The management and movement of files is one of the key elements of any digitally-attuned worker’s day. Whether it’s a fundamental image to a website, or a contract-winning Keynote, it is a regular occurrence that we need to make a file accessible to co-workers and to a range of different (usually mobile) devices. This need drives a lucrative industry, which is, unsurprisingly, filled with both giants and smaller, niche services. Box and DropBox fall into the former category, whereas CloudApp, with its strong emphasis on file sharing, clearly falls into the latter, but that doesn’t stop it being a favourite of an impressively large number of users.
It is this popularity that has driven the development of client apps, and one such example on Android is AndroCloud. Blessed with a slick interface and some nifty features it may be, but can AndroCloud, in combination with CloudApp, really provide a better mobile route to file access than Dropbox? Test commencing…
As you might imagine, hooking AndroCloud up to your CloudApp account is a pretty straightforward email-and-password affair. More notable is the speed with which AndroCloud scans and retrieves your lists of files.
Take my test example of a 500KB image. No, of course, it isn’t a big file, but it was still uploaded, processed and made available in AndroCloud in nine seconds. That, I think you will agree, is quick enough to avoid irritating even the most impatient of users.
You may not think that design would count in the evaluation of a simple file management client like this, but (though I hate to point it out) you’d be wrong. The layout of AndroCloud is of true benefit to the file accessing experience; the home page is a menu of file types, such as images, bookmarks and audio, and it makes for quick navigation.
Files in your CloudApp are sorted into default files types for easy navigation.
The purely aesthetic parts of AndroCloud’s design are unremarkable, but the icons used, and the inconspicuous greys which provide the backgrounds, work well to provide a smart, business-like interface.
As a third party client, AndroCloud is not filled to the brim with features. Instead, a few key functions are kept in easily accessible on-screen locations.
Take the file previewing interface. Below a preview of the file is a menu of five icons. The first gives the option to open the file in its full form, an action which is completed by another installed app. Then comes the one-touch option to save the file, and a tap-to-copy direct link to the file for easy sharing. The last two icons allow you to rename and delete the file respectively. The total effect is that the basic fundamentals of file management are made instantly available with a tap, which, in my book, is good design.
File previews are not swamped by options – only the five that count are displayed.
While I’m on the subject of file management, I must note one item in AndroCloud’s Preferences that will impress power users. Though the app has its own set of default folders for downloads, sorted by file type, you can actually choose any destination you like. As a result, it’s possible to send audio files directly to your music library, or photos directly to your gallery.
You need to be geeky to appreciate it, but the ability to choose custom download destinations is a great feature.
The reception of files on mobile is useful, but so is the opportunity to upload files. We’ve already seen that AndroCloud provides the former very competently, so now it’s time to look at the latter.
The app’s recurring theme of hassle-free file management continues when you open the side menu and select Add Files. This results in a sub-menu sliding out below, offering the option to upload the standard file types (image, videos, audio, bookmarks, etc.), although it must be noted that AndroCloud supports the uploading of any file from your mobile device. AndroCloud’s full integration with Android’s universal sharing system also provides an easy, direct way of making your files available online; while browsing your photo gallery, for example, you can simply select AndroCloud from the share menu.
Uploading via AndroCloud requires a total of only three taps.
One other clever trick this app has up its sleeve can be found in the notifications it produces. As with many apps, AndroCloud displays upload progress updates in your status bar, but once a file is uploaded, a tap of the notification causes the file’s permalink to be copied to your clipboard, ready to be shared. This may seem like an inconsequential feature, but if you regularly share files via CloudApp, I can assure you that this easy link copying saves a lot of time.
As far as I’m concerned, file management apps, whether cloud-linked or not, should not be notable. The success of these offerings is reliant on your not noticing them in day-to-day usage, because they don’t make you wait, and because their navigation doesn’t frustrate when you are in a rush. With this benchmark in mind, I’d have to say that AndroCloud truly excels. Its design is entirely anti-distraction, the layout of its controls has been well thought through, and it doesn’t seem to suffer from any kind of slowdown or instability, even when challenged with the uploading of a video.
Areas for improvement? I’m having to scrape the barrel here, but it would be great if you could socially share files directly from within AndroCloud. It would also be nice if you could preview non-visual files – I particularly missed this on one occasion when trying to work out which badly named audio file I wanted to download.
Judging what it does provide, however, which is an overall files-on-the-go package, and a way of uploading and hosting content for social sharing, AndroCloud and CloudApp are simply brilliant together.