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Quick Tip: Share any file using Dropbox Mobile App

Nearly everyone uses the popular – and free – file backup and syncing service Dropbox to keep files current across multiple platforms and mobile devices. Recognizing how powerful the service is, Apple tried to expand its hold by offering to buy Dropbox in 2009 before releasing its own iCloud service.

Dropbox At A Glance

There are several things that make Dropbox so desirable and have received several mentions here at iSource.

First and foremost is its ease of use – you almost don’t need to understand the concept of a “cloud” to know it simply works. For example, if I am working on a PowerPoint presentation at work and want to continue to refine it when at home, instead of fidgeting with a USB drive to make a copy to transport, I save it on my Windows station in the My Document > My Dropbox folder. At home, I open my wifi connected Mac Book Pro and within seconds the file is synchronized to my Mac’s Dropbox folder and a notification is displayed on my screen. No more looking for my USB drive; no multiple versions of the same file; no searching for the most up-to-date file.

Second, sharing a file with someone else comes in two forms: if they are also a Dropbox user it’s about creating a Shared folder (which unfortunately contributes to both users’ limit on 2GB free space); if they are not a Dropbox user, it’s about sending them a Dropbox link to a file – no more attaching a too large file to an email! For me, sharing a file with a non-Dropbox user is where simplicity becomes a little more complicated.

Sharing a file

As a presenter, I am frequently called on to share an article, a presentation, or a slide with a participant. The fastest way to do this is to use Dropbox to generate a link to that file and send it to them. Unfortunately it’s a multi-step process when I don’t want it to be.

If the file is in my Dropbox > Public folder, the only way to do this is to generate the link from Dropbox’s website (Dropbox Help). In Window’s Explorer or Mac’s Finder view,

  • right click on the file name and select “Browse on Dropbox website”
  • mouse over the file name in web-based interface
  • click on the down triangle
  • select “Copy public link”
  • click “Copy to Clipboard”
  • write an email with the pasted link

Don’t get me wrong – this is a great way to share a file. Once I collect multiple emails, I can send out the link to many people! And it is by far easier than having a line of participants with their USB drives that I have to insert, save to, and eject each one (bye-bye bathroom break for me!).

If, however, the file is not in my Public folder, I have to make a copy and put it there before I can do any of that (risking duplication as well as doubling the file space in Dropbox)!

Dropbox Mobile App

Recently I began using a far easier way (Dropbox help). Using the Dropbox app on my iPhone, I can create a link to any filewhether in the Public folder or not – and email it! While presenting to teachers last week, I used this technique and in less than 60 seconds had responded to multiple requests for a copy of a saved article I mentioned.

  • Fire up the Dropbox app on your iPhone (or mobile device) and navigate to the file you want to share
  • once it loads, touch the link button on the lower left
  • select “Email Link” (or “Copy Link to Clipboard”)
  • send your email with the link!

While presenting to teachers last week, I used this technique and in less than 60 seconds had responded to multiple requests for a copy of a saved article I mentioned. Where saving time increases efficiency and productivity, this technique makes it easier to complete the task and move on to more important things (such as the bathroom during a break)!

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  • Jay, you don’t have to use Dropbox’s website to share a file in your Public folder. Instead of clicking on “Browse on Dropbox website”, just click on “Copy Public Link”. 😉

    • Jay

      Thanks for the polite guidance, and while that is true, it only works for those files in the Public folder. 😉

  • My app QikShare lets you share dropbox files with the bump API. SImply bump iPhones/iPads/iTouches to share the file. The file uploads to their dropbox and downloads to there device.

    Check it out!

    • Jay

      Looks cool. New Dropbox updates continue to make it easy to share, but not as easy as bumping. Having another app to open, however, may not make it easier – especially if it requires two users to accomplish it.