Dropbox is a service that allows you to synchronize folders and files between two or more computers. Dropbox also store a copy of the folders and files in the cloud on their servers so you can access them from a friends computer that doesn’t have the service installed. They offer a free account with a 2gb size limit and paid accounts if you need more storage.
On the surface, this sounds like a simple, straightforward service, and it is. Dropbox is very easy to set up and use and can quickly make itself an indispensable part of your every day computing. But, once you’re able to automatically sync files between your computers, this opens up many possibilities you may never have thought of.
Here are some of the things that I’ve found very useful about Dropbox.
Moving files from one computer to another. This is one of the obvious uses, but it’s very nice to not need to worry about burning CDs or copying files to a thumb drive just to get a file from one computer to another. You also don’t have to mess with things like network file sharing and firewall settings.
A subset of the previous example is that it’s easy to move files from a PC to a Mac or to a Linux computer without worrying about things like drive format or file systems since Dropbox works on all three platforms.
Keeping a working copies synced up. You can save a document you’re working on in a dropbox folder and be able to work on it from any computer and always know you’re working on the current version. Dropbox will also keep previous versions of documents so you can go back in time if needed.
Automatically starting a torrent download. This is handy for any kind of program that can watch a folder for new files then perform some action on them.
Portable apps. Keep your portable apps stored in your Dropbox instead of a thumb drive. This will also keep the settings synced between computers.
Making large files available to others. When you need to send someone a file that’s too big for email, Dropbox has a feature that lets you share a file or folder with a friend just by sending them a special link. They only get access to the files you specify and not everything in your dropbox.
Online storage as a backup for when you’re at another computer. As stated in the introduction, your files are not only synced between your computers, but an extra copy is stored on their servers in the cloud. This is handy as a backup, or just when you need to access your files from a friend’s computer.
Getting files onto your phone and portable devices. Dropbox apps are available for smartphones like the iPhone and Android phones and portable devices like the iPad. You can also get documents , PDFs and ebooks onto your iPad using an app like Goodreader.
Store Passwords. You can store your passwords in a program like KeePass to always have your passwords available. KeePass keeps your passwords stored in an encrypted file so there is no worry about anyone getting access to them. You just need to remember one master password and it keeps track of the rest. I used this method for a long time, but have since moved to LastPass which stores passwords in the cloud and integrates with your browser.
Keep your to-do list synced with outlining applications like Noteliner.
There are a lot more uses for Dropbox that I haven’t mentioned here. You can search online and fine several, but I suggest you just start using it and see how it fits in with the way you use your computer.
You can sign up for a free 2gb account to get you started. If you use this link, it will help us both by giving each of us an extra 250mb of space. If you refer your friends and family, you can an extra 250mb for each of them.
Lately I have started using Windows Live Sync (now called Windows Live Mesh) for the same purposes listed above. The difference was that Windows live sync allows you to synchronize an unlimited amount of files and didn’t have the size limit of Dropbox. The downside is that Windows live sync didn’t offer any online storage but I didn’t really need it for what I use. Since the recent changeover to Windows live mesh they offer 5gb of online storage and a few other features like remote desktop. I admit that I like Dropbox better since it seems to work better and is a little more user friendly, but you should check out live mesh too.