How to use Dropbox in order to share documents between your PC and tablet

If you use both a computer and a tablet or smartphone, it is very useful to be able to share documents between those devices.

Dropbox is a cloud storage solution designed for this exact scenario.

Preliminary note: the USB stick.

The USB stick is kind of the physical version of the cloud in this scenario. But it comes with a major flaw: you will have to manually manage the copies back and forth, and number of versions of the same document will grow rapidly. Suppose you have a document names “first lesson.docx” on your computer and you want to take it on the move on your iPad. You will first make a copy of the document on your USB stick. Before you know, you already have 2 (identical for now) copies of the same document. Once you edit that document on the iPad, you’ll have to save it back onto the USB stick, and not forget to copy it back on your computer, before you can edit it there. And the same process applies to share it again on the iPad via the USB stick. It is rather easy to mess up the versions if you don’t have a strong discipline. Now imagine you are working not on one but tens of documents: managing the versions of those between the USB stick, the computer and the tablet will be a nightmare for sure. USB Stick does not sound like the good option for this scenario.

Here is the scenario: get access to all my documents (or a selection of them) on both my computer and tablet without having to manage file copies and versions manually.

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In this scenario, we need a computer, a tablet or smartphone, a Dropbox account and an application able to edit the document on the computer or the tablet. Let’s take the Word example and assume we have it installed on the computer and the tablet.

Installation process

  1. Get a Dropbox account: Visit Dropbox website https://www.dropbox.com/, in order to sign up or sign in to an existing account. Dropbox is free for up to 5GB of storage.
  2. Install the Dropbox application on the computer: this will create a virtual folder on the computer, that syncs with the cloud storage of Dropbox.
  3. Install Dropbox app on the tablet or smartphone, via the App Store, just like for any other application, and connect to the same Dropbox account created in step 1.
  4. On the computer, move all the desired documents files to the Dropbox folder. This will upload the documents to the cloud storage at Dropbox. This step can take some time depending on the speed of your internet connection upstream.

Viewing and editing documents online

In this scenario, the computer and the tablet are connected to Internet.

Access the document on the computer

  • On the computer, open the document from the Dropbox folder by double-clicking the file. The document opens in Word, in read-write mode.
  • When saving the changes, the document is saved on both the local folder and the cloud storage. The document is in sync.

Access the document on the tablet

  • On the tablet, start the Word app
  • In the Open menu, you have first to add the Places where your documents are stores, such as Dropbox (in this case) or Dropbox, or any other stotage service.
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    emplacements-Dropbox
  • Obviously you’ll have to connect to Dropbox using the same account as previously 😉
  • You can now see your documents in the Dropbox folder and open them by simply clicking them.
  • In order to edit, just tap the cursor where needed and start typing.
  • In order to end editing and save the document, simply tap the left arrow on top left corner of the screen.
    wordH-sauver
  • The document is automatically saved into the Dropbox cloud and becomes available on the computer (in sync).

Offline mode variant

The Dropbox app on the tablet allows to make a document available offline.

  • On the tablet, launch the Dropbox app;
  • Navigate to the desired document;
  • Tap the little down arrow icon on the right and select Make Available Offline
    make avail offline dropbox
  • The document is now available offline.

Full edit mode and sync!

As opposed to OneDrive, Dropbox allows full edition mode offline. Just click the Edit button in the Offline Copy warning.
offline edit

You can now edit the document offline. At next connection the changes will be sync’d back to the Dropbox cloud. This is fully transparent and works very nicely.

Conclusion

Dropbox is really superior Cloud storage solution thanks to these full fledge offline capabilities, despite the lower storage capacity for free and the only 1TB pay option at 100EUR/year. 1TB might be too much.

Feel free to share your own experience with this using the comments.

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