Folders: DropBox will happily handle folders and subfolders and if you want to get smart you can either stop the syncing of a folder or cut and paste the folder back into your normal environment when you are finished with a project.
Inviting Another Person: In your DropBox folder, you can right click on a folder and invite a friend to share that folder. DropBox generates a special link which is sent in an email to that person. When they accept the invitation and install DropBox on their computer, that folder will end up in their DropBox folder. From then on if either of you change, delete or add a file, hey presto, that change moves to your computer and your folder on the web. You can later remove that person from sharing the folder at a later date.
If You Both Change The Same File At Once: I believe that I am just about smart enough not to change a file if I have already changed it on another computer and am waiting for it to sync. I am not smart enough to know when someone else is modifying a file at the same time as me. So to my simple mind, you need simple rules to make this environment work. One rule that may be easy to manage is that one person does 95% of the work on the files and you simply have the files on your computer for help when they need it. At this stage you would notify them that you are going to change the files. The risk of this is reduced as DropBox maintains all the modified files online for a month. It also makes it easy to find these files as shown in Figure 3. This could be appropriate for database prototyping.
Practical Implications For Access: When you open a database in MS Access, DropBox thinks that you have changed the file even if nothing actually is changed. As a result the file is then synced to the web and any other shared computers. This clearly is only OK with smaller files and only OK when everyone understands the rules for opening the file. This is why you have to think this through carefully. Another consequence of opening the file is that a laccdb or a ldb file is created in the folder to manage object sharing in Access. This file is rapidly transmitted across the internet or LAN to other computers. If you are smart enough, this can act as a visual cue that the database is in use as in Figure 4. I would not grapple with multiple person file sharing until everyone really understood what the issues are and can communicate file ownership rules effectively.
Transferring Files Using Public Folders:Dropbox automatically sets up a folder called Public. If you place a file in this folder, DropBox can generate a hyperlink to that file on the internet. You can then add that hyperlink to an email and send it to someone to download the file. This link is open to anyone but the link is encrypted so you would need to have a copy of the email to download the file. As soon as you delete the file from your local Public folder, the file is deleted from the web. This approach will reduce Inbox / Sent email bloat by 90%.
Why Not Try It Out: To get started follow this link to dropbox.com and download the installation file or look at the video's that explain the product. By following this link, you will receive some bonus free shared space. I recommend that you start DropBox gradually until you fully understand how it will benefit you and your associates. It is possible that you may only end up using DropBox for sharing photos and doing some backups. I am sure that there are other products out there that do a similar job but this one is quick, simple, smart and well worth thinking about. In a future edition of this newsletter, I will outline how we are using DropBox.
See Comments by Glen Lloyd"The other caution is that folder sharers are able to delete files, so when it matters, copy files to those folders, rather than move them there."