Dropbox is a fantastic cloud-based productivity tool, giving you offline storage and access to your stuff anywhere you can run a browser. But the trouble with file dumps of any kind is that they can get very disorganized if you are not very careful.
In this article we look at how to freshen up your Dropbox and turn it from a pile of stuff into an organized resource.
Resource vs. Clutter
There is a marked difference between a pile of stuff and a resource. Some people, for example, have huge piles of clutter around their desks and will say they need to keep it all because there is important information in there somewhere.
Obviously this is not ideal and massively inefficient. The stuff you have is not a resource if you can’t access any of it. A library is a resource, but that pile of receipts, software manuals, printouts and cables beside a desk is just a mess.
Of course this goes double in the digital age when clutter creeps into computers and offline storage clouds, too.
1. Reduce Clutter
Firstly, free up space – go through every file on your Dropbox and delete anything that’s out of date, irrelevant, or duplicated. Obviously, if you have only a few files, this is easy to do manually.
A good tip is to sort the files in each folder by “Modified” by clicking on the column head. It’s sometimes easier to see which files are clutter and which are in use by noting how often you access them. It’s safe to say if a file has not been touched in two years you probably aren’t using it anymore.
A good strategy is to use a third-party management app like JoliCloud to give you somewhat better access to the file data and make it easier to arrange. Log in with your Facebook or Google ID for access.
Then once you are in, you can add other cloud storage accounts to make it an all-in-one solution for your cloud management.
While we are talking about files, here’s a pro tip: there is a hidden feature in Dropbox in that it stores “history” or previous versions of files. Right click on any file and you can restore a previous version. This is handy if you accidentally overwrite a file copying it over a previous version while moving things around.
Make folders and group your files together by type. If you already have folders in your Dropbox, consider making new Main folders and drag and drop your existing folders into them. Aim to keep all your folders in one screen, as scrolling up and down wastes time. For Videos, Audios, Graphics, etc., make sure you title your main folders appropriately.
If you have hundreds of files in many folders, you may have to work smarter and use tools to assist the process.
2. Find Duplicates
Android users are very lucky in this regard. The Unclouded app allows you to log into your cloud space (and that’s any cloud space, like Dropbox but also Google Drive, Onedrive, Box and Mega) and get a lot of stats and info that are unavailable to you as a standard Dropbox user, file sizes for instance.
Under normal circumstances in Dropbox, you can only see file sizes if you click on the files, and only then the size appears to the right of the file in the header. Very odd.
Clearly the most important thing with reducing space usage is the search for duplicates. The same file in two different directories needlessly takes up twice the space it should. This might mean the difference between you being able to continue using Dropbox for free and having to spring for a Premium account.
Windows and Mac users might like to try a desktop app like Easy Duplicate Finder (EDF) to find duplicate files. EDF allows you to log into your Dropbox account and select folders you wish to include and exclude.
Then you can search the folders, and you will get a report of which files are duplicates.
3. Share and Unshare Alike
Another thing you might try to clean things up is disconnecting from shared files. It’s not immediately obvious at first, but your file space on Dropbox is composed of both files you have personally uploaded and files in other people’s spaces which are shared with you. In real terms, the files that are shared are “copied” into your space even though they are supposedly linked because the file allocation counts against your total.
To check how much space you have tied up in shares, click on your Account Name (with the image of you) then Settings and then the Account tab. It will list how your files are arranged and how much you have shared.
Check the sharing properties of individual files by right-clicking and then sharing. Click the drop-down next to your name, and click “remove my access” to disconnect from the files, freeing up space.
You can also check the files you share (for security purposes you might want to revoke access) by clicking the Sharing link
and Links items on the left-side menu:
So using all these techniques can save you space (and therefore money) and make your Dropbox more efficient by reducing the amount of files, shared files and duplicates, and by reorganizing your files and folders.
If you have enjoyed this article or have some additional tips for using Dropbox to share with us, then please let us know in the comments below.