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How to preview files in Dropbox

In Dropbox, you can preview your own files or files that were shared with you. With previews, you can view, comment on, and share files without downloading them to your computer. Anyone with access to a file can preview it on dropbox.com (as long as its file type is supported).

Sections in this article:

How to preview a file

To preview a file, click the name of a file on dropbox.com or in the Dropbox mobile apps.

On dropbox.com, you can click the checkbox next to a file, then click the eye icon that appears.

How to edit a file from a preview in Dropbox

On dropbox.com

You can’t edit a file from its preview on dropbox.com. Instead, you can sync your files through the Dropbox desktop app to quickly open files on your computer and edit them

You can edit Microsoft Office files using our Office Online integration or by copying a .docx file to Paper.

On the Dropbox mobile apps

To edit any of your Dropbox files, you can open the file in an app that supports editing that file type:

  1. Launch the Dropbox app.
  2. Navigate to the file you'd like to open.
  3. Tap the arrow icon.
  4. Tap Open With to see a list of available applications to open the file with. You can tap Always to set this as the default app to open files of this type. If you ever want to reset your default apps, you can in the Dropbox app settings.

Note: You can edit some text file types in the Dropbox app on iOS.

On the Dropbox desktop app

To edit any of your Dropbox files, you can open then in an app that supports editing that type of file.

  1. Open the Dropbox folder on your computer.
  2. Navigate to the file you'd like to open.
  3. Double click the file to open it. It will open in the default app for that type of file on your computer.

How to copy a .docx file to Dropbox Paper from a preview

When you preview a .docx file, you have the option to Copy to Paper at the top right of your preview. When you Copy to Paper, the contents of your .docx file are copied into a new Paper doc.

Changes made in the Paper doc don’t sync with the original .docx file. 

Note: Not all elements of .docx files are supported in Paper. Files over 10,000 words won't successfully copy to Paper.

How to export a file to another app on your phone or tablet

To export a file from the Dropbox mobile app:

  1. Launch the Dropbox app.
  2. Select the file you'd like to export to another app.
  3. Tap the sharing icon that shows an upward arrow coming out of a box.
  4. Tap the Open In... icon from the pop-up menu. A list of apps that can open the file will appear. Select the app you'd like to open the file.

Note: Once you export the file to another app, any changes to the file may not be saved back to your Dropbox unless the app specifically integrates with Dropbox. Refer to the app's docs or support to find out for sure.

How to stream video files on your phone or tablet

To stream a video on your Android device:

The Dropbox Android app uses the native Android operating system video player. Many of the videos in your Dropbox may already be supported, depending on your device and version of the Android operating system.

To stream a video on your iOS device:

When connected to the internet, the Dropbox iOS app will play just about any type of video file you throw at it. We use Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol, which has been specially designed to stream files to your iPhone or iPad. The quality of the stream will depend on the speed of your wireless connection.

Notes:

  • DRM-protected video files cannot be previewed.
  • Video codec created via GoToMeeting can be previewed.
  • If a video is not supported natively, there are many applications available designed to encode them to play properly. We recommend the free Handbrake desktop application (for Windows, Mac, and Linux). Read Handbrake's online documentation for detailed information about how to convert for your mobile device.

How to stream audio files on your phone or tablet

When you play an audio file in the Dropbox app, you can listen to supported audio types. You should be able to minimize the app and still hear playback. However, a couple of notes on usability:

  • The Dropbox app is not designed to be a fully-featured media player, so if you're playing items from a folder of audio files, it will not progress automatically to the next file.
  • Playback will also stop if the app is open and you load a different file or exit from the playback screen.

How to play Dropbox media files when you're offline

The media player in the Dropbox application uses the Dropbox servers to stream and transcode media. If you're offline, Dropbox will default to your device’s media player. This means that non-native files (those not filmed or recorded on your device) may not play in our application when you're offline.

Learn more about making files available offline on a phone or tablet.

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