Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Storing, sharing, and transferring files with Dropbox

Dropbox is something I first became familiar with at my university. It is a tool that students often use to share files when working on group projects. I promised you in an earlier post that I’d tell you more about this very useful program.

Create an Account at Dropbox.com
To get started, you’ll need to sign up to use Dropbox. The basic program is free with 2GB of storage, however, you can purchase pro versions with more storage. There are also ways to earn more storage such as through email referrals. If you’re a student—with a dot edu email address—you will receive double the credit for referrals. I recently participated in the Android app Camera Upload beta version which gave me the opportunity to earn more storage just for helping test it. (See 4-3 update at end of article.)

It seems that the latest Android app version now includes Camera Upload, so it’s your lucky day because this is a great feature.
Camera Upload works in conjunction with the camera on your Android phone and each time you take a photo it will automatically upload it to your Dropbox account. This may be one of the first things that us Androids got first, but my understanding is that it’s coming soon for iOS.

When I first got my Android phone, I was happy that I would be able to transfer files via USB and then I figured out how to do it via Bluetooth, but after adding the Dropbox app to my phone, I never have to do either of those again, unless I want to.

Graphic from Dropbox.com
What all can you post on Dropbox? Photos, documents, music, and videos. When using Dropbox via their website, you upload your files by browsing your computer (See 4-6 update at end of article). If you’ve used Dropbox in the past, they have made some improvements. You can now see thumbnails of your photos so that you don’t have to rely only on file name.

There is another optional element to Dropbox and that is to download the program to your computer. This is a really neat feature that I highly recommend adding. This makes Dropbox work like a folder on your computer. It will be located in your program files and when you’re signed in, if you have Windows, will be located in the system tray for easy access.

When you open Dropbox on your computer, you can then copy and paste files or drag and drop and they will automatically sync with your folders online and on your phone if you have the app. I will warn you about dragging and dropping though. Only do this, if you don’t want the file to remain on your computer. This folder is not viewed as a backup folder, so it will physically move the file versus copying. You can always copy it back to your computer, but it may be better to just use copy and paste to start with.

Dropbox Shared Folder
Another neat Dropbox feature is how you can set up folders and choose to share them with someone else. They also have to be signed up with Dropbox and you have to have their email address to set this up, but it’s easy and flawless. Any files you place in that folder can be viewed by the other person, but they will not be able to see any of your other folders.

A friend and I have a shared folder that we use to share high-resolution photos. The old way we did this was by email and that was difficult if we were sharing several large files. We would either have to send separately or downsize the file, but in most cases, we needed to share the larger files, so this makes it easy.

One of the main features that Dropbox likes to advertise is always having your files with you. This is a great feature. One file that I uploaded to my Dropbox folder is my resume. This way, no matter where I am, I can either sign into my account and print it out or I can email it to someone as an attachment from my phone. You could also use Dropbox as a way to back up your computer, but you’d probably have to purchase a pro version to have enough space for that.

I mostly use Dropbox for transferring files and sharing files.

Question: How do you think you will use Dropbox?

UPDATE 4-3: Increases for referrals announced on the Dropbox blog: "For every friend you invite that installs Dropbox, you’ll both get 500 MB of free space. If you’ve got a free account, you can invite up to 32 people for a whopping total of 16 GB of extra space. Pro accounts now earn 1 GB per referral, for a total of 32 GB of extra space."

It seems that free space for students already receiving 500MB per referral did not increase.

UPDATE 4-6: At this rate, I’ll have to rewrite my article, but that’s okay, I’m happy about any improvements that Dropbox wants to give us. Today they announced that you can now drag and drop files from your desktop to your account at Dropbox.com. This new feature is currently available for these browsers: Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

Keep up the great work Dropbox! 


  1. Great article and very helpful advice. I use Dropbox with my phone, tablet, and computer - and also to share files with friends and clients. It just works and it's better than any other solution I've used.

    1. I'm so glad to hear that you enjoy Dropbox, too!