I recently discovered a wonderful free service, which I now use almost every day. It’s called Dropbox. It’s described as a way to “sync your files online and across computers” and that is exactly what it does. I’ll tell you how it works, then give a couple of examples of how you might find it very useful.
When you go to the Dropbox website you can sign up for a free account (please tell them you were referred by firstname.lastname@example.org). Then click to download and install the small application to your computer. When you do that, there is a new folder added to your My Documents folder – that new folder is called My Dropbox. This new folder acts like any other folder on your computer. You can store Word documents in that folder, pictures, whatever you want.
Here’s the big advantage that folder has – you can access it from another computer. You can access those files from another computer by either logging on to the Dropbox website with your account, or you can install the Dropbox folder on the second computer and link it to your account. This might sound a little complicated – trust me, it’s not.
Here are a couple of examples of how it might work.
Let’s say you have a computer at home, and a computer at work. Or you can have your computer at home, and your spouse’s computer at home. Whatever the situation, you want to share a file from Computer A to Computer B or vice versa. Once Dropbox is installed on both computers, it’s a piece of cake! Computer A can open the file, work on it, make changes, and save it. When Computer B opens that file from the My Dropbox folder, it shows all of the updates and changes that Computer A made. It’s the same file. It doesn’t matter if Computers A and B are in different rooms, or different continents.
I use this all the time for work. I have an Excel spreadsheet that I work on regularly from work, and also from home. I just store the file in the Dropbox folder on both computers, and I can access easily from either place. No more emailing files to myself. And if there are several people collaborating on one document, it makes it easy for everyone to access the same file.
How about if you want to share a large file with someone – a file that is too large to email? There are a few services that will enable that, but it’s kind of cumbersome. In your Dropbox folder, there is a subfolder called Public. Just store the file in there. For those files, you can right-click and get the public URL, then just paste that link into an email. When your friend gets the email, he can just click on the link and download the file. Easy!
There are definitely other uses for this services, but these are the most common. The service is free for up to 2 GB of data, which is more than enough for most people. If you have files totaling more than that, you can get their paid version.
I know that Google Docs provides a similar way to collaborate on Word and Excel files. This is just another option, and with Dropbox you aren’t limited to just those 2 file types.
This week’s video is for all teachers. Sometimes this is what a kid like this needs. Of course, if a teacher in a US classroom did this, the ACLU would have him fired.