Link Dropping: Dropbox

Say that title aloud. Kinda nifty, isn’t it?

I don’t run this sort of thing too regularly, so a little clarification might come in handy: Link Dropping posts are all about a nifty site on the ‘net that you should be aware of, one usually deemed important by yours truly and thus completely ignored by the readers.

A tough job, this. But the link being dropped today is one I recommend all of you pay attention to, as it provides a service that is both a) incredibly useful and b) the sole reason I ever pass tests in college.

Intrigued? Read on for an explanation of the service and then a little technical wizardry that just might help you clinch your next big exam.

Dropbox is, in a word, awesome. The concept itself is simple: a place online where you can store stuff. Call it your own little box tucked away in some dark vault, one that you can access from any computer to upload, download, or share new files. The metaphor is a little weak, but you get the idea – a virtual USB drive, in a sense, one that’s always available when the internet is.

Sound tempting? The service is completely free, requiring little more than a new account. Once completed, logging in at will bring up a slick interface that lists out everything contained inside your box. Need to edit a file you have in the box? Download it, make the changes, and then re-upload it. Problem solved. The upload and download speeds are normally very quick, making file manipulation even easier than before.

Dropbox allows for creation of folders, too, with the intent of organizing your stuff. I’m a little lazy with this myself, but I do appreciate the provided Public folder, which sets the files put into it as visible to the world at large. It’s a very useful way to share a file with someone on another computer – simply put the file in the Public folder, and Dropbox will even provide the URL for you to send them so that they can access it.

The feature set expands from there, though I’ll leave that for you to uncover on your own. The overall premise of Dropbox is simple enough to make its appeal evident from the get-go, so instead I’ll focus on the service’s most unique feature: how tightly it integrates with your daily computer use.

A Dropbox application is available for your personal computer, one that creates a “My Dropbox” folder on your hard drive. Dropping or saving files into that folder will automatically upload them online, which is wonderful, but the application also keeps track of any changes made to the contents of your box from other computers and updates accordingly. An example? Let’s say I create a document on a computer at school and upload it to my box shortly thereafter. Whenever I return home and fire up my PC, the Dropbox application will notice that a new file is present online, and automatically download it for me to the “My Dropbox” folder.

The process is simpler – and more useful – than it probably sounds. Working on final papers last semester, I found the application to be a godsend. I could work on a paper, save it to the “My Dropbox” folder, and then rush to school, download it from, and get cracking. No need to email the file to myself, nor to break out a physical USB drive and wait for it to transfer – the process is automated to make your life a whole hell of a lot easier.

My adoration of the whole package doubled whenever the Dropbox iPhone application was released sometime last year. The app is fairly self-explanatory, allowing you to access the contents of your box from your iPhone, but its usefulness doesn’t stop there. I’ve always been a fan of typing up my notes, printing them out, and then cramming the information into my brain before an exam, but the Dropbox app cuts out the middle man entirely.

Now, when I study, I’ll type my notes up in a text document, upload it to my Dropbox, and then access the file on my phone. The Dropbox app automatically formats the file for great visibility on the iPhone’s small screen, letting me carry all of my notes with me whenever I’m walking around campus. Doing so makes last-minute cramming all the easier, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled out my phone for a last bit of fact checking before the exam started.

What do you all think? Dropbox integrated with my daily digital routine ever since I signed up, and I doubt I’m the only one raving about it. Just signing up nets you two free gigabytes of space to work with, which is more than enough for the average user, though that number can be expanded just by spreading word about the product (like so!).

Full disclosure: Dropbox will award you extra space for inviting people to join, which is just useful enough that I hope you don’t mind me including the link in the last paragraph. If you do decide to sign up for Dropbox, feel free to use that link and throw some extra space my way, though I promise I won’t be too offended if you opt to go through itself. Either way, I recommend you check it out!

Let me know what you think in the comments. And, if you haven’t already, check out my post from last week for information that could save your life. Indirectly.

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