Dropbox

In this post, I’d like to talk about different programs and applications that I use in the computer daily. I think these programs are the essentials when it comes to working online.

This will be a series of posts. In each article, I’ll talk about one tool. There are about 20 tools that I will cover. These tools are for personal use, but also very specific for business use. I’ll tell you some scenarios in which I use the tools, what I think how you should use them and for what purpose, and when not to use the tools. It’s also very important to know the boundary conditions on tools and applications. If you’re using tools that you think are really important that I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment, because I know that I’m using a very specific set of tools. Obviously, you might have some great tools that you use, and if you share that with us, that would be great.

Most of the tools that I’ll talk about are for Mac and Windows computers. Some of the tools are just for Mac or just for Windows, and whenever that’s the case I’ll mention that and try to tell you about alternatives.

Computer Setup

Just some information on my setup, i have a home computer which is running Windows 7 Ultimate. It’s a two screen setup, core duo, just a normal pc. I’m not really a power user in the regard that I use a lot of resources. I just do normal stuff with it like surfing the web, doing video editing from time to time but nothing very fancy. For my mobile work, I have a Macbook Air 13 inch. Obviously that is running OSX. I also have a netbook, which is running Linux. It’s running Ubuntu 10.1 and that’s also great. I have some experience on all different main operating systems. But here I’ll specifically cover Windows and Mac.

There are few tools that I think should be in the operating system, but they are not and so that is why I need to install something like it in order to have a fully operational system. It’s funny, it’s called operation system, but often to me its not acting like one. More often than not, I think, the operation system should have functions that it doesn’t have. Obviously, it’s fine to have a very slim, light system; OSX does that really well, and Windows 7 is definitely a step in the right direction. However, you’ll discover what I mean.

Dropbox

First thing I install on every new computer is Dropbox. Dropbox is a great tool which gives you a Internet-based hard disk. You get some space; in the free version you get 2 GB of space, but you can round that up to I think about 8 GB when you recommend the program to other users, which you should do because it’s really a great product. It integrates really nicely into your operating system, whether you’re on OSX, on Windows or on Linux. The Dropbox is basically a specific folder within your operating system. In Windows that might be on the C:Dropbox, while in OSX that is in your user directory, and the same goes for Linux. You can install it anywhere you want to.

Whenever you put a file in there, it uploads that file to a web server. Now when I say, web server, I don’t really mean a physical web server, because Dropbox is a very good example of a cloud service, which means that your data is not necessarily saved in one location, but it’s rather saved in a real big network of different servers. When you upload your file, it gets synced to the server, and just for the sake of imagining it, being a computer somewhere on the Internet where your file is actually stored. This gives you the chance of syncing that file not just to your home computer but also to your laptop or to your computer at work, for example. What’s great about this is that if I’m working on my laptop and I save a file in Dropbox, I come home, and the file is already there. I don’t have to email it to myself, I don’t have to use a USB stick.

Online Backup System

Even better, with most of my programs, I have now changed the location where they save the files, so they save them directly into dropbox. Basically, if I write a document in word, now it automatically gets saved to the dropbox. This even spares me the hassle of moving the file to the dropbox folder. What that does for me is, I can just use the same files no matter on what computer I am, and it’s such a great relief, not because I don’t have to email files to myself, or because they are already there. Saving time is just a side effect, but the great thing about this is you only have one version of the file. How often have you had the problem that you have multiple versions of the same file and you just don’t know which is the actual file that you’re working on? Of course sometimes its very handy to have more than one version, when something goes wrong, for example, or you find that you’ve deleted an important portion of the file and then worked on it. In Dropbox, you can also see recent versions of the file and compare it and restore other versions than the one you are working on right now. Dropbox is not just a hard drive, but it’s also a backup system.

Using Dropbox With Multiple People

This also works very well when you have the file opened on different computers. It has a good system of detecting that two people are working on the same file currently, and then it doesn’t over write the file, but it saves a conflicting copy. It’s not as good as working together in like google docs , for example, or in applications that are really designed to have multiple users working them at one point, but it’s quite alright; it definitely doesn’t over write anything. If two people are working on the same file, it just saves two copies of that file.

