Glenn Fleishman
18 July, 2012
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Dropbox, www.dropbox.com


Simple and automatic; collaboratively shared folders; automatic photo/video transfer; multi-platform software


Requires web UI for anything but automatic sync

Plans range from free (2GB) to US$19.99/month (100GB)


Dropbox is the most widely used and simplest file-synchronisation system worldwide. Every device – from Macs and PCs to iPhones and iPads – on which you install Dropbox and use the same account has all the contents synchronised among them by default.

Make a change on one machine in the Dropbox folder – remove a file, add one, reorganise items into folders or save changes – and that change is instantly propagated to every other synced machine. That’s the point of such services

and Dropbox consistently accomplishes this in a nearly invisible manner.

Install the software on a Mac or PC and an anointed folder is the hub of Dropbox activity. The software offers support for desktop folder sync in Mac OS X, Windows and Linux, and allows mobile access for viewing and for uploading files, images and video under Android, BlackBerry and iOS platforms.

However, by keeping it minimal and avoiding a full- fledged client – it’s just a menu with a few options – Dropbox requires heavy use of its web jnterface for even basic tasks. That’s a mild complaint, because the website works quite well.

Beyond syncing across your computers and creating backup copies of your own files, Dropbox has several features that take storage and sync further. These include collaborative sharing with others, read-only sharing, accessing older versions of files, restoring deleted files and uploading images from attached cameras and iOS devices. A mobile app allows limited tools away from a desktop.

The collaborative sharing feature is one that brought us to Dropbox and keeps us there. Any folder may be shared with any other user (if they don’t have an account, they can sign up at no cost and store at least 2GB). A shared folder is synced among all users who join it, until they remove themselves or the owner kicks them out.

Dropbox recently upgraded a second form of sharing, which provides read-only links to individual files or entire folders.

The free mobile app allows you to browse all available files and store locally any file you choose. The app displays any natively- readable file types in iOS, such as images, documents, video and text, but can store other files to be transferred to other iOS apps via the ‘Open In’ option. Dropbox is also a target in iOS apps’ ‘Open In’ menu to accept and upload files. The app has the direct ability to upload images and video.

A recent update to Dropbox added camera uploads via USB, whether from a camera connected via USB, an iOS device or a memory card in a card reader.

Dropbox was an early offering in the sync field, was reportedly under consider for purchase by Apple (the founders say they declined) and remains a strong and constantly evolving service.

It has some great features – we’ve only looked at a few here – but only offers a small amount of free storage without uploading images compared to Google Drive (5GB) and Microsoft SkyDrive (7GB)

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