Dropbox: File synching and sharing made easy

Michael lasky By Michael Lasky

There’s no shortage of services offering file sharing, synching, and collaboration through the Internet.

But one service stands out from the rest. Dropbox is one of those simple applications that, once installed, quickly become an indispensable part of your computing process.

Having seen hundreds of PC products come and go over the years, we’re not easily impressed here at Windows Secrets. But every once in a while some product — or service in this case — comes along that we soon find we can’t live without. Dropbox, an online file-backup, -sharing, and -synchronization service, fits that category. We use it in the office for managing our production files, and many of us use it for our personal computing.

File synching evolves with changes in computing

Keeping files synched between PCs has always been a bit of a drag — not as in drag-and-drop, but as in multistep tedium. A few breakthrough apps made the task easier. Remember LapLink? That was a product no laptop user could live without. Remember Microsoft’s Briefcase? (Yes, it’s still around, but how many people actually use it?) Microsoft had a great idea building its synching applet into Windows. But, ultimately, it proved too cumbersome to use.

Now that nearly every PC user has access to the Internet, file sharing has moved into the cloud — and added collaboration and file backup as new services. There is a horde of these sites — several of which I discussed in my June 24 Top Story, “SkyDrive takes on the online-storage arena.” Alas, most involve signing onto a password-protected entry site to accomplish anything.

But not Dropbox — a small application that saves you immense amounts of time and effort. Once set up, Dropbox becomes just another folder on your PC — or your Mac, iPad, smartphone, or other computing device that can display documents. Your files are stored both locally in your Dropbox folder and online on the service’s servers. Dropbox lets you back up, share, and sync any file merely by dragging the file into the Dropbox folder on your desktop. Any changes made to files in Dropbox are automatically updated in all other linked Dropbox folders in other devices, as long as you are connected (or when you reconnect) to the Internet.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-10-28:

Michael Lasky

About Michael Lasky

WS contributing editor Michael Lasky is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California, who has 20 years of computer-magazine experience, most recently as senior editor at PC World.