Since getting my Windows Phone I have been trying to embrace the Cloud. Windows Live for contacts-calendar, Remember the Milk for Outlook tasks, TwitPic for photo uploads, Zune Pass for music streaming, and SkyDrive for photo uploads and file storage. While I appreciate the 25GB that Microsoft has allocated to me on my SkyDrive, and admit that things like; OneNote sync, photo uploads, backup/sync (with SkyWallet) and sharing folders with friends/family all work well, managing Office and other files leave a lot to be desired. Navigating SkyDrive from my phone is not a pleasant experience. IE mobile view works ok, but if you actually want to copy a Word or Excel file down to your phone you need to be in desktop view. And forget about PDF’s. While I expect that the SkyDrive experience will improve as WP matures, I decided it was time for Dropbox.
Browsing Marketplace I had seen plenty of Dropbox clients showing up in the new apps category. Not having any idea what I was looking for I decided to rely on the critics to steer me in the right direction. LindyBox Free – 3 stars (paid version has 0 reviews), Kickbox – 3 stars, Boxfiles – 2 and 3.5 stars ????, Cloud Explorer – no reviews at time of search, and Pocket Files – 3.5 stars. Folks, I think we have a winner. I did take a quick look at screen shots and read all the descriptions but I was in no mood to sample 4 or 5 different apps, some without trials (like Pocket Files), so I tapped that “Buy” button and crossed my fingers. Think I did OK.
I could have created a Dropbox account from within the app but the dev actually recommends against it. In my case I had created my account before the WP app search so it was a moot point. Setting up my free 2GB Dropbox account online was painless. A user name, password along with a few defaults and I was in. Installed the 15K client on my PC to finish the setup. Created a few new folders, added some Office, PDF & text files and I was ready to give this a try.
Pocket Files was equally easy to setup. Logging in my credentials immediately brought up the folders I had created on my PC in a matter of seconds. The primary app screen, appropriately labeled “my dropbox” contains all your folders. Tap a folder to expand or view the contents. Boy it was nice seeing the files on my phone in a folder hierarchy again. Tap a file and the app opens an IE screen instructing you to tap the Icon to open your file. Another tap and you are viewing your file in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Acrobat Reader. Two taps back and you are in the app again. Anything you bring over via Pocket Files will be saved to your device and just like SkyDrive, there is currently no way to copy/move those file types back to Dropbox. Text files work a little differently as you can view the file from within the app, although you can’t do any editing in the viewer. I use txt files like Notes in Outlook so this works well for me. Ready access to info I like to keep nearby. Any file can be; moved (cut), deleted, renamed or shared via email with a tap and hold.
BTW, here is a little tidbit. When using “shared via email”, Dropbox sends a link and not the actual file. So you can load just about any file type in Dropbox and then send it (a link) from Pocket Files to anyone who can open that particular file type. For example, I copied a WMV file to Dropbox and then sent a link via Pocket Files to my Hotmail account. I was then able to view the video on my phone and another PC, actually at the same time, by simply tapping the link. Also tried this with an Avery Label file (.lpd) and when I clicked the link on my PC I was asked if I wanted to launch the app to run the file. Works the same for music. So this sort of helps with the issue of not being able to send videos or music from your phone, although you will need to add the intermediate step of moving the video to Dropbox from your PC. Still better than nothing though. Just remember that after 2GB it will cost you to store more data up in the Cloud.
I had a little trouble inadvertently opening files I didn’t want to while flicking the list up and down but discovered that scrolling along the left edge, over the icons, eliminated any false positives. Buttons along the bottom of the screen offer options to; Select multiple files (just like within email), Refresh, Upload a photo and Paste (when you use the move command explained earlier). You can also create new folders from within Pocket Files. Uploading a photo is as easy as tapping the Upload icon, selecting an image, renaming (if desired) and tapping OK. Note that the photo will be saved to whatever folder you currently have opened. Or from the Pictures hub, open a photo, tap and hold for the context menu, tap Share, Upload to Pocket Files, rename your file (if desired), and the app will open with the file copied to it’s clipboard for pasting in the folder of your choice. Downloading is easier. Open the photo in Pocket Files and tap Save. The photo will get copied to your My Pictures folder.
I have to guess that developers don’t have access to SkyDrive so something similar can’t be made for easy navigation. Until then, and knowing Microsoft that could be a very long time, Dropbox is a simple and convenient way to store and access your files and photos in the Cloud. And Pocket Files is an easy way to get to those files when you are on the move. Already have the client installed on two PC’s and will setup the others shortly. As soon as you add/update something on one client, PC or phone, everything else gets refreshed. Works for me. Pocket Files will set you back 0.99 and you can find it here in Zune Marketplace.