Dropbox will change the way you deliver files

by Vu Bui on January 12, 2011

Dropbox might change your life.

Dramatic enough? It’s true, though. Before Dropbox I had a terrible time trying to deliver large files to clients or back and forth with Lan or Erica without using services that required zipping or that didn’t look professional.

Enter Dropbox. It’s a file sharing service that doesn’t look or work anything like what all file sharing services looked like. It’s simple, fast, efficient and does it’s job without ever getting in the way. Here’s how I use it and why. (Oh, and the basic service… which would serve most people more than adequately… is FREE.)

DESKTOP CLIENT

You install the desktop client and it creates a folder on your computer that will constantly and automatically stay synced with Dropbox’s servers. On a Mac the folder shows up automatically in your Places sidebar in Finder (I’m sure it’s similar on Windows).

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You can also have an icon in the top bar that gives you additional features and current upload status.

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MOBILE

There are also iPhone, iPad and other mobile device apps. A few times I’ve dropped maps and other items into dropbox so that I could reference them while out and about… and when I send clients proofs they have often used the app on their iPhones to view them (both photos AND videos). It’s sleek and simple, and allows you to mark files as favorites which saves a local copy of them so you don’t have to download them to view them immediately (GREAT for when traveling abroad without a data plan).

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WORKING WITH CLIENTS

Dropbox has been a huge time saver when it comes to working with clients. There are a few things that suck about doing photo and video projects for remote clients… but the biggest headache has to do with getting media and proofs back and forth. Dropbox really does make that a lot easier.

First you create a new folder in your Dropbox, then context click it and click the share settings. Enter the client’s email, type a quick note to them to explain what you’re doing, and click done. The client will get an email with links to install the desktop client on their system and start an account. I usually tell them about this ahead of time and they love it and make their other vendors use it as well. Let’s say you have a video edit to show the client… you export a draft, drop it into the folder you just created, and it automatically starts uploading. Whenever the client installs Dropbox it will automatically start downloading on their system. When the download is complete they get a Growl notification pop-up on the screen.

Now let’s say the client has an image they want me to switch out… but I don’t already have it. They just drop that image into our shared folder in their finder window, and the file automatically goes up to the servers and then down onto my computer. I don’t need to click anything, it’s just there as fast as my connection will allow it to be. This is MUCH more efficient than emailing back and forth and much easier to keep track of.

If you delete a file from dropbox, or update to a new version… the entire history is saved for 30 days on Dropbox’s servers and you can restore any version at any time. You also have the option of paying for unlimited undeletes, and your files will be saved forever even once deleted (though you do have the option of “shredding” them for permanent deletion if you don’t want it to stay there, you know, after your drunken night of sending naughty pictures to your favorite client).

SENDING A QUICK FILE

If you want to send a file to one or more people but don’t want them to all have to install Dropbox and get an account, just drop a file in your public folder, it begins uploading to the servers and you can immediately click it and get the url, before the file has even finished uploading! Though the file is technically public, it’s not indexed or searchable anywhere… so while technically this is a publicly accessible file… no one can get the file without the unique URL (there is no URL for the whole folder, each file gets its own).

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Send the URL in an email, IM or tweet and the recipients can download with a click.

IN THE OFFICE

Lan, Erica and I all share a folder titled ‘The Bui Brothers’ and we keep all our files that we need to access often there all the time. We also use it to send other project files back and forth. Since we all work together but not in the same office, it’s nice having a folder on each of our computers that stays in sync, just as though we had a shared network drive.

GALLERIES

Wow I almost forgot to write about this part. No, really, I actually have the rest of this article done and I just scrolled back up to add this VERY important part.

Galleries!

In addition to the public folder which is used to share files, you have a photos folder which is used to share galleries of photos. Create a new folder in your ‘photos’ folder and drop some photos into it. Right click the folder and you can copy the gallery link and send it out.

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I use this for any shoots where I’m not selling prints, typically when I’m doing headshots and I just need the client to give me a short list of picks. Since all my files are numbered they just give me the file name after browsing through. The gallery is simple, fast and works extremely well.

Dropbox - Photos - Online backup, file sync, and sharing made easy.

You can see a sample gallery I uploaded HERE. It’s full of good lookin’ people, so enjoy.

THE DAMAGE

As I mentioned above, the basic Dropbox plan is free. You get 2GB with that and have the ability to raise that up to 10GB by referring people (which I am doing each time I have a new client use the service). That actually works for most people. Once it becomes integrated into your work and life… you may feel you need more, and that’s when the higher plans come into play. Worth every penny if you need them, and nice to know that you can scale up when you do or down when you don’t on a month-by-month basis.

Dropbox - Upgrade - Online backup, file sync, and sharing made easy.

Unlike many free services there is no catch, there are no ads… you are only limited by storage space.

OTHER USES

Besides simple file sharing there are a number of applications that use Dropbox to sync files. 1Password is one of them (I’ll do a post on another day about why you should be using 1Password). 1Password keeps an encrypted file on my dropbox that allows me to sync between computers and with my iPhone. Sweet, right?

ALTERNATIVE

There are actually many alternatives to Dropbox for some of its duties… but it’s the only one I know that works in EVERY single way I want it to. One cool new company that I’ll be using though is ge.tt (thanks to Mike Ambs for the recommendation!). No software to install, only a few fields to sign up for an account, then you click a button, choose some files, they start uploading, and you get a link. The amazing thing is that you can send that link out… and people can download the files BEFORE they are even done uploading!

This is great when speed is of the essence or when your dropbox is full or when you’re sharing a file from someone else’s computer. The interface is dead simple and it seems quite good. Oh yeah, and it’s free.

DOWNLOAD DROPBOX

I actually wrote an initial short Dropbox review back in 2009, if you care to see where I started.

So… go download Dropbox and sign up for a ge.tt account. Together you should never have trouble sending files again. You can thank me later. With cash. Or jewels. Or even gift cards. I like those.

  • Pingback: Dropbox Review | Down With Mobile Me | Vu Bui Blog

  • http://www.trulysimple.com Ben

    love dropbox so much. I use it all the time

    • http://vubui.com Vu Bui

      It really is the best thing ever!

  • http://twitter.com/p4pictures Brian Worley

    Great article Vu, and dropbox is indeed a good thing too

    • http://vubui.com Vu Bui

      Thanks Brian!

  • http://turnloosetheart.com Joe

    We already use Dropbox, but I always love finding new or better uses for it! Nice article!

    • http://vubui.com Vu Bui

      Thanks Joe!

  • http://bladeronner.com Ron Dawson

    Great article. I use Dropbox but stopped using it with clients because I realized that if they deleted anything from the shared folder it was deleted for me too. But I didn’t know about the restore feature. Very cool. I’m going to start using it more with clients. Thanks for the great 411!

    • http://vubui.com Vu Bui

      Thanks Ron, glad we could share that! Yeah the restore feature is invaluable… and for $3 a month you basically get unlimited storage forever for deleted files… unless you “shred” them which deletes them permanently.

  • Paul

    Cool.

    Dropbox has become one of those services that I can’t do without. One of those “It just works” services. I use it to keep my files in sync across my desktop, laptop, android phone and iPad. It’s fast and I like knowing I have the added security of my files stored securely online.

    One neat feature which has saved me in more than one occasion is the undelete feature. I can restore any file that was accidentally deleted.

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