Free utility Dropbox is great at syncing files between computers, but it has a lot more potential than just that. Here’s a handful of clever ways you can use Dropbox that you may not have thought of.
If you haven’t read our first article on this subject, be sure to check out how to use Dropbox for more than just file syncing, where we covered using it to sync passwords across PCs, access portable applications from anywhere or control your computer remotely. Let’s add to those ideas and walk through a number of interesting use cases for Dropbox.
Store Your Files in an Encrypted TrueCrypt Volume
If data security is a big concern for you, create an encrypted TrueCrypt volume and store it in your Dropbox folder so you can sync it to anywhere. You can take it a step further by storing the portable version of TrueCrypt in your Dropbox folder as well, to save time if you need to get into your encrypted volume from a PC that isn’t already hooked into Dropbox.
Once you’ve got your TrueCrypt volume up and running, you can install all of your portable applications, documents and anything else you want to keep completely secure. You might be concerned about syncing such a large file between PCs, but since Dropbox only transfers the part of the file that has actually changed, there shouldn’t be too much bandwidth being used.
Use Shared Folders as a Cheap Network Drive for Remote Teams
The really great feature that sets Dropbox apart from the rest as a shared network drive for a team is the file revisions-whether a file gets accidentally deleted, or much more commonly, overwritten with a bad version, you can easily recover the older version of the file through the web interface.
Make Dropbox Your Actual “My Documents” Folder
To do so for Windows 7 or Vista, just right-click on your Documents folder, select Properties, and then on the Location tab you can specify the new file path, and click the Move button. The process is very similar in Windows XP, but you’ll need to change the Target value instead.
If you don’t want to move your documents folder, but still want quick access, be sure to check out how to add your Dropbox folder to the Windows 7 Start Menu.
Create Your Own Customised Browser Start Page
If your HTML skills are lacking, you can check out this tutorial from reader elasticthreads, who has a custom search page using the web-command-line service YubNub to make quick work of searching from your mobile device using a number of services, like Google Images, Maps or Amazon.
Start Your Torrents from Any Computer
Rather than wait until you get back home to start a download, why not start them remotely from anywhere? All you have to do is set your torrent client to monitor a folder in your Dropbox, and then add the torrent files to the folder remotely — you can even upload them through the web interface if you want. Most of the popular torrent clients, like uTorrent, support this feature, and while there are other ways to remotely start a download, this is certainly one of the easiest.
Take Useful Information With You
Since you can easily sync your data to your iPhone, or access files through the mobile web interface, you can keep your collection of PDF books or other files in your Dropbox folder. You can use this to turn your iPhone, iPad, or other mobile device into an e-book reader from anywhere.
Reader @joeattardi has an even more clever use: he downloads PDF files from restaurants with nutrition facts, so he can get informed nutrition data while he’s on the go. The same technique could be used for all sorts of helpful information — quick shortcut guides, useful fact sheets or anything else you can imagine and might need while you’re away from your PC.
Sync Your Music, Access from Anywhere or Share With Friends
Having access to your music collection from anywhere is always a favourite technique for any web-based sync system, and Dropbox is no slouch in that department. You can put your entire music collection in your Dropbox folder and keep it in sync between all of your PCs, as well as listen through the web interface.
On the secondary PC, you can just use the Shift key trick to choose the folder from the new location in your Dropbox.
So what about you? Do you have any more clever uses for Dropbox that we didn’t think of? Share your ideas in the comments.