Dropbox is a great way to store files in the cloud and access them easily from devices big and small. Today we’re taking a look at how you can supercharge your Dropbox experience with free space upgrades, app integration, and more.
What Is Dropbox and Why Should I Care About Supercharging Anything?
Dropbox, for the unfamiliar, is a cloud-based storage service. You install an application on your computer or mobile device and the files on that device—within your Dropbox directory—are synchronized to the remote storage on the Dropbox server as well as with other devices that are linked to your Dropbox account. With Dropbox, for example, you can save a Word document you’re editing at home and then open that document from your Dropbox when you get to the office. You’ll need a Dropbox account to follow along with our tips, so you might as well visit Dropbox’s site, check out the intro video, and grab a free account.
You might already be a Dropbox user and not sure why you should bother with all this fancy superchaging business. If all you do with a Dropbox account is sign up, save some files, and forget about them, sure you’ve got a nice cloud storage arrangement with syncing (if you use it on more than one machine) but you’re missing out on a ton of functionality. Read on as we highlight ways you can, for free or very cheaply, vastly enhance your Dropbox experience.
Score Free Dropbox Space
The basic Dropbox account is free and comes with only 2GB of storage space. That’s not awful if you’re only syncing some documents between computers, but it starts to feel real cramped real fast if you start adding bigger files. You could upgrade your Dropbox account ($99 a year for 50GB or $199 a year for 100GB) but you can easily score up to 16GB of extra space with referrals and additional space beyond that 16GB of referrals with other techniques (my personal Dropbox account, for example, is 18.25GB in size based on referrals and special promotions alone). So how can you score this sweet, sweet, free storage? Let’s take a look.
Refer friends (up to 16GB). This was the original way to score more space and still the way to score the largest amount of free space. While logged into your Dropbox account look in the left hand navigation column. Above the disk-space-in-use meter you’ll see a link “Refer Friends to Dropbox”. You can refer friends via email, Facebook, and Twitter or just send them the link at the bottom of the referral page. Every time your friend signs up they get 250MB extra on their account and you get 500MB extra. Everybody wins in the game of Dropbox Referral.
Note: As much as we’d love to help you and your quest to gain referrals, please refrain from spamming the comments of this guide with your referral link. Thanks!
Link your Dropbox account to your social media accounts (up to 512MB). If you go through all the steps on Dropbox’s free space page here, you can score up to 512MB. It takes a few minutes tops and you get half a GB of storage for free. Incredibly simple things like following @Dropbox on Twitter scores you free space.
Connect a .EDU email address to your account (doubles your referrals). If you have access to a .EDU email account (your current college account, your alumni let you keep your email address when you graduated, or otherwise) you want to link it to your Dropbox account. Why? Because it will double all past and future referrals. Thus if you already have 2GB worth of referral space, just linking your .EDU address will double it to 4GB. Instantly!
Take part in Dropquests and other Dropbox promotions (variable). Dropbox runs special promotions, usually every six months or so, that feature free space in exchange for participation. Here’s a link to Dropquest 2011. The rewards for these promotions usually vary but at minimum most people can expect to score 0.5-1GB or storage (and the winners of the scavenger hunts and other contests score even more). Keep an eye on Dropbox’s official blog for these time-sensitive events.
Access Dropbox From Your Mobile Devices
As mobile devices increase in power the types of files they can handle also increases. Don’t overlook the utility of accessing Dropbox from your Android phone, iPad, and other mobile devices.
Use the default mobile interface. The easiest way to do so is to simple visit the Dropbox mobile portal located at Dropbox.com/m. You don’t have to be logged in on your mobile device to test it out, take the updated mobile interface for a spin right at your desk.
Install the Dropbox app for your mobile platform. While visiting the mobile portal is the fastest way to access your files, installing the official app for your platform is a better long term solution (and allows for syncing of files on the actual mobile device). Check out the official Dropbox apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry. There is no official Windows Mobile Dropbox app; Windows Mobile users will want to check out DroppedBoxx, a third-party Dropbox app.
Play your music anywhere. DropTunes is a free web app that syncs with Dropbox and, thanks to a dual Flash/HTML5 interface, can play your tunes anywhere you can access a web browser.
Use mobile apps that sync to Dropbox. Numerous applications include Dropbox support. Search the app store of your respective mobile device with the keyword “dropbox” to turn up applications that will sync/backup to Dropbox.
Tips and Tricks for Desktop Machines
Syncing your documents and MP3s across your devices is a great trick and all, but you can do so much more with Dropbox. Rather than limit yourself to simple file syncing, try out some of the following tips.
Keep copies of your favorite portable apps in Dropbox (all platforms). A rather handy trick, and one that I use all the time, is storing your favorite portable apps in Dropbox. By doing so your favorite portable browser, text editor, and more, will always be available and in-sync across your computers.
Run multiple copies of Dropbox (Windows). Using the Dropboxen technique you can use multiple Dropbox accounts—a great way to keep a separate account for work and private use or to set up a secondary account for testing out apps and tricks before unleashing them on your primary one.
Run Dropbox as a portable app (Windows). You can, courtesy of DropboxPortableAHK, run Dropbox as a portable application with additional features such as selective sync and multiple accounts.
Sync any folder to Dropbox (Windows/Mac). Although you can easily move your Dropbox folder (look in the Dropbox application preferences to do so) what if you want to sync a folder outside of Dropbox? Mac users can check out MacDropAny to sync any folder. Windows users can check out Dropbox Folder Sync.
For more add-ons, including web browser add-ons and applications for Windows, Mac, and Linux, make sure to check out the add-ons wiki entry in the Dropbox wiki here.
After four years of service, Dropbox has amassed quite a following with quite an array of add-ons and applications. What’s your favorite Dropbox tip, trick, or app? Sound off in the comments to share the wealth with your fellow readers.
Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 10/25/11