Wow! A recent auction allowing investors to participate in a future funding round may push the valuation of DropBox to $10 Billion. Yes, with a “B”. Billion. That is phenomenal. Not too many companies can boast a market cap anywhere near that. For a tiny company with scant few employees, you’d have to assume that they are doing something right. You’d assume right. DropBox makes it extraordinarily easy to sync documents and files between computers. But what else can it do besides syncing simple items like memos, spreadsheets & pictures from one computer to the next? In this weeks Technology Tuesday we’ll look at some creative ways to use DropBox.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about DropBox. A small cross-platform program that allows you to sync files easily across any computer as well as mobile devices like Android & iPhone. The “secret sauce” of DropBox is that there is nothing to learn. Syncing is just as easy as dropping files into a folder like you are accustomed to already. Automagically, your files instantly appear on any of your connected devices. No pain. No hassle. On the off chance you have not yet tried DropBox, feel free to sign-up with this referral link (mine, thanks!) Free accounts get 2GB of storage & syncing that can be increased all the way to 8GB with referrals.
he point of this article is not an overall review of DropBox, comparisons with other syncing applications or a discussion about recent security lapses, rather it is to share some pretty cool ways that I use DropBox. While these principles may work perfectly fine on other syncing applications like Wuala, SugarSync, or Allway, I can only speak to DropBox and my two years of use. READ ON for more about ways to use DropBox…
Remotely Start Torrents: Most torrent clients have an option to scan a folder for .torrent files and automatically add them to your client. For example, in uTorrent: Options > Preferences > Directories > Check the ‘Automatically Load .torrents From‘ check-box and navigate towards your DropBox folder. Now, if you are on the road, and you want to start a new torrent, simply download the torrent to your DropBox folder! When you get home, your torrent will be happily waiting for you in the download location you set up in your directory preferences. I am often on the road and used to have to use LogMeIn to start a torrent I was interested in downloading, or email myself the .torrent link and download when I get home, if I even remembered. Now, it is as simple as saving the torrent file to DropBox and done!
This same principle works for any application that allows ‘watch folders’. For example, Adobe Photoshop watches “My Pictures” by default but you can add additional watch folders. Set a DropBox folder to be watched, add pictures from the road, and when you arrive home: your pictures and ready and waiting for a little post processing love in PhotoShop.
Share Music & Pictures There’s an awful lot of drawbacks to most of the traditional ways to send music (or any large files) to friends. Torrenting has a learning curve & technical issues (Port Forwarding) that some have a difficult time overcoming. SendSpace and other services of this kind require combinations of waiting periods, Captcha’s, broken downloads and slow speed. Email is limited by your provider’s size restriction. With DropBox: Problems solved! Stick your folder in DropBox and share the folder with a friend. Instantly, your files appear in your friend’s DropBox. Want to share with unlimited people & not have to invite them individually? No problem: Just stick it in your public folder and grab the link! (Must be a single file for this to work without having to generate multiple links so you’ll want to put your files into a ZIP or RAR archive). Another great thing to remember about DropBox is that once your files are uploaded, they can be shared with others and downloaded regardless if the computer hosting the original files is off.
The tunes you are sharing with DropBox can also be played from the native player. However, the web-based player is extremely basic, simply allowing you to select a track and play. For Chrome users, DropTunes gives you a full player for your files in the cloud.
DropTunes Extension with Google Chrome
Figure Out What a Thief is Up To with your Laptop: This might come in handy! Download a keylogger (plenty of free alternatives… The Best Keylogger). Set a folder in DropBox as the location for the log file. If your laptop goes missing, check your log and see what has been typed! You just might help the cops hunt down the scoundrel and get your computer back.
Save Game Files: I am not much of a gamer, but periodically a game or two will catch my eye and I’ll install on my computer. Often a bummer when I fire up the laptop and realize I’m back at square one. Why not save your game configuration/save files to DropBox? That way, you can start the game you are playing and have all your progress, scores, levels and characters synced between all your computers. It’s frustrating to only be able to play a game from one machine. DropBox can solve that issue.
Why stop with games? Use DropBox to save your software settings for any program that you want to keep in sync across different machines.
Install IPA files to your iPhone or iTouch Want to add a new app without having to sync with iTunes? No problem. (But you do need a Jail-broken device) Simpy add the IPA file to your DropBox. Navigate to it with your DropBox application on your device. Click the ‘email link’ option when you are on your item. Open the link with your email on your device. It will automatically download with Installous. Now, open Installous and select the item from your downloaded list and choose Install.
Android: Back up your Apps & Settings While of course it is easy to restore your purchased apps from the Android Market with your Google account, restoring your free apps, settings and apps from outside the Market can be a major hassle when switching devices. Thank god for Titanium Backup and DropBox. When you back up with Titanium Backup, your files are all stored on your SD card. But what if your phone has been stolen or misplaced? Or the SD card malfunctions? With the Pro version (root required), you can back your device up to DropBox! When it is time to restore, your files are safely in your DropBox. ALL your apps & settings are painlessly restored.
Use DropBox as Your Default Documents Folder Often times your Documents folder has something in it that you wished you had remotely. Of course you could always use LogMeIn and other remote desktop access solution…but what if the computer is off or the application is not running? Solution: Use a Documents folder inside your DropBox as your default Documents folder. Create a Documents folder in DropBox. In XP, right-click Documents and change target to your new folder. In 7 & Vista, right-click then select Location tab, click on move and pick your DropBox folder. Do this with all your machines. Now your documents folder is synced across all your computers!
Other Quick Tips:
Use Your Phone as an EReader No Kindle? No problem. Simply drop your e-book PDF into DropBox. The DropBox app becomes a very handy e-reader.
Keep Your Wallpaper Handy Found a cool desktop wallpaper for your machine and want to quickly ensure that you can install on all your computers? Keep a folder in your DropBox of all your wallpapers that you’ve enjoyed. You never know when you want to go back to the sweet pic of the Biebs.
Eye-Fi SD Card EyeFi is pretty cool. It’s an SD card with WiFi built in that allows you to upload your pictures automatically to a photo sharing site or a desktop folder location. My kids have a point-and-shoot with an Eye-Fi card. They can take pictures and with the save location set as a DropBox folder, I constantly get pictures straight to my laptop and desktop without any hassle or cables or effort.
What about you? How do you use DropBox? Found a better sync solution? Let us know in the comments.