By Rob W. Hart
If you're anything like me, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of your writing time is your schedule. On any given day, I can end up sitting in front of a couple of different computers, plus my iPad. When I have downtime, it's nice to knock out a few words or make a quick edit before I forget about it.
What I used to do was, I'd e-mail myself a file so that I could access it anywhere I wanted. But it became pretty tiresome to have to download it, then upload the new version, then next time make sure I'm working off the latest copy of my work in progress.
Thumb drives weren't a big help. I'd lose them or break them to the point where they're not even worth buying anymore.
For those of you who aren't familiar, Dropbox is an online cloud storage service. You get 2 GB free (although there are tasks you can complete, like inviting people and sharing folders, that will earn you more space).
If you've got a ton of stuff you want to store, it's $9.99/month or $99/year for 50 GB and $19.99/month or $199/year for 100 GB.
If you're mostly just storing some Word documents and a couple of photos, you will not even come close to exceeding the 2GB limit.
Now, here's why Dropbox is useful: Say I'm at home working on my novel on my iMac, and it's bedtime. I save it into a regular old file folder on my computer called Dropbox. Now, the next day I'm at work, and it's my lunch break, and I remember, there's this sentence I need to add in. I can either access the Dropbox folder installed on my work computer, or go through the website. Either way, the file is waiting for me, and once I've made the changes, it's a snap to save it.
This changed my writing habits. I went from juggling dozens of copies of my work to having one master file, and that's made a huge difference for me, when it comes to organization and just general sanity.
Besides giving you a chance to keep an up-to-date copy of your work with you, it's a great way to back up your files. You should be routinely backing up your hard drive to an external HD, but what if your computer bites it and the backup fails? It's always a good to utilize more than one backup method. Dropbox is a great option for that.
In addition, you can create a shared folder on your account. So say you've finished up your manuscript and you want your friend to critique it, or you're just collaborating on something together, it's a snap for them to access it.
Finally – and this is my favorite part – as the owner of an iPad, I love that some of their writing apps sync with Dropbox. As in, I can make edits on something on my commute home, and it saves the file in the cloud. The updated file is waiting for me when I get home.
So, if you're handling multiple documents and find yourself terrified you're going to mix up or lose something, give Dropbox a try. You won't regret it.
About this post's author:
Rob W. Hart is a writer with a background in PR and journalism. He just completed his first novel, Apophenia, and maintains a blog about books and writing at blogduggery. You can also find him on Twitter.