Needs Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Review Date: 21 Oct 2008
Price when reviewed: for up to 2GB; $99 (about £56) per year for up to 50GB
Reviewed By: Giles Turnbull
Dropbox is a cross-platform service for file sharing, synchronising and backup.
The application is free, along with basic use of the service (up to a limit of 2GB). If you choose to add 50GB of storage, it will set you back $10 (just over £5) per month, or $99 (about £56) per year.
Dropbox appears on your Mac as a folder called Dropbox, which you can put anywhere in your file system. A shortcut to it is automatically placed in the Finder's sidebar. Anything you put in that folder will be synced with Dropbox's servers online (in reality, using Amazon's S3 service for storage) and be made available to any other computer - be it Mac, PC or Linux box - that's linked to your Dropbox account.
If your other linked machines are off, asleep, or offline, they'll get synced automatically once they're on and connected, and Dropbox is activated.
You can also view and manage all your files via a web interface; an optimised version of that web interface works extremely well on an iPhone or iPod touch.
Dropbox is a joy to use because it gets the details right. On the Mac version, a menubar widget makes it easy to get to your Dropbox files. The web interface can automatically display a folder of photos in an attractive gallery, which can be shared with anyone whose email address you provide (they don't have to be a Dropbox user to view it). Dropbox even anticipates your mistakes, and makes it possible to recover deleted files.
When transferring changes, Dropbox only sends the changes themselves, not whole files. This cuts down on bandwidth requirements and means that most edits and uploads are reflected on all of your linked computers within a matter of seconds. A preference exists for you to throttle bandwidth if you need to.
The only drawback is that Dropbox only watches the one specified folder. The stuff you wish to keep synced has to live there, even if you'd normally file it elsewhere.
That aside, Dropbox is the best cross-platform file sync service on the market. It's gorgeous, it's great value for money, and it works like a dream.
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