Manage & Share PDF files from Windows Phone 7

A fundamental difference between the Windows Phone 7 operating system and its older Windows Mobile operating system cousin is the way files are handled on devices. Windows Phone 7 does not expose its file system to the end user, so there isn't a way for you to browse, sort or manage all the files that are stored on the phone from a single application.  Instead each application plays within it's own "sandbox," which means each application operates, in many respects, as a stand alone entity within the windows phone operating system infrastructure.  The application controls how users interact with its files. It is left to the application developer to provide options to users for retrieving, backing up, renaming, and organizing files and to provide ways for users to share its files via text message or email.

The Adobe Reader software that Adobe developed for Windows Phone 7 is missing some important options. The application does not provide a way to share PDF files that are stored on the phone with anyone else, nor is there a way to copy or back up PDF files from the phone to the web or to a computer.

PDF files can be moved into the Adobe Reader sandbox easily enough (via email, downloaded from websites, etc), but the application is tasked with moving data from its own sandbox once the data is stored in it.  Since the Adobe Reader application does not provide a "Send To" or "Share" feature, there is no way to email or share documents that are stored in its "sandbox" with any other service or device, so once a PDF is stored on a windows phone, there's no way to move it off the phone (unless you delete the file) or share the file with other users.  Until Adobe updates the Adobe Reader application to address this deficiency, I'm using a workaround I formulated to get around this limitation.

How I manage & share PDF Files from my Windows Phone

I share PDF files from my Windows Phone by storing PDF files in the cloud where I can easily download files to my phone or share my files from the phone.  The advantages of storing your PDF files (and other files) in the cloud are:

  • The files are available to you from any connected computer
  • The files are available to be downloaded to a new phone or a recently reset phone
  • You can share your [PDF] files with anyone else by emailing a link to them
  • The cloud is device and OS neutral.  Storing your data in the cloud makes it very easy to transition from one device to another without being locked into a particular operating system.

Of course you need to take the usual precautions when storing data in the cloud (maintain a strong password that you change from time to time; don't store really sensitive data in the cloud like bank account information, etc.).

For this article I evaluated several different cloud based services (Box.net; SugarSync, SkyDrive; and Dropbox) and decided Dropbox was the best choice.

Store PDF files on Dropbox

  1. Set up a Dropbox account:  If you don't already have one, go sign up for one right now.  Once you sign up with Dropbox, you'll download a client to your computer.  Then you can set up a folder (and related subfolders) to store the data that you want to automatically sync to Dropbox.
  2. Move the PDF files to a folder within the My Dropbox folder on your computer.  The files will be synced to your online My Dropbox account.

Download PDF files to your phone

You can use your phones mobile browser or a third party Dropbox application to download files to your phone. 

  1. Use the phone's mobile browser:  Open up Internet Explorer on the phone and navigate to the mobile Dropbox website (https://www.dropbox.com/m/). Log into the Dropbox, then navigate to the file you want to open on the phone, tap the file. The file will open in Adobe Reader and will be automatically stored in Adobe Reader documents listing.
  2. Third Party App: There are several good Dropbox apps in the WP7 Marketplace that you could use to download Dropbox files to your phone. (I'm currently using BoxFiles for Dropbox).

Forward emailed PDF files to Dropbox

If you receive an email on the phone that includes an attached PDF file, you can open the file on your phone and save it to the phone, but if you think you'll ever want to send the PDF file to anyone else, you can use your unique Dropbox email address to upload the PDF file to your Dropbox account.

  1. Sign up with the "SendtoDropbox" service.  SendtoDropbox provides you with a unique email address to send documents to your Dropbox account (emailed files will be automatically uploaded and stored in an Attachments folder). sendtodropbox
  2. Create a new contact on your phone called Dropbox that includes your unique SendtoDropbox email address
  3. Forward any emails that include PDF file attachments to your "sendtodropbox" email address by opening the email, tapping the respond icon on the lower edge of the screen, tap forward, and enter your unique sendtodropbox email address in the To: field.  The files will be uploaded to the Attachments folder of your Dropbox account, which will be synced to your computer and where the files will be available when you want to share them with others.

Share PDF files from your phone

With all your PDF files stored in the cloud, it's pretty easy to share them with others.  I prefer to use BoxFiles for Dropbox to share files from my phone since the Dropbox mobile website is not fully functional on windows phone 7 (the share option doesn't display).  To share a file,

  • Open up the BoxFiles for Dropbox app and find the file you want to share (the icon to the right of the file distinguishes PDF files from folders and other types of files - see the third file in the screenshot to the left)
  • Tap the icon to the left of the file name, then tap "Email link" (see the fourth option in the screenshot to the right)

 BoxFiles1 BoxFiles2

As an aside, this method should work on any mobile device and is not limited to just windows phone 7 devices.  If you have a different device that runs a different mobile operating system, you'll use a different third party application to manage and share Dropbox files than the one I use, but I believe there are similar Dropbox applications in the iPhone and Android Marketplaces.

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Comments

  • October 16, 2011 Jonathan wrote:
    Dropbox is is ok solution and would be my preferred method if Skydrive wasn't totally integrated into WP7. Synchronise with Mesh and then everything is available in the Office hub.
    Reply to this
    1. October 16, 2011 ProfJulie wrote:
      Skydrive is great for syncing Office files, but since PDF files are not Office files you can't sync PDF files to Skydrive.  There's also no way to email documents to SkyDrive, so there's no way to move PDF files from a WP7 to SkyDrive, so SkyDrive is not a workaround for the inability to share or back up PDF files that are on a windows phone.

      Reply to this
  • September 24, 2012 LTPZ wrote:
    Thanks, this is sooo needed on the WP. It seems that Adobe just wrote their app just to get themselves onto the WP programs, but then forgot to finish what they started.
    I'm really disappointed with them.
    My mom always liked to say...Either sxxt or get off the pot...Adobe needs to finish their app or let someone else in who will actually give what us customers need!
    thanks again!
    Reply to this
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