The following is the fourth in a semi-irregular series of posts on Internet tools and utilities. Today’s tool takes the pain and mystery out of file sharing. It will help you share information and comments; it has improved over time, and is amazingly versatile: drop.io
It’s hoped that these tools will make your “screen time” hours more efficient and productive, rather than more numerous. All the tools featured in this series have the following in common:
- They are available “free” on the Internet (although an initial sign-up, also free, is usually required)
- They have some utility in the world of the Internet, education, and libraries
- I, personally, use each of these tools regularly
- Example of how I use it: http://drop.io/cowlesdemo
- My first use: February 2008
- How and why I use it: If you have a large file and want to share it with a friend, colleague, or even a vendor, you’ll want to know how to use drop.io First, why not just use e-mail? Let me count the ways! For one, e-mail is notoriously insecure. Moreover, many email systems block files over a certain size, or of a certain type (files with a “.zip” or “.exe” extension (that is, the last three characters in the file name) are common files that get blocked). Finally, if you care about the health of the Internet (or your email account!) at all, remember that email is an extremely inefficient way to share files; e-mail attachments, sent from one system to another, create copies all over the place, and then they pile up in your account, using up your quota!
- How: Setting up a drop.io “drop” is very easy. Once you go to the drop.io homepage, you simply choose a name for your “drop,” select one or more files, and create it! Then, you choose an “admin” password (so you’ll be able to change options, such as the layout of files, or when the “drop” expires) and supply an email address. That’s it! Is your total file size bigger than 100 MB? No problem! Create a second, third, or more additional “drops”!
- This “upfront” simplicity masks a lot of features, however! Once you’ve shared the “drop” with whomever you wish, they may add their own files, add comments, re-arrange the files, etc. (You control how much they can do, when you are logged in as “admin”; look for the “settings” link which is a little hard to find on the upper right-hand of the page) Most file types (such as .pdf or .jpg or even video such as .avi) allow the user to “preview” the content; that is, they can see what the file consists of BEFORE they download it. “Settings” mode has all kinds of different stuff, including how many times the drop has been accessed. Drop.io is so potentially versatile, I have used it as a de facto course management system; way whippier than BlackBoard!
- Drawbacks: The limitation of 100 MB for the “free” version is a potential issue, I suppose, but how often do you share individual files over 100 MB? (Sure, you could get there pretty quick with video files, but that’s what vimeo and YouTube are for!) Another caveat: Although you are getting a certain amount of privacy by using drop.io, it is NOT an excuse for copyright violation, so don’t use it to share pirated mp3s!
- Also (and this may seem like an odd thing to complain about) for a simple tool, it really has a LOT of different options; when you’re in “Admin” mode, as a result, you may overlook the “basic” stuff (such as how to change a password, or the name of the “drop”) because of all these different options (is setting up a different flower-colored background REALLY that important for file sharing?) drop.io has recently added all kinds of “collaboration” tools, such as “chat” and so on (a la Google Docs) but that’s not why I use it. This is picking nits, I know, but it’s a common issue: A tool is “good enough” for a specific service, but then “creeping featurism” comes in, and after a while, you forget why it was useful in the first place!
Previous tool: bit.ly
Tool for next time: picnik