Tool Name: Dropbox
Version Number/Release Date: 1.6.16
Developer Website: www.dropbox.com
Reviewed by: Dallas Merritt
Review Date: January 30, 2012
Tags or Keywords: filesharing cloud offsite-storage
Dropbox is a file sharing tool that essentially functions as “cloud” storage for your files. It is accessible via any web browser, or via free downloadable apps for common mobile devices such as tablets, cell phones, and even blackberries. The utility functions as a file database that stores information on a virtual drive, which is automatically synched, regardless of what platform or device from which you choose to access the drive. As an everyday user, I can vouch that in my year of usage I have never encountered a single problem, in function or form, while using this tool. While the tool is both powerful and convenient enough to make it useful to any individual, it also has functions that support collaborative work via filesharing.
Communication and transfer of information in the digital age has, at times, been problematic. Devices such as CD-ROM disks, or thumb drives have been used to pass information back and forth, but require some type of physical transfer to occur, which can be inefficient. Dropbox, which has folder sharing capabilities, offers a solution to the dilemmas of file transfer. By sharing folder permissions with another person (or people), a Dropbox user can share files almost instantly with anybody else who has internet access. This facilitates collaboration on projects by allowing groups of users to share a file database, regardless of their location, free of charge, and without any networking restrictions. This type of group work is also facilitated by the ease with which the tool can be navigated.
Because the file organization of Dropbox is based on a traditional file tree, similar to the one Microsoft Windows has used since its creation, the format is familiar enough that most computer users can navigate through the utility without any instruction, even during their first use. The user interface is simple and intuitive, and employs universally recognizable icons that adequately indicate their function. If someone were to have questions, the help files and links are clear and easily accessible in both the browser and stand-alone applications, and should serve to convert the novice to an expert in no time. However, for those who are already avid cloud tool users who are wary about cross-app accessibility, Dropbox’s open communication with app developers leaves little to fret about.
Dropbox has worked with app developers in multiple media formats to facilitate the use of their file sharing system. Facebook, web browsers, and nearly every cloud application for tablets can save files directly to Dropbox, from within their application, seamlessly. This type of integration is what sets Dropbox apart from its competitors, and is why this tool should be your go-to file sharing application. If that is not convincing enough, the app is free, regardless of device or platform. While it is true that the free version does come with limited storage space (250 MB), there are several free options to increase the amount of storage space to which users have access, and there are even some pay options available for those who have more ambitious uses in mind for their cloud storage.
Essentially, due to its ease of use, functionality, free cost, and the convenience it provides for its users, Dropbox is perhaps one of the best tools currently on the market. I have found it to be indispensable in my work as both a student and teacher, and am excited about the potential usefulness it might have for my collaborative work in Digital Humanities.
Ease of Use: This tool is simple and intuitive. There is a tutorial video available, but most users would not require instruction to fully use this tool.
Requirements: The tool is seamlessly integrated across platforms and is uniformly accessible via any web browser; its function and navigation are exactly similar regardless of method of access.
Rival or Comparable Tools: box.net, mozy.com, spideroak.com, syncplicity.com, zumodrive.com
Other Reviews: I didn’t use any other reviews for the product, because I use it extensively enough that I’m thoroughly familiar with its functions. However, the tour on the Dropbox home page would be useful to anybody who wanted a thorough review of the tool’s capabilities.