Dropbox for iOS Gets Overhaul, Microsoft Office Integration

DropboxEver wanted to start a Microsoft Word or Excel document right on your iPhone and save it to Dropbox? Well, thanks to a massive overhaul of the Dropbox iOS App, you’ll soon be able to do that, and more.

Today, Dropbox announced a major update to the Dropbox iOS App designed to take advantage of their recent surprise partnership with Microsoft, as well as improve the collaborative tools of the app. All while improving the app’s functionality.

Dropbox has become synonymous with “cloud computing,” particularly for personal or small business use, over the past few years. Its great price (free for 4GB), combined with its easy-to-operate interface, has made it a massive hit with consumers.

While there certainly are (fixable) security issues with Dropbox, it is an undeniably easy way to keep your files, documents, and other important information available at all times. Collaboration with co-workers in remote offices or locations is much easier, and you can easily transfer important documents from your desktop to your laptop, smartphone or tablet.

The update adds several important tools to your Dropbox iOS App:

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View Your Most Recent Files

One of the most painful parts of using Dropbox on my iPhone has always been that I have too many individual files to sift through. Also, I have a strange propensity for saving my more important files by names beginning with ‘S’ or ‘T’, making them a royal pain to locate. Plus, sometimes I really need to find the document I just annotated… among 400 similar deposition notes.

Well, goodbye static file list, hello “Recents” tab! The new home view of the Dropbox iOS App (on both iPhone and iPad), now lists the files you’ve used (as in viewed, uploaded, renamed or edited) most recently, whether on your desktop or your mobile device.

Comment on Shared Files

I hadn’t used the ability to share files on Dropbox until about three months ago. Generally, I find the tool an interesting combination of amazing and annoying. Amazing because it’s just so. much. easier. It’s particularly awesome for sharing large discovery files or deposition exhibits.

However, there was really no way of telling your recipient what they were getting. Or, on the other hand (as I more frequently experienced), having any damn clue about what documents were being shared with you. It can be rather annoying to familiarize yourself with “non-billable time” when you realize you just spent 30 minutes reviewing documents that have nothing to do with your client!

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Last week, Dropbox announced their new Comments feature. With comments, you’re now able to have a conversation attached to your files. Mentioning someone after the “@” symbol automatically sends them a notification. Most importantly, I can educate (or be educated, as the case may be) the recipient about the contents of the file. Not sitting on the phone with someone walking them through a 15,000 page document production is awesome.

Well, just one week later, that functionality comes to the Dropbox iOS App. Comment on a file directly from your iPhone or iPad. Send notifications to new users, or receive notifications directly through the app (no need to rely on email!). Stay connected wherever you go.

Create Microsoft Office Files

The real gem of this update is, unfortunately, the part that’s not available right now - creating Microsoft Office files from within the Dropbox app. Dropbox for Business users have been able to update and edit Microsoft Office files from within Dropbox for a few months. However, even for those elite users, creating new files required being at a computer.

(Or having Microsoft 365 on your iPad, which I just don’t want to do!)

Starting soon – in “the next few weeks” according to Dropbox – you’ll be able to create Microsoft Office documents right in your Dropbox iOS App, and immediately save it to Dropbox. No more waiting to record important information, start a PowerPoint presentation, or create a new spreadsheet (still waiting on how entering data into that spreadsheet won’t be a pain in the ass, but…).

Integration with 1Password

Based on the news reports I’ve read today, the primary attention is going to the three updates I’ve already discussed, but this update shouldn’t be overlooked. Your Dropbox iOS App now supports a 1Password login extension, allowing you to create or access your 1Password information. If you’ve been paying attention to any of my cyber security posts, you should understand how seriously I take strong passwords!

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You thought I was going to say “serious as a heart attack” didn’t you? You’re sick, you know that?

Now you can access your password manager directly through Dropbox. (Use it wisely, though!)

Improving Your Dropbox iOS App Experience

While each of the updates is nice on its own, Dropbox is emphasizing that they’re even more helpful when viewed in combination:

The best part, though, is how these features work together. For example, when you’re meeting with a client to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project, you can use the recents tab on your iPhone or iPad to quickly pull up your last project for reference. Then you can create a Word doc to take notes as you discuss. After the meeting, you can @mention your client in a comment, so they have the notes and can add anything you’ve missed. Then when you get back to your desk, you can turn that Word doc into a full project plan. 

In the end…

If you use Dropbox regularly in your law practice, you should immediately appreciate how helpful these updates really are. Oftentimes when apps like this announce a major overhaul, you can expect a shiny new home screen, but you’re usually lucky to get a couple of marginally interesting new features.

Today’s update to the Dropbox iOS App (no news about how soon this will come to Android) has three new tools that will be useful to me. And, although the ability to create Microsoft Office documents is nice, personally, the “Recents” tab is my favorite part of this update. According to Dropbox:

It’s all part of our mission to make your life easier, wherever you are, by giving you the tools you need to be productive.

I don’t get to say this often, but it appears that, today, you’ve accomplished your mission.

Image courtesy of stock images, at freedigitalphotos.net.