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Using Dropbox to Host Files for your email and website

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Are you frustrated that you cannot send large files over email? Let the Department of Internet Ministries and Dropbox help! Never before has it been easier to share files across the internet. Dropbox is one of many free options out there to have free online storage for files for your website or email.

Are you frustrated that you cannot send large files over email?  Let the Department of Internet Ministries and Dropbox help!

Never before has it been easier to share files across the internet.  With the recent "in the cloud" revolution of the last few years, companies are competing to get your business of storing your files on their servers. Dropbox is one of the many free options out there. With online storage, you can do quite a bit, from project collaboration in your parish's ministries and organizations to additional file storage for files for your website or email.  The latter point is what we will learn about today.

1) Getting Started

Before getting started, you will need a Dropbox account. If you don't already have one, you can sign up for a free account on their homepage at www.dropbox.com.  By default, you are given 2 GB absolutely free, and there are several ways (including paying) to expand this amount.  For our purposes, we don't think that will be necessary, but you may find you will need more storage.  That is up to you.

Dropbox Signup form

After signing up, be sure to download the desktop version also ("Download Dropbox"). After installing it, it will create a folder on your computer, which is your "dropbox." Getting files onto the server will be as easy as dragging and dropping, as you will see below.

This article isn't meant to be a full tutorial on how to use dropbox. To learn more, you should check out the official Dropbox tour or their help documentation.

2) Adding Files to your Dropbox

So, the next step is to open up your Dropbox on your local computer. You will see that it looks like any other folder on your computer.  It will initially come with certain sub-folders.  You should see "Photos" and "Public" as well as some other items perhaps.

Dropbox Folder

When you place an item anywhere in your dropbox folder, it will get uploaded to the server.  Once the file gets synchronized, it will be available online.  For most files that are uploaded, they are only available for your viewing, but there is a way to share files for the public to see.

That's where the Public folder comes into play.  Any item you place in this directory will be available to anyone on the internet if they are told the exact location to the file.  Here's how to do that:

Open up the Public folder by double clicking on it.  Next, drag your file that you want to share into this folder.  You might see the icon of the item change to reflect the status of that item synchronizing with the server:

Dropbox Icon Status

  • green means that the server and your local computer are in sync,
  • blue means that the file is currently uploading or downloading
  • red means there was an error

Once it is synchronized (green), it is online and ready for you to share the public link.

3) Getting the File's Public Link

Once the file has been added to the folder, you will want to Right Click on the file to load the Contextual menu, then choose Dropbox, and then finally choose "Copy Public Link." The link will be copied to your computer's clipboard.

Copy Public Link

Just a quick note here: This link points the user to the version of the file on the server, not the version on your computer. So, once you are done, you can safely shut off your computer and the link will still work.

4) Add the link to your Email message

Finally, it's time to send out your email.  If you are sending your message to a group of people (i.e. your parishioners, parish council, GOYA, etc.), you may want to use a Listserv Mailing List (they're free too!). In the body of your email, paste the link that you copied to your clipboard in the previous step.  Here is an example of what it will look like:

Email with Link

And that's it!  Give it a try and let us know what you think.