NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2012
Drop it in the Box: Dropbox, what it is, how it works
By Jo Grazide,
Leader, Word Processing Workshop,
Brookdale Computer Users Group,
New Jersey February 2011 Issue, Bug Bytes
gio520 (at) gmail.com (click to email author)

What is Dropbox?
Suppose you were able to save work without using a flash drive, a disk (CD or DVD-R or RW), or an external drive, or even email, and move files between your laptop and desktop? For many years, I, like so many of us, had developed methods and procedures to upload, download, and save documents, music and pictures to a storage device, only to have to rely on memory to locate it afterwards. Another irritating problem for me, especially when I was working, was to identify the “latest” version, so that an older file would not overwrite my work during a “Save As.”

Enter Dropbox, a useful application that eliminates lots of work and uncertainty.

Dropbox is a free download that offers protection and convenience and is easy to use. There is basically no learning involved. You should, however, be familiar with Drag & Drop and Move vs. Copy. Why not give Dropbox a try and see whether this is for you.

I first heard of Dropbox during a meeting of my camera club. Some members seemed happy with it; there were no negative comments, leading me to investigate. Having a way to store photography files without worrying about loss or corruption seemed an ideal solution to the problem of travel pictures. I got to test this, when I maxed out the Dropbox folder at around 2 GB during a vacation in Boston. There are two ways to increase your storage capacity – you can purchase the program on a monthly or yearly basis, or you can have friends join the service and be rewarded a few more MB’s up to a whopping 8 GB.

Get the App
To acquire Dropbox, you need to go to the website at www.dropbox.com. The download is quick and easy. Just run it, and follow the instructions. There are six initial steps:

1. Take the tour

2. Install Dropbox

3. Put files in your Dropbox folder

4. Install Dropbox on other computers

5. Share a folder with friends or colleagues

6. Invite friends to join

It is necessary to install the program on all computers that you will be using. The setup is done on the website, and the instructions are easy.

In my case, this is my laptop and my desktop. As I move around with the laptop, to meetings or anywhere I use it, I’m able to save files as they are created, directly into the Dropbox folder, which sits in the system tray area. By clicking on its icon, Dropbox will provide easy and helpful commands.

In addition, I know that once I reach home, altered files will be available and updated on my desktop machine. They can be dragged into their proper locations on the storage drives. This has been extremely useful. Instead of dealing with two documents, a newer version and an older version, there is only one synchronized version.

Another nice aspect is that I don’t have to worry about misplacing storage disks or flash drives, which does happen. I also would think that it lessens stress, as there is nothing to lose!

On the Website
There is plenty of information on the Dropbox website. There are videos and explanations of the synching process. Basically, anything that is put into the local folder is also recorded on the Internet. You can also access your files and upload them directly onto the Dropbox server.

It can be compared to using GoogleDocs or Windows Live Mesh. Collaboration, by the way, is possible. I haven’t delved into this, because I simply need a way to move data between computers. If you want to learn more, you need to visit the Dropbox website and study this feature.

The Dropbox website has five tabs:
? “Get Started” walks you through several chores before you can earn some extra space. This is simple and easy to understand.
? “Files” is the online list of your current Dropbox inhabitants, their sizes and the dates they were modified. You can sort each column by clicking on its heading. There are buttons here that let you do even more. A basic knowledge of file management is all you need to comprehend this part of the application.
? “Events” is a listing of various edits, deletions, and other information about your files.
? “Sharing” allows you to create a new folder to share, or share an existing folder. By following the prompts, you can identify who you want to share the folder with. In my case, I began typing my husband’s email address, and it was prefilled for me. This would make it easier for multiple shares in a business or committee setting. Perhaps our next Board meeting minutes will appear in a Dropbox folder! I also found that once the shared folder appeared in my local Dropbox folder, I could rename it and manage it locally. A refresh caused the change to appear on the website immediately. I like this type of efficiency. There is no lag time, and information can be relayed quickly between computers.
? Finally, “Help” is all the rest. It seems that the Dropbox website is complete; you can spend much time learning about it. I would suggest that you jump in and try out the program; you can learn by doing as well.

There are a couple of things I would warn you about as a new user. If you simply drag and drop the file back and forth, it copies the file. You may want to right-drag and choose move to ensure you have the latest version of your work or photograph. Also, having a comfort level with storage online to some extent, and not adding things like your Social Security number or banking information, goes without saying. Aside from that, there are no problems I can see with using this reliably.

One Last Thing
I do have one favor to ask you if you do join Dropbox; please use the link! It will enable both of us to get some extra space, a great reward and well deserved!

The link to join on my behalf is http://db.tt/sHvgWQp. I promise I will not waste that space!!!!!!

System Requirements
Hardware: At least 512MB of RAM; free space on your computer equal to your Dropbox storage quota.

• Windows: Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit).
• Mac OS X: Tiger (10.4) or later.
• Linux: Ubuntu 7.10+ and Fedora Core 9+.
• Also iPhone iOS 3.1, Android 1.5 and Blackberry 4.5.

Pricing: Up to 2 gigabytes of free storage space; DropBox 50, up to 50GB storage for $9.99/month or $99/year; Dropbox 100, up to 100GB storage for 19.95/month or $199/year.

For more information: http://db.tt/sHvgWQp

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