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Pictures in the Cloud

December 29, 2012

I have been using Dropbox as a convenient method of storing and distributing photos and documents to family and friends. I have also either installed it on client’s computers, or recommended they do it. While it is both a simple concept and easy to implement, it seems to cause some consternation and confusion amongst new users. To help you utilise this fantastic resource, I’ll try to cut through some of this confusion.

What is Dropbox?
Put simply, Dropbox is an external storage medium for data. It is a paid service with various subscription options, but sign up and initial storage of 2 Gb is free. Dropbox is like an external hard drive that is offsite, rather than on your desk where you can see and touch it. Like a hard drive, it can have many folders in it and you can save data of any kind into it. While all file types can be saved and many can be viewed within Dropbox, some need to be downloaded to a device with the specific application to allow you to read the file type.

Unlike an external hard drive, Dropbox has one magic feature; the possibility of easily sharing any folder or its contents. Confusion arises from the offsite storage. People are cocerened that everyone can access their files, but the fact is that sharing is entirely optional. If all you want is to save your files somewhere else, you don’t have to share any folders. However, the great thing is that all your folders are available to you, on any other connected device you own – Smartphone, iPad, tablet etc., regardless of its operating system. iOS, Android, Windows et al. How great it is to be able to access your photos, data, or documents on your phone.

What if I want to share?
Easily done. From your account on the Dropbox website, select the folder you want to share, and a dialogue box appears. You type the email address of the person, or persons you want to share with and Dropbox sends them an email with an invitation. They follow the directions to install Dropbox, and the files are there for them as well. Aas controller of the master files, you can choose whether you want them to be able to issue invitations to others by checking or un-checking a box when you first send the invitation.

Some confusion has arisen from the fact that you don’t get a confirmation that your email has been sent to the invitee. You get a confirmation from Dropbox once your recipient has installed Dropbox and accessed the files. I have had a few situations where people have been reluctant to install Dropbox, or the email has been isolated by an overzealous spam filter. My solution is to phone, or send them a personal email instructing them what to do. One distraught client rang me after a particularly lazy art director denied, several times, that he had received the email. I checked what my client had done, and there was nothing wrong. His client was just lazy. He ended up requiring a DVD plus personal visit to help him install the Dropbox software, and convert him, [he is now an avid user], but this was an extreme case and one I hope I never see repeated.

A cool feature of Dropbox is the ability to share a single link without the necessity of installing Dropbox. To use this is simple. At the end of each stored folder or file, is a little link symbol. You click on it, and a “Share Link” dialogue box appears. Click that and another window opens in which you put the address/s of the person/s that you wish to have the file. Once they get the email, they can open the file without even having to sign up for Dropbox. This is a great feature and worthwhile addition to the functionality of the program.

New Features?
A number of companies are developing add-ons to increase the functionality of Dropbox. One that I use is Cloudon, an app that allows generating or editing Microsoft Word, Excel or Powerpoint documents from an iPad or tablet. Add a wireless keyboard and you have a compact laptop substitute.

All in all, Dropbox is an excellent way of storing, distributing and maintaining a wide range of files and having them available to you, your family, friends or clients, anywhere in the world on most devices. Try it, you’ll be glad you did.

  1. I do like Dropbox. Though I’m leaning more and more towards Microsoft’s SkyDrive. It works so cool with Windows 8 and Office 2013.

  2. It’s really a great and helpful piece of information. I’m
    glad that you just shared this helpful info with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I
    will be waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.

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