alongside files from iCloud Drive and other file providers. This enables things like copying files between cloud services with ease, organizing files from different providers with the same tags, and of course, using drag and drop to rearrange files (on either iPhone or iPad), or to move files to other apps (iPad only). Not all functionality from the main Dropbox app has made its way to Files, but there’s surprisingly little missing here. You can still download files on demand, and you can even share files without needing to open the Dropbox app – simply long-press the file you’d like to share and hit the Copy Link button. For me personally at least, I don’t see any reason I would need to open Dropbox anymore.

Several major cloud services pledged to support Files back in June following WWDC, and it’s great to see that, at least for one of them, that support came swiftly. Here’s hoping the rest will follow soon.

Dropbox Introduces Smart Sync for Business Customers and Paper Emerges from Beta

Last April, Dropbox announced Project Infinite, a way to see all of your Dropbox files without having to store local copies. Today, Dropbox released the renamed feature as Smart Sync, which is available exclusively to Dropbox Business customers.

An interesting thing happened in the transition to SSD storage. File space on computers began to shrink after growing year after year. The shift posed a problem for Dropbox. By default, Dropbox syncs all of the files it stores to your local drive. Suddenly, customers’ storage on Dropbox could be larger than their local storage. Add to that increases in file sharing and users were left picking and choosing which files to sync, adding friction to what is otherwise a nearly invisible service.

Smart Sync solves that problem for Dropbox Business customers by eliminating the need to store all of your Dropbox files on your local drive. Every file is visible in Finder and can be previewed with Quick Look, but if it has a cloud icon in the corner, the file is stored in the cloud, not on your local drive. As Dropbox explains it:

Users working with just 128 GB of hard drive space can easily comb through terabytes of files to find exactly what they need—right from Windows File Explorer or macOS Finder. Now, they won’t need to take extra steps—like switching to a web browser—just to view files. And whenever they need to access files stored in the cloud, users can download them with a quick double click.

Removing documents looks just as easy: highlight files, right-click, and choose ‘Remove’ from the contextual menu.

Dropbox also announced today that its collaborative document creation product called Paper is officially out of beta. Paper, which is available as an iOS and web app, has come a long way since first entered beta in late 2015, although it still lacks many of the more advanced features of products like Google Docs and Quip.

Dropbox is positioning Smart Sync and Paper as collaboration tools for sharing knowledge with colleagues. As Scott Rosenberg of Backchannel explains in an in-depth piece on Dropbox’s strategy:

Dropbox … think[s] Paper could become a sort of universal glue that connects teammates working together on updating a spreadsheet, designing a web page, reviewing code, or editing a press release. Once in place, it will save you from having to be “an archaeologist,” in [Dropbox CEO Drew] Houston’s phrase, putting an end to excavations of long email threads and chats, treasure hunts for the latest version of a file, and reconstructions of who said what.

That’s the same problem that companies like Slack are trying to solve but from a very different angle. Instead of approaching collaboration from the perspective of messaging, like Slack, Dropbox is approaching it from a content-centric point of view. Also from the Backchannel article, Dropbox’s CTO Aditya Agarwal says:

… the jury’s still out on whether, as he puts it, “everything is going to be keyed off a unit of communication, or communication is going to be keyed off some core unit of content.”

That’s an interesting way of approaching collaboration and one that turns business customers’ love/hate relationship with email on its head in a way that plays to Dropbox’s strengths.

For now, Smart Sync is only available to Dropbox Business customers, though Harry McCracken reports for Fast Company that Dropbox ‘is actively considering how to roll the feature out to consumers,’ which strikes me as an important next move for Dropbox. After all, as Rosenberg points out, Dropbox Business began with ‘engineers and other early adopters [who] embraced Dropbox… [and] started smuggling it into the workplace.

Dropbox Receives a Major iOS Update

Dropbox announced an update to its iOS app that adds five new features with a sixth promised ‘in the coming weeks.’ According to Dropbox, the update will be released today, although we have not seen it in the App Store yet.

