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SOFTWARE

Dropbox: No-Nonsense Online Storage
By: Barzan "Tony" Antal
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    2008-10-20

    Table of Contents:
  • Dropbox: No-Nonsense Online Storage
  • Tell Me More!
  • More, More, More!
  • Concluding Thoughts

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    Dropbox: No-Nonsense Online Storage - Tell Me More!


    (Page 2 of 4 )

    Once again, the real beauty of Dropbox lies in its simplicity, elegance, and straightforwardness. Surely their idea isn't unique; there are more than a few similar services around, and I'm sure others are coming as well. However, the way Dropbox actually approached satisfying the this common "need" of users lately is pretty amazing. Most people don't want unnecessary complexity and fancy extras.

    Now let's present each of the features that Dropbox supports. First, there is the auto-synchronization function. This is crucial; it basically eliminates the need to send emails back and forth or to carry around your portable USB stick containing your work and/or personal related data. No matter where you are, you can access the very same files.

    Stop for a moment and imagine the following scenario. You have installed Dropbox at your home computer, and you have hooked up your notebook with Dropbox. After doing this you may as well set up the service on your work/office computer, but that's not even necessary thanks to its web-based interface. Still, if your work environment doesn't set nonsense restrictions regarding extra applications, then you'd better do so.

    Right now there are clients only for two operating systems: Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. There is a Linux client currently in the works; however, there isn't any estimated time of arrival at the moment. The truth is that the Windows and Mac OS X clients fulfill the requirements of at least 99 percent of the users, methinks.

    As a continuation of our previous scenario, once you have set up My Dropbox on your various computer systems, thereafter, from any of those places, you can access the same data (files) that you placed in your dropbox. The upload speeds are largely dependent upon your ISP's upload speeds because the Dropbox servers can handle a high amount of load. Dropbox uses minimal system resources and, believe me, after a few minutes you don't even realize it's working in the background.

    (The right icon's white arrows on blue mean "synching in progress")

    Automatic synchronization means that any change you make to the files is mirrored (re-uploaded) right after the save process is finished. And this change is going to be reflected on each Dropbox client as well as the web interface. On the other hand, Dropbox also offers the fantastic option of keeping a history of previous revisions and even bringing deleted files back to life. How's that for a nifty feature?

    Moving on, sharing is another amazing feature. Sharing works on various levels. First of all, you can share your files (music, photos, data, etc.) with specific users, but you can also share files with the entire world by making them public. In case you plan to share files only with a few select people, some of which aren't Dropbox users, then those people will be invited to join Dropbox and led through the installation process. 

    Photo sharing works on the same basis. However, what's really important is not that you can share images, but the way Dropbox manages photos. Dropbox already comes with a "Photos" folder designed for storing photos. The most wonderful feature is the automatic gallery creation of the images that you drop into the folder. If you create more sub-folders, then Dropbox creates multiple galleries too.

    The gallery can also work a la Facebook or Flickr, meaning that each gallery has a public URL, and you can choose with whom you share that hyperlink. The automatic thumbnail creation really helps because, regardless of whether you are checking out your dropbox folder's contents via the web-based interface or sharing the albums, it's helpful to show just a thumbnail of the image and then, if need be, the user can enlarge it.

    Check out the attached gallery below. I've dropped a few images of Sylvia van der Vaart, sea-shore landscapes, and a few other random pictures into the Photos folder.

    On the next page we're going to continue our analysis of the Dropbox. We still have plenty of functions to review, such as invitation-based sharing and how this can be extended into collaborative working simultaneously on the same file with somebody. Also, we're going to see how revisions and public sharing (via a link) work, and ultimately what we can do only with the web-based interface without having installed the client app.

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