Here at WebiMax, we use Dropbox in many different ways. Dropbox is a well-known application that can be installed and ran on a majority of computer operating systems. Being accessible through their website is just the beginning of Dropbox’s capabilities. Once the application is installed on your computer, its usefulness truly comes into play.
Those who have a Dropbox account should view Dropbox as their new ‘My Documents’ folder. It will be culture shock at first but very well worth it. The Dropbox application runs in the background of your computer, or in layman’s terms, out of sight not bothering you until you need it. When a file is saved to the Dropbox folder, it isn’t only saved to your local computer, but online to Dropbox’s servers.
What does this mean for you? This means that, even if your computer is unrecoverable, you can recover those files when you sign back into your account. You can do this on any computer at any time. Your account can be used from multiple locations (and devices!) always syncing files. As long as your file in the Dropbox folder is Green and has a check mark, you are good to go.
While on the topic of recovery, Dropbox saves previous versions of the same file. So, if the file is accidently overwritten or you liked what you had before your changes, they aren’t gone forever, per say. Many programs have this capability built in (Like Microsoft Word) for unsuspected crashes, but that’s only for the current file you were working on.
So, you can save the file onto your computer and back it up to another location, but what else can Dropbox do for its users? When you right click on anything in your Dropbox folder, explore a little to see what you are able to do. My personal favorite capability is being able to share the file with others simply by sharing a link. It’s the first option in the Dropbox section right next to the icon. When that is selected, Dropbox attaches that file’s link to your clipboard to paste. You can place this file in Jabber, an email, or in basecamp so that the other party can download the same exact file.
(An added bonus – if you change the 0 to a 1 at the end of the link it prompts the browser for downloading without visiting Dropbox’s website… it saves a whole step!)
Going down the right-click list on a single file, there’s the “View on Dropbox.com” selection. That’s pretty self-explanatory and I won’t bore you with the details here. The next option however is definitely worth mentioning. That option is “View previous versions,” as I mentioned before. Here it opens a browser to the Dropbox website, where you can see all of the accessible previous versions ordered by date. As long as you remember the date or time you want to recover, you are in luck.
The next option is “View Comments,” which we don’t really use at WebiMax, so I am going to skip those details.
That covers most of the useful options for individual files in Dropbox. The next useful resource that Dropbox provides involves folders. Besides personal organization and being able to find files a bit easier, this option can actually improve workflow.
When a folder is created in Dropbox you have the ability to share the folder with other Dropbox users. There are two “types” of sharing of folders. The first one is actually accessing them and being able to change and update the files and folders within. The other option is just the viewing option. I have more details on this option below.
To begin the sharing folder discussion, I’ll start with providing permission for another person to edit. When sharing and giving the permission to edit, the user will not only be able to see the files inside, but be able to edit the document as well. So, multiple people in the shared group can edit and save the document while keeping the previously made changes. This is great for brainstorming or updating shared documents as opposed to having to keep track of email chains!
The next sharing option is the permission to view. This gives the ability to download the folder for not only other Dropbox users, but for anyone that doesn’t utilize Dropbox as well. Have a large amount of files you want to share with someone and can’t attach in a single email? Share the folder in Dropbox and have them download it locally.
I like to give a fair warning about sharing folders, though. Before sharing an entire folder, make sure the person you are sharing with is supposed to view ALL of the contents within. When a folder is shared, all subfolders and files are accessible. If you are unsure about a particular sub folder or file, I personally recommend going down another folder level before sharing.
This concludes the brief overview of the Dropbox folder locally on your computer. There are many other abilities available on the desktop application. Like the ability to selectively sync folders to save space on your computer. There are also settings in your preference I recommend exploring to see what works with you.
Dropbox has many functions on their website as well. You can do many of the said functions I just outlined before in this article on the website, but there are two unique functions on the website that are worth mentioning as well.
On the website, you can see an icon of a Trashcan. This trashcan is to view accessible deleted files. If you delete a file off your computer permanently and know you saved it onto Dropbox, I would recommend taking a look here. Depending on your account settings, this could save some worries about losing that file you need. No promises it will be there, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
The next unique capability on the website is File Requests. Instead of waiting on an email with attachments that could get lost or forgotten, you can create or choose a folder only for you (or your team) to view. When a particular link is given here, anyone can upload the necessary files needed. Deadlines can be made and you will be prompted when something is uploaded and synced to your folder.
This article provides only a glimpse into the vast world of Dropbox. Please share your experiences in the comment section below, and let others know how much utilizing Dropbox has improved life at your business!