Thing 22: Google Docs and Dropbox

Thing 22 allows you to explore different tools for online collaboration and file-sharing – as well as the benefits of using these tools for your individual work.

It can be frustrating to work on group documents; keeping track of versions is difficult, and emailing round updated copied every day is time consuming. Being able to store and edit documents online can help solve these problems, and tools like Google Drive (formerly Google docs) and Dropbox make it possible.

Google docs
One of the main purposes of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is to allow multiple people to edit the same document, spreadsheet or presentation without creating duplicate copies. Documents can either be uploaded or created from scratch within Google Drive and the fact that everyone can access the file in one place means that it is much simpler to edit and update. This can be very useful for researchers who are collaborating on a project; for example, for this very 23 Things programme used Google Docs to store and share post content and schedule.

Task:
Accessing Google Drive is quite straightforward: simply login with the same username and password that you would use to access your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can quickly set one up by clicking here and completing the online form.

Once you have logged in to Google Drive, click ‘Create’ and choose what kind of document you would like to create – such as a spreadsheet, word-processing document or a presentation.

Create your document and it will save automatically, or you can force a save by pressing Ctrl+s.

Now you are ready to share your document, either with a colleague or even with another 23 Things participant if you wish! Click on the ‘Share’ button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. In the ‘Add People’ box, enter the email address of the person with whom you would like to share the document and decide whether you will allow them to edit the document or just to view it. Click ‘Share’ and this person will now receive an email with a direct link to your document.

Dropbox
Dropbox is a free desktop application which allows you to store your documents online so that you can access them from multiple computers.

Like Google Docs, Dropbox can also be used when collaborating with others on a project as it enables easy file-sharing without the need for creating duplicates. For example, one person can drop documents and files into Dropbox and then invite other people to access and edit those files.

Task
If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, go to the Dropbox website and create one. Once you have created an account, you will be directed to a page that explains how to download Dropbox.

After you have downloaded and installed Dropbox, you will have a Dropbox folder on your computer where you can store any files that you want to share with others. You can access these files from any computer by logging into the Dropbox website with your username and password. From here, you can view, download and upload files securely using any web browser.

Sharing documents using Dropbox
Sharing with someone who already has a Dropbox account:
Create a new folder inside your Dropbox folder, select a file from your computer and paste it into this folder. Now go to the Dropbox website, log in if you aren’t already logged in, and click on the tab called ‘Sharing’.

Select the option to share an existing folder, click ‘next’ and then select your folder. Enter the email address of someone with whom you wish to share your folder and click ‘share folder’. This will send an email inviting the recipient to view your older via Dropