Using Linked or Shared Files with Box

Since Box is a cloud-base service, people often ask whether or not they can work with linked (or shared) files in Box.

What is File Linking?

Linked files are files that rely on data in other files. For example, you might have an Excel spreadsheet that uses numbers stored in separate Excel file.

Linking in Excel

Common examples of linked files include:

  • Excel files linking to values in another Excel file
  • InDesign (or other desktop publishing software) linking to images and external text files
  • CAD  files linking to external library or image files

When files are stored on a local drive or mapped network drive, they have a physical document path that your files can follow to find files. For example:

  • \\server-name\Departments\Information Technology\INF Admin\Outages -R 092016.xlsx
  • Y:\INF Admin\Outages -R 092016.xlsx

That path is stored in the file so that the linked data can be located and used in the linking document.

How is Box Different?

Files stored in Box do not have the same sort of "physical path name" that locally stored files (or mapped network drives) do. The "path" for a Box file might be something like: This cannot be used as a file linking reference because it is merely a web URL.

How Can I Use Linked or Shared Files with Box?

The solution to using linked or shared files with Box is to use Box Drive to stream the files locally on your computer as well as in the cloud. Info on installing Box Drive can be found here.

When you sync files in Box to your local computer, those files get a physical path name on your local computer, e.g., C:\Users\user1\Outages -R 092016.xlsx

 Links to other synced files will work because there is now a definable path to follow to find the linked file.


There are some important caveats that you should be aware of when using linked files with Box.

  1. The main caveat is that your files will store that physical path and MUST be able to find that path in order to work. That means that if you sync the file on two different computers, or you collaborate with other users with the linked files, the Box Drive path must be the same on all computers using the linked files.
  2. You have to access the files via your Box Drive folder. Opening the linked files in Box via a browser won't work because the web can't understand the physical path name.
  3. You can't use Box Drive for files containing level 1 data, so file linking with level 1 data will not work in Box.

How do I Fix Broken Links When Files are Moved to Box

When your files are moved from Bay to Box, all of your file links will break. Unfortunately, there is no way around this, since the links all point to Bay (\\Bay\Departments\...). You will have to update the location of the linked files. Fortunately, some programs are "smart" enough to know that once you update one location, all others in the same location should be updated as well. Not all programs are that smart, however.

To fix broken links:

  1. Make sure that Box Drive is installed
  2. Sync the folder(s) containing all the affected files
  3. Open the local version of the file in the Box folder
  4. Find the broken links and edit them to point to the linked files in your Box folder
  5. Save the file.
  6. Repeat for all broken links
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Article ID: 23546
Tue 1/24/17 8:57 AM
Thu 6/8/23 10:16 AM