Review: cuteBox


Cloud storage (web based file hosting) has become an increasingly popular way to backup and share documents, images and other files. Accessing such services from your smartphone clearly makes a lot of sense: either for mobile access to essential documents or for easy file backup and retrieval. One of the best known of these cloud storage services is Dropbox, but unfortunately there's no official Symbian client version. However, help is at hand in the form of cuteBox - a slickly implemented third party Symbian^3 client for the Dropbox service.

Author: Genera Software

Version Reviewed: 1.0

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Video review of cuteBox


cuteBox is a third party client for the Dropbox service, written in Qt, for Symbian^3 devices.

Dropbox is a cloud storage service (web based file hosting) service, with an emphasis on synchronisation, file version control and sharing. Dropbox allows you to store files on the web, in a secure and private environment. The idea is to have your files accessible anywhere at anytime; using it as an alternative to carrying physical media (e.g. a USB stick) is often cited as a key use case. Dropbox also offers the ability to easily share files with other people, regardless of whether they use the Dropbox service or not. More information on the service is available on the Dropbox website.

Once you have signed into your Dropbox account, you are presented with the top level view of your files and folder list on Dropbox (first screenshot below). You can return to the top level screen from other locations in the file structure by touching the home button on the top left of the screen. Tapping the appropriate folder will drop you into that folder and refresh the file listing. Similarly, tapping a file will 'open' it; when you do this, the file is automatically downloaded (third screenshot below). From the file screen, you can open the file in a local application by tapping the file/document button (bottom left); obviously, this will only work if an appropriate viewer is available (e.g. Quickoffice for Word files, Photos application for .jpg files).

Alternatively, you can download multiple files at one time by tapping the download button and then selecting them (second screenshot below). Other file operations (move, copy, delete) are also available; these are accessed by tapping the third button on the toolbar (the icon with two stacked documents). The purpose of these icon-only toolbar buttons was unclear at first, but the illustrated help section, hidden away in the application's Settings screen, does provide a full explanation.


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Uploading files to Dropbox is also easily accomplished. Tapping the first button on the toolbar (with the plus sign) pops up a dialog with a choice of creating a new folder, uploading an audio clip, uploading a photo, uploading a video and uploading a local file. The audio, photo and video uploadoptions use the respective native Symbian file selectors; for photos and videos these have thumbnails so you can make sure you are selecting the right file. The local files option shows the local file directory in the same attractive style as the remote Dropbox one (second screenshot below). You can then navigate through the local file system and select which file(s) you want to upload. 

A nice feature of cuteBox is that files will upload in the background - i.e. it is possible to continue browsing the Dropbox file structure while a file upload is in progress (third screenshot below). This is helpful when uploading larger files and is a good example of the attention to detail and thought that has gone into implementing this application.

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Another example of this is the application's handling of the Public folder on Dropbox. The Public folder is intended to be the location where you store files you wish to share with other people. Each file within the Public folder has a public link (URL), which can then be sent to other people, in order for them to gain access to the file. As the screenshots below demonstrate, cuteBox lets you copy this public link to the clipboard or send it via an email or SMS message. It's a useful way of sharing large files, or getting around attachment limitations in email.

Dropbox does also support the sharing of other folders (i.e. not the Public folder), but only with other Dropbox users. While cuteBox will show folders that others have shared with you, it does not have the ability to set up or accept these sharing relationships. You'll need to go to the Dropbox website to do this. Synchronisation (generally undesirable on a mobile device) and version control (largely unnecessary without synchronisation) aside, is the only significant feature not supported by cuteBox.

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cuteBox's general performance is excellent. Over a WiFi or 3G connection, there's very little waiting time as you navigate through the file structure and the application makes sensible use of caching where appropriate.

The style of, and thinking behind, cuteBox is very much in line with Dropbox's own simplicity-led design approach. cuteBox has been developed using Qt and, partly as a result, the UI is something of a departure from the standard Symbian look and feel. But, in this instance, it is not a major concern, as the application has been beautifully designed and is easy to use. 

cuteBox is available in the Ovi Store, it costs £1.50 / €1.50 / $2.00 and is compatible with all Symbian^3 devices (N8, C7, C6-01, E7, X7, etc.) While there are a number of free alternatives available in the Ovi Store, the best of which is DropML, cuteBox is well worth its small price; it is, hands down, the most usable, fully featured and attractive Dropbox client for Symbian^3 phones.

Looking for an alternative to Dropbox? Try SugarSync

If you're looking for an alternative to Dropbox, or are considering which cloud-based file storage system to use, you may wish to consider SugarSync (affiliate link). SugarSync also has Symbian client, with S60 3rd Edition, S60 5th Edition and Symbian^3 versions available. SugarSync provides a similar service to Dropbox, but has a number of additional features and an extra 3GB of free space (5GB compared to 2GB for Dropbox) when you first sign up. 

Rafe Blandford, All About Symbian

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