The five new features are:

  • The ability to sign PDFs within the Dropbox app, which eliminates the need to send PDFs to another app for signing.
  • A new iMessage app that lets you access recent files from within the Messages app and insert them with a preview of the file into a conversation.
  • A new widget, from which you can scan, upload, or create new documents and access recent Dropbox files.
  • Notifications when someone else edits a document you are viewing and an opportunity to refresh the document to include the edits.
  • Picture-in-Picture support when you watch videos stored in Dropbox.

Finally, Dropbox announced that ‘in the coming weeks’ it will also add Split View support for iPad users. It’s disappointing that Split View, which was introduced with iOS 9, is still not part of Dropbox, but good to know that we should see it added before the end of the year.

Dropbox Adds Scanning Feature to iOS App

Alongside some welcome improvements to their desktop client, Dropbox announced today they're adding a document scanning feature to their iOS app:

With document scanning, you can now use the Dropbox mobile app to capture and organize scans from whiteboards, receipts, and sketches, so your ideas are right at your fingertips. Dropbox Business users can even search inside the scans.

The feature is detailed here, and it looks like it's been integrated with the '+' button to behave as any other file you'd manually import into Dropbox.

I don't think of Dropbox as an app on my phone – it's my online filesystem, which is why right now I'm struggling to imagine using it to scan documents. Essentially, I keep Dropbox on my iOS devices for two reasons: to share files with others and to grant other apps access to Dropbox. I don't spend a lot of time in the Dropbox app itself.

However, it appears that Dropbox has done a nice job in streamlining the functionality as much as possible, and I like how they're moving more and more features to Business-only users, so I'm going to give this a try.


Dropbox Project Infinite

Interesting announcement from Dropbox today – a way to download files on-demand when using the desktop client:

With Project Infinite, we’re addressing a major issue our users have asked us to solve. The amount of information being created and shared has exploded, but most people still work on devices with limited storage capacity. While teams can store terabyte upon terabyte in the cloud, most individuals’ laptops can only store a small fraction of that. Getting secure access to all the team’s data usually means jumping over to a web browser, a clunky user experience at best.

Project Infinite will enable users to seamlessly and securely access all their Dropbox files from the desktop, regardless of how much space they have available on their hard drives. Everything in the company’s Dropbox that you’re given access to, whether it’s stored locally or in the cloud, will show up in Dropbox on your desktop. If it’s synced locally, you’ll see the familiar green checkmark, while everything else will have a new cloud icon.

In a way, this makes the desktop app more similar to the mobile clients – everything is always in Dropbox, and it's downloaded locally only when you need it. Smart move.


Dropbox’s Exodus From the Amazon Cloud Empire

Cade Metz published a Dropbox profile for Wired, detailing how the company migrated to their own storage infrastructure:

Cowling and crew started work on the Magic Pocket software in the summer of 2013 and spent about six months building the initial code. But this was a comparatively small step. Once the system was built, they had to make sure it worked. They had to get it onto thousands of machines inside multiple data centers. They had to tailor the software to their new hardware. And, yes, they had to get all that data off of Amazon.

The whole process took two years. A project like this, needless to say, is a technical challenge. But it’s also a logistical challenge. Moving that much data across the Internet is one thing. Moving that many machines into data centers is another. And they had to do both, as Dropbox continued to serve hundreds of millions of people. “It’s like a moving car,” says Dan Williams, a former Facebook network engineer who oversaw much of the physical expansion, “and you want to be able to change a tire while still driving.” In other words, while making all these changes, Dropbox couldn’t very well shut itself down. It couldn’t tell the hundreds of millions of users who relied on Dropbox that their files were temporarily unavailable. Ironically, one of the best measures of success for this massive undertaking would be that users wouldn’t notice it had happened at all.

People who are really serious about cloud storage should make their own hardware and software, I guess.