Saturday, August 8, 2009

Collaboration with Dropbox

In an earlier post, I talked about how Dropbox ( all Dropbox posts here) had all but eliminated USB drives from our home.

That is only one of the huge benefits of Dropbox. I've been using it to collaborate with a few people.

I coordinate the Audio-Visual team at our church. We need three sets of slides each week, one each for the two services and a set of Announcement slides. The musical directors create the slides with the song lyrics, the church secretary does the announcement slides and the minister decides the Order of Service. I'll go in and add non-musical slides to the service slides (title, scripture lesson, offertory music etc.).

At first, this was a bear of an effort as everyone tried to email slides around. For a while, we tried the Documentation collaboration software OpenDocMan setup on my website, but that was over-engineered for our needs with document security and permission levels. It was hard for casual users to remember all the settings they needed to make to make slides visible to the rest of the team.

With Dropbox, I have created a folder called "This Week's Slides" in the church's Dropbox account. I then invited myself, and all the others to that shared folder.

Now, on my PC (and each of theirs) there is a folder in My Dropbox the current slides reside in. If I need to make changes, I open the file from there, make the changes and save them. A revision list lets me see who has made changes and when.

If necessary, we can roll back to a previous version.

There is no file check in/check out ability so the possibility exists that two people could have a file open and be making changes to it at the same time. The first one who saves it is fine, but the second persons changes are saved to a conflicted file I would then (as coordinator) have to reconcile the changes. It hasn't happened yet--our group is too small and we do not make a lot of changes to our files. For that reason, Dropbox is perfect for us. It may not work as well for larger groups with my dynamic files.

Even if you don't have a group of people collaborating, sharing folders has other uses.

My wife and the two young scholars in the house each have Dropbox accounts. I have a folder I share with each of them. It makes it easy to share files. Also, we have two printers in the house, a black and white only laser everyone is connected to, and a color printer. The color printer does not hold as much blank paper, so to be sure printing is done right, anyone needing a color printout saves the file as a PDF to my shared folder with them. Then I print it locally keeping an eye on the printer.

Dropbox is one of my five most useful tools. If you haven't try it out.

Shameless plea: I get can get a small bump in my free 2 gig of storage space by referring users. If you want to try Dropbox, could you sign-up using this link? Thanks!

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