Five Ways to Use Dropbox


Dropbox Screen Shot

Here's an example of what my DropBox window looks like in my browser .

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.

About Kim Mann

Kim Mann is the editor and a writer for the Academic Technology Blog. She earned her BA in English from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and her MA in American Studies from William & Mary in 2009, and her PhD in American Studies at the College in 2014. Her research is on technology, the interface, and the body in mid-twentieth century science fiction.


  1. Linda Quigley says:


    What about security? How secure is Dropbox in keeping your documents private and safe?


    • Hi Linda, that’s a great question! You can check out Dropbox’s comments on their security here, but basically what they say is that they use the same kind of security that banks use. When you use it, you have to use a password to log in, and no one can see any of your files except for you, unless you put things in your “public” folder or invite people to share a “private” folder with you, in which case only those you’ve invited can access that folder (they need to have Dropbox accounts to do so).

      I should also mention that I personally have been quite satisfied with Dropbox and their security policy. But I can’t speak to the College’s policy on the legal issues of using Dropbox for storing things like student grade information, etc.

      I hope this answers your question! -Kim

    • Pete Kellogg says:

      The College’s Standard for Securing Sensitive Data (
      stipulates that any files containing sensitive data (as defined in the standard) must be encrypted if it is stored on any server not managed by Central IT. This means you should not be storing files with sensitive data in Dropbox. If you have question about how to securely share or store files that are not managed by Central IT please contact me directly at

    • Hi Pete, thanks for weighing in on this — the link to the definition of sensitive data is especially useful. Could you provide any more information about what type of encryption is needed? I looked at the data encryption guidelines and it looks like Dropbox does meet those standards of encryption (SSL and AES-256). Thanks again!