Microsoft already has a service for cloud storage called SkyDrive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be forced into using it on a computer running Windows 8. In fact, those of you who’ve have been using Box for your storage needs can download a free app for your PC that’ll appear as a Live Tile on the homescreen. Box’s features are all the same as how you’ve experienced them on other platforms. But there are some intriguing differences between Box as a Windows 8 app and Box as an online service.
Working with the New Features
The biggest improvement the Box app offers for Windows 8 users is a cleaner, simpler interface. Rather than simply giving a list of files, the app’s main screen features three columns showing All Files, Recent Files, and Updates. It takes advantage of the operating system’s new capabilities by keeping most of the functions hidden in a pop-up bar at the bottom of the screen. Just right-click anywhere on the screen to bring up the usual buttons for creating a new folder, renaming a file, or adding collaborators. Online, these tools are listed out on the right side of the screen, which looks utilitarian and clunky. The app is also free of the annoying links that encourage you to upgrade to a more expensive account.
Box is also connected to the Charms functions. You can mouse over to the right and select Share when looking at a specific file for another way to collaborate. The Search tool and Settings options also link to it.
The notifications within the app are better looking than the Web version. A message appears in the upper right-hand corner with any changes made to the Box account in the Windows 8 app, whereas online, the text box is a yellow bar that appears at the top of your list of files. The app also has the smart addition of a Refresh button in the pop-up tool bar, a handy function that makes this iteration more similar to the mobile versions of Box.
When inviting others to access a folder, the Box app can also access your contacts. Clicking on “Browse” in the “Invite collaborator” screen pulls up the People app so that you can select from a full list of names that are linked to your email address or social networks. This process is much easier on the Windows 8 app than it is is on the online version.
A Few Inconveniences
One adjustment with Box’s Windows 8 app is that you cannot add a new file or folder directly from the main screen. The only options available from the home page are Move/Copy, Delete, and Refresh, which is a surprising limitation. You need to click through to the All Files page in order to create a new folder or to upload a file.
The only other major downside so far to the Windows 8 app is that it cannot open the documents internally. The online version can display any file type within your browser, but the Box app needs to launch other available programs in order to show the files. This is inconvenient, especially because some file types may only open through a program in the traditional desktop, which makes navigating between the app and the files more complicated. You may have to dig around in the multitasking bar in the top left corner in order to find the screen you want.
Overall, this is a great example of how a software developer can take advantage of the new features in Windows 8 for an easier user experience. If you’re a Box user and also a fan of the new OS, this is going to be a good change for you. It may take some tweaks for Box to be the best choice for cloud storage in the new operating system, but it’s definitely off to a good start.