For those of you who haven’t experienced the massive convenience and joy that is cloud computing, brace yourselves. What you read in this post may change your life. For those of you new to cloud computing, don’t worry if this sounds confusing at all. It’s very simple to implement and you’ve probably already been doing it to a certain extent.
Before applications like Dropbox, most people still did some method of cloud computing, most likely in the form of emailing themselves important documents that they would need to use on another computer. Dropbox works on this concept, adding an extreme ease of use as well as nifty additional features and creative uses.
What Is Dropbox?
Dropbox is a file hosting service that enables users to store and share files and folders over the internet with any other computer. Once account can sync with an unlimited amount of computers. The only limitation is that you can only sync one Dropbox account to your computer at a time (although there are definitely workarounds which I’ll get to soon).
Every Dropbox account starts with two free gigabytes of space. You can pay an annual fee to get more space. Dropbox also gives you ways to get more space for free, like referring new users (250 MB added for each referral) or writing a testimonial for Dropbox on your social media sites.
The Omni-Flah Drive
The most common use for Dropbox is to treat it as a type of flash drive or small external hard drive that you don’t have to carry with you. For any designer that works at an office and at home, this is extremely convenient. No longer will you have to scramble around in the morning looking for the tiny flash drive that has the extremely important project you have due for work today!
There’s something extremely revolutionary and comforting about being able to save your most important files and projects in a place where any other computer with the internet can access them. As long as Dropbox does not go down, you are golden. And even if it does go down for a few hours, automatic syncing means that you have offline copies of your Dropbox files at every computer that has your Dropbox installed.
The Public File Sharer
If you save any file in your public folder on Dropbox, you can copy the URL to your clipboard and paste the URL to anyone who needs the file (through email or instant messaging, etc.). People don’t need to have Dropbox installed to get the public file; they only need the link.
This type of sharing is similar to Mediafire, Rapidshare, or attachments in emails, but it’s nice to have it built in to your own omni-present flash drive. While the public file I uploaded is more for entertainment value , this feature has plenty of purpose for designers.
For designers, this is a great way to send clients a link of your latest prototype or mock-up design, and it is incredibly easy. Simply move any file you have in Dropbox to the “public” folder, and then just right click the file (in the Dropbox interface or in your Windows Explorer) and Dropbox will give you the option to “Copy public link.”
Ease of Use
The absolute greatest aspect of Dropbox in my opinion is its smooth and easy functionality. Not only can you add and organize files through the Dropbox interface in your browser, Dropbox works through your operating system to automatically sync up files in folders of your specification.
For example, say I have all the files I need for a design project on my desktop. To get them onto Dropbox, all I have to do is drag them and drop them into the specified Dropbox folder, and Dropbox will do all the syncing for me.
Pictured below is the product of me dropping an image into a Dropbox folder, and Dropbox syncing it. All the images with checks in the bottom left are already synced. The image with the circular arrows (that I circled in red) was syncing when I took the screenshot. The sync took about three seconds.
If any of this seems at all confusing, Dropbox explains it incredibly well when you install it on your computer. Most people don’t need any guide to Dropbox because it’s incredibly intuitive.
There are a number of directions to take when it comes to Dropbox and group projects. For small projects, you can simply create a “shared” folder in your Dropbox. With shared folders, you invite other Dropbox users to have access to that folder. They can then put that shared folder into their own Dropbox account. Thus, any changes anyone makes to the folder will be applied to all.
Create a New Dropbox Account
The problem with shared folders are that they take away space from everyone’s Dropbox involved. Another common way people implement projects through Dropbox is to create an original account for the project. I know what you’re thinking: “But you said that you could only sync one Dropbox account to my computer at a time! Do I have to link and unlink to my computer every time I want to get to my own Dropbox?!?”
Dropboxen is a Dropbox addon that you can use to work around the one-account-per-computer limitation. It’s not completely stable and currently doesn’t work for Windows 7 (you’ll have to use another workaround), but it’s a convenient way to manage multiple Dropbox accounts.