Without a doubt, one of the best cloud services in town is Dropbox. For the unaware, Dropbox allows users to sync files between their cloud storage and as many devices as they like. A free account will get new users 2GB of storage, plus there are plenty of ways to increase that limit for free. The official Dropbox app has been on Android for some time, but there are also a number of third-party apps that can improve the experience.
Taking advantage of just a few of these apps will make your cloud storage much more useful. Let’s go over how to take your Dropbox experience to the next level.
Smarter use of the official app
There are a couple of important tweaks you should make to the stock install of the Dropbox app before proceeding. Firstly, set up a passcode to keep prying eyes out of your data. This option is in the settings menu. Just check the box for passcode lock and Dropbox will have you input a 4-digit code. The app will require this each time it is launched.
Next, make shortcuts on your home screen to important folders. There’s no use digging through a file hierarchy when a shortcut is available. Just long-press on the home screen, then choose Shortcuts. There should be an entry for 'Dropbox folder'. Choose the folder you want, and a sharp-looking icon will live on your home screen for easy access.
Also be aware that Dropbox integrates with the Android sharing menu. If you need to get a file into your Dropbox, just share it with that nearly ubiquitous button and choose Dropbox. The Dropbox app will be pulled up in a frame so you can pick the directory. If you have your Dropbox synced to a computer, this is a fast and easy way to get that file on your desktop.
We have talked about the marvel that is DropSnap before, but it certainly warrants discussion here. This app allows you to use your Dropbox storage as seamless backup space for your pictures and videos. Just log in with your Dropbox account and DropSnap will ask you to set up your sync folder. Keep in mind that this is one-way sync. Files are loaded into Dropbox, but can’t be removed from your phone from Dropbox.
Each time you take a snapshot, a notification will pop up to confirm that the file has been uploaded. This is just the default behavior, though. In the settings, DropSnap allows users to set syncing to Wi-Fi only, or to set a predetermined interval for image and video uploads. The notification can also be disabled. There is a manual sync option if things seem amiss, too.
We’ve been using this app for a long time now, and it hasn’t failed us once. It wakes up fast, does its thing, and gets out of the way. Impact on battery life is minimal. The free version lets you try a few uploads, but to really make use of DropSnap you have to drop $3.99 on it. A small price on the path to mastering your Dropbox.
There is always that paranoia factor when keeping content in the cloud. What if someone got access? You wouldn’t want to keep sensitive data there, but what better way to make sure you don’t lose it than to keep it in the cloud? This is a dilemma that BoxCryptor looks to solve. With the new Android app, BoxCryptor is a definite must have.
Grab the free BoxCryptor software from the website and get up and running on your PC. It is Windows-only for the time being. During the installation, BoxCryptor will detect your Dropbox folder and ask if it can create its encrypted volume there. To encrypt files, just add them to the virtual hard disk in Windows. The encrypted files will show up in the Dropbox folder with 256-bit AES.
You can access the files from your PC as long as BoxCryptor is running. To view your files on the phone, just install the free BoxCryptor app. It’s much the same song and dance here; log into Dropbox, and identify the encrypted directory. BoxCryptor will ask for your password and uses that to decrypt your files.
There is currently only read support in the Android app. You can’t save your changes to the encrypted file, but the developer is working on that feature. This app works beautifully with all the documents, pictures, and audio files we’ve tested. The desktop app is free for up to 2GB of total data, after that it’s $20.
Dropsync is a true two-way file sync utility for Dropbox on Android. Once you install this app and get logged in, Dropsync will ask you to pick the folders you want to keep in sync. This is different from the stock Dropbox app in that the files are physically saved to a directory on your SD card. Basically, the mobile device has full read/write access like a computer would.
There are a plethora of options to make the app behave just the way you want it to. There are intervals for auto-syncing, and settings that will stop the app if battery power is below a certain level. The app periodically wakes up and checks for changes, so it isn’t always running. If you want to limit Dropsync to only Wi-Fi, that option is available too. And of course, there is a manual sync option in the app.
The free version will let you sync one folder and any file up to 5MB. For multiple folders (or even the entire Dropbox directory) and unlimited file size, the Pro key is in the Market for a hefty $6. That is pricey for a function we think the stock app should have itself, but Dropsync does its job very well. If you buy the full version, it can be used in place of DropSnap, but you won't get instant uploads.
Follow these steps and you’re going to be making better use of your Dropbox on the go than ever before. If you have any more Dropbox tips, share them below. But let's not post referral links, cool?