I personally love the Dropbox file sharing program, and it’s not hard to explain why “” instant synchronization across all three major platforms is inherently awesome. Drop a file into your Dropbox on one computer and it shows up almost instantly on all your other computers, be it at home or work.
MakeUseOf writers have highlighted Dropbox’s virtues more than once. In 2008 Dave interviewed its founder, Drew Houston; – Angelina suggested several interesting ways for students to use Dropbox; Jackson reviewed Dropbox’s iPhone app; and Jeffry showed Mac users how to remotely trigger a file download using Dropbox.
But as useful as the Dropbox file sharing program is on its own, it’s even better when used in tandem with the applications you already know and love. Whether it’s remotely starting a Bittorrent download, synchronizing your calendar and to-do list or making your video game habit instantly portable, Dropbox can make multiple computers function as though they are one.
1. Start a Bittorrent Download (Remotely) From Anywhere
Bittorrent is the peer to peer technology of choice for most Internet users, but it’s not exactly easy on bandwidth. So if you think of something you want to download while you’re at work, running BitTorrent on your work computer is probably a good way to get fired. You can, however, easily start a BitTorrent download on your home desktop machine or media center from work with a little bit of Dropbox magic.
Most torrent clients are capable of watching a given folder for .torrent files. Point your program towards a folder in your Dropbox file sharing program, and volia. If you leave your desktop computer on while you’re at work, you can add a .torrent file to the folder in your Dropbox from work and your download will automatically start “” at home. Pretty cool, huh!
Can’t install Dropbox on your work machine? No problem; just use Dropbox’s web interface to upload the files.
2. Keep Your Calendars Synchronized
I’m sure many of you use Google Calendar for your online calendar needs “” it’s an easy-to-use calendar you can access anywhere. But online calendars are only useful when you have an Internet connection, leaving you without you data in those (admittedly increasingly rare) instances when there’s no nearby WiFi connection.
Dropbox’s strength being the ability to make data on one computer accessible from all your computers, combining Dropbox with your desktop calendar application of choice can deliver a great compromise between an offline and and online calendar: simply save your calendar file to your Dropbox. Your data will be accessible when you’re offline, and you’ll even be able to make changes. As soon as the computer you made those changes on connects to the Internet, however, they will take affect on all your computers.
Mozilla’s Sunbird works beautifully this way. Simply create a new iCal file and save it in your Dropbox, then open the file with Sunbird on all your systems. Now all changes you make to your calendar will be visible on all your systems.
3. Sync Your To-Do List or Desktop Wiki
For many, Remember the Milk is the ultimate to-do list, but if suffers the same limitation online calendars do: you need to be online to access it. If you find for this reason that your ultimate to-do list strategy is an old-fashioned text document with a list of tasks, Dropbox can make that document accessible on all your computers. Simply move your text to-do list to your Dropbox and you’re set.
Alternatively, if you use a desktop wiki such as Zim [Windows/Ubuntu] or Tomboy [cross-platform] to keep track of your current tasks, consider storing your wiki’s repository in your Dropbox. I myself use Zim to store everything from phone numbers I need to remember to wireless passcodes I need when visiting friends and family. Dropbox ensures I’ll never forget to transfer a critical piece of data from my desktop to my netbook.
4. Make Your Gaming Instantly Portable
All work and no play makes Dropbox sound very dull. If you love playing video games on your media center computer, or your desktop computer, but wish you could continue the fun on your netbook during your bus commute to work, Dropbox can help with that too. Many games will give you the opportunity to save your game to a certain folder; simply save to your Dropbox and you can continue on your netbook without missing a beat (assuming the game’s installed on that computer as well.)
Are you a retro-gaming fanatic who likes to always have your emulator on-hand? Most emulators allow you to configure where to save your progress for all games. Point your favorite program towards a dedicated folder in your Dropbox and it will save your game to all your computers without any effort on your part.
There you have it: four unique ways to combine Dropbox with programs you already use on a regular basis. The underlying theme may be the same “”data from a given program automatically synchronizing between all your computers “” but adding such automatic synchronization can change the way you interact with your computers.
If your calendar has a date on one computer you can access it on another. If Link is about to save the princess on your media center, you can finish the job on your netbook. The best part: once you set up programs in this manner everything happens without any intervention from you, allowing you to focus on whatever you’re working on. This is how computers should work.
Download Dropbox here, if you haven’t already. The service is free for a 2 gigabyte account, and you won’t need more space than that to apply the tricks described above.
Do you have your own Dropbox mashups you’d like to share? Please share; point it out in the comments below.
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