You’re using Dropbox right? If not, you should — it’s rapidly become one of the most useful applications ever devised. The concept is simple; install the Dropbox application on your PCs, smartphones and tablets and it creates a magic folder which synchronizes all its files across all your devices. As a bonus, it’s useful for backing-up, accessing files online, extracting historical versions, exploiting the API and sharing files with other users. With a free 2GB account, it’s no wonder venture capitalists have invested 48 gazillion dollars in the company.
Unfortunately, Dropbox sharing could lead to complications. The first stumbling block was that users needed to sign-up and install the Dropbox application. That may be easy for you, but try explaining it to more technically-challenged users — like those who are yet to appreciate the differences between files and folders. You then need to ensure users click a sharing link and navigate to the correct place on their file system. Finally, just as you got everything working, someone would delete an essential file which disappeared from everyone’s Dropbox folder (I mention no names — you know who you are!)
Fortunately, the situation’s just become a whole lot easier. You can share a file or folder with anyone just by sending them a link. They don’t require a Dropbox account and they’re even provided with a great online file viewer so it may not be necessary to download files.
Easy sharing should be activated in your Dropbox application (try rebooting or restarting Dropbox if it’s not). Right-click any file in your Dropbox folder and select Get link from the Dropbox menu. The file will be shown in your browser — simply copy the URL and share with whoever needs it.
Alternatively, log on at Dropbox.com, navigate to the file or folder you want to share and click its Get link icon.
To remove sharing, visit the shared URL again, click the cog icon at the top-right of the screen and select Remove link. You can also click Links on the website’s menu to view your shared files and remove any links.
Easy sharing is an amazing new feature which is certain to attract new users to Dropbox. You could even use it as a rudimentary CDN for your website. Let us know if you think of other interesting uses.
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.