Dropbox has released the Dropbox app, an iPhone utility for accessing files stored in a Dropbox account. The simple app lets you view any iPhone-supported document types – including text, Word, PDF, and movie files – and share files from within the app.
The Dropbox service enables you to synchronize files in an anointed folder among multiple computers, including those running Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows; files are also accessible via the Web. The company offers 2 GB of storage for free, and charges for more storage. Dropbox also stores older versions of files – either 30 days’ worth or unlimited, depending on your account type. You can share subfolders with others, and make publicly available photo galleries. (For more details about Dropbox, see “Dropbox: A Collaborator’s Dream,” 2009-02-03.)
The new Dropbox app extends a view to the iPhone, and lets you store files locally on the device for offline access. You can also upload photos and videos on your iPhone, or capture new ones directly from within the Dropbox app.
After setting up a new account or entering account details, you’re presented with a file-list view of your Dropbox folder.
Tap a folder to see its contents, or tap a file to view it. While viewing a file tap the favorite icon (a star) to store the file locally on the iPhone for offline viewing. Stored items are found in the Favorites view, available via any file list. Older versions of files aren’t accessible from the app.
You can share an item you’re viewing by tapping the envelope icon. This generates an in-app email message with an embedded, expiring link. Unfortunately, you can’t yet configure folder sharing from within the app, which currently requires a trip to your Web-based account.
Nor can you email someone a download link without first transferring the file to your iPhone (as you can with SugarSync; see “SugarSync Sweetens Online Syncing,” 2008-08-30), which can take a long time for large files – especially if Wi-Fi is unavailable.
It would also be nice to be able to set an expiration date and a password, as with MobileMe’s iDisk option to email a link to a file.
In a file list, you can tap the camera icon at upper right and take a picture, record a video (on the iPhone 3GS), or upload a photo or movie from the iPhone’s stored media. If you already have a photo gallery set up, you could drop the image or movie into that directly, updating what visitors see.
Dropbox carries over another bit of its photo-gallery feature, too. With any image selected, Dropbox adds back-and-forth navigation arrows at the bottom to view other images in the folder. A See All button at upper right reveals a gallery view of all readable images at the same folder level.
The Dropbox app is definitely a welcome adjunct to the rest of the service, and would have saved me much monkeying around recently when I was officiating at a wedding out of town. Leaving my iPhone behind, I used the Air Sharing app to copy a few critical Word files and PDFs with schedule information and my remarks for the wedding. With the Dropbox app, however, I would simply have had them available.