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Dropbox synchronizes files between computers and with collaborators

Zhigang Suo's picture

Holidays are coming, and you might have time to play around with new things.  Here is something really cool and really useful.  Early this year, Daniel Suo introduced me to a new online service, Dropbox.  Once you place a file in Dropbox on your computer, the service remembers the file online when the computer is connected to the Internet.  Subsequently, when you connect another computer to the Internet, Dropbox synchronizes the file for you.  The file now exists on both computers.  You can access the file rapidly even when both computers are offline.  The file is synchronized again once you go online.  I have been using Dropbox to synchronize files on my laptop at home and my desktop at work. 

You can also share files with other people.  I have been using Dropbox to write joint papers with students and collaborators.  We have also been sharing journal articles and powerpoint slides.  This option is extremely valuable when we start a new area of research:  it is great that we don't have to download large email attachments, and then try to file them on our computers.  Dropbox does these jobs for us.

You can install Dropbox on your computer in a few minutes, free of charge.  The service is free up to 2 GB.  Here is a tour to tell you how Dropbox works.

An important tip for collaborators. Drobox identifies your account by the email address that you use to open the account.  You need to let your collaborators know this email address, so that they can share files with you.   

Let us know if you have found other solutions to synchronize files among multiple computers and among multiple people. 


I think most people know about that, but just in case I add it here.

If many people or just one person are working on a code, a paper or any other text-based application revision control is very helpful.  If you are working on a project and using a version control system, you change files locally. If you feel like "saving" your current status you commit it to the version control system to log changes. You can easily go back to a previous version, because changes from one version to another version are documented. If many people work on the same project they edit the files locally and commit their changes, you can update your local files to get the changes from the collaborator. It is very helpful to keep many people at the current status of text-based files and you can decide, when you wanna check in your local changes.

It is not meant as a file sharing tool. You can check in any file you want, but revision systems cannot document changes in a pdf file from one version to another for instance. These files are just replaced.

Powerful version control systems are subversion (has a central repository), Git (no central repository, for "advanced" users) and Mercurial (no central repository, very easy to use). 

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