Emailing documents or pictures used to be the only option that people would have to share files, the negative part of this was that there was no simple way for a document to be updated, and users were at the mercy of size limits that could be emailed.
The future of computing has moved towards cloud based services, which allows users to store files in a central cloud server, where these files are accessible anywhere by anyone that is permitted access. Users can access these files, and collaborate with others on documents or projects on either a PC, Mac, tablet or phone.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is an ideal device to take advantage of cloud based services, due to it’s high security features, (such as full device encryption with update to the OS 2.1) ease of use, portability, and rich native features such as Docs to Go. BlackBerry Smartphones also have these features, so all files are easily edited safely and securely without the need to store these documents on the device.
The one issue that users may find with the PlayBook or BlackBerry phone, is that several available apps only enable sharing of files to work on one or two devices, such as PC to phone, PC to PlayBook or PlayBook to Phone via BlackBerry Bridge. This also does not allow for collaboration, as those files are still accessible only on the devices hard drives.
To solve this problem, there are free cloud based services that have apps for these devices that are available so that users can share and access files between the PC, BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry Smartphone. BlackBerry Empire has compiled a list of the best free cloud based apps.
Perhaps with the best free available collaboration services, Box is the goto collaboration service available. With 5GB free on your BlackBerry® PlayBook™, Box makes it easy to access and edit files, share content and stay connected with a team from anywhere on any device. The limitation at this stage with the Box App for PlayBook, is that collaboration and updating is currently not available, although at one point, Box offered 50 GB of space, more than any other service to users who downloaded the app for PlayBook, although it appears that this offer is no longer available. The other negative is that the BlackBerry Smartphone App is only a redirect to the mobile site. It has been announced that Box will be a native app on OS10, so hopefully the assigning of tasks and comments will be made available.
Box has just made available direct PC sync capablities which create a Box Sync Folder Utilizing drag and drop, users no longer have to go to the website to use the functions of the service, although if wishing to use the collaborative services, users have to goto the user friendly website interface. Box also has available for free Box for Office which creates a Box icon in Microsoft Office Word, Powerpoint and Excel to save files directly to the users Box account.
Dropbox is perhaps the most widely used service, as it has worked out partnerships with many services online, as well as made the API available for developers to integrate with their own apps, such as Molome and Files and Folders. Dropbox offers 5 GB of space, but does allow users to aquire more free space by inviting friends to use the service, and other perks such as integrating with Facebook.
The BlackBerry Smartphone app allows users to:
- Browse the files in the users computer’s Dropbox folder
- Open images and other media directly through the app
- Upload photos to all computers at once
Dropbox for PlayBook is lacking though, as the only available app at this point is BlueBox for BlackBerry PlayBook (free), but there are rumours that Dropbox is developing a feature rich app for the BlackBerry PlayBook. The BlackBerry Smartphone Dropbox app has a very nice UI (User Interface) and has been updated regularly every few months.
Dropbox for the PC is very easy to install and use, creating a Dropbox user folder on the PC, with drag and drop functionality. Access via the web allows users to access and manage files anywhere there is a PC and internet service.
Dropbox has just made available Dropbox for Teams, which allows collaboration, phone support, and starts at 1000 GB of space, but the price tag is pretty hefty starting at $795.00 per year for 5 users on the team. It does allow feature rich administrative and collaboration support, which may be ideal for small business.
Evernote is a very powerful note taking service, that goes beyond basic note taking functionality. Evernote has been very friendly towards BlackBerry products, by regularly updating the PlayBook and BlackBerry Smartphone stand alone app by improving and adding features and functionality.
As Evernote is more of a note taking or document saving service, users are only allowed to upload 60 MB per month with the free service, but storage is unlimited. This storage upload cap does reset to zero every month, but a premium version of 1 GB per month with some other non mandatory features are made available for $45.00 per year.
Evernote allows users to upload Microsoft office documents, voice notes, images, and web clips to the service, and the PC interface is very user friendly. With the ability to create Stacks with sub notebooks, add tags, and share notebooks to other users, the PC interface is very powerful, yet the UI is simple and easy to use. The web based version of Evernote is a mirror image of the PC interface, so users have the ability to access, add and manage notebooks, documents and other uploads wherever there is computer access.
The BlackBerry Smartphone app does not allow PDF to be viewed (which is more of a limitation of the smartphone), but all other features are available.
The BlackBerry PlayBook app is just as user friendly as the Smartphone app, but can only be used in landscape mode, which hopefully will be addressed in future updates. PDF is able to be viewed utilizing Docs to Go, but occasionally the app has issues reading HTML rich documents, and sometimes inserts special characters, which doesn’t affect the functionality of the app.
Evernote is the only service that has true direct apps for all devices, with full functionality that can be found on the PC or Mac, BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry Smartphone.
Honorable Mention – Files and Folders
Not a true cross platform cloud service, Files and Folders is worth mentioning though, as it is the only available app for the BlackBerry PlayBook that is a unified file manager, that also accesses all available cloud based services.
Files and Folders works with local files and folders on the BlackBerry PlayBook, but allows access and managing of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, SugarSync and Microsoft Skydrive. It does not allow access to any collaboration services, but allows users to manage the cloud services, including those that do not have a app available for the BlackBerry PlayBook.
Files and Folders has a free three day trial version, as well as the full version for $2.99 on app world, and sadly is only available for the BlackBerry PlayBook.
As portability and access to files becomes more important in our daily world, cloud based services are the way of the future. With high security, as well as ease of use and functionality offered, it is so important that these services are true cross platform. BlackBerry devices are powerful and developing apps is becoming increasingly easier, especially with BlackBerry 10 on the horizon.
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