With New File Preview And Mobile Experiences, Box Highlights Recent Acquisitions

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Box showed off new versions of its file preview feature and iOS apps at its BoxWorks conference this morning. In doing so, it was also highlighting what recent acquisitions have brought to the company.

The new preview, for example, was built on HTML5 document-viewing technology from Crocodoc, which Box acquired earlier this year, and it was demonstrated by Crocodoc’s Ryan Damico, who is now Box’s director of platform.

In terms of how the file-preview experience has changed, there are a number of new features, including the ability to copy-and-paste text directly from the document, but a big emphasis appears to be on the UI and performance — Damico said it was “redesigned from the ground up.” To illustrate what the new file preview is capable of, Damico opened what he claimed was the longest PDF that he could find on the web, the 750-page SharePoint deployment guide, as well as a PDF with 50 custom fonts. Both opened without any delays or apparent rendering issues.

Meanwhile, the new iPhone and iPad apps were built with technology from French file storage startup Folders, which was also acquired earlier this year. (In fact, both deals were announced in May) and demonstrated by Folders’ Martin Destagnol. Again, performance was a big focus — even thought the Wi-Fi was as spotty as conference WiFI usually is, Destagnol was able to swipe through multiple high resolution photos with delays of only a few seconds. He also pointed to new support for PowerPoint, which apparently doesn’t suffer from the usual bugs that occur when you try to open a PowerPoint presentation on an iOS device.

Both of these new features should go live later this year, the company says.

During the press Q&A after the keynote, CEO Aaron Levie was asked about these acquisitions and how he looks at “build vs. buy” decisions.

“Philosophically, we’re very oriented around building,” he said — that’s the best way to build “deeper” experiences. He added that Box has 160 or 170 engineers working on its platform. At the same time, he said there are companies with teams and technologies that can “extend us further on our core efforts,” and both Crocodoc and Folders are “quintessential examples” of this.

Levie noted that at the time of the acquisition, Crocodoc provided its document viewing technology to around 100 partners, and he said Box will continue to work with those partners — though he (jokingly) guessed that Dropbox won’t be among them for much longer.

During the keynote, Box also announced support for document metadata and a new editing tool called Box Notes.