Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dropbox question

My latest assignment, from the Seoul-based publishing company that gives me occasional work (about one gig per month), involves writing several chapters for a children's English-language textbook. The materials I'm working on, a cluster of files that represent book chapters, were sent to us writers via a shared-folder system known as Dropbox. The downloading of the Dropbox software was easy enough, as was the accessing of the files I needed for my assignment (any given shared folder is accessible only through invitation). But I'm not familiar with the system, and I'm hoping that one or more of my readers might know the answer to a question I have.

The question: my Dropbox folder is a shared folder, but does this mean that, when I remove the folder's contents and place them on my hard drive, those contents are no longer available to anyone else who's sharing that same folder? I ask this because I had initially tried selecting and dragging all the documents from my Dropbox folder in an effort to copy the folder's contents (that's the standard procedure on a Mac)... but instead of copying the files onto my desktop, I somehow ended up emptying the folder, i.e., the contents were all on my computer. I yelped when this happened and immediately dragged all the files back into the shared folder. I then created duplicates of all the files and dragged those duplicates out of the Dropbox folder and into a designated desktop folder.

Dropbox seems highly interactive. The program's icon sits inside my top-of-the-screen task bar and gives me notifications whenever the shared folder's contents are updated-- another reason for me to fear that tampering with the folder's contents might be a bad thing. I had originally thought that Dropbox would operate like a typical online hard drive, i.e., even after you download the contents of such a drive's folders, the contents remain in the online drive because they've merely been copied, not shunted.

Any insights about Dropbox's properties will be most welcome. In the meantime, I need to look up the instructions: in my rush to get working, I had heedlessly downloaded and installed Dropbox in order to access the requisite files. It's time to learn what sort of monster I've invited into my foyer.



Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much a tyro with Dropbox too, but yes if you drag something out of the folder intending to copy it, you remove it. Instead, ( and here's the foggy part) you stick to the menus. I think you select what you want to download by checking the little square next to it, then find the right drop-down menu, which will have "download" as one of its options. Oh, yeah, this is Addofio.

Kelly said...

Yes, if you take a file out of a shared folder, it is no longer available to the other users of that folder. Dropbox is a great tool for file sharing, but not helpful for allowing two people to work on a file at the same time. That will lead to conflicted copies of the same file.

What you ended up doing is a good practice to incorporate into your workflow--make new copies of the files for your local computer, and work from those. You'll then have separate versions of the files that, once amended, can be renamed and placed back into the shared Dropbox folder.