Dropbox is my go-to tool for sharing files online. Here’s how to share folders on Dropbox, and an update on how Dropbox sharing has changed.
Dropbox is a favorite free tool of mine for sharing genealogy files online with family and fellow genealogists. It’s so frustrating to attach a file to an email only to discover that your email provider rejects it because it’s too big. And digital files (particularly video and high quality photographs) can be quite large. Dropbox solves the emailing problem.
Dropbox is cloud-based storage space where you can share most any files: family photos and videos, copies of your family stories, a PowerPoint slide show for your next family reunion, or research notes and to-do lists you’re working on with a team of fellow genies. Dropbox is especially great for files that are too large to email or that multiple people want to access and/or edit (without losing track of who has the most current version).
Here’s how to share folders on Dropbox (in Windows):
1. Log into (or create) your account at Dropbox.com.
2. From your list of folders, select the one you want to share by hovering the cursor over the folder’s name so the “Share” box appears on the right. (Don’t click on the folder name. That will open the folder.)
3. Click “Invite people to collaborate” if you want someone to be able to edit the folder and sync it (save it back to Dropbox in real time). Click “Share link” if you just want to let someone see the folder contents but not change them.
4. Enter the email address(es) to share with where it says “Invite members to this folder.” Add a personalized message if you like. Then hover over “can edit” if you want to change that option to “can view” only. As shown below, the system automatically allows those who can edit to manage membership of the folder (such as invite others). Unclick that box to reserve that privilege for yourself.
4. Once you’ve added everyone you want, click “Share folder.”
A Recent Dropbox Improvement
In the past, if you reorganized your Dropbox folders or any of the items in those folders, the links that you had previously sent out to other people would no longer work. Good news: shared links will now still work even if you move or rename the file or folder.
How to Unshare Files and Folders in Dropbox
Here’s more on file-sharing from Dropbox: “If you ever want to unshare something you’ve already sent out (like to remove access to a sensitive document), it’s easy to disable an active link.” After signing in, “Click the link icon next to the file or folder, and click ‘remove link’ in the top right corner of the box that appears. You can also remove the link by visiting dropbox.com/links and clicking ‘x’ next to the file or folder.”
More Gems on Dropbox for Genealogy
Dropbox v Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?
Genealogists’ Guide to Dropbox, a video presentation available to Genealogy Gems Premium members
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner
Does using cloud storage for genealogy (like Dropbox) replace having a computer backup service like Backblaze?
Recently I heard from Jim in Midland, Texas, USA, who is a little perplexed:
“Hi Lisa, I’ve heard all your podcasts, some more than once, and I appreciate your tutelege of five years. I’m nearly 80 and some of the techie stuff is frustrating, but I’m still working at it.
You recommend Backblaze for cloud storage now. Does this mean that Backblaze is a replacement for Dropbox or do they serve different functions? I haven’t used either, but I am looking for a means of storing my information in a safe and retrievable place.”
Jim asks a great question! Dropbox and Backblaze are indeed different animals.
Dropbox is a temporary place to put active files you want to access from a variety of computing devices (such as a smartphone, iPad, your spouse’s computer, etc.) I think of it as Grand Central station for the files I’m actively working with.
You can install Dropbox on multiple computers and download the app to your various mobile devices so that any file stored there is accessible and synchronized. Many apps and devices build connection to Dropbox right in to their own service or device, making it super easy to access files.
Cloud storage for genealogy research makes it easier to collaborate, research while traveling and access your files from different devices or locations. However, I don’t know anyone who only uses Dropbox for ALL of their files. Typically we also save files to our computer’s hard drive, particularly more archival types of files. So while you would be able to retrieve files stored on Dropbox if your computer crashed, and files that are on that computer would be lost. Dropbox also makes it easy to share folders and files with others. Again, think Grand Central Station for active files. Dropbox does have limitations regarding the amount of storage and sharing.
Backblaze is a cloud-based backup service for your entire computer. Once you activate Backblaze, you can just forget about it. It constantly is backing up EVERY file on that computer. If that computer crashed all of your files would be retrievable from Backblaze. You have the added convenience of being able to also access your files from Backblaze.com or the Backblaze app, and in that way it overlaps Dropbox. But that’s not usually how you would access your files. Usually, you would just turn on the backup, and forget about it. There is no limit to how many of your computer files you can back up with a cloud-based backup service like Backblaze.
