by James A. Martin

Dropbox is now a must-have iOS app due to these new features

Oct 20, 2016
Cloud ComputingCloud StorageConsumer Electronics

Dropbox's updated iOS app lets you digitally sign PDF files stored in the cloud. That's just one of a few valuable enhancements, but the PDF feature falls short when it comes to filling out certain forms.

Thanks to a new iOS update, Dropbox is now an even more useful mobile document tool, instead an app that simply lets you access and sync files. Here are three new features that make Dropbox’s app stronger.

1. Dropbox lets you sign PDFs

The ability to sign PDFs from within Dropbox is the most significant new feature. (Dropbox didn’t specify when PDF signing will come to its Android app.)

Say someone emails you a contract that requires your signature and a date. Now you can open the document, navigate to the “Save to Dropbox” icon and save the document into a Dropbox folder, open Dropbox, and then open the document. In the bottom right-hand corner, you just tap the “Compose” icon, and a new submenu appears. I use the Adobe Acrobat Reader app, so I see the option to open the PDF in that app or to “Add Text or Signature” directly in Dropbox.

dropbox 2 Dropbox

After you click “Add Text or Signature,” you see three new icons in the bottom right of the document screen: a text box, a pen icon for signatures, and a calendar icon, for adding a date. Clicking the pen icon lets you write your signature, either with a stylus, such as the Apple Pencil, or your finger, directly onto the document. You can move the signature to the exact spot where it’s needed, and you can also change the digital ink color to red, blue, green, black, yellow or white. It’s super easy to add the date, too; you just click the calendar icon and the current date shows up in an editable box.

The text tool isn’t as useful, unfortunately. When you tap the tool, it places a text block randomly on the document, which can be dragged into place. But it’s useless if you want to fill out assigned spaces for information or numbers. For example, I was unable to add my social security number to a federal W-9 form, or check the appropriate boxes for my federal tax classification.

If you receive a PDF document that just requires your signature and date, Dropbox’s tool works well. Anything more complicated and you’ll probably need a dedicated PDF app. (I prefer PDF Reader Pro, which costs $10.)

2. Share files in Messages

If I really want to get someone’s attention, I text them instead of emailing. With iOS 10 and Apple’s updated Messages app, you can now quickly locate files stored in Dropbox and send them via text. It works well and could be a time-saver, especially for people who spend a lot of time on their iPhones or iPads.

3. Create and view files using Dropbox widget

With the new Dropbox widget, you can also tap an icon to scan a document, upload photos, or create a new file, directly from the iOS lock screen.

dropbox 1 Dropbox

Other noteworthy new features

The updated Dropbox iOS app notifies you when someone saves a new version of a file you’re reviewing and makes it easier to view changes to files. Dropbox for iPad now supports picture-in-picture mode, so you can watch a Dropbox video while working in another app. Split-screen support is also reportedly coming soon.

With its latest version, Dropbox incrementally improved what’s already my favorite cloud document service. If, or when, it takes PDF editing a few steps further, it will be practically indispensable.