Dropbox is an online, “cloud-based” file storage, sharing, backup and synchronization service that works with Macs, PCs, the iPhone and even Linux. Online storage options like Dropbox aren’t new and there are plenty of them out there. But since I’ve started finally using it (it’s been around since 2008), I really love it.
I had ignored Dropbox in the past since I have a subscription to Mobile Me and I’ve been a .mac user for years. Much of the functionality is the same. I ended up using Dropbox recently when a client sent me a link for file transfers and was very impressed with the speed of the service. It was working much faster than Apple’s iDisk. That’s been one of the big problems with .mac/Mobile Me for years, the service can be painfully slow. If you are a current Mobile Me customer, imagine the iDisk functionality in a faster yet easy to use package and you’ve got a good idea of part of what Dropbox can do.
If you check out the Dropbox features page you can see the full range of the service. File syncing, file sharing, online backup (including an undo history), web access and security are features that are expected in any cloud service today. There’s also an iPhone app that works very much like the iDisk iPhone app and even allows you to store files locally on the phone.
The Dropbox web interface
While Dropbox is web-based and has a very usable web interface a large part of Dropbox’s power comes when you download and install the Dropbox application on your desktop machine. On a Mac you’ll then find a new Dropbox folder in your Home directory (unless you specifiy to install it elsewhere) and a little Dropbox icon in your menu bar. You can move, copy and save any files to the Dropbox folder and it will automatically sync with the service online. You can created folders within the Dropbox folder and basically treat it like any other directory. Syncing happens automatically and syncing status is indicated by little badges on the file icons and the animation of the Dropbox icon in the menu bar. It’s very easy to use.
There’s a Public folder as well that acts very much like an iDisk public folder, only faster in my experience. Once you have placed a file in your Public folder you can share the file via an email-able link. You can also share entire folders with other people. There won’t be the built-in iDisk functionality that the Mac OS supports but anyone can setup a free Dropbox account and work with a shared folder.
That’s another nice thing about Dropbox, it’s free for 2 gigs of space with up to 100 gigs available if you want to pay $20 per month. $50 gigs is available for $10 a month. Compared to Mobile Me where you get 20 gigs if iDisk storage for $100 per year then that’s a pretty good deal. Until Apple makes Mobile Me a faster service with more features then something like Dropboxight might be a better alternative for many users, especially if you don’t need the find my iPhone service. There’s quite a few articles out on the web about how to replace Mobile Me with services like Dropbox. Here’s one good one.
One specific thing I’ve been doing with Dropbox is using it as a quick and easy way to send screener to clients so they can view QuickTimes of rough cuts. I wrote up a little how to for this task over at the Editblog. It’s very easy to do.
If you haven’t ever tried Dropbox then I hope this little endorsement might push you to give it a try. I’m getting nothing from Dropbox for this post, I just like to point out a useful service for editors when I see one!
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