How I use Dropbox

Gone are the days of ferrying files back and forth using a CD-RW disc. Gone are the days of ZIP disks and the potential to have your data devoured by the ZIP drive. Gone are the days of toting USB keys around with files saved to them like 21st Century floppies.

This is the age of the Cloud and of Dropbox. I would be lost without it. I use it to keep my files in sync across my home and work computers. I use it to keep back ups of my writing, photos and other important things.

I use Dropbox to keep my digital life in order. The biggest benefit to the service it its flexibility. You can keep your home folder in sync, start torrents downloading remotely or any of the other Tips and Tricks the Dropbox Wiki has to offer.

In short, it will keep your files in sync between devices, both computers and phones. It will keep multiple versions of files so if you overwrite or delete something then change your mind, you can recover it.

It is simple to use because it’s just a folder on your computer. However, this folder has super powers. As long as you have Dropbox installed it will work in the background to keep everything in order.

I use it for a couple of specific things that I find makes my life a bit easier.

Evernote Watched Folder

First, I use Evernote. I love Evernote. It is my digital filing cabinet. If Dropbox is for everyday things, Evernote is for everything I want to keep for months, or years.

Evernote has a fantastic feature that will monitor a folder and automatically import anything saved to it into Evernote.

I keep my folder called, Add to Evernote in Dropbox so when I’m at work I can drop files into it and my home PC will pickup those files and add them to Evernote.

Add to iTunes

Like many people I have an iPhone and I use iTunes to manage my music. I’m not a fan of the cloud music services since I like to own my music. This presents a problem that eventually everything I want to listen to needs to end up in iTunes eventually.

This is easy enough when I am at home. However, when I’m at work and I buy an album on Amazon or I find a talk or podcast I want to listen to a single episode of I don’t have a good way to get it into iTunes.

Until now…

Ever since version 9, iTunes has had a folder called Automatically Add to iTunes. This folder can be found in your Music folder under your profile.

Remember to replace USERNAME with your own username.

  • If you’re on a Mac: /Users/USERNAME/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media
  • If you’re on a Windows 7 PC: \USERNAME\My Music\iTunes
  • If you’re on a Windows XP PC: \Documents and Settings\USERNAME\My Documents\My Music\iTunes

I use a system very similar to my Evernote setup. I have a folder called Add to iTunes in my Dropbox folder. Then, on the Mac at home, I have Automator run a simple folder action to copy any files found in the Dropbox folder to the Automatically Add to iTunes folder.

This way, no matter where I am, as long as I have internet access and Dropbox, I can be sure new music is added to my iTunes library and synced to my phone when I get home.

Camera Uploads

I love to take photos with my iPhone. I’ve taken so many I quickly outgrew the 5GB iCloud free account. I want to make sure my photos are safe and live somewhere outside my phone. Dropbox Camera Upload provides the perfect place to keep them safe.

First, when I plug my iPhone into any computer I have with Dropbox running, it will detect the phone and automatically save all photos to a folder called Camera Uploads. This also works with Android phones.

In addition to this, Dropbox released an update to the iPhone app yesterday, bringing it into parity with the Android app, which allows for uploading photos to the same Camera Uploads folder when the phone is connected to wi-fi. There is also an option to upload over the cellular network and those of you with unlimited data plans can take advantage of that.

eBooks for iPad

The last thing I use Dropbox for is keeping a collection of eBooks I’ve come across on the web for free. There are many people who will give away free ebooks I’ve downloaded. I also have friends who are writers and I’ve gotten copies of their books in Kindle, PDF, or epub formats.

I save all of these in a Dropbox folder called eBooks. Then, when I am on my iPad or iPhone I can browse to the folder, select the file and open the book in the Kindle app or iBooks. This keeps all of my books in a safe place and makes it easy to load them on the mobile devices without needing a computer.