Tag Archives: Dropbox

Productivity Essentials: “Dropbox” file sharing

A year ago (yes, it’s been that long since the Dudes have been around) we posted our Top Ten Essential Productivity Apps for the iPad. Top of our list was – and still is – the tremendously useful Dropbox, a multi-platform file hosting service that provides file sharing, cloud storage, and free software.

Dropbox logo


Dropbox Inc. was invented by an MIT graduate, Drew Houston, who allegedly developed it due to his constantly forgetting to carry a USB drive around with him to allow file sharing. The basic concept is that files can be uploaded from a hard drive to a remote server, and those files are then stored indefinitely or can be shared with others.

Initially, Dropbox was designed to work as a standalone PC program but it has reached its currently level of popularity by extending its coverage to multiple platforms – a critical design feature for any successful piece of software. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, along with mobile versions for Android, iOS, and Blackberry. There’s no news yet on how soon a Window 8 native version will be available but we predict it’ll be here by the end of this year. [1]

The first thing to do is sign up for an account at www.dropbox.com. It’s quick, painless, and provides you with 2GB of free space, which you can grow up to 18GB by referring your friends (you get 500MB per referral, which means, contrary to current belief, you can put a price on friendship!) If you need more space, you can get 50GB for $9.99 per month (or $99.00 for a year), and 100GB for $19.99 per month (or $199.00 for a year).

Dropbox web interface

Dropbox Web Interface

The first significant value of Dropbox kicks in when you have multiple devices. For example, I have a desktop computer at home, a laptop for work and travel, a Droid 3 mobile phone, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, an iPad, and a beta Windows 8 tablet. It’s impossible to share data between these using USB sticks and so the ony way to do it is by wireless means, which means WiFi and cellular data transfer.

Dropbox Android Interface

Dropbox Android Interace

Dropbox makes it possible for all these disparate devices to talk to each other by sharing files, whether that’s text, graphics, music, or video. If you forget to take a file to a venue and have it stored on the Dropbox server, you’re good to go. Because the Droid 3 has an HDMI output, if my laptop goes down at a conference, I can hook up my smartphone to a big screen TV or HMDI-accessible projector and show my powerpoints right from the phone.

Dropbox iPad interface

Dropbox iPad Interface

The second big plus for Dropbox is the ability to share files with other people, whethter they have Dropbox or not. For those who have an account, you can set up jont folders and simply drop files into them. This is great for international projects when you can swap files with your colleagues all over the world without having to send them as attachments to emails. My daughter, who has a MacBook Air, has a folder that we share so I can help her when it comes to providing her with articles or checking her papers prior to her submitting them for evaluation. But whether it’s a daughter, a colleague, or a small group working on a special project, it’s easy to set up a shared folder with private access so you can swap files effortlessly.

Dropbox iPhone Interface

Dropbox iPhone Interface

When you have shared folders, a feature of Dropbox is that if anyone modifies the contents, everyone is informed. If you’re already hooked up to the internet, you get a real-time notification; if you’re offline when it happens, you see the notification as soon as you log on. It’s painless and happens in the background.

Where to get software and information
Dropbox Website (sign up account)
Dropbox for Android
Dropbox for iPad/iPad
Dropbox for Blackberry

CNET video: Four Tips for Dropbox
Dropbox Tips for Wizards, Intermediates, and Beginners
Dropbox Tips from Business Insider
The Dropbox Wiki: Tips and Tricks
The Ultimate Dropbox Tips-and-Trick Guide

If you haven’t signed up for Dropbox yet, go ahead and grab an account, then download the various apps for your mobile technologies of choice. Happy swapping!

[1] Current Windows 8 beta software does have SkyDrive, Microsoft’s proprietary cloud-based storage and of course, Steve Ballmer would love to use that – along with setting up a Microsoft Live account. Nevertheless, there are still many folks who do not want to be tied into one OS and Dropbox is truly cross-platform, caring not whether you are a Mac, Win, or Linux person. There’s also the issue that some people won’t want to essential “start from scratch” and create a new file structure in SkyBox when all they want is a portal to their current Dropbox account. They can use their web browser but having a native app is always better.

10 Essential Productivity Apps for iPad

Everyone has their favorites, which may, or may not, include “Angry Birds.” So here is a recommended list of ten from the Speech Dudes, who include the iPad as part of their tech toolkit, along with laptops, Droids, and Moleskine notebooks (never need charging and work anywhere in the world!)

We’re going to ignore those apps that are essentially standard in the device, critical as they might be. So mail and browsing are not in the top ten, even though you’d be lost without them.

