Dropbox, an online file-storage and transfer utility, forms the backbone of many of iOS’ most useful apps and utilities. Dropbox, which at its most fundamental level is just a way to store files in the internet, allows developers and users to take advantage of a file system that is always up-to-date and available as long as a connection to the internet is present.
But while these third-party apps can plug in to the Dropbox API and unlock these features, the first place most users go to use Dropbox is the official client. Boxie is an attempt to usurp the traditional Dropbox app by covering the basics, all while adding new, power-user features and a design that is supposed to make browsing the app and editing its contents even faster.
The Power and Design of a Third-Party Client
Opening Boxie is an immediate reminder that it isn’t a first-party product. You are trusting that the developers of Boxie have no nefarious intentions, as you have to sign in with your Dropbox credentials and give the app full freedom to copy, delete, or share your files.
Security is an increasingly important topic, but I wouldn’t categorize Boxie as any type of threat. Still, it’s important to remember that adding a client app to a service like Dropbox is opening another door. Then again, Dropbox really hasn’t ever been designed as a repository for sensitive information.
Much like other client apps that serve as another way to experience a specific service, Boxie tries its best to outclass the official Dropbox app in every instance. For the most part, it succeeds — gone are the shackles of cross-platform development that hold back Dropbox’s own app. In its place are animations, sounds, and other design cues that are completely native to iOS.
Unfortunately, those design cues aren’t completely familiar to iOS 7. For instance, the right-swipe gesture that initiates a back action in iOS 7 only reveals the sidebar in Boxie. For an app that involves diving down various levels in to folders, that’s quite a disappointment.
The typography is light and distinguished, the icon set is very stylish, but the new — and, to my mind, improved — interactions that iOS 7 brought simply aren’t there.
So why do these points matter? This is a client app. In other words, there is a completely free, feature-complete program available in the App Store from a first party with a familiar brand. Excellence in design and power user features are what Boxie has up its sleeve, similar to other apps like Tweetbot and Twitterrific. In cases like these, the design is a feature.
While the design may not be superior in all aspects, Boxie does offer powerful features that make managing files much easier. Boxie makes wider use of gestures than the official app: swiping left on a file or folder allows you to delete it (don’t worry, you can undo that operation by tapping the banner that appears), and swiping right gives you the standard share, rename, copy, and not-so-standard bookmark and star options.
The bookmark option is one of Boxie’s tricks. It allows you to make folders and files easily accessible. It’s a handy feature for when it’s necessary, but I’ve only used it once.
Starring a file will download and cache a version for offline viewing and editing. For those who frequently find themselves without an internet connection, it might be the selling feature of Boxie.
A quick hint: bookmarking an entire folder for offline viewing will result in any of the contents being updated and cached when Boxie is opened. It isn’t truly automated, as the app has to be opened to check for updates to Dropbox, but it still may be a nice way to ensure that you have whatever files you need before a cross-country plane ride.
Speaking of automation, Boxie currently does not feature any major integration with URL schemes, meaning that fans of Launch Center Pro won’t be able to work their magic with this app just yet — I’d expect this to be something that will be remedied in the near future. There have also been reports that the app is unable to load relatively large files quickly; I have not experienced this issue in any way, but it may just be that I don’t have any insanely massive folders.
My favorite feature of Boxie, however, is probably the Notifications view. It allows for users to view only the files that have been edited, moved, deleted, or otherwise updated in any way. From there, it also makes use of Dropbox’s robust versioning system to allow users to revert edited documents and salvage deleted files. This feature is available in every Dropbox app, but Boxie’s implementation is superb.
Who needs Boxie? Frankly, not many people. However, I predict that Boxie will find a large market. The first iteration of the app is close to reaching a perfect mix of design and functionality. I can only imagine that future updates will refine the design, add in the iOS 7-centric gestures, and (hopefully) continue to add uniquely useful features.
If that happens, Boxie could easily find itself at the middle of an enthusiast following, similar to apps like Tweetbot or Twitterrific. Until then, the app relies on specific, power user features like the Notifications view to push itself further ahead of Dropbox’s official app. However, if you find yourself satisfied with the free first-party client, there’s not much that will likely interest you.