Of course there are other cloud storage and synching services: Apple’s own iCloud, Box, iDolly, Google Cloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, and more. However, while they all have their virtues, none of them matches Dropbox for no hassle, transparent, “just works” functionality in the context of keeping work in progress—along with recently archived files—on several work platform laptops and my iPad harmoniously synchronized.
Actually, I do remember how I used to choreograph file management on multiple computers before Dropbox (which was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston); I emailed stuff to myself, or dragged it on and off thumb drives. And way back in the day, I used floppy disks!. None of these ever as satisfactory, effortless, and idiot-proof as Dropbox.
When I sit down with any of my computers, I can expect any changes to files I’ve dropped into or created in my Dropbox Folder will be brought up to date within a few seconds. With the iPad and its limited connectivity especially, this facility is huge. Without Dropbox (or some surrogate like iCloud), using the iPad as a mobile complementary platform to my anchor Mac would be a pain, to say the least. Dropbox makes the iPad’s lack of a USB port and wired communications interfaces much less of a pain, at least in this context.
A major leg up Dropbox has over iCloud is that the former supports Mac OS versions back to 10.4 Tiger, whereas iCloud’s demand for at least OS X 10.8.2 Mountain Lion, iOS 6, or Windows 7/8 makes it a non-starter for me with two Power PC G4 Macs still in active service, and as a frequent user of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my anchor Mac along with Mountain Lion. For that matter, Dropbox supports pretty much any other operating system you are likely to be using on a PC, tablet, or smartphone these days, which Apple again doesn’t with iCloud. Specifically, Dropbox supports:
- iOS v4.3 or later
- Windows back to Windows 2003, and Windows XP, of course
- Linux to Ubuntu 7.10+
- Fedora Core 9+
- Android OS 2.1 (Eclair) or higher
- BlackBerry OS 4.5 and up
You can also transfer and download files using the Dropbox website from any modern browser, so Dropbox has you covered.
To be fair, iCloud does a bunch of things Dropbox doesn’t, none of which are of particular interest to me, but you can find a good rundown on what it is this article at Mac.Tuts+.
Steve Jobs reportedly offered to buy Dropbox for $800 million, by the way, but Houston turned him down.
Dropbox accounts are free up to a nominal 2GB. Most users opt for the free service, but more commodious storage options on Dropbox are available for fee if you need them. You can also earn expansion space on your free Dropbox account by referring new users to the service.
Dropbox for iOS is available in the App Store.