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Dropbox: New Favorite Writing Tool for the Writer on the Move

The Rich Writer: Dropbox: New Favorite Writing Tool for the Writer on the Move

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dropbox: New Favorite Writing Tool for the Writer on the Move

dropbox-150x150My writing discovery of the month is a little tool called Dropbox. Dropbox is a tool that automatically syncs files stored in the Dropbox folder (on your computer) with the Dropbox server. It’s not just an online backup tool, though: the magic of Dropbox is that you can access—and edit—these files from numerous computers.

So, for instance, I keep my files on a desktop machine at home, but also like to work at my laptop at the local coffee shop. Every time I headed out, I needed to copy the most recent version of my files to my laptop or a USB drive, or email them to myself, so I could access them remotely. With Dropbox, I always have the right file with me, and changes are automatically uploaded to the server even before I return home.

photoI also like to keep a copy of my WIP (work-in-progress) on my iPhone. What can I say? Ever the optimist, I hoped to work on edits and rewrites while waiting for the dentist or in line at the drug store—and although a phone’s tiny screen and keyboard aren’t ideal for typing in long passages, they’re fine for making notes of ideas and corrections I want to make when I return my desk (or coffee shop table). And my iPhone is SOOO much more portable than that hanging divider that doubles as my plotting board….

documents_to_go_iphoneMy original solution here was to sync my WIP using another great app called Documents to Go; however, it suffered the same drawbacks as writing on the laptop while my primary files resides at home, on a desktop machine. I had to remember to sync files manually before I headed out of the house—or email them to myself—or call home and ask my ever-patient husband to dig through twenty layers of file folders to find the most recent document and email it to me while I’m out of the house. (Not that I would ever do such a thing, but if I did, I’d obviously owe him lots of raised glazed doughnuts and a backrub.)

Dropbox, however, syncs directly to my iPhone. The latest version of my book is always with me, so I can re-read my rewrites during kids’ violin lessons, waiting at the doctor, sitting at traffic signals, and so on. (Just kidding. About one of those….no telling which!) If I want to make notes, I can open the file in Docs to Go without worrying about copy the right files to the right places before I leave the house.

Staying immersed in a rewrite (or a first draft, for that matter!) is even trickier in the midst of holiday travel, shopping, visitors, family, and all the other chaos and fun that descends this time of year—but having my writing with me, ready to review when I get a spare moment, means that I’m ready to dive in when I do find a few precious minutes to write. Dropbox helps me do that. Hope you find it helpful, too!

:-) Cheryl

Note: both Dropbox and Documents to Go are available on multiple platforms—check out their websites for more info.

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At December 20, 2010 at 9:19 AM , Blogger Julie Hedlund said...

This is probably going to be a silly question, but what form are the files saved in? Plain text? Word? In other words, do you eventually have to save it to a Word doc for querying, etc.?

Sounds great and I am looking for a solution like this too!

At December 20, 2010 at 9:39 AM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Julie, It's not a silly question at all--wish I'd thought to mention it! Dropbox is just a file-sharing device, so you can save files in any format you want. I use it primarily for MS Word files, but it can display PDFs, Powerpoint files, jpg's, rtf format, and probably others I haven't tested. It does a decent job showing large files (300-word MS Word document) and files that are graphic-intense. The Dropbox viewer on my phone doesn't show the "Notes" section of Powerpoint presentations, but I can see notes by opening the file in Docs to Go. Hope this helps!

At December 20, 2010 at 1:27 PM , Blogger Leira Carola said...

I love Dropbox!

I use it on my laptop, my iPad and my Android phone. I just wish you could edit files right on the Dropbox app. For example, I have to open the file I want to edit in Pages on my iPad. To keep the latest version I have to email it to myself and put it in my Dropbox folder in my laptop.

At December 20, 2010 at 1:36 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Hi Leira! I know, I wish you could edit in Dropbox, too. On the iPhone, though, you can open the file in Docs to Go and then save it back to the Dropbox folder, so I don't have to deal with email...I just have to remember to save the file.


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