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Dropbox Ups the Ante with Instant File Preview
Posted January 30, 2013
Dropbox Ups the Ante with Instant File Preview
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By Barry Levine. Updated January 30, 2013 2:07PM

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The one-upsmanship between the online storage services continues to heat up. On Wednesday, it was Dropbox's turn, as the company announced several new features, including the ability for users to preview any file without having to download it.

That new feature is being offered by the San Francisco-based company for its Web interface. It is called File Preview, and it offers a quick pop-up view of the files' content, so that users can more efficiently send files from Dropbox without having to download them first to make sure they're the right one.

File Previews supports a variety of file formats, including .doc, .docx, and .pdf. Support for Excel documents is reportedly in the works.

Photo Tab

Also unveiled in the Web interface is a new tab that facilitates the ability to find, view and share photos that a user has uploaded. Photo views has also been updated, so that they can be viewed in a grid of thumbnail images and ordered chronologically.

The company is also allowing users to more easily share photos, by selecting them, creating albums, and then sharing them through Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail. Previously, photos were shared one by one, or shared as a folder. Photos stay in the album even if they are moved within Dropbox.

This feature is expected to soon become available in the company's iOS app, and is being rolled out through the Web interface. It is already offered in the Android app, since a similar functionality was available in the Android photo viewing app from Snapjoy, which Dropbox bought in December. Both companies are alumni of Y Combinator, the start-up accelerator in Mountain View, Calif.

Dropbox Product Manager Chris Beckmann told news media that both File Preview and the new photos tab are part of a shift at Dropbox "from thinking about things as files to thinking about things as users' content."

Fast and Furious

In December, Dropbox bought start-up Audiogalaxy, which had developed functionality for users to store playlists and music files online and then stream them to any device.

If the company is moving more toward the ability to easily use your files in the cloud, the ability to more easily interact with music files could be next on Dropbox's agenda.

The competition is fast and furious in the online storage space, as the emerging leaders among start ups try to differentiate themselves from other online storage providers and to get ahead of the larger companies. Last month, for instance, Dropbox announced a major update for its iOS app that included a new user interface and new capabilities for handling photos, such as a Photos tab with a timeline view of automatically uploaded media. Earlier in the fall, the company updated its Android app, with a Photos tab and photo-sharing.

The growing list of cloud-based sharing and storage services include Microsoft's SkyDrive, Google's Drive, Samsung's S-Cloud service, Apple's iCloud, Amazon's Cloud Drive, Box and SugarSync.

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