If you don’t have Dropbox installed you don’t know what you’re missing. I can’t think of any start-up which has had a greater positive impact on the lives of developers and users alike. It’s been reported that Dropbox even turned down Apple’s nine-digit buyout offer.
Dropbox is a small application which monitors a folder and transfers its contents to and from the web. Your Dropbox folder is automatically shared if you run it on multiple PCs or mobile devices. The first 2GB is free but there are pricing plans for those requiring more space. The benefits include:
- Files are automatically synchronized across all your devices. It’s often quicker than using standard network file transfers.
- All files are backed-up to the cloud.
- Previous files are retained so it’s possible to obtain to an earlier version of a document.
- You can share sub-folders with any number of Dropbox users.
- The whole experience is simple, slick and unobtrusive.
There are more imaginative uses such as music sharing, project collaboration, portable application repositories and even a website Content Management System.
However, we’re likely to see an explosion of alternative uses for Dropbox now the company has released an API. The API can be utilized by any desktop or web app and inludes the following key features:
- Applications must be registered at Dropbox to obtain an App key.
- A REST API is implemented and all requests must occur over SSL.
- OAuth has been adopted for user authentication and authorization.
- An application can search for, download and upload files. The revisions system is exposed so it’s possible to undelete, revert to previous versions, or prevent overwrites when two or more users access the same files.
- For security reasons, applications may only access files within their own dedicated folder. You can request access to the full Dropbox folder but you’ll need to provide a good reason and your system will be reviewed prior to release.
- Development SDKs and sample code is available for iOS, Android, Python, Ruby, Java, C# and PHP’s CodeIgniter framework.
The possibilities are endless and I suspect a range of exciting and genuinely useful apps will appear over the coming months. At the very least, you could use Dropbox as a data store for your online application so your users can always access their files. Let us know if you have any interesting plans…
For more information, refer to the excellent Dropbox Developer documentation.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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