A few months ago, Tina approached me and asked if I’d like to be a part of Seekerville’s Birthday Party and to talk a bit about Dropbox. The answer, of course, was “duh – yeah!”
I’ve put together Nine (Plus) Things You Should Know About Dropbox and How Writers Can Use It. There's also a giveaway!
1. Save Your Sanity
I know it might seem a bit trite, but it’s the absolute truth. Have you ever had that heart-stopping moment when your computer goes black or the Windows Blue Screen of Death pops up? Or you get to a conference and realize you forgot your power cord?
Dropbox is your answer. Anything saved to Dropbox is accessible. And the nice thing? Once you get past the initial backup, everything is saved instantly to the Dropbox cloud. Now, you do have to have an internet connection, but as long as you do, you’re unlikely to lose any of your files.
2. Access From Anywhere
So what happens when you get to another computer? Or borrow a friend’s laptop at that conference – or find the hotel’s business center?
You’ve already installed it on your computer. Now you can log in to the Dropbox website and everything you’ve ever backed up is there. If you work outside the home, you can access it from your work computer (I’ve done this many times – but don’t skimp on your actual work!!!! :D). If your computer died and you’re waiting for a new one, but can borrow a laptop from someone else – it’s all there (don’t ask how I know about this one :p).
But…once you get that new computer, or if you have multiple computers you use regularly, Dropbox will sync your files immediately – as long as both have an internet connection. So you’re working away on your laptop at Panera, and when you get home, your file is already updated on your desktop. You get your new computer set up, install Dropbox, and your files will immediately start downloading. If you need certain files immediately, you can choose to download those files or folders first. For instance, you can download the folder with All The Stuff for your current WIP first, then download everything else.
4. Not a Substitute for CrashPlan/Carbonite/etc.
That said, Dropbox is NOT a substitute for a whole computer backup plan like CrashPlan or Carbonite. Dropbox has a limit of 2 gigabytes of data, unless you use their paid version, though you can earn up to 32 gigabytes by going through the tutorial, referring friends, and syncing photos. If you have pretty much any pictures or music or programs on your computer, the 2 gigabytes won’t be nearly enough for a whole computer backup. So I strongly recommend one of those programs or one similar to them. Currently, I use CrashPlan which has a family plan and unlimited space for your backups. This is a PC Magazine article comparing several different options with links to their reviews of each.
5. Change How You Save Your Files – Just a Little Bit
To make it work you do have to change how you save your files, just a tiny bit. Once installed, rather than saving in the “My Documents” folder, you need to save in the new “Dropbox” folder. Before I started using Dropbox, I saved all of my writing-related stuff in a “My Books” folder inside the “My Documents” folder. Once Dropbox was installed, I simply dragged “My Books” into the Dropbox folder, and the computer took care of moving everything. When you save something new, save it somewhere in the Dropbox folder. In Windows, this Dropbox folder should show up in two places on your file explorer – as its own entity and as a library (see picture).
|Click on picture to enlarge.|
|Click on Picture to Enlarge|
7. Send to Kindle/App
Many writers send their WIPs to their Kindles/Kindle apps/Assorted other ereader-ish things from time to time. One common way is to email it to your device. However, if you can’t do that for some reason, you can use an applet called BookDrop to get files from Dropbox to Kindle. Follow the instructions on the website to get it connected. Then any file you’d like on your Kindle, save (or copy) it to the right folder (Dropbox/Apps/book-drop). A few minutes after your Kindle/App connects to the internet, the file will appear on it. I had much more time on my hands than expected at a marching band competition recently, and I was able to transfer a file into that folder via the Dropbox app and have it appear on my Kindle iPad App. This works for Word doc files, PDF files, and .mobi (Kindle) files.
Note: You need to install this from a computer and not a phone or tablet.
8. Share Files
If you’re working with a collaborator, you can share a file. Or it can be an easy way to share with a beta reader. My oldest daughter is a freshman in the marching band. After one of their competitions this fall, we were given a Dropbox link to videos of their preliminary and finals performances. We were able to download them to watch (but asked not to upload them publicly, and they were watermarked). Another friend sent me access to her Dropbox file of another band I wanted to see but missed (Dr. Who show!!!!) – I could move it to my own Dropbox and watch it at my convenience. Documents can be shared as read-only or so they can be edited. I used the app on my phone to share this blog file with a friend while I attended my 6th grader’s first concert (I admit it; I use that term fairly loosely for a group of kids who’ve been playing less than two months). I discovered I have some trumpet skilz while my friend read over the blog and made some comments. By the time I got home, I had an email waiting for me with her notes.
