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Tip Tuesday #76

I have another great tip from Deren Hansen at The Laws of Making to share with you today. Read the tip, leave a comment, and then give Deren's blog a visit. He covers all sorts of interesting and awesome things and ties it to writing. You won't be sorry. But first, the tip!

I have a habit, perhaps a bad one, of using several computers when I write. In addition to my primary system, I have a netbook I use for "distraction-free writing." Even though I've become adept at juggling thumb drives it takes a lot of discipline to manage versions of files and keep the master copy up to date. I try to be careful but every so often I sit down to write only to find that the latest version of the file I need is on the other computer.

That's why I'm so taken by the Dropbox service. Dropbox creates a folder on each system that stays synchronized. That is, if you change a file in the Dropbox folder on one computer, those changes are automatically applied to the corresponding files on all your other systems. Dropbox also maintains password-protected copies of all the files from your folder on their web site. This means you have an automatic, evergreen backup.

A couple of notes:
  • If you're worried about the security of your files you can create and synchronize a TrueCrypt volume. For my part, I've decided to use Dropbox while I'm developing and drafting.
  • If you want to use Dropbox to satisfy your resolution to do a better job of backing-up your work you need to understand that while the service keeps old versions for 30 days it's purpose is to keep copies of your latest work. You'll have to look elsewhere if you need your entire revision history.
I recently posted a note about backups and my experience with Dropbox on my blog, The Laws of Making.

Oh, and the best part for us impecunious scribblers: Dropbox is free until you need to synchronize more than 2 GB of data.

-Deren Hansen


Steve MC said...

I discovered DropBox last year, and I was so glad I did.

A month later my computer went kaput, and they couldn't get all the folders off it. My Seagate external hard-drive had all my photos, but I hadn't backed it up in two weeks.

But DropBox? All my writing folders were there, all backed-up. So even without multiple computers it's worth it.

For a tip, one mistake I made with it at first is I didn't know you had to move all the folders you'd like backed-up into the DropBox folder on your computer - you can't just copy them if you want them updated each day.

Lisa Nowak said...

I just discovered Dropbox, but I can see I'm not using it to its full advantage. Thanks for the tips.

Mary E Campbell said...

I use dropbox - love it.

Anonymous said...

I also love Dropbox, as I bounce back and forth between my desktop, laptop, and iPad. I don't actually draft new stuff on the iPad, but it's incredibly strong for reading your work on the couch and marking it up, which I wrote a blog post about a while back:


Laurie Muench said...

I adore dropbox. It keeps me so organized!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the tip. I've heard good things about dropbox but never used it. I also use different computers and a thumbdrive, but I probably really should use dropbox too. Thanks for the nudge.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of dropbox. Sounds great. Thanks for the tip!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

I am juggling two computers. That's a great idea. I have been emailing myself copies of my latest drafts. That was I know I won't lose them. I date them and archive them in my email

Melaine Bryant said...

This is a GREAT service! Thanks so much for the tip--I signed up right after I read your post. I've been syncing files between a laptop and netbook using windows briefcase, but for some reason the files keep disconnecting, so I get "orphans" all the time. Then I have to go back and go through the whole process of saving, moving, and syncing all over again. This is so much better!

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing about dropbox. I need to try it sometime. I use Mac's...Time Machine will save your tail. It is the backup daddy! But something to easily sync up my laptop and desktop would be more awesome than a Polar Bear using chopsticks. Great post.

Unknown said...

I love dropbox, and having a shared folder for long-distance writing partners/groups is a wonderful tool, as well... as long as you trust them, of course!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Great post and a great way of doing things.

Another, similar suggestion is to use Microsoft Skydrive. I've mentioned this before in a previous tip, but that was before they combined SkyDrive and Office Live Workspaces. Now, Microsoft has an online editor like Google Docs that creates .doc (or actually .docx) files. You can also edit from Microsoft Word, which uses the skydrive server like an online server you'd have at an office. You can edit the files there, they stay secure, and edit them from any computer with IE and Microsoft Word (or online from anywhere, with a few exceptions).