The addition essentially means that tapping on a Dropbox shared link on your mobile device will open the file or folder right in your Dropbox app. As a result, you get previews for documents and photos, as well as a straightforward way to save the file or folder directly to your Dropbox account. Android users can choose to always directly open files within the Dropbox app, while iOS users simply select “Open in app” when they tap a shared link.
If the file or folder is already in your account, the Dropbox app will open it so you can move, rename, or favorite it for offline access. Furthermore, because Dropbox supports Microsoft Office not just on the desktop but on mobile too, if the shared link is to a Microsoft Office file, you can edit it right from the Office apps (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint) on your Android or iOS device.
This may seem like a very straightforward feature, but Dropbox does have to ensure it works properly across various devices (this update doesn’t change the Dropbox app’s requirements: Android 4.0.3+ or iOS 7+). “Given that in-app shared links span not only iOS and Android, but also the mobile web and our platform, we spent a few months building and fine-tuning the feature,” Henrik Berggren, product manager at Dropbox, told VentureBeat. “There were also a number of new and interesting technical challenges we needed to solve. Being able to view content shared with you directly within the Dropbox mobile app is an entirely new paradigm in our apps that required us to re-engineer large parts of our codebase.”
Until now, opening a shared link would send you to the Dropbox sign-in page on your mobile browser. The change means that you can now finally “use all the same Dropbox features for shared content as you do with your own content,” Berggren said.
In other words, Dropbox is closing the gap on mobile. Mobile productivity is a big priority for the company, and though Berggren thinks it is “still early” days, the company wants to reduce the number of clicks (or taps) to get work done, while also supporting more and more platforms.
Earlier this month, Dropbox added an Open button to its desktop client. In short, the button lets you launch desktop applications right from the web — if you’re previewing a file in your browser that already lives in the Dropbox folder on your computer, you can just open it immediately in its native application.
Today’s release is only for Android and iOS. As for Windows Phone, Dropbox told VentureBeat it has a different launch plan and roadmap for the platform. This shouldn’t be surprising; with Windows 10 around the corner, and Dropbox increasingly working closer with Microsoft, we expect a universal app that works on PCs as well as mobile devices is in the works.