Box for iOS

12 05 2014

In January 2014 Box offered a free 50 GB storage for those who downloaded the iOS app from Apple’s App Store. Usually it’s 10 GB anyway a lot more than the well-known Dropbox with 2 GB.

With a perfect client app and a clean web-based interface it’s worth to take a look on the offer of Box Inc., USA.

Martin Destagnol, who heads mobile engineering at Box said

We are really committed to making the user experience of this app the best in the world.

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To help with that, Box hired Mallory Paine to head up iOS development at Box. Paine was an engineer on the original iPhone and most recently was director of mobile engineering at Path.

Expectations …

What do users expect when using a cloud storage on an iOS device?

  • encryption while data in transit to and from the cloud
  • encryption while data at rest on the cloud
  • create files and folders
  • delete files and folders
  • move files to other folders
  • rename files and folders
  • send files by mail
  • send file by link (share)
  • multi-selection for file operations (delete, copy, move)
  • copy link (for further use)
  • share files by retrieving a link to files/folders
  • menu for recently accessed files
  • powerful full-text search within folders with highlighted search pattern matches
    (searching for just file names is nice to have but normally useless)
  • options for sorting files and folders by name and date changed ascending and descending
  • availability of the ‘Open in’ command to directly transfer a file to an appropriate application
  • preview for all well-known file formats
  • supported file formats
    txt, csv, image file formats like jpg, png, etc
    Office file formats like
    docx/xlsx/ppt (Microsoft), numbers/pages/key (Apple)

Security …

Some years ago, the word cloud mostly related to the clouds in the sky, now it immediately makes me think of Data Clouds. Although a recent study totally contradicts this saying that most people think it is run on actual clouds in the sky. Most businesses manage their data in the cloud, because it’s an easy way to collaborate and all the information is accessible anywhere and anytime from any platform. Private users use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive to easily share or backup pictures, music and documents. Although these solutions are easy and often reliable, how much of your private data do you really want to entrust to big corporations?

When it comes to privacy, there is a very fine line of knowing what these companies are doing with your data and whose hands are actually on it. Security breaches have been very common and they aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes it’s not the question of will someone steal your data, it’s when will they steal your data.

Terms of services …

To register for a free cloud storage is easy and fast.
Go to the website, fill in your mail address, a password and click on Submit. Usually you will get a conformation mail. Confirm and you can access 2, 5 or up to 50 GB space in the cloud.

But did you read all the Terms of Services of your provider?
See what may happen with your data if it’s a free account.

In addition to other termination provisions, if your account it not currently subject to a paid subscription plan with us, we at our discretion may terminate your account if: (a) you do not engage in any activity in your account within thirty (30) days after becoming a Registered User, or (b) you do not engage in any activity in your account for any period of one-hundred and twenty (120) consecutive days. In the event of such termination, any Content you may have stored will be lost.
(Aug 1, 2013)
TOS Box Inc.

Other providers operate with nearly the same terms.

Features of Box for iOS …

Let’s have a look on the clean and tidy user interface …

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Box offers useful settings.

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Downloaded documents can be displayed in portrait and landscape mode and the additional toolbar can be overlaid on the right side e.g. sharing or moving the file to an other folder.

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What I miss in many client applications for mobiles: full text search within documents with highlighted matches.

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The Box client is connected to installed apps on your device. In the ‘Add item’ section (top right) you can create documents with suggested apps. The app is automatically opened and the created file is saved in the Box folder.

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People you share files with see this clean and tidy web interface.

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Additionally there are comprehensive stats available which show all activities on your account. With an appropriate setting of email notifications you are always informed e.g. about downloads of shared files.

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Box offers some useful sharing options.

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Here is a full feature description of the Box client app visualized in a mind map.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Box edit …

A really powerful feature of Box is Box Edit.
Box Edit is an add-on feature that allows you to edit or create files directly on Box. Designed for all file types, browsers, and platforms, Box Edit uses the default application installed on your computer to edit or create simple and centralized content: DOC files open in Microsoft Word, PPT files open in Microsoft PowerPoint, images open in Photoshop (if installed), CAD files open in AutoCAD, and so forth.

Unfortunately this feature is still a bit embryonic if used on Apple’s mobiles.
The only app which is actually supported without crashing the Box app is CloudOn.

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If you create a document with Box Edit the native app opens and a small Box-symbol appears. After finishing the work the Box app is re-launched and the file is saved on the Box account.

Box sync …

Because mobile operating systems like iOS don’t reveal the file system to the end user, Box has focused on integrating with applications.

Instead of syncing files/folders, they are working with app developers so that users can sync the content of their favorite apps directly to Box. Apps with direct integration like GoodReader and DocsToGo, allow you to connect directly to your Box account and manage your files from within the app.

How does Sync manage conflicts?
If two users both change a file concurrently, Box will first try to merge the changes if both are not edits (e.g. one user edits the file, another user renames the file). However, if both users edit the file, the first save will get uploaded, and the second save will generate a “Sync Conflict/Error” message and generate a “-copy of” version of the edited file.

Box and Apple’s iWork …

You might know that Apple’s iWork suite for iOS supports saving of documents via a WebDAV connection to a cloud storage.

For Box you have to enter

https://dav.box.com/dav

and your credentials to save iWork documents on your box account. iWork saves your Numbers, Pages or Keynote documents as ZIP files. To later open a document from within the Box client app just use the ‘Open in’ command and select the appropriate iWork app. Unfortunately Box cannot display iWork documents saved as ZIP files.

Summary …

Box offers a much more powerful solution than it’s competitors.

Box features impressive file-sharing capabilities that are easy to use, even if you are new to the service. Box allows you to set folder permissions, giving you complete control over what other users can do with your shared files. File-sharing capabilities make this web service worth your consideration.

The company is working on client-side encryption and if it’s available Box seems to become the most powerful cloud provider.

Related links …

BOX Blog

BOX Pricing

iOS Cloud Clients

Thanks for flying with iNotes4You.


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