Pretty much everyone probably knows about Dropbox by now: an application that syncs files online and across pretty much any device that can take it. I’ve had it for quite a while now but have only really started to utilize it recently.
This isn’t really “new” technology, nor are they the first to do something like it. I’ve used similar programs before, most notably one with a cute pig as an icon! (Sadly, I don’t remember what its name was!) Dropbox doesn’t have as cute an icon, but they have adorable stick figures: that counts for something, right?
Like its predecessors, usage is simple: put a file inside the Dropbox folder, and it gets uploaded online. Going on another machine with the Dropbox client application, you also get the file there once the client has finished syncing with the servers.
I used to store just files in it: presentations, source code, and the like. But there’s a lot more to Dropbox, and here are five things I do with Dropbox.
1. Syncing browser bookmarks
I’ve started syncing my Firefox bookmarks across machines using Dropbox. There must be a nicer way to go about this, and I’m sure it’s right around the corner, but this way is just nice for me. I’ve never liked a lot of the bookmark syncing products out there because it hijacks my bookmarks toolbar, which I dislike. This way, it’s just…in the background.
However, there is one caveat here: make sure Dropbox has finished syncing to/from the server before you start Firefox or shut off your machine, as you can end up with inconsistent, conflicted files on your Dropbox and no way to determine which is the right file.
2. Syncing Adium chat logs
Yes, we start to see the power of symbolic links. Syncing Adium logs across machines is done pretty much the same way! The first time I did this, it took a while to finish uploading all of my chat logs, so be prepared to wait a while.
3. Syncing Terminal configuration files
Oh, absolute love. No longer do I have to worry about differing settings between computers–symbolic links and Dropbox has me covered.
[amari@amari ~] $ ln -s ~/Dropbox/Data/bash_profile ~/.bash_profile [amari@amari ~] $ ll ~/.bash_profile lrwxr-xr-x 1 amari staff 38 Oct 2 16:39 /Users/amari/.bash_profile -> /Users/amari/Dropbox/Data/bash_profile
I’ve done the same for some other config files, like my vim settings file.
4. Syncing Passwords across computers
Absolute godsend, this one. With all the online accounts I have accumulated over the years, it’s a horror trying to remember passwords; so having 1Password worry about password information and syncing is wonderful. I’ve never used KeePass, but I swear by 1Password.
5. Syncing creative work
Creativity does not have a set time: if an idea hits, I like being able to capture it. Being able to quickly write a note, a blog idea, a story snippet and file it away in Dropbox for later is an absolute godsend: two wonderful tools for me here are Scrivener 2 and Notational Velocity, both of which have syncing/saving abilities to external folders.
Scrivener 2 is currently in NaNoWriMo preview mode, as Scrivener 1 does not have this syncing ability built-in (although you can save your Scrivener file in Dropbox, of course). With the new version, you can sync to an external version and specify what format the file would be in so that you can edit it elsewhere and pull in changes as needed.
Notational Velocity is a handy notes-taker, which also has the ability to sync with Simplenote, along with saving/retrieving the notes in plain text format in a specified folder (which is great for syncing via Dropbox).
A parting word
Dropbox is awesome, but remember: Dropbox syncing is done online, and your files are put on the Internet (and versions are kept of it on Dropbox servers). While the syncing Dropbox does is secure, they are still a third party; so bear that in mind before syncing every single bit of your life.