Put simply Dropbox is a useful combination of desktop application and web service working together to keep your data synchronised between computers and accessible from anywhere. Once you’ve installed Dropbox and setup an account your all set, any files you put in a special Dropbox folder is synchronised to the Dropbox servers. Similarly if you edit a file in your Dropbox folder it is almost instantly updated on the Dropbox servers and any other computer you’ve installed Dropbox on.
This may sound like iDisk to Mac users except Dropbox is fast, reliable and it works. Plus Dropbox is more secure then iDisk as your files are stored encrypted and transfered over SSL. It’s also smarter about transferring files copying smaller files first, only the parts that have changed and compressing them for the journey. Dropbox is the only sync service I’ve used that will keep both versions of a file in the event of a conflict by adding “conflicted” to one of the file names.
If this is all Dropbox did it would still be incredibly useful and I’d give it 4 stars but Dropbox does so much more.
For starters Dropbox servers automatically save past versions of each file synced from the past 30 days, accessible from the Dropbox website. If you have a pro account account you can opt for a Pack-Rat feature providing an unlimited history of your files.
Perhaps one of the most useful features of Dropbox is the sharing your data both publicly and privately. You can share any file in your Dropbox folder by right clicking and selecting get public link. You can also share an entire folder with other Dropbox users and it will show up in their Dropbox like any other folder.
Finally theres a sharing feature that often gets overlooked. Any images you drop into a special photos folder inside your Dropbox can be viewed in an automatically generated gallery on the website.
While the Dropbox program mostly does it’s magic in the background there are a few useful options and notifications when everything is synced.
The other big feature recently introduced with the 1.0 release is selective sync. Selective Sync lets you choose exactly which folders you want to sync to each computer. For example on my MacBook Air my 80GB Dropbox folder won’t fit on the 64GB hard drive and I don’t want it all there. So I only sync the essential files and folders for day to day work. All my data is still on my main computer and the Dropbox servers it’s just not automatically downloaded to the MacBook Air.
Dropbox is an indispensable part of my workflow, and it keeps getting better with each release. I have yet to find an easier way to share data with other computers and people.