The best software I can’t get

As I write this I’m waiting anxiously to see whether I’ll be randomly included in a beta test of a new program called Dropbox, developed by a group of MIT students and soon to be available to the public. Fingers crossed.

At a time when it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun, here is something new, exciting, and incredibly useful. It makes memory sticks and online backup services pretty much irrelevant, while also resolving some of the compatibility issues for people working on Macs and PCs simultaneously.

I encourage everyone to visit to watch the demo, but basically Dropbox is a program that automatically and instantly syncs selected files between multiple computers. You can work on a document at the office, head home, and then pick up exactly where you left off without worrying about versions or accidentally overwriting other important files by mistake. You can sync photo archives, music archives, documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more with anybody in the world, simply by dragging and dropping files onto the right Dropbox folder.

Even better, Dropbox is advanced enough that it doesn’t send the whole file when you make an update, but merely the relevant piece of the file that was changed. That ability allows Dropbox to sync files almost instantly over the web without any lag.

There is also an online component that lets you recover previous versions of documents or files you may have deleted, and presumably that will store your changes if, say, one of the computers you’re syncing with is turned off at the time.

Dropbox also has a special photo folder that attaches a URL to any photo you share, allowing you to instantly link to those photos from any website or blog. It’s a small bonus, but will be a huge asset for bloggers and web developers.

Best of all, it looks incredibly easy to use. You simply drop the files and folders you want to sync into a Dropbox folder, and let the program automatically sync between one or more computers.

If you currently shuffle work between multiple computers, then Dropbox can’t come fast enough. The only drawback I can see is that it might encourage more people to do work at home or more offices to assign homework, when I think we all probably spend too much time in front of the computer. But if working from home is already part of your modus operandi, then Dropbox will make it easier.


The arrogance of Microsoft


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