Like many other MBAs, much of the work I do involves sharing files with other people, and my favorite tool for this purpose is Dropbox. Recently, I observed that not all of the people with whom I am working – MBAs included – are using Dropbox as effectively as they could. Therefore, I am focusing this article on three Dropbox functions that I find beneficial; and when they are used properly, they can increase one’s effectiveness. In the following, I describe linking, version tracking and event viewing and illustrate how each can be useful and time saving.
Linking – The linking function provides a useful way of giving others direct access to a file without their knowing the location of the article or being a Dropbox user. There are several ways Dropbox account holders can create a unique URL for any file stored in a Dropbox folder. My approach is to open the folder residing on my laptop, highlight the file and right click to open a dropdown menu containing the option, “Share Dropbox Link.” Clicking on this option adds a copy of the file’s URL to my clipboard, which I can then paste into an email or insert as a hyperlink in a document or website. With the link, others have direct access to the file by simply clicking. There is no need to download and save a file, search for a file or attach a file when using this function. Learn more about linking by visiting Dropbox’s Help Center.
Version Tracking – Dropbox keeps a snapshot for 30 days of every change made to a file stored in a Dropbox folder or longer with a paid add-on, called Packrat. This feature means restoring a file from an older version is possible with only a few clicks. Moreover, it means users no longer have to create naming conventions for files to keep track of the latest version of a given file. Eliminating naming conventions also reduces the probability of users inadvertently selecting the wrong document on which to work from multiple versions. Visit Dropbox’s Help Center to learn more about version tracking and Packrat.
Events Timeline – Dropbox provides a timeline view that shows when someone makes a change to any file in a folder. The view includes the file name, person making the change, the time and date of the change, and the name of the folder where the file resides. Anyone viewing the timeline directly in Dropbox or via an RSS feed can see which files changed during a defined period without opening any of the files in which they are interested. The timeline view is useful for tracking and facilitating workflow, especially when multiple people are working on documents in a predefined sequence.
My use of Dropbox for collaborative projects involves all three functions described above. I regularly view the events timeline to see which files have changed and therefore require my review or for reassignment to others for additional work. When I share files with others, I use a URL rather than an attached file, especially when working with non-Dropbox users. Finally, when I need to view an earlier version of a document, I go to the version history and select the appropriate version.
Dropbox, like many of the other applications available to us, becomes more beneficial and we become more proficient in its use the more we employ it. Using Dropbox for file storage and backup, while being worthwhile, does not leverage all of the time-saving functions and capabilities available to users. Become a proficient and effective user of Dropbox through experimentation and ongoing practice.
I find working with Dropbox both useful and time saving. Do you use Dropbox or some other file sharing application? Please communicate your thoughts about file sharing applications by adding a comment below.
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Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Founder of MyeEMBA.com