One feature that makes Dropbox particularly useful for educators is its ability to keep files in sync across multiple devices and even multiple users.
With the increasingly mobile and team-focused nature of our work, we need to effortlessly share files among multiple people and all their devices without any hassles, and Dropbox is the perfect solution.
How Dropbox is Different from Google Docs/Drive
You may be more familiar with Google Docs, which has been rolled into Google Drive, and seems to do something similar to Dropbox. With Drive, you can keep files and folders in sync across multiple devices and users, and you can even have multiple people edit the same Google Docs files at the same time (great for team planning).
Dropbox does not allow multiple people to simultaneously make edits to the same file, so if that’s what you want to do, keep on using Google Docs.
But Dropbox has a huge edge when it comes to mobile: The Dropbox app allows other iPad and iPhone apps to store and access data in your Dropbox account, which means the boundaries between desktop and mobile are vanishing. No other service lets you do this, at least not on every platform from Android to Mac to iOS to Windows to Linux.
In contrast, the Google Drive app for the iPad and iPhone doesn’t let any other apps touch its data. That could change, but for now Dropbox is the clear winner.
Two Kinds of Sharing
Dropbox lets you share files with others in two ways:
- By sharing a view/download link with others, to distribute or share files but not allow others to edit them
- By adding other Dropbox users to a folder, so changes made by anyone are synced to everyone instantly
The first type of sharing is great for sharing photos, distributing documents, and any kind of one-to-many sharing that would be cumbersome over email or through a website.
The second kind is perfect for collaborative teams, like school admin teams or departments.
Sharing a Dropbox Folder
Let’s say you have an admin team of three administrators, and you want to have a common folder where you can keep files that all of you are working on and need to update. Perhaps you’ve created a walkthrough log that you update from your iPhone with the Drafts app (tutorial here).
If you already have a folder on your computer that you want to share, you can easily move it into your Dropbox account, then share it:
- Install the Dropbox app on your computer (you’ll be promoted to do this after you create an account at Dropbox.com, or you can download the appropriate app here)
- Locate the appropriate folder on your computer, and drag it into your new Dropbox folder
- Go to Dropbox.com, login, and go to the folder you want to share
- Click the “Shared folder options” icon at the top of the screen:
- Enter the email addresses of the people you want to share the folder with (Note: Your colleagues may use Dropbox under a personal email account rather than their school email—you do NOT want to have more than one Dropbox account, so make sure you use the correct email address)
There are two important things to understand about sharing:
- The files remain truly synced, so if one person deletes them, they’re deleted from everyone’s account.
- A shared folder counts toward the space limit in each member’s account, so if you have a 1GB shared folder, that’s taking up 1GB of space in each person’s account. If you don’t really need all the files to be synced and just want to make certain files available to everyone on your team, you can use this button to share a link to the folder instead:
Get An Account
Dropbox gives you 2GB free, and you can get an additional 500MB if you sign up using someone else’s referral link (here’s mine). If your whole team will be signing up, have the first person invite everyone else so you all get more free space.
So what do you use Dropbox for? Leave a comment and let me know.