9. Share Folders
You can also share folders. InspyRomance is a reader-oriented blog I’m a part of. There are five of us on the admin team, and all of us have access to the admin folder. We can save documents or other files there so all of us can access them whenever needed. It’s far easier than emailing a document around every time a change is made.
PLUS**Did I Mention Save Your Sanity?
I have lots, and lots, of writer friends on Facebook. I’d say that once a month, on average, I see a post from one of them about “AH! Lightning struck my house! My computer’s fried!” or “Had to evacuate due to flood waters! We lost EVERYTHING! Including the book that’s due NEXT WEEK! IT’S ALL GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” or “My hard drive crashed, and now what?” or “The power went out, and my computer turned off!”
Yes, you can email yourself drafts every night to some sort of web-based email like Gmail or to a friend who won’t delete them until you say so. But that would only affect anything you’d emailed. Dropbox takes a lot of the guess work out of it – and it will save everything in that folder for you. It’ll be available to work on while you’re without your own computer and will load it all back onto your new computer when you get it set up.
Bonus: If you’re using the new Scrivener App for iPhone/iPad, you can use Dropbox to sync your projects between the app and your computer program.
Double Bonus: When discussing this post, Tina sent me this article from Dropbox about some of the newer features. This article includes more details about collaborating and sharing files, as well as how you can create new documents from your phone and how to scan whiteboards, scribbled napkin notes, or other things to create a digital file you can use at home or share.
Some of these tips only apply to the more tech savvy among you, but if you can create a new file and save it to the destination of your choice, you can use Dropbox. I’m not exaggerating when I say it can save your sanity. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve lost EVERYTHING in a hard drive crash before. Fortunately, it was before I started writing seriously, and I was able to piece almost everything together from emails to friends, etc. I did lose several “first starts” of a few manuscripts I wish I still had. The recreations just weren’t as good as I remember the originals being.
Some of you might be saying, “But wait! Doesn’t Google Drive do basically the same thing?” As I understand it, kind of ;). That’s something I learned while looking up something else for this post. They do have an app you can load on your computer similar to Dropbox and keep everything synced between your computer and your cloud storage. I’ve never used it and am not a big fan of Google Drive in general – at least not for working in it. This CNET article compares Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, and OneDrive – all of which provide similar services.
I go through laptops about every two years (yeah, I know). And it’s super nice to just install Dropbox on the new laptop and overnight or so, everything will just appear on the new one, and I can get back to work without any interruptions. That is the beauty of Dropbox.
Any Dropbox questions you'd like to ask? Any tips you'd like to share?
Wait! Didn’t I say giveaway?! One lucky commenter will receive a Kindle copy of one of my latest releases! Grace to Save was written during the Very First SpeedBo in 2012! Plus – that’s my oldest daughter on the cover! It’s a story very near and dear to my heart for many reasons, and I’m so happy to share it with one of y’all! (Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!)
Grace to Save
Travis Harders has been a single dad since the day he learned he had a daughter with his only one-night stand. Fifteen years later, he and Cassie are getting along just fine and he's even fallen in love. The last thing he expects to find on his doorstep one Tuesday morning is Cassie's mom - the one person he thought he’d never see again - and she's asking the impossible.
Circumstances, including her firefighter brother's death on 9/11, forced Abi Connealy into a decision she's spent years regretting and her daughter grew up without her. But now, a family crisis compels her to do the one thing she swore she never would: find the daughter she’d abandoned just a few days after birth.
Shocked when Travis doesn’t send her packing, Abi prays to a God she doesn’t believe in that her relationship with her daughter will be restored. Travis plans to propose to his girlfriend, but their relationship hits the rocks as he and Abi both struggle with the long-dormant feelings that never had the chance to develop.
When Cassie demonstrates incredible grace toward the grandfather who refuses to acknowledge her existence, Abi begins to learn the love of a Savior - a Savior who has more than enough Grace to Save.
When she's not writing about her imaginary friends, USA Today Bestselling Author Carol Moncado is hanging out with her husband, four kids, and a dog who weighs less than most hardcover books. She prefers watching NCIS to just about anything, except maybe watching Castle. She believes peanut butter M&Ms are the perfect food, and Dr. Pepper should come in an IV. When not watching her kids - and the dog - race around her big backyard in Southwest Missouri, she's teaching American Government at a local community college. She's a founding member and President of MozArks ACFW, category coordinator for First Impressions, blogger at InspyRomance, and represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.