I finally decided to give Dropbox a try. I had seen the videos and other reviews, but my curiosity was finally piqued enough to take it for a drive – and boy – I was amazed. It works on every major platform. It works seamlessly. It just works.
What is it? It’s a bidirectionally synchronized folder in The Cloud. It synchronizes and shares files between your computers in addition to provided access through the web interface. I have 3 different computers I use on a regular basis, so keeping important files synchronized is a boon to productivity.
Let’s say you need a few files at work. Copy them into your Dropbox folder at home and and be on your way. By the time you arrive to the office, the files have already replicated to all registered computers, and they’re ready to use.
On the desktop
How does it work? A tiny program runs in the background that monitors a special Dropbox folder. Any changes to that folder are copied up the server and then down to all your other computers.
Dropbox Tray Icons
In addition, overlay icons are displayed on files and folders to indicate the sync status. I can’t say enough about how well this integrates into the graphical shell, providing a nuanced view into the inner workings.
Dropbox Explorer Overlay Icons
The simplicity of the whole system is what makes this software so powerful. Though most details are obscured, there’s still a few nerdy details that can be had with a little research:
Dropbox claims that files are transferred over SSL in addition to storing them encrypted on Amazon S3 servers. It supports change tracking, so you can revert to a previous revision if necessary. Also, the company claims to transfer only file deltas (changes), which helps conserve bandwidth and speed transfers.
On the web
In addition to the client goodies, Dropbox has a wonderful web front-end that provides a superset of desktop features.
There’s several management options that can only be accessed from the web: account type, contact information, and computer management. Because these are items not often changed, I don’t mind that they’ve been left out of the client application; it helps reinforce the simple mantra.
Dropbox Web Interface: Manage Computers
You can also add files via the website directly. This speaks to the universal usefulness, even while accessing files on a foreign computer.
Another interesting feature is the availability of an Event Feed in the form of RSS. If you’re somehow sharing an account, this feature would work well to notify each other of changes. Even included is a direct download link to that file. My only suggestion, would be to also provide a link to that particular revision, instead of only the most recent copy.
Dropbox RSS Feed
Dropbox also directly supports various shared-use scenarios. It’s got built-in photo gallery support, collaboration features, and the ability to supply a public link to any file.
I certainly don’t use Dropbox for everything: Most documents I keep in Google Docs and large amounts of data still lives on my NAS. Also, I’m not willing to synchronize a whole movie just to transfer between computers – traditional networks and sneakernets still have their place. Even still, I’d be crazy to not take advantage of the ridiculous simplicity that this service offers.
With Dropbox, I truly fell in love with a brand-new product. If you’d like to experience Dropbox for yourself, get an extra 250MB free by using my referral link.