Share files easily with Dropbox


Share files easily with Dropbox
Mac Tip #375, 11 March 2009

The problem: files on your computer are needed elsewhere.

The solution: Dropbox — drag, drop, available.

I’ll email you the file, you edit it and send it back, then I’ll send you the final version.

Share photos with Dropbox.

Share photos with Dropbox.

I imagine you’ve participated in this kind of email ping pong before now. I certainly have! It’s fraught with forgotten attachments, keeping track of versions, and emails lost to spam filters.

There’s an easier and more efficient way to share files, and it’s free. It’s called Dropbox.

Download and install the Dropbox software, and sign up for a free account. Then you, and others if you let them, can access your files from any computer that also has the Dropbox software (Windows, Mac, or Linux). You can also access files through a web page.

Here are some ways I use Dropbox:

  • I use the fabulous 1Password to store all my passwords. I keep the password file in my Dropbox, so it doesn’t matter whether I’m using my MacBook Pro or my MacBook, I still have exactly the same set of passwords.
  • I keep files I’m working on in my Dropbox folder, so I can access them whichever Mac I’m using.
  • I’ve shared one folder with my partner. Any files I put in that folder just show up on her Mac after a few moments, and vice versa.
  • I put photos I’d like others to see in the Dropbox Photos folder. It saves me having to make a web page or upload them to an online service or album. See a few photos of the Paddy the Wanderer drinking fountain in Wellington, New Zealand.

View files in your Dropbox through a web page.

View files in your Dropbox through a web page.

All your files are also visible to you from behind a password protected web page. You can do some interesting things at that web page, such as deleting files, or reverting a file to how it was before you edited it.

In the short time I’ve been using it Dropbox has become one of the essential applications on my Macs.

One caution: files you add to the Dropbox folder on your Mac are uploaded to the Internet. In places like New Zealand, where we have a monthly limit on Internet traffic, adding too many large files may use up our monthly allowance. I do not keep my 22Gb of photos in that folder, for example.

Dropbox keeps track of changes you've made to a file.

Dropbox keeps track of changes you've made to a file.

Dropbox gives you 2 Gb of space free of charge. I’ve used about 10% of that. If you use the link I’ve provided above to sign up I will be given an additional amount up to 3GB of extra space. I don’t need it, but it can’t hurt. :-)

And for my readers, for a while, a free gift, if you choose to download it: 6 Tips for finding Files with MacTips (800Kb, PDF). I’ve shared it via my Dropbox Public folder.

Have you downloaded and tried out Dropbox? How did it work for you? Please let us know in the Comments.

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13 Comments

  1. Karen said:

    I want to just share one file with a friend instead of entire project folder. Is that possible? Also, if you share it publicly by using a link if the person changes it does it automatically sync with your dropbox?

  2. cheryl said:

    How do I move photos from dropbox to iPhoto?
    Thank you

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Open iPhoto and open the Dropbox folder. Drag the photos into the iPhoto window.

      You should probably check the iPhoto preferences to see if there’s a setting about moving or copying photos to the iPhoto folder.

  3. Tony Bloem said:

    Dropbox works fine. Just by sharing the files (like excel and word) with others. But have a problem. If the others and I are working at the file at the same time. How can word, excel keep up the changes?

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Tony, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. Dropbox is great for a one-way sharing, but not the best idea if multiple people need need to work on one file simultaneously.

      This help item explains how Dropbox handles it:

      https://www.dropbox.com/help/36

      If you need multiple people to work on the same wordprocessing document or spreadsheet at the same time I suggest you explore what Google Docs can offer.

  4. Trish said:

    with dropbox, can’t seem to download photos from iphoto? What am I doing wrong? Are the photos too big? Just a newbie here…

  5. Ran said:

    Hi,
    I wish I could provide you with an extra 3GB, but I reached your blog following the creation of a dropbox account. Still, since I like the service, and plan to recommend it to my friends, I wonder how can I set such an option, gaining extra space for additional dropbox subscriptions.

    Ran

  6. Miraz Jordan said:

    S emailed to ask: “Wishing to use the Drop Box to share a file (Photoshop) with another Mac 10.5.6. ( in another location). Is this possible? ”

    The answer is: maybe.

    Photoshop is an application. If you move it to the Dropbox folder (and out of the Applications folder) you *may* find it doesn’t work correctly. What’s more, as an application it relies n certain other files and folders being in their correct places, and those probably will not be in Dropbox.

    Better by far with Applications to install them on each machine from the original installer.

    With Applications, you’ll also need to check the licence agreement to see what you’re allowed to do. I haven’t checked the Photoshop licence, but it may not allow you to install it on more than one machine.

    Dropbox is a great solution for files you create, such as photos, word processing documents, spreadsheets and other data files.

    It’s also good for files such as the 1Password data file, or some preferences for some applications.

  7. Miraz Jordan said:

    Rachel: I hope you find it as useful as I do.

    Jo: thanks for the ‘International’ report. So far I’ve only used it between machines in the same building. It’s great to know how Dropbox functioned as a backup for you.

  8. Jo Fothergill said:

    I’ve been using Dropbox for about 5 months now. I wouldn’t be without it. I keep all my school planning and preparation in my dropbox folder. That way it doesn’t matter which computer I’m on I can always access my planning. In fact – when I was in the USA with my iBook, I did all my planning and then accessed from my school MacBook when I returned. And then, when my MacBook HDD failed and was replaced I was able to reinstate my dropbox and have all my files back (without doing a restore).

  9. Rachel McAlpine said:

    Thanks Miraz. I’ve downloaded it and expect to use it. But will I? Google Docs and Doogle may already cover my needs. Luckily Dropbox looks like a no-brainer, just my sort of app.

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