How to Get the Most out of Dropbox as an Architect
The mobile internet revolution has impacted the work and life of many people, but if you’re reading this, you are probably one of those who benefits the most from this new connected world.
As an architect, it’s likely that you’ll deal with a lot of files on a day to day basis – site plans, specifications, technical drawings and so on. Architects also move around a lot more during the day than is typical of most desk-based jobs – traveling back and forth between the office and job sites.
We often need access to our files when we’re not in the office, and bringing a laptop everywhere we go or even copying the files to USB drive or disk is not always the best solution. Architects rarely work on a completely solitary basis and it’s highly likely that a colleague may need to access a certain file in your absence. If this situation occurred in the past, you’d have to choose between waiting until you returned to the office and dealing with the issue of multiple copies of files at different stages of editing.
With the birth of mobile internet, this problem is now behind us. There are many useful software programs and mobile apps out there for architects (like, of course, Archisnapper for making field reports), but Dropbox is one of the most useful. Gone are the days when you’d have to lug around a laptop and a huge briefcase of paperwork everywhere you went.
If you don’t currently use this app, we’re about to explain how it could revolutionize your workflow and make your life easier.
What is Dropbox?
It’s easiest to think of Dropbox as an extra drive on your computer, but rather than being physically inside the machine or plugged into a port, your files are stored remotely in “cloud” storage. In simple terms this means you can access whatever files you save in your Dropbox, from any computer, tablet or mobile phone, wherever you are in the world.
Dropbox software is available for Windows and Mac OS and is also available as an app for iOS and Android phones and tablets. You can also log into the Dropbox website from any computer and access your files without installing any software.
The most powerful feature of Dropbox is that any files you save into your Dropbox folder sync automatically to the cloud. There’s no need to think about uploading and downloading files from an external server – any changes you make to files within your Dropbox or any new files that you add will automatically be uploaded and synced to all your computers and mobile internet devices.
What Are the Advantages of Dropbox?
1. Easy File Sharing
Dropbox is designed to make sharing of files between friends and colleagues easy and you can allow others access to your file at the click of a button. Files can be shared as read-only versions or you can offer full permissions to colleagues when you wish to work collaboratively. When a file is changed, the changes are synced so that everyone who can access the files will always have the most up to date version.
2. Automatic Backup
As Dropbox stores your files in the cloud, there’s no need to worry about scheduling backups and keeping multiple copies of files. Even if you lose or damage your computer, your files will still be safe in Dropbox and easily accessed from another device. Files can also be undeleted and rolled back to a previous version. The standard version Dropbox keeps previous versions of files for 30 days after they’ve been changed or deleted and unlimited file recovery is offered for an additional fee.
The basic version of Dropbox is free and includes 16GB of storage space, which can be increased by referring friends and completing certain tasks. Pro plans start at $9.99 a month for 100GB of storage and business accounts allowing team collaboration and unlimited storage space are available from $795 per year for 5 users.
4. Easy to Use
The Dropbox app runs in the background and integrates into your normal computer system so there’s no need to learn to use any new software. Dropbox works just like any normal folder on your computer so you simply need to make sure the files you wish to backup and share are saved in your Dropbox folder and the program will do the rest.
5. Saves Time
Rather than wasting valuable work time emailing files back and forth and waiting for files to download and backups to complete, Dropbox automates everything so you’ll have more time freed up to work on other tasks.
How to use Dropbox Effectively
1. Installing Dropbox
To get started with Dropbox, you’ll need to install the software on each of your computers, tablets and smartphones. Many phones and tablets come with the Dropbox app pre-installed, but you can also download it from the Dropbox website and the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
If you’re a new user to Dropbox, you’ll need to sign up for a new account. You can then use these login details to access the application on all your individual devices
Once you’ve installed Dropbox and signed in, there is no further setup. All you need to do to make sure your files are backed up and synced is to save them within the Dropbox folder.
You will probably also want to make sure Dropbox is set to run automatically when you turn on your computer so that any work you do locally will be synced to the cloud without you having to remember to run the Dropbox application.
If you have very large files like videos that you don’t want to sync automatically to save disk space or bandwidth, you can use the selective sync settings to prevent certain folders from downloading to your computer automatically.
2. Sharing Files
To share files as read-only versions in the Windows or Mac application or on the Dropbox website, simply right-click (or Ctrl + click on Macs) on the file or folder you want to share and select “Share Dropbox link”. This will give you an URL which can be given to anyone you want to have access to your files. This is the quickest and easiest way to share big files – no uploading required! Users also don’t need to have a Dropbox account to access your files. You can keep track of all the files you’ve shared by accessing the “links” section of your Dropbox account via the website, and revoke access whenever you choose.
When you want to collaborate with your colleagues on certain files, you’ll need to allow full access. You can do this on your computer by right-clicking and selecting “Share this folder”. You’ll be taken to the Dropbox website where you can enter the email addresses of users you wish to share with.
You can also create a new shared folder by going to “sharing” within your account on the Dropbox website. Here you can set up new shared folders and invite collaborators by email. If they accept your invitation, the shared folder will automatically appear in their Dropbox and the files will sync to their devices.
3. Save Photos to Dropbox Automatically
To save time copying photos from your image directories to your Dropbox folder after you download them from your camera, turn on the feature to automatically save photos to Dropbox. This will upload your photos to a special directory within Dropbox when you connect your camera to your computer – very useful for site photos and uploading portfolio images.
Even more useful, you can set your smartphone to sync your photos directly with your Dropbox and upload automatically over a Wi-Fi connection. Take photographs on your phone and they’ll be automatically available to anyone you choose through Dropbox within seconds.
The photos link within your account on the Dropbox website allows you to view all your photos from individual folders easily in a combined gallery format. You can also easily choose the images you wish to share with others via email, Facebook or Twitter using this interface.
4. Setting Favorites
You can add files that you use frequently to your favorites, which makes them easier to find. Simply tap the star icon when you’re in the application on your phone or tablet to mark a file as a favorite.
Setting favorites does not only make your most-used files easier to access but it also comes in very handy when using the mobile app. The mobile Dropbox app does not download all files automatically as it would take up too much space and use too much bandwidth. Rather files are downloaded as needed. However files marked as favorites, will always be downloaded and synced, meaning they are available instantly and are always up to date without needing to be downloaded manually each time.
5. Recover Old and Deleted Files
If you’ve accidentally saved over a file or need to access an older version, you can use the “previous versions” functionality in Dropbox to retrieve the old file.
Simply right-click while in the application and select “view previous versions” – you’ll get a list of all previous saves in reverse chronological order along with information such as who last edited the file, the file size and date and time it was edited. When you’ve found the old version you need, simply click “restore” to access your file.
To undelete files, click the trashcan icon on your Dropbox website to view your deleted files. Restoring the file is then only a click away.
If you find you are frequently recovering old files or undeleting files, consider upgrading to Dropbox’s Packrat service (an additional $39 per year for pro accounts and included as standard with business accounts) for unlimited undelete and file revision history.
6. Get Extra Storage for Free
A free Dropbox account comes with 2GB of space but you can get more free space by referring friends – 500mb per friend up to 16GB and 125MB for connecting your account with Facebook or Twitter. You can also get bonus space by downloading certain apps and software and uploading photographs from your camera or phone directly to your Dropbox.
Install Dropbox Today
If you’re not using Dropbox yet, you really should give it a whirl and see how much easier it can make your working life. As basic accounts are available and free for everyone, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t install it and try it out.
Do you use Dropbox at work? Do you have any other handy tips for using it? Let us know in the comments.