The really beautiful thing about Dropbox is that you can easily share folders with other people. They just need to have a Dropbox account, or if they don’t you just click on share that folder and enter their email address, and they get asked to sign up automatically. Instead of emailing them huge files, you have a shared folder basically, and you can just put the files you want them to have in there and they can put the file that you need in there for a really easy sharing experience. You get a notification if there is a new file for you which pops up. The only hassle can be sometimes that if people put really huge files in a shared dropbox, then if you go online, for example, on your laptop, and you’re on a 3G connection on a mobile internet connection, then it can take a very long time to download the files. You can definitely discuss having a maximum file size limit to put in the drop box. But if you’re in a fast Internet connection, then it doesn’t really matter.

Special Dropbox Folders

There are also some special folders in the dropbox. One is called the public folder, and one is called the picture folder, or photos. When you put stuff into photos, it automatically generates a web gallery. Using this, you can make photos on your iPhone, save them in the dropbox folder for let’s say, a specific dropbox folder for a convention, you share the link, and then whenever you make new photos they automatically get added to the web gallery. You also have the public folder. Everything in the public folder is public, and you can create a link to files in the public folder and you can send that link to people. This solves a huge problem, because it used to be very difficult to send huge files via email. People send a dvd, or people upload them to something like rapidshare. I never really like those one click file hosters, because I’m not sure what’s actually happening to my file and if that’s safe there, but I do trust in Dropbox. They have a sound business model, and the security precautions are very good, so I’ll trust them with my files.

I don’t have to log in; it’s just a folder in my computer that i can drag and drop stuff onto and I just send a link with instant chat messages or an email. That works really, really well. I wouldn’t use that to put files that you want to have online for a longer period of time. Because sometimes people link to those files then from a website and if you take the files out of your public folder the link will break. Just use that more for kind of a sending files style. I also really like to record videos on the iPhone and save them in the public folder, and then directly from my iPhone, use a multiple video upload platform like Hastebrat, and upload the videos to multiple video portals. This is a great way to have coverage of events as they are happening and generate the buzz and traffic from it.

Accessing Your Files in Dropbox

Another great thing about dropbox is the user interface. Dropbox just works. They have put a tremendous amount of work for this really complicated piece of technology, but the user friendliness of it is really good as well. It’s a complex program but it’s easy to use. I already told you that you can use Dropbox from your computer. It integrates into your file system as just another folder. But you can also use dropbox from a web interface. You get complete access to all the files online. So wherever you are, you only need an internet connection to get through your files, or to send them via email.

I also use the Dropbox app for iPhone and for iPad, and there’s also a Dropbox app for Android based phones. On the iPhone, the app is great if you have produced content, mostly meaning videos and photos. Because you don’t need to sync them back to your computer, but if you save them in Dropbox directly, they are just on your computer. You don’t need to worry about syncing your files. They are safe and you can directly use them next time you log in in your normal computer. But it’s also cool to have access to for example your pdf’s from the iPhone or the iPad. What I do a lot on the iPad is that i upload interesting pdf that I want to read to a specific folder in my dropbox, and then I sync those files for offline view on my iPad, and then when i’m sitting in the train, on the bus or somewhere, I can read those files. That’s a pretty great way, because it saves you the hassle from syncing your iPad with the computer as it’s all done automatically.

Similar Programs

There are couple of other programs that you can use that are pretty much the same with Dropbox. For example, box.net is probably the most famous one. I haven’t tried that out extensively. I think it’s also very good; it integrates with Linkedin for example, and it has a little bit more business-like kind of style. I’ll need to test that to have an opinion about that. But the fact is, I’m so happy with dropbox, I don’t think I will need to test box.net. It definitely has some nice aspects to it, but Ill stay with dropbox for now.

If you’re wondering how much it costs, well, the free account is free. It is really free. No ads, you don’t get spammed with premium offers, nothing. It’s just so cool. Even if you don’t invite anyone, you can go a long way with your 2 GB if you don’t start uploading huge files or videos. If you’re just using Dropbox for normal documents, then you can go for pretty much forever.

Go and install Dropbox. It’s a great program. Tell your friends about it. Try to use it on your mobile phone, and tell me what you think about it. Im really interested to hear about your experience with Dropbox, and how you use it. What you think is problematic when you failed to use Dropbox or when Dropbox failed you. Tell me about it. Thanks for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it.

Download Dropbox here: http://www.dropbox.com/

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