My Bottom Line: Dropbox is short term storage for active projects, and Backblaze is long term, automatic, secure storage.
Files I’m currently working on (like projects, articles, etc.) I store in Dropbox, making it easy to work on the file from different computing devices and making it easy to share with others. While they are in Dropbox they are “on the Cloud” on the Dropbox servers. Once the project or item is done, I move the file(s) to my main computer. This keeps me from going over my Dropbox limits, and ensures the files are still accessible AND fully backed up and secure in case something happens to my computer. I can full restore my files to a new computer in one swoop if need be.
I have chosen Backblaze as the official cloud backup for Genealogy Gems. Backblaze is also a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast. For only $4.99 a month Backblaze can back up your computer files, too. Why not check them out and see if their service is right for you? Click here to learn more about Backblaze.
To celebrate my article in the new issue of Family Tree Magazine (co-authored with Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton), I’m running a series of posts on teamwork tips and technology tools for collaborative research. This post covers one of my favorite free sharing tools: Dropbox.
A cloud storage service like Dropbox or iCloud is a dream come true for genealogy researchers who want to collaborate from across the living room or across the world. It’s also great for accessing your own research from multiple devices without ever having to copy it over: your home computer, laptop, tablet/iPad, smart phone.
Basically, Dropbox looks like any other file folder you keep on your computer. Open the folder, retrieve and save files to it like any other folder. But this folder lives online as well, so more than one person or computer (with approved access) can access it. You can save documents, images and other files in real-time. And it’s free!
What can you share on Dropbox?
- Research sources. Photographs, documents, audio files of interviews, materials from books, etc. Basically any source material you can think of that can be preserved digitally!
- Your to-do lists. Whether working alone or as a team, it’s important to have–and use!–a to-do list. The list should track specific tasks, like ordering an ancestor”s death certificate or searching for an obituary. For the article in Family Tree Magazine, the editors created a brand new Research Planner and Log: a comment-enabled PDF that lets you keep track of tasks, including when they’re done. This is a great document to use in Dropbox!
- Research notes and writing. Think timelines, biographical sketches, drafts of writing projects, GEDCOM files (the universal file type for family tree data) and any other files related to getting the research done.
- Links. Keep a file with your favorite links embedded in it, including links to digital books, vital records and other resources. You can simply copy and paste links into a word-processing file called “Links.” Include notes before or after each link, like “great local history blog for Marietta, Ohio.”
For more on using Dropbox and other collaborative tools on your tablet, check out my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse, available as an e-book or in print.
I also hope you’ll check out our article “Teaming Up” in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. You’ll find more technology and teamwork tips, including more on Dropbox for genealogists.
Check out the other blog posts in this series:
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Research with a Partner
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Evernote for Genealogists
Tips for Collaborative Genealogy: Sharing Genealogy Files Online for Free
In my last post I shared Genealogy Gems Premium Member Cherie’s questions which revolved around using her iPad for Genealogy. I
answered her first question about using Dropbox
, and today I’ll answer her second question:
“How much confusion/trouble, etc., is there in working between a Windows platform on your computers, an Android platform on your phone (if that’s what you have), and an Apple platform on your iPad? My daughters are urging my to get the iPad, but everything else I work in is either Windows (computers) or Android (smartphone). Basically, I’m looking for comments from users of, especially, iOS and Windows. How easy is it to transfer and/or sync info between the two?”
I have the exact scenario Cherie describes: a PC, Android phone, and iPad. But it’s no problem!
Many apps are available across the various platforms. And as in my last post, Dropbox holds the key to super easy file sharing among your computing devices. I also have an iMac which I don’t use that often, because I personally prefer the PC. However, even though the iPad is an Apple product, it is a different, and easier, animal to deal with. In my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse
, I start you off by explaining the “tablet mindset,” which focuses on tasks and apps. Once you embrace that concept, the transition is a breeze.
By having Dropbox on your computer as well as the apps on your phone and tablet, you’ll be able to easily share all of your files between devices. Simply save the file to Dropbox on one device (and I recommend setting up various folders within Dropbox for further organization) and then open Dropbox on your other device and the file will be there waiting for you. And the real beauty of Dropbox is that if you alter the file on your tablet, as soon as you resave it the file will be synchronized through the Dropbox service and updated on all devices. You’ll never find yourself working on an outdated copy of a file again!