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Dropbox: Your digital do-it-all duct tape

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BY PAUL QUENEAU

Get at your documents anywhere, create instant photo galleries, deploy large-file downloads — you name it — Dropbox is a multi-tool for outdoor communicators.
Much as I enjoy some modern creations, I remain a staunch fan of simplicity.
Since I started using it about a year ago, a little app called Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) has excelled at making my work as a magazine editor a good bit simpler. And like its relatives, the Swiss Army knives and duct tape, I keep finding new ways to use it.
Whether you’re on a PC, a Mac, an iPad, iPhone, Andriod or some combination thereof, Dropbox is a quick and easy install. It provides two gigabytes of storage space for free, and once you create a login and password, you will have Dropbox folder on your computer’s desktop.
This folder will then appear on every computer you install Dropbox on, continually syncing your files between them all, fast and without fanfare. Since these files are saved in “the Cloud,” you can access them by logging on to Dropbox’s website from any computer with an Internet connection. It’s also worth noting that on mobile devices, files aren’t downloaded until you ask them to be, in order to save disk space and bandwidth. I’ve begun using my Dropbox as my main documents folder so I can get at anything, anytime, from anywhere.
But its utility runs deeper still. If I place a folder of images in my Dropbox Photos folder, it creates an instant Web gallery that I can share with anyone I choose. I simply right-click (or controlclick on a Mac) on the image folder in question, copy the Dropbox gallery link, and then paste it into an e-mail. The gallery Dropbox provides is clean and simple, complete with thumbnails, fast-loading medium-resolution sample images and a link for downloading the full-size master photo. Since it’s not linked off any public website, it can act as a secure gallery for shopping your photos out to others.
Also, I’m often tasked with distributing large video files to people who aren’t familiar with FTP sites. I recently figured out that all I need to do is put the files in my Dropbox’s Public folder. I can then right-click on the file and choose “Copy Public Link,” paste it in an e-mail, and anyone who I send the link to can download the file with one click, even if its 100 MB or larger.
When I’m collaborating with another Dropbox user on a project where I need to share documents and files, I just invite them to a shared folder, which will then appear in their Dropbox as well and keep itself constantly synced when either one of us updates a file in that shared folder. Dropbox even keeps a 30-day backup of previous document versions on its servers in case you run into trouble.
If you have files you need to assure stay secure, Dropbox meshes perfectly with 1Password, a fabulous and award-winning application available for smart-phones, macs and PCs that will allow you to not only keep track of all your Internet passwords in a super-secure manner, but also lock down any computer files and folders of your choosing.
Best of all, Dropbox does it all without any complicated set-ups or ads getting forced upon you. I’ve yet to see it jumble up versions of a document, crash, or do anything but work flawlessly and seamlessly. All for free. Tough to beat.♦
—Paul Queneau grew up in Colorado hunting, fishing and backpacking. He started with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Bugle magazine as an intern and is currently the conservation editor. Contact him at pqueneau@ RMEF.org.
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