Dropbox is a file-hosting service that allows you to have private, password-protected storage space in the “cloud” on Dropbox’s servers. You can start out with 2 GB for free, or get a paid plan that gives you up to 500 GB of space. It’s also very easy to set up — probably one of the easiest that I’ve come across of different applications and services. Here are five quick ways that Dropbox can come in handy:
- File-sharing for writing groups — Dropbox makes it easy to share the same set of files with several people, without the hassle of email. If you have a writing group, for example, you can easily share original documents, marked-up ones, and reader comments.
- Collaborative writing — you can keep documents in a shared Dropbox folder that all the members of that folder can edit. If you use MS Word with track changes turned on for a particular document you can also have a record of other people’s revisions, without the hassle of several versions of the same document.
- Use it like a thumb drive — use it to avoid emailing documents to yourself. You can use Dropbox like a thumb drive, and keep files in your Dropbox server where you can access them from any computer with an internet connection.
- Sharing large documents — Gmail has a maximum file size of 25 MB, and other email providers have different file size limits, so I like to use Dropbox for files larger than around 2 MB, to prevent jamming up someone’s inbox. Audio and video files, which tend to be quite large, can easily be shared with others via Dropbox.
- Keep a backup — I keep a folder of all of my most important dissertation documents in a folder on my computer’s hard drive that automatically syncs with Dropbox. This means that any time I edit one of those documents on my computer, that document syncs with the document on the Dropbox folder. That way if anything should happen to my computer, I can still get to those documents through Dropbox.
These are just a few things that Dropbox could do for you and help streamline storage and file-sharing. For further reading, here are a few Profhacker posts about how one might use Dropbox: a post about syncing applications, one about backing up documents with Dropbox, and one about using Dropbox instead of emailing documents to yourself.