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Dropbox updates document preview so that you can do more than just preview

Nicole Lee, @nicole

If you accessed a document today on, you might notice that it looks a little different -- the preview screen real estate is a little larger, the design is a little cleaner and oh wait, is that a new toolbar? That's because the cloud storage company has just decided to change up document previews on the web in order to add a bit more functionality than just, well, preview. It's all part of an effort by Dropbox to make sure documents stored on its service look and feel the same across devices and platforms, regardless of what browser, software or computer you have.

The first thing you'll see is that, yes, there's a lot more screen devoted to the document itself. But the primary change here is really the addition of a toolbar that adapts to the type of document that you're viewing. So if you're looking at a PDF, you'll see zoom controls, while a Powerpoint presentation would have side-by-side flipping instead. And when you're no longer hovering over the document, the toolbar disappears so it doesn't clutter up your screen. The key here, says product manager Henrik Berggren, is to make it so you don't have to download the file to really dive deep into the document at hand. This is especially important if the computer you're on doesn't happen to have the compatible software.

It seems like a pretty small change to the UI, but there are some pretty compelling use cases for the new document preview. For example, say you're at a meeting but you have to use someone else's computer to show the presentation. Not a problem, because you can just go to your Dropbox account, access the file on the web and go into full screen presentation mode right within the browser.

Another new feature that Dropbox is rolling out is the ability to review documents and add comments on the side. Businesses have already had this for a few weeks, but the company is bringing this ability to consumers as well. Now, Dropbox still isn't allowing full-on editing of the documents on the web, but pair these new features to its compatibility with Office, and you've got a potential gamechanger for lots of everyday folks who rely on Dropbox for sharing documents.

"Hundreds of millions of people use to preview spreadsheets and documents," says Berggren. "We want to make sure they work everywhere. We want it to have magical powers."

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