1.  Dropbox: Free
Dropbox logoThis is top of the list because it’s possibly the easiest way to get files in and out of your iPad, but more importantly it can be used across platforms so you can share between your laptop, desktop, Android device, and so on. Being able to share files on a cross-platform basis is important today but will be critical tomorrow as more and more of us use multiple devices. If you thought that technology was converging, think again: it’s actually diverging! We’ll talk about that in another post 😉

So download Dropbox for free and once you set up an account with them, you’ll be able to pass files around to anyone else who has Dropbox software – on any device.

2. Pages: $9.99
Pages app logoEverybody needs a word processor and Pages is a steal at less than $10.00. You can import files from Dropbox and send Pages documents to other via email. Formatting is fairly basic (fonts, font sizes, bold, italic, underline) but enough to create straightforward documents. There’s a “smart zoom” feature for more specific editing and the facility to import images so you can create attractive documents. A selection of page templates make it easier to start-up a new file.

3. Whiteboard HD: $4.99
Whiteboard HD app logoAs its name suggests, this lets you create a whiteboard that you can use to sketch out ideas using shapes, colors, text, lines, and even imported pictures. What’s also really neat is you can use a VGA adapter to plug your iPad into a display or projector and use the whiteboards for presentations.  You can also export whiteboards as graphic files, PDF’s, or in Whiteboard’s native format – great for sharing with colleagues. And yes, you can export to Dropbox, too.

4. iThoughts HD: $9.99
iThoughts ap logoA mind-mapping software that you can also use for presentations. It’s a pretty full-features product and allows exporting of files in a multitude of formats so you can share with colleagues. Like Whiteboard HD, this can also be used with a VGA adapter and either shown on a large screen or sent to a projector. With over 90 built-in icons and 45 clip art images, it’s possible to make some eye-catching maps for brainstorming and project planning, or just use it to take notes at meetings.

5. Hootsuite: Free
Hootsuite app logoThis is a social media management tool that lets you run you Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare accounts from one location. You can operate multiple accounts, so if you have more than one Twitter handle, you can see all of them at once and post accordingly. But most valuable of all is the scheduling option: you can create a veritable cacophony of tweets and set them to appear at whatever times you want. Add to this the web-based version on your laptop and desktop, along with your Android, iPhone, or Blackberry, and you can pretty much tweet and be tweeted 24/7.

6. Penultimate: $1.99
Penultimate app logoIf you are the sort of person who prefers to use handwriting on a legal pad or notebook to jot down ideas, then Penultimate is worth trying. You can use your finger or a capacitive touch pen (well worth having) to write using any of three pen thicknesses. You can change the ink color and if you make mistakes use either the eraser function or “undo” button. Export is via email or saving to “Photos.” Oh, and if it’s in “Photos,” you can then use Dropbox again!

7. TaskTask HD: $4.99
TaskTask app logoThis one is more specifically for those people who are working across platforms and use Microsoft Outlook and an Exchange Server as a key component in their time management process. You can link up your Outlook account to the iPad to sync mail and calendar, but the one critical feature that isn’t handled by the iPad’s built-in apps is the Task List. Being able to have access to your tasks is fundamental. TaskTask will let you do this. It even allows you to tag tasks using your own categories and set alarms, end dates, etc. For less that $5.00 it’s a no-brainer if you’re multi-platforming.

8. Numbers: $9.99
Numbers app logoSpreadsheets are not just for numbers but for handling lots of text data. You can create your own mini database of all the articles you’ve read with full citations for when you write that paper; you can use it to maintain word lists that are essential for deciding what vocabulary items to be teaching; and you can even create checklists for therapy targets. Numbers is Apple’s own spreadsheet program and the one to have. One caveat: No landscape mode. Hopefully Apple will see fit to offer this in an update but for some of us, it’s just a matter of gritting teeth and settling for portrait.

9. Flipboard:  Free
Flipboard app logoKeeping up with news on specific topics can be difficult if you don’t have some way of aggregating. Flipboard is an aggregator that lets you create your own daily magazine containing stories on the topics you determine. You can set it to read your Twitter feed, trawl online newspapers, and even show your Facebook pages – all in a flip book that imitates a magazine.

10. Evernote: Free
Evernote app logoEvernote is a nifty little app that lets you snag text, images, even sound files from anywhere and store them as notes or links. If you often find yourself surfing the web looking for information and need to keep notes, Evernote can let you do that.


This collection of tools will cost you the princely sum of US $41.94, which is about 10 lattes on the “Starbucks” scale of value.

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