Create Office documents with Box to share and collaborate on phones

Create documents you can share with others and collborate

Android phone with Box app on the screen

How do you create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents? With Microsoft Office apps on OneDrive? Here’s how to create Office documents on a phone with Box using the 10 GB of free storage.

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The most obvious place to create Office documents is with Microsoft Office apps on OneDrive of course, but it is not the only option and there are others that are worth considering. Here I look at an alternative that many large businesses use, but rarely gets a mention elsewhere.

When it comes to online storage, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox immediately spring to mind, but Box does not get as much publicity. The company focuses on secure online storage for businesses and enterprise, but actually anyone can use it and free accounts with 10 GB of online storage space are available for personal use.

If you are looking for an alternative to Microsoft OneDrive, but still want to create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, Box could be the answer.

Box can be accessed in several ways, such as with a web browser at the website (www.box.com), using an app on a computer, and an app on an iPhone or Android phone. It is on every device you use.

There are many ways to use Box and here I use the Android phone app to create a Word document and share it securely with another person using an iPhone so both of us can collaborate on it.

Box and Microsoft Office

To edit or create Office documents with Box, you first need to install the app from the Google Play Store or the iPhone App Store. The app is free and you can either create a free account in the app or use a web browser at the website. Go to the Pricing page and select the Individual Plans to sign up for free. Pro, Business and Enterprise paid plans are available, but you don’t need them to follow this guide.

Get the Microsoft Office app from the app store for your phone. Ignore the old Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps, the new Microsoft Office app has everything in one place.

Use the Box and Office apps a couple of times at least. Quit the apps and dismiss them from the app switcher. This is so they can register their services and you will see a message on the screen in Box like “We noticed you have Microsoft Office, do you want to use it to create documents?” Or words to that effect.

1 Add a new item

Create a document in the Box app on a phone

The menus are slightly different on Android and iOS, but similar enough that you can follow this on either. The screenshots are from the Android app. Tap the plus button at the bottom and then tap New document to create a document in your Box online storage.

2 Create an Office document

Create a Microsoft Office document in the Box app on a phone

The menu that appears if you have the Microsoft Office app installed on the phone enables you to select from Word, PowerPoint, Excel or plain text. Tap Word Document to continue.

3 Name the Office document

Name a new document in the Box app on a phone

The file to be created is a .docx file and you just have to enter a filename for it and press CREATE.

4 View Box documents

View a document in the Box app on a phone

If you had tapped an existing document in the Box app, a preview would appear here. However, we created a new file that contains nothing and so nothing is displayed. Tap the pencil icon at the top to edit the file.

5 Use Word on your phone

Using Microsoft Word on a phone

A new blank document appears in Word and it is no different to using Word in the Microsoft Office app. This guide is not about Word, so swiftly moving on, create your document.

Microsoft Word app on a phone

It is automatically saved, so tap the phone’s back button and then press the tick icon to finish with Word.

6 Preview Word documents on Box

Preview a document in the Box app on a phone

You return to Box and the document preview screen, the same screen you get when you tap a file in Box. At the top is a toolbar:

  • Back arrow: Return to the Box home screen
  • Cross: Close this toolbar and open the Search toolbar
  • Flag icon: It’s not a flag, it is a comment that has been added to this document
  • Box with arrow: Open this document in Microsoft Office
  • Grid of dots: Switch to page thumbnails view
  • Magnifying glass: Search. Seems identical to tapping the cross

7 Your new Office document

Box app home screen on a phone

The Office file just created appears in the files and folders on the All Files tab. That’s it if you just want to create a document, but there is more and it can be shared with other people. Press the three dots at the right of a file to open a menu.

8 Share a document on Box

File actions in the Box app on a phone

The three dots menu to the right of a file shows a menu with Share and this is used to either let someone else view the file or to invite collaborators, such as work colleagues to contribute to it or edit it. Press Share.

9 Add collaborators to work on documents

Share a file in the Box app on a phone

At the top, under collaborators, tap where it says Type a name or email address. Enter a name if they are in your Contacts app or type an email address if they are not.

This is specifically to add another Box user like a work colleague or customer and it is not to get a public link. Below is Enable link and this creates a shareable link. It is not needed for collaborators.

10 Invite others to edit documents

Add collaborators and set permissions in the Box app on a phone

The person is added as a collaborator, more can be added, and is assigned an Editor role. Tap Editor if you want to downgrade them to Viewer, which only allows them to view the document and not change it.

Tap the arrow icon to send the invitation to the collaborator(s).

11 Check Box notifications

This collaborator has an iPhone, so iPhone screenshots from now on!

Notification in the Box app on a phone

Collaborators get an email, but they can also see invitations in the Box app. Tap the Inbox icon at the bottom of the screen and then select the Notifications tab at the top. Here is the document that has been shared with you.

12 View files in Box

Shared files in the Box app on a phone

Select the Browse icon at the bottom of the screen and All Files or Recents tab at the top. The file appears in the collaborator’s Box file and folder listing. Tap the file to open it.

13 Open the shared document

Open in Microsoft Word in the Box app on a phone

Tap the Office document to go to the preview page and then tap the iOS share/actions button at the bottom of the screen to open it. On the iPhone, this menu appears.

You would think that tapping Open in Microsoft Office would open the document, but it does not on my iPhone. Maybe it’s a bug. Instead, press Open in… Swipe right over the row of icons and press More. Select Microsoft Office from the list of apps and the shared document appears in Word, where it can be edited.

Summing up

Creating Office documents on an Android phone for sharing or collaborating is straightforward using the Box and Microsoft Office apps. There is no need for OneDrive if you really don’t want it.

Box and Office apps are better integrated on Android and the iPhone wasn’t quite as smooth. In fact, I can’t see an option to create Microsoft Office files on the iPhone. It will edit Office files that you or a collaborator adds to your Box storage, but it cannot create one. Maybe a future app update will add this feature.

If you wanted to create a document on Box on the iPhone, you would have to create it in the Microsoft Office app, then use the iOS Files app to copy it from OneDrive to Box. Files can access both OneDrive and Box online storage if the apps are installed.

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