Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What is Dropbox? Does it really make file sharing easier?

Maryl stops downloading files and starts sharing them on the cloud

That’s not a picture of a moving box. I'm not relocating but I am packing up my photos, Word docs, spreadsheets, PDF’s, slides and videos and taking them on the road. That’s essentially what Dropbox does. It’s a free and simple service that saves all your larger, more conventional files on the cloud. And it saves you time in two important ways: 1) you don’t have to email attachments to anyone, including yourself, ever again and 2) you can work from any location, computer, tablet or smart phone. I can get you up and running in two easy steps! 

My daughter, the photographer, turned me onto Dropbox. She’s always sending me her photos and she got tired of waiting out the downloading time via email. I use Google Docs but don't feel it's that simple and agile. So to get started, here’s all I had to do: 

Note:  I'll assume you can register for, download, install and open Dropbox (Figure 1)on your computers and phones on your own. (If not here’s a quick how-to. Don’t follow the rest of the tutorial as it hasn’t been fully updated.) I’ll pick it up from there. 
Figure 1
Once the program is downloaded you will see the Dropbox icon on your desktop (upper right hand corner on a Mac). You click on it and select “Open Dropbox Folder” (Figure 2). You, of course, don’t have any folders yet so…. 

Figure 2
STEP 1: Click on the gear icon and then “New Folder” (Figure 3)When the new folder appears, give it a title and you are ready for step 2. 

Figure 3
STEP 2: Drag any one of your current folders on your computer into your new Dropbox folders. Repeats steps 1 and 2 until you have all the files you want to share and have access to anytime, anywhere moved to Dropbox (Figure 4)

Figure 4
Your Dropbox folders will automatically be saved to your tablet and smart phone after downloading the program onto these devices as well. In addition the same folders will appear on the Dropbox website after logging in, which makes it easy for you to use any computer that has access to the internet. 

When you want to share a folder with someone or a group, there are three slightly different ways to go about it with a similar outcome. Click the Dropbox icon in the toolbar and you get a choice to either 1) Share a link or 2) Share this folder (Figure 5).
Figure 5
Both require you to input your invitees’ email addresses. (Dropbox site). With “Share a link” (Figure 6) the recipient receives a link to a web page with the folder’s files. 

Share a link, Figure 6
With “Share this folder” (Figure 7), the recipient receives a link right to your Dropbox page BUT she must download the Dropbox program in order to see the files if she hasn’t already done so. This alternative also allows for group collaboration when you upgrade to a Dropbox business account. 

Share this folder, Figure 7

Every Dropbox account comes with a 3) Public Folder (Figure 4) in the list of folders that you drag individual files to. Highlight the Public folder, click on the Dropbox icon and then "Share link”. A browser window will open; click "Get link" and you will get a message that the "Link copied to Clipboard" (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Simply paste the URL address into a recipient’s email. 

You get up to 2 GB of storage free with Dropbox. You can earn more space by referring friends or you can upgrade to Pro or Business accounts for a fee.

Dropbox versus Evernote

Dropbox has been thought to duplicate what Evernote does probably because both are cloud based and cross-platform applications but that’s where their similarities end. Evernote stores different files types including hand-written and typed notes together in topical notebooks. It lets me combine all the elements of a single project together in one place.  Dropbox, on the other hand, stores single file types together by topic as folders.  It lets me share large documents, photos, etc. and work from any location without any downloading or uploading of files.  As one tech blogger explains it “Evernote is the stack of Post-It notes on my desk, while Dropbox is my Volkswagon-sized filing cabinet”. 

Forget the paper clips, file folders and staplers.  With Dropbox and Evernote, my virtual office is complete!  

Test my Public link to find another great app that will save you even more time:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/97381488/Mailbox.docx


  1. Nicely done. Btw, Binfer is a great tool for sending entire albums to someone. http://www.binfer.com

    1. Thanks Shelly, I'll check that out next. Do you have a recommendation for editing your photos?

  2. Awesome post..
    Dropbox provides you free and simple service that saves all your larger, more conventional files on the cloud. And it saves your time and easily to share file collaboration any photos.

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