Start by paying a visit to the Dropbox website at www.getdropbox.com, click the Download Dropbox button and save the file to the desktop. Double-click the downloaded file and run through the installation process. Once this is complete, select the option labelled ‘I am new to Dropbox’ and click Next. Fill in the requested details, choosing a password to protect your account and supplying a name for the computer that is currently being used. Click Next to continue once this information has been completed.
A welcome email will be sent out, but no account confirmation is required. A brief Dropbox tour will be displayed – work through this by clicking Next or just click the ‘Skip tour and finish’ button to get started straightaway. To choose the folder that should be used to store files locally, tick the box labelled ‘I want to choose where to put my Dropbox’ before clicking ‘Finish and go to My Dropbox’. After selecting or creating a suitable folder, click OK to continue.
The folder that has been configured to be ‘My Dropbox’ can be used to store files just like any other folder on the hard disk. Any files that are saved to this folder or copied into it will be automatically copied to your online Dropbox account, and this can be accessed in one of two ways. The first option is to simply visit www.getdropbox.com and enter your email address and password. The second way is to access the site by right-clicking anywhere within the My Dropbox folder and clicking Dropbox, followed by ‘Browse via web interface’.
In order to get the most from Dropbox, the software should be installed on more than one computer. On another computer, pay a visit to www.getdropbox.com, log into your account and then click the Install link to the left of the page. Click the link to download the software and run through the installation as before. This will create a dropbox folder on the PC that will be synchronised so that its contents are identical to those in the dropbox on the other computer. Once the installation is complete, return to the main page of your Dropbox account.
In the Recent Events section of the page, the fact that a new computer has been added to the account should be listed. To make changes to any computers that have been linked with the account, start by clicking the Account link in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Click the Manage Computers link, and the computers that have Dropbox installed will be listed. To change the name used identify an individual computer, click the Rename link, enter a new name and click Save. To prevent synchronisation of files with a computer, click Unlink and then confirm the action.
As mentioned, any files that are added to the Dropbox folder will be automatically synchronised with your online account; this will in turn be synchronised with other computers that have the software installed so all the folders remain identical. To use Dropbox on a computer that does not have the software installed, log into your account via the website and click the Files link to the left of the page. Browse through various folders by clicking the relevant links and download files by right-clicking them and selecting Save Target As.
Having edited and saved a file that has been downloaded from Dropbox, or having created a new file, it will need to be uploaded so it can be accessed from other computers. Again, click the Files link to the left of the page and use the ‘Create folder’ link to help organise files. Navigate to the folder that should be used to store the file and click the Upload link, followed by the ‘Choose files’ button. After selecting the required file, click ‘Add more files’ if necessary and then click the ‘Start upload’ button.
Although image files can be uploaded and accessed in exactly the same way as other files, there is also a special picture mode available. Rather than viewing images as just a list of file names, Dropbox can preview files providing they have been uploaded to the Photos folder of the upload area. To access the preview mode, either navigate to the Photos folder and click the ‘Gallery view’ link, or simply click the Photos link to the left-hand side of the page. Click a thumbnail to view a larger version of an image and navigate by clicking to the left or right of the preview window.
We have detailed one method of downloading files from Dropbox, but there is another option available when browsing through folder contents. Hold the mouse pointer over the entry for a file and click the small arrow that appears to the right-hand side of the highlight. The menu that appears provides access to a number of options, including file downloading, renaming and deleting, as well as making it possible to copy or move files between folders. Any action that is selected needs to be confirmed and this helps to avoid unwanted changes.
Dropbox can also monitor changes that are made to files, keeping a copy of the original file along with any updated versions that are created due to editing. This means it is possible to revert to a previous version of a file without the need to edit it manually should the need arise. From the menu accessed in the previous step, click the Revisions link. Different versions can be downloaded using the links in the Info column, while the Restore link will undo any unwanted changes.
To share files with others, start by clicking the Share link to the left of the Dropbox page. Enter a name for a new folder to share and then enter the email addresses of people who should be granted access to it – use commas to separate multiple addresses. Click the Share Folder button and invitation emails will be sent out automatically. Use the online interface to add the files that are to be shared to the relevant folder or locate the new folder inside the dropbox folder you created on the PC earlier and place files there.
When viewing the contents of a folder that has been shared using the web interface, details of those who have access to it will be displayed. Access will not be granted until the link contained in the invitation email has been clicked, and anyone can be removed from the share by clicking the arrow next to their name and selecting Kick Out from the menu that appears. To share files with non-Dropbox users, copy files to the Public subfolder of the Dropbox folder, right-click and select Dropbox, followed by ‘Copy public link’ before pasting the link into an email.
Dropbox includes 2GB of storage for free, and by clicking the Account link at the top of the page followed by Account Info, it is possible to monitor how much space remains. If more storage is required, click the ‘upgrade’ link to purchase up to 50GB for a monthly or annual fee. Click the Account Settings link if it is ever necessary to change the password associated with your account. Here it is also possible to opt into a newsletter that includes details of the latest version of Dropbox.
Uploading files to and downloading files from Dropbox can have a negative effect on the speed of general internet browsing – particularly when working with larger files. To prevent Dropbox from using all available bandwidth, right-click the dropbox icon that appears in your computer’s Notification Area and select Preferences before moving to the Network section. Remove the tick from the box labelled Automatic and in the box to the right of this enter a maximum upload speed in Kbits/sec. The download speed can be throttled in the same way. Click OK to save the new settings. Setting lower speeds here will increase the time it takes for files added to your dropbox to appear online and on your other computers.