Dropbox is a must for designers... and it's free.

I have two main computers… one at work and one at home. And often, I need to transfer files from one machine to the other. Big files… too big to email.

Previous experiments

I started with thumb drives, but I always found a way to lose them. (Or worse, wash and dry them…) I used my MobileMe (formerly .Mac) iDisk for a while. And that worked, but it always seemed slow. I subscribe to 37 Signals Backpack. And I love it. I manage a ton of info on it. And I started to use it for some file transfer, too. And it works, but the file upload - similar to adding attachments to a web-based email system - isn’t great for passing files back and forth. (And to be fair, that wasn’t what the system was designed for, anyway.)


My friend Jim James (@jamesmiller on Twitter) sent me an invite to join Dropbox, an online storage service. There are two levels - a basic plan that includes 2GB of storage for free and a Pro account that includes 50GB of storage for $10 a month. I signed up for the free service and installed Dropbox on my Macs. Software is available for Mac, Windows and Linux.

The web interface for Dropbox makes your files accessible from any machine.

Once installed, it places a “Dropbox” folder on your computer. Anything placed into the Dropbox is transferred to the online service and synched to your other computers. Fast, effortless and reliable. The web interface gives you complete access from any computer - great if you are away from your normal machines and need a file. And the site even has an iPhone optimized version that’s ideal for looking at PDF’s and other documents while on the go.

That’s not all Dropbox can do… You can also share files easily. There’s a feature that lets you post photo galleries. The Mac version has a menu bar icon that offers a number of options. You can even track version history.

In the end, it’s a fabulous option for transferring files between machines. Particularly for designers, photographers and other people who routinely need to transfer large files. And considering the cost - free for the 2GB account - Dropbox is well worth the effort to sign up.