If you’re new to Dropbox, or the whole cloud storage thing in general, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out how to share files.
Since one of the main reasons to go for cloud storage is the ability to easily share files across systems and networks, we here at Cloudwards figured it would be a good idea to put a quick guide together — on how to get the most out of your Dropbox account.
We have a simple guide to what Dropbox is, but if you’re interested in an exhaustive in-depth review, please go here: Dropbox Review. The basics are very simple and easy to figure out, but you may not know about some of the more advanced features Dropbox offers when it comes to file sharing.
After reading this article, you’ll be a real whiz at sharing files and if not careful — you may even have become the office’s go-to-guy.
Table of Contents
What You’ll need
- A Dropbox account, if you’re still in the process of deciding which service works best, start a trial account here
- Some files and folders to mess around with, and since we’ll be sharing, you may want to ensure there’s no sensitive information in them
- An address book, you need to share files with someone after all
- Check with the person you’re using as a guinea pig first, as they’ll probably be getting an avalanche of emails
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After signing into your Dropbox account, there will be a list of files and folders in the center of your screen and a navigation bar on the left; this is the dashboard and you’ll be able to do pretty much everything in Dropbox from here.
From the dashboard, pick a file or folder you want to share.
It’s important to remember here that all files (and folders) in a folder are automatically shared, so you may want to double-check that there’s nothing sensitive hiding between work documents and party pictures.
Right-click it and a small contextual menu will appear, pick the top option marked as “share.”
See, you’re already doing great.
The next step is to pick who you’re sharing the file/folder with; you can either manually enter their email address (Dropbox will remember it for next time) or import a contacts lists from Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Facebook.
And that’s really all there is to it: the shared person gets an email notifying them that you shared a file or folder, and if they have Dropbox, they can simply log in and the new file will have popped up on their dashboard.
If the person you’ve shared with doesn’t have Dropbox, they can still download and access the files, but they won’t be able to send them back easily.
If you need a “return post”, so to speak, it’s best if they open an account for themselves, it’s free and can be canceled at any time if they decide it’s no longer needed after your shared project.
Before we move on, I would like to call your attention to the small drop-down bar next to the field, where the recipient’s email address is entered. This is where permissions are set, letting you decide if recipients can only view and comment on files, or also download and edit them.
These permissions can be set for each person or a whole group.
The default is “edit” and in my experience, it’s likely to remain that way as it allows for better workflow.
In some cases, though, you may just want people to just look at a file/folder without giving them the ability to download or edit it, and then the “view” function is there for such a purpose.
Again, you may not use it often, but it’s handy to have.
A graphic-designer friend of mine uses this function to give previews of her work to clients, while making sure they can’t steal it or make edits directly, a real problem in her line of work.
Permissions can be changed at any time by right clicking a file or folder, selecting “share” and then either deleting a person from the list entirely or just changing “view” to “edit” or vice-versa — from the drop-down menu.
Commenting and Editing
When you collaborate with others, it’s very handy indeed if all users can see what others have changed or edited and why.
In this case, I uploaded a text file by dragging it from my file system to Dropbox. Once there (about a three-second upload), I opened it by left-clicking it.
You’ll see that beside the comment box on the right, there’s very few other functions; Dropbox itself doesn’t allow edits or changes, users will need to download the file to make any.
If no changes are necessary, just add a few comments and send the file back.
Commenting is a matter of highlighting text and a small button will appear next to it or below.
You can then type what needs to be said or changed.
And the newly made comment will pop up on the sidebar for all to see.
As an extra feature, if you feel that a comment is of vital importance, just put @[email protected] in front of the comment, and that person will get a notification that someone has something to say about their work.
If time is of the essence, I suggest using it sparingly, as an email is sent every time this process is done.
Before we move on, I should mention there is no way as of right now, to make comments visible only to specific people. Everyone who has access can see what everyone else has to said.
A good point to remember before critiquing a co-worker’s project.
All above functions are super handy when collaborating in a team, but if there are a lot of people in that team or if you work with more than one set of people, confusion can sometimes set in.
Dropbox offers two functions on the left-hand sidebar, “sharing” and “links,” where you can see a list of the files you’ve set editing and viewing permission for, respectively.
Both give a great little overview of which file goes where, and are very handy for people juggling more than one task.
Speaking of handy, Dropbox has a feature that (as far as I know), is unique. You can send someone an email requesting files, they then follow a link and can transfer data straight into the folder you specified.
They don’t even need an account to do it. I like this feature, because it removes a lot of unnecessary email traffic and speeds up the entire collaboration process.
To access this function, simply look to the sidebar and click on the option all the way at the bottom.
Another little dialog box will pop up, where you can enter an email address and also attach a short message. As with everything else Dropbox — the system is intuitive and easy to navigate.
Speed also comes into play with the “team” function Dropbox offers.
It’s basically a regular folder which the owner can assign specific people to. Then, when things need to be shared, just select the team folder, rather than going through the process of adding people manually every time.
It’s a handy little function that streamlines the sharing process, to access it, go to the “team” option on the sidebar to the left, click it and a separate dashboard for the team you’re about to create will appear.
Besides that, it works just like the regular dashboard and helps keep work and the rest of your life apart from each other.
Dropbox also has a special folder for pics when you need to get away from work for a while. The sidebar’s “photos” option works pretty much like everything else on Dropbox, except that it’s automatically set to display as a gallery.
I really like it, since just like with the team folder, it makes finding stuff very easy since everything is neatly categorized from the get-go. As an added bonus, pictures are usually more about fun than work, so there you go.
Last but not least is Dropbox Paper.
Currently it’s still in beta, but Paper offers some pretty nice options for simultaneous collaboration with limited text processing and slides. Using it is simple, just click the relevant button on the left-hand bar, and you can set permissions and sharing the exact same way as regular files.
Compared to the rest of the Dropbox suite, Paper is unique, as you’ll be able to process text and images directly into a file without having to download it; though it lacks the breath of functionality a program dedicated to those tasks will have.
Still, it’s pretty handy to have if something that just needs to get knocked out quickly.
That’s it for the guided tour, as you can see Dropbox is not just easy-to-use, but also has a range of interesting options that make working remotely a lot easier than it used to be. Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, and if you’re thinking of using a different provider, you can compare cloud storage services with our chart.