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Using Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive and SkyDrive on the BlackBerry PlayBook

Cloud storage is all the rage. On the surface, it seems like PlayBook owners have been left out in the cold. When we look closely, however, we can see that it is easy and powerful to manage all our cloud storage needs right from the PlayBook.
Using Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive and SkyDrive on the BlackBerry PlayBook
By Gary Mazo on 8 May 2012 01:36 pm EDT
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We know that we need more native apps for our beloved PlayBooks. We also know (even more so after BlackBerry World 2012) the BlackBerrys are for people who need to get stuff done. In today's world - no matter what business you are in - getting stuff done means having access to cloud storage.

For some platforms, there is an app for everything - including cloud storage. Our sister site (iMore) ran a great article on all the available apps for cloud storage on iOS, and it is worth a read.  For us PlayBook owners, we need to get a bit more creative. The good news, however, is that we can access all major cloud storage services on our PlayBook as easily and as effectively as any other platform...we just need to work a bit harder at it!

Dropbox

Dropbox is pretty much the king of cloud storage these days. If offers a paltry 2GB of storage for free but it gives you incentive to invite others and collaborate with colleagues. When you get people to sign up using your personal affiliate link- you get extra space.

Unfortunately, there is no native Dropbox app that is produced for the PlayBook at this time. Fortunately, we have BlueBox - a free app that syncs with your Dropbox account.

Using BlueBox for Dropbox

Home Screen

First, set up your Dropbox account on your Mac or PC and upload those files you wish to sync between your Dropbox devices. Next, download the BlueBox app from BlackBerry App World and you are set to go.

Using Bluebox is very easy; just log into your Dropbox account with your email and password. You will then see all your files and folders right on the PlayBook.

Scroll through your Dropbox files and touch to highlight the document with which you wish to work. You then have the options to Copy, Cut, Rename, Delete, Download, Zip as or Download and Launch.

When you select Download and Launch, the appropriate app loads up on the PlayBook. This makes it very easy to quickly open and work with all Office documents and PDF files.

Now, one area where BlueBox falls a little short is that if you open a document and make changes, those changes are not automatically synced to your Dropbox account. When you first opened the document it saved a local copy to the PlayBook. So, in BlueBox, just select Upload file, then find the file on the PlayBook to upload. It will then show up in your documents directory.

BlueBox upload screen

BlueBox for BlackBerry PlayBook is free and can be found here.

Using Files and Folders app for Dropbox

Files and Folders is (just as the name suggests) a file navigation app for the PlayBook. One of the real benefits of this particular app is that it has built in support for most major cloud storage services.

Download the Files and Folders app from BlackBerry App World and start up the app. For our purposes, we need to set up Files and Folders to work with our Dropbox account.

Just swipe down from the top to bring up the options and settings for the app and select the Dropbox icon. Login to your Dropbox account and you will see all your files and folders.

Choose Dropbox from menu

Navigate to the file you wish to open on the PlayBook and you will see options along the left hand column: Download and open, Cut to clipboard, Copy to clipboard, Delete file, Rename file, New folder, Zip to Dropbox, Box.net, Google Docs, Send to.

Files and Folders for Dropbox

Choose Download and open to open the file using the appropriate app on the PlayBook. Now, just like with the BlueBox app, when you make a change to a file, it is not automatically synced with Dropbox. You need to find the file on the PlayBook and then select it and upload it.

Folder 1000 has stored documents

NOTE: Finding the document once you make changes can be a bit of a challenge using Files and Folders. Usually, your document will be in the playbook:/accounts/1000/shared/downloads folder.

Files and Folders is free to Try $2.99 to buy and can be found here.

Using the Browser

The last way to access your Dropbox account is with the very capable Browser app on the PlayBook. Just go to www.dropbox.com with your Browser and login into your account.

Highlight the file you wish to look at/edit and then select Save in the next window. Touch the Download Complete notification or just pull down the menu and select Downloads and then select Open File. The corresponding app will then open on the PlayBook.

use the Browser app for Dropbox

To upload a file that has been edited, the procedure is very similar to what we did earlier. Just select Upload a file (then choose the basic uploader) and you will see all the documents on your PlayBook. Choose the file and it will be uploaded back to your Dropbox account.

Using Files and Folders for Google Drive and Box and SugarSync

One of the great things about the Files and Folders app is that you can also use it with your Box.net, Google Drive and SugarSync accounts in exactly the same manner as you used it with your Dropbox account.

Just pull down the menu, select the service to use and login. Box.net has its own dedicated app, which we will cover in a bit, but this is particularly useful for Google Drive.

Google Drive is essentially your Google Docs in a new 5GB package. Log into your Google account through the Files and Folders app and you will see all your Google Docs.

A  listing of your Google Docs using Files and Folders app

Select the document with which you wish to work and you have slightly different options along the left hand column; you can: Open online, Download and open as Word, Cut to clipboard, Move files to trash, Rename file, New folder, Zip to or Send as.

Collaborate by opening Google Doc online

What is very cool about this is that you can really "collaborate" on a Google Doc just like you would on your PC or Mac - all changes you make are reflected in the documents shared by all collaborators.

Using the Box.net app

I signed up for Box when they ran a promotion a few months back to download the iOS app and get 50GB of free storage. I signed up and backed up my entire documents folder for safe keeping. Then I read the fine print that only allows you to download files of up to 100 MB at a time from your "Free" account. That meant that I could not simply download full folders onto a new Mac - lesson learned.

It is still very convenient for accessing one document at a time and hey, 50GB is 50GB!

Box also has a dedicated app for the PlayBook, which I very much appreciate. Although you can certainly access your Box account through the Files and Folders app and use exactly the same method as detailed above, using the dedicated app is easier and has a much cleaner interface.

Download the Box app from BlackBerry App World and then login to your Box account.

Use Box to store and open files

Your folders will be listed under the Al Files tab to the left. Touch a folder to see the contents - folders and files - and then open the selected file.

Just like with the other apps, the appropriate app opens on the PlayBook. Just like with BlueBox and Files and Folders, this saves a local copy of the document to your PlayBook.

To upload your changes you need to upload the document that is now on your PlayBook's drive. Touch the Upload arrow at the top left and highlight the document from your PlayBook. If you are in the Open File screen, you will see the option to Upload New Version that will overwrite the old version.

Upload file using Box app

You also have the option as soon as you start the Box app to upload a document. You can also upload images, music or video files, but beware - the free version of Box does limit the file size of what can subsequently be downloaded at a future date.

The pull down menu in the Box app is fairly sparse; there are only options to Refresh, Logout or view a comprehensive Help menu.

Box for PlayBook is free and can be found here.

Using Microsoft SkyDrive

SkyDrive is Microsoft's answer to Dropbox. Windows Phone users and Windows Live users have a SkyDrive account (often with extra storage incentives) when their Phone or Xbox is activated and configured.

Currently, SkyDrive is giving its users 7GB of free space. There is no dedicated app for SkyDrive for BlackBerry, but there are some third party apps that work with your SkyDrive account.

For our purposes, the Browser based interface worked very well on the PlayBook. Just point the Browser to skydrive.live.com and login with your Windows Live ID. You then see a very familiar file structure - not dissimilar from the other cloud storage sites.

Find your files stored on SkyDrive

By default, there are three folders; Documents, Pictures and Public. Simply touch the folder you wish to open, choose your document or image and it will open in the Browser window. You also have the option of downloading the document.

For most situations, I found that downloading the document and then opening with one of the native apps on the PlayBook worked much better.

The web-based interface was fine for downloading and reading documents or looking at images, but since there is no option to then upload a document from the PlayBook, this is not a great tool for true online collaboration.

Pricing and value

SkyDrive gives you 7GB for free. If you need more storage, the pricing structure is:

  • 20GB - $10 per year
  • 50GB - $25 per year
  • 100GB - $50 per year

Dropbox gives users only 2GB for a free account. However they do offer a referral program that'll allow you to rack up an additional 250MB to 500MB (depending on promotion being run) for each individual you refer up to 8GB total. If you need more storage, you will pay:

  • 50GB - $9.99 a month or $99 per year
  • 100GB - $20 a month or $199 per year
  • 1TB+ team accounts - $795 per year for the first 5 users

Google Drive gives you 5GB of free storage from the outset. If you need more storage, you will pay:

  • 25GB - $2.49 a month
  • 100GB - $4.99 a month
  • 200GB - $9.99 a month

Box.net also give you 5GB free right at the outset. (They did run a 50GB free promotion several months ago - so watch for that again in the future.)

Addition storage is:

  • 25GB - $9.99 a month
  • 50GB - $19.99 a month
  • 1000GB business account - $15.00 per user per month

Conclusions

The good news is that you can, in fact, access pretty much any cloud storage solution from your PlayBook even without native apps.

Dropbox has always been my "go to" service - it works seamlessly between all my computers and keeps my files in sync. While I do wish there was a native Dropbox app that supported true document syncing - both the BlueBox app and the Files and Folders app did a very good job and offered a wide array of choices for document management, downloading and uploading.

Files and Folders also did a great job with Google Drive and Box. While I didn't test it out for SugarSync, I assume the functionality is quite similar to the other services.

Box supports the PlayBook with a native app - and just for that reason I like to support them. The app works great and the storage options are fine for their free account - with the limitation on the size of file uploads and downloads being the only problem for me.

Until SkyDrive puts out a native app, it is hard to recommend it - but if you happen to have a free SkyDrive account, know that you can at least access your files and read and download them from the PlayBook.

All in all, things are looking good for PlayBook owners with regards to managing and working with all the major players in Cloud Storage. We can only hope that this will get even better with BlackBerry 10 and that we will get true developer apps for both Dropbox and SkyDrive.

Which Cloud Storage service are you using with your PlayBook? Let us know in the forums.

Reader comments

Using Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive and SkyDrive on the BlackBerry PlayBook

54 Comments

BlueBox is nice. But I have been using the sideloaded version of Dropbox for Android recently and have had no problems up till now. Maybe it solves the no-sync problem mentioned above? Check it out! (can't test it at this moment)

how is uploading files manually as easily and effective...

We're not back to x-drive in the 90s or 2000s....you just missed the entire point of many of these services....

and what you said doesn't even make sense...what the hell is as easily [...] but we just have to work harder?!?

You can upload files to Skydive from your Playbook. Just click on the PC Site link on the bottom on the mobile page.

Files and Folders with support for most cloud storage (SkyDrive support is coming I heard) is the way to go for me. I do not use Google Drive much and quit using SugarSync altogether, but with DropBox and SkyDrive not to mention Box, don't really need SugarSync.

Files and Folders simply rocks. I have used it for 6 months. It does Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, Google Docs, Google Drive, ZIP, E-mail, thumbnails and more.
The developer, Innovatology, has recently mentioned that they are working on adding Skydrive as well. It's one of the best PB apps you could invest in and it's inexpensive.
edit: hmm ^ I see that Mike beat me to it

Just adding this...I use Smart Office 2...it is an amazing application and looks very nice! They offer a Lite version, or the full version at 4.99$ right now...It allows for DropBox and Goole Docs (Drive). Also it acts as a Office client as well, as you can create Word and PowerPoint...Definitely the nicest looking app for Cloud Services on the PB

I love BlueBox...I was actually showing it off to an android tablet user the other day and he was blown away...he's like "man we don't even get those features on the native DB app"

Do you guys think RIM should have their own cloud storage app that functions cross platform and provide extra features for Blackberry and PB users?

My Playbook sync my Gmail account, calander and contacts. This is a very good feature. By synchronizing cloud storage,
This will be a great step in front of the competition. RIM should definitely have an app just like e-mail,calander and contacts work. Most people have more than one e-mail, social network and now more than one cloud service. So we are in front of the next step!

I downloaded the Box app and got the 50gb promo they were handing out at the time. But now that I've started using it, I find that I still use my Amazon cloud drive more often through the browser. More user friendly for me and works flawlessly with the PlayBook browser. Very good article by the way though. Lots of good info that I might give a shot so see how the user experience is. :) Boldly sent from my 9930

Maybe I'll have to try Files and Folders. I'm currently using Dropbox because it has the best support across all the platforms - I use Windows, Linux, BlackBerry phone, and PlayBook; I also have some files shared with Macs and Androids - and I really don't need more than 2GB.

What is happening to everybody, what is this rush to pay monthly payments for things we can get for free.
1) extra costs per megabyte for data on smart phones or sprints unlimited data plan
2) tablets that connect direct to supplier networks and carry a monthly charge or BB bridge
3) now we are getting charged for extra storage on a cloud ( Cloud = somebody else;s hard drive )
remote hard drives are very cheap and portable and do not charge rent. I currently have 350Gb in my cloud ie my PC hard drive and unlimited storage via USB and memory cards. Rent free.
Anybody who needs more storage than that and needs to keep modifying and updating all the that amount of data needs more than a Playbook or any Tablet.

Maybe I am misunderstanding you but what happens to all your data if/when your 'cheap and portable' personal cloud fails, fries, gets lost or stolen.
With the free cloud services I use, I have a local and remote copy of my files, always in sync. The remote files are retrievable from any computer I use, anywhere on the globe and I don't have to carry anything around with me.

Thanks for this interesting post. If you work with office files and dropbox you should use Smart Office 2. Direct access to dropbox account and automatically sync of edited files. Just works for office files only...

Thanks for the excellent article, Gary!

We're working on SkyDrive and a real sync solution for Files & Folders. Stay tuned!

In our experience, the various cloud services also differ quite a lot in speed, with Box being relatively slow and SugarSync giving the best overall performance. But we've also noticed that this changes over time, depends on file size and whether you are uploading or downloading.

A small correction: you mention Files & Folders has an option to "Zip to Dropbox, Box.net, Google Docs". This is actually just a "Zip to..." option, but you happened to select a file called "Dropbox, Box.net, Google Docs..." etc. The feature in fact zips whatever file you have selected to the same folder.

Regards,

Jon Webb
Innovatology

I hear some great things about Files & Folders and my have to finally take the plunge. It would be nice to have some options when it comes to picking the cloud service that fits my needs the best, especially now that I am starting to use it and am seeing its benefits.

Truthfully I am hesitant on it because it is an all in one 3rd party app. Those can get a bit messy because there are some features supported by some services and other features supported by other services. I am sure you know it all too well as I can't imagine it being easy to make an all in one app for that reason alone.

Yeah, think I will be taking the plunge, after all have to support the hard working developers and with the great reviews and continuing support of the app it would be dumb of me not to.

I use the native Box because it was the only supported cloud for the PlayBook (and I never used any other before, so I didn't have to switch or use multiple clouds anyways. Plus they gave the 50GB extra storage.

Like the article writes, the upload capacity is horrible (to me at least). It would be nice to upload a movie rather than using the space and also it lacks features that Drop Box has. All in all though, Box is fine for now. I wrote them a quick email about the uploads, maybe if enough people do they will increase it (after all they are competing with other services). I would even be happy if they downgrade to a free 25GB and allow for much greater upload sizes. After all 25GB is still greater than what the other guys have, and with their limited upload sizes I will never fill up 50GB.

Wonder why SugarSyn was left out of it. Besides not supporting the PlayBook, it is IMO the best solution out there. (I have 31,5gb free with them).

I'm a One Note user and use SkyDrive to sync it between work and home.
While I can get by with the web interface for basic SkyDrive use, It's cumbersome for opening and working in OneNote. Since we can't port the Android version, I'm still waiting for that native app.

P.S. - you could've left the "iPad 2 Made Simple" book out of the title picture.... just sayin'.

Actually, I wrote that book and all the BlackBerry Made Simple books which are under the one in the picture. I just grabbed what was closest to get the right height on the PlayBook - not trying to make a statement of any sort! 

 

Gary Mazo Senior Editor, Mobile Nations

www.mobilenations.com

 

Files and Folders is a fantastic app for the Playbook. And Skydrive is coming for Files and Folders.
I wish we had a Skydrive app for my Blackberry.

I hope there is going to be an update for the App World on the playbook because Ive been waiting for this update for a very long time and really looking forward for the new games. I am excepting to see: *Temple Run*, *Ninja Jump*, *Call of mini games like last stand*double shot* and hopefully there free because the are on the Apple App Store and Android Market.

Thanks

Smart Office 2 rocks! Syncs with Google Drive automatically after editing a document. I think the writer of this article should have added it in this review.

It's not the total storage that concerns me, but the max file size for upload. Box.net limits it to 25 MB, which is paltry. Most of my powerpoint presentations are bigger than that. Do the other services handle bigger files?

SugarSync does not have a file size upload limit, period.
Moreover, I have forever free SugarSync storage of almost 200 GB! (A number of other Cloud Storage alternatives now state clearly what is the "maximum" amount of free storage even with referral bonuses). SugarSync is the most generous one yet!

Should you wish to try out SugarSync, try this:
https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=tbtp0asbw9pt

Info Sources:
https://sugarsync.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/588
https://sugarsync.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/219

Strange, I also have the promotional accounts on Box.net from PB 50GB & Android 50GB, both have an upload limit of 120MB.

Iv used BlueBox and dint like it tbh... But I have dropbox sideloaded and it works brilliantly.

@Gary: you could add to that if a .edu or .ac.uk or student email add are used, you can have 4gb to start with on dropbox.

I'd like to see RIM/Blackberry team up with someone to offer a far more integrated experience.

I'm all for a cloud experience of their own just like how google and microsoft are implementing it with their mobile experience.

I use Dropbox with 1 company I contract to and Box.net for another, so I sort of get it.
But i really need an explanation on how or why it is actually effective, especially when all your files are synced. to me this means that you do have all the files on your (in my case) laptop. I did try it on my phone and PB but all I saw was repetition.
what is a cloud anyway? If I have a bunch of servers that are always connected, am I not a cloud too? would this mean that I am paying someone else to hold my data when I could be doing it myself?
I think it is over hyped, not unnecessary, just overplayed.

There's also a SharePoint client available on App World (SharePlus Office Mobile Client), for those of you in corporate worlds. Works great here at my university.

Thank you very much for this article, an excellent effort covering the steps to using these cloud services. Just one correction in your article regarding Skydrive:

"The web-based interface was fine for downloading and reading documents or looking at images, but since there is no option to then upload a document from the PlayBook, this is not a great tool for true online collaboration."

The web-based interface gives you the option to upload, just need to use the PC Site. You can easily select it from the bottom of the web-page.

To add to that, Hotmail recently ran an offer for Users who had used the Skydrive, they had the option of upgrading to 25GB for free. I'm not sure if they still have it, I think this was few weeks back. They released their Skydrive sync app to coincide with the release of the Google drive. So now, it's easier to sync from my PC.

"... we can access all major cloud storage services on our PlayBook as easily and as effectively as any other platform...we just need to work a bit harder at it!"

"...as easily ..."

"...just need to work a bit harder ..."

hmmmmm

the key word is access, as in access the files on your cloud storage, why would you want to upload from your pb?

Previous Devices:
Curve 8310
Bold 9000 +Pearl 9100
Bold 9700 +Storm 9530
Torch 9800

Currently using:
Bold 9900 + Samsung Galaxy Infuse 4G

Playbook OS 2.0

I really appreciate this article that I stumbled across or somehow missed on the Crackberry Playbook page.

I did download the BlueBox version of Dropbox but I haven't used it much. I will also try out that Files and Folders app after reading this article.

But what I do use on an almost daily basis is the box.com native application with both my free personal account I got with the 50gb as well as the paid 20 user work account I have that doesn't have an upload limit. Love the box.com app ability to generate and email links for a file on the Playbook and then copy and paste the link into an email to send off to clients via the using my Playbook tethered to my RIM Blackberry phone for internet access out in the field. Box's management interface for business users with all the tracking for users, uploads - downloads and support for web based viewing for AutoCAD and other file types is very handy.

I have seen the box.com people at recent SalesForce trade shows and thanked them in person for putting such a good native file sharing app out on the Playbook.

I am a bit skeptical as concerns those "free but private" backup services, and I find it quite surprising so many people discover the urge now, when ordinary ftp solutions have been around foerever.
Now, it seems good ftp backup/sync isn't easy on the Playbook...
(At least, as a newcomer, I didn't fine a good synchronizer yet)
Still, I believe the good ol' ftp should surface back here.

Why no mention of the non native and sideloaded apps ES File Explorer and X-Plore, both of which allow you to access all of these cloud servces (except Google Drive for X-Plore) and generally have faster transfer speeds than the native apps and also allow direct streaming of media from the cloud.

I was using Dropbox (not enough free space for me), Sugarsync (same like Dropbox, and for me slow).

Now I am using new service - Copy. They will give you 15GB for free.

If you register on Copy by this link, and install their application to backup / sync your data, you will get 20GB for free!
Here is the link: https://copy.com?r=zPku0e

Bonus for you is, that if you will find some referral, you will get next 5GB for free per each! Like this, you can get unlimited space for free!

I can appreciate that you all like your blackberry's but I think they are pretty much crap. I bought one for my daughter for school and thought that a blackberry would be more durable than the android tablets but, this thing is basically a pain in the a@# to use. I have apple and droid products and all of them are seamless when it comes to accessing google drive, dropbox ect. Not the blackberry. Have to buy a app to access the free storage on drive. Whatever. My daughter is in 8th grade all advanced classes so they are actually teaching them technology. She is getting an advanced course in side loading and using other means to access something the other two type of devices can do without so much as a hiccup. At least I only spent 55 bucks on the thing because as soon as I can get an android bases tablet or ipad this thing will be a coaster.

I can appreciate that you all like your blackberry's but I think they are pretty much crap. I bought one for my daughter for school and thought that a blackberry would be more durable than the android tablets but, this think is basically a pain in the a@# to use. I have apple and droid products and all of them are seamless when it comes to accessing google drive, dropbox ect. Not the blackberry. Have to buy a app to access the free storage on drive. Whatever. My daughter is in 8th grade all advanced classes so they are actually teaching them technology. She is getting an advanced course in side loading and using other means to access something the other two type of devices can do without so much as a hiccup. At least I only spent 55 bucks on the thing because as soon as I can get an android bases tablet or ipad this thing will be a coaster. If blackberry intends to make any type of comeback in this market they need to quit being so stubborn and realize that making everything go through their app store to get a piece of the profit is ultimately hurting their bottom line and will ultimately make this company fold quicker that they already are.