Productivity with Dropbox

by postbreak

One of my favorite startups of 2008 has to be Dropbox. I use it on a daily basis to share documents and keep backups of files. If you’re not familiar with the Dropbox service then let me briefly explain how it works. Dropbox runs in the background as a menu item on your Mac syncing up files and folders to your online account. When a new file or folder is added to your Mac’s local Dropbox folder it gets instantly synced up to the cloud where you can retrieve it at any time via a web browser. This activity works in reverse as well, allowing you to upload a file from the web which syncs down to your Mac. Add a bit of creativity and you can boost your Mac productivity and automation.

Dropbox-LogoSo first if you haven’t already go download Dropbox. Dropbox works on all platforms also. You get 2GBs of storage for free and the application takes up nearly zero resources. I have not tested Dropbox anything other than Macs so if any features I talk about don’t work in Linux or Windows let me know in the comments. 

Copy-public-linkThe first trick in the book is the “Copy Public Link” tool. This allows you to upload just about anything to your Public folder, sync to the cloud, and share a public accessible link to a friend. This is great for sharing small files such as pictures, text documents, ect. To access this simply upload a file to your Public folder, wait for the green checkmark to appear on your file, right click, Dropbox, then Copy public link. 

Now a lot of people simply use Dropbox for sharing stuff like the method above however I am going to dive a bit deeper and talk about how I use Dropbox for my own automation. I tend to share images and files constantly so I changed my browser’s default download location to a folder inside my Public folder. Anything that I download goes directly to the cloud and I can’t tell you how many times after downloading something I wanted to access it on another machine, share it with a friend, or look at a revision I made. To do this simply create a folder inside your Public folder, you can name it anything you want such as “Downloads”, and tell your browser to put all downloads there. 

Some caveats of this method come into play when you start downloading heavy files such as a Linux ISO. Whenever I download something large I simply wait for it to finish and move it to my desktop as a temporary fix. I wish browsers could define rules for downloads, such as if a file is larger than 50MB place it somewhere other than the default download location. You can see that Dropbox is actively syncing by looking to the menu item to make sure you don’t have a huge file it’s trying to push to the cloud.

My second trick deals with torrents. I set my favorite torrent application Transmission to look in my downloads folder for new torrents. This download folder happens to be within Dropbox so at any point I can upload a torrent file from the web interface to that folder and automatically start a torrent while away from my Mac. I have used this a few times and it is pretty cool not needing to log into my Mac with Logmein or some other similar service just to start a torrent.  

There are alternatives to all of the techniques I use Dropbox for however I find the service is the easiest to use without a steep learning curve. I highly suggest you check out Dropbox. I would love to have the premium service, if anyone wants to donate…