Box Notes revamped, introduced as standalone desktop app

The real-time collaboration tool gets a makeover for faster access to notes, either from the web or your desktop.

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Box Notes is now available as a desktop application.

Box on Tuesday is rolling out a set of updates to Box Notes, its real-time collaboration and note-taking tool, aimed at giving users faster access to their documents.

The updates are two-pronged: Box has redesigned the web app, and it is introducing a standalone desktop application for both Macs and PCs. Both are now available to customers for no additional fee.

The updated web version of Box Notes includes a left-hand sidebar that allows a user to create new notes and see any notes recently edited or marked as favorites. This gives users quick access to notes without having to search folders in Box. The update also includes a simplified layout and navigation tools, including 19 keyboard shortcuts.

The desktop application, meanwhile, provides the same features of the Box Notes web application without having to rely on a browser. An offline experience will be available later in the year.

"The feedback we heard from the first version [of Box Notes] was that it was great for working with other people but that using it as a personal note-taking app -- for things like tracking my to-do list -- wasn't as convenient becaue it wasn't quick to get to," Box product manager Jonathan Berger explained to ZDNet. "That feedback drove the development of the desktop app... so it's open and accessible, and good not just for collaborative work but also for individual use cases."

In an increasingly competitive market of collaboration products, Box has distinguished its own note-taking tool in a couple different ways. Compared to apps like Evernote and OneNote, Box argues Box Notes is more collaborative. More critically, noted Box's VP of product Rand Wacker, "You'll find nothing that matches the security and enterprise readiness that Box has."

Building security and compliance features into the desktop application was a challenge, Berger said. It requires, for instance, being able to keep track of who has access to a document and keeping logs of who's editing documents.

"A lot of the expertise that Box has built up over the years made it easier for us to put those features into a desktop application," he said.

Already, nearly 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Box Notes, in large part because of those features. GE, one of Box's largest customers, is also one of the largest users of Box Notes, using it as a collaborative tool for teams around the world.

"The success we've had with teams has been great," Wacker said. "Now people are asking for a more of a note-centric experience."

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