Beyond Online Storage: 10 Cool Ways to Use Dropbox

by Helen Bradley

Dropbox does a whole lot more than let you store files. It's the Swiss Army knife of online storage. Check out 10 different ways you can use Dropbox.

The Dropbox tag line is Your Stuff Anywhere, and that's not far from the truth. While most people understand Dropbox is a place to store and share large documents, just how useful it is—and just how much you can bend it to your will—isn't immediately apparent.

We explain 10 cool ways to help you squeeze the most functionality out of Dropbox.

Getting Started with Dropbox

In case you don't already have an account, use this link to sign up for Dropbox. The free account gives you 2 GB of storage, or you can buy one of the Pro accounts to get 100, 200 or 500 GB of storage with prices starting at $9.99 a month. Business plans offer 1 TB or more of storage and multiple user access.

Alright, let's get to the good stuff. Here are 10 ways to get the most out of Dropbox

1. Integration with Yahoo Mail

Emailing very large files can be tricky, and it's not advisable to do so over conventional email accounts (most email clients choke on huge file attachments). However, that isn't a problem if you're using Yahoo mail and Dropbox. The new integration between these services lets you "email" large files using Dropbox as the delivery mechanism.

Yahoo and Dropbox integration

Figure 1: The new integration between Yahoo mail and Dropbox lets you email large files easily.

Simply open a new Yahoo mail message, click the Attachment icon, and then choose Share from Dropbox to attach a file from a Dropbox folder to the email. Another aspect of the Dropbox/Yahoo Mail integration is a feature that lets you save attachments from incoming emails directly to your Dropbox account.

2. Screenshots to Dropbox

If you're using the latest version of the Dropbox desktop application, you can configure it to save screenshots directly to Dropbox. Then all you have to do save a screenshot to a Dropbox folder is press the Print Screen key on your keyboard. If you press Ctrl + Print Screen, you save the screenshot and get a link to the file. You can then paste the link into an email, for example, making it easy for clients or colleagues to access that screenshot

Save screenshots to Dropbox

Figure 2: The newest version of the Dropbox Desktop application lets you automatically save screenshots directly to Dropbox.

Set up this screenshot feature in your Dropbox preferences on the Import tab.

3. WordPress backup

Do you use Wordpress for your small business blog or website? Now you can back up that blog automatically to Dropbox using a WordPress plug-in (and say goodbye to cumbersome backups).

Some of the plug-ins worth considering include WordPress Backup to Dropbox, WP Time Machine and BackupBox.

4. Convert and store files

A Dropbox automation tool called Wappwolf lets you convert files by dropping them into a Dropbox folder. You can convert a file to a PDF, convert a PDF to TXT, convert eBook files, audio files and lots more.

Sign up for Wappwolf, and authorize it to access your Dropbox folder or folders. You then add an action to the folder that tells Wappwolf what you want it to do to the files you place  in that folder—such as converting the file to another format. Anytime you add a file to that folder, the Wappwolf tool will perform the action automatically.

Even More Cool Ways to Use Dropbox

5. Share images

A new Dropbox feature lets it automatically detect camera cards, so you can upload your photos directly to a Dropbox folder. Even if you don't do this automatically, you can still select images in a folder and create a link to share them with others. You can also create an album of images on Dropbox and share that album with others. This is a great way, for example, to provide product images to your customers and retailers.

Wordpress plug-ins for Dropbox

Figure 3: Handy Wordpress plug-ins let you backup a Wordpress blog or website to your Dropbox.

6. Protect your passwords

A number of password applications, such as KeePass, use a database to store your passwords. If you move this database to a Dropbox folder, and then configure the application to look for its database in the Dropbox folder you can synchronize your passwords easily across a number of devices.

7. Remote printing

While you're on the road, you can use your mobile device and DropBox to print documents from your office printer, so they'll be ready and waiting for you when you get back to the office.

Start by creating a Dropbox folder to use for this "print queue," and then install a small script on the computer connected to the printer. The script tracks the folder you have nominated to be the print queue and whenever it sees a new file in the folder, it automatically sends it to the printer. The process is simple to setup; just use these detailed instructions and the free script.

8. Travel documents

Whenever you travel overseas, it's prudent to bring copies of your passport, birth certificate, credit cards and any other documents that you will need if your passport or wallet is lost or stolen. Instead of carrying paper copies of these documents, scan or photograph the documents and store them in a Dropbox folder so they'll be accessible anywhere.

9. Email important files to Dropbox

The service Send to Dropbox gives you way to email your files to Dropbox. Simply use the free service to log into Dropbox, and it will set up a folder in your account for your attachments and provide you with an email address to use to send files to Dropbox. Uploading to Dropbox is as easy as sending an email.

Send to Dropbox email feature

Figure 4: Use the Send to Dropbox service to email files direct to a special Dropbox folder.

10. Version control

Dropbox is an easy way to record the history of work done on a document. When you upload a newer version of a file, Dropbox keeps the older versions. Dropbox stores 30 days of document history for free accounts, and for paid accounts it stores unlimited versions. Since Microsoft dropped versioning from Word 2010 and since few other programs provide this as a feature, simply by saving files to a Dropbox folder you get access to versioning without any extra effort on your part.

There's Always a Caveat

When working with files on Dropbox, always remember to close the file and the application you are working with before you try to open that file on another computer. This is particularly important when saving passwords in a database stored in a Dropbox folder.

If you don’t close the file and the application, and then try to open that file on another computer, it creates a conflict that the application can’t resolve. Save your work, close your files and applications, and all will be well.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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This article was originally published on Friday Nov 15th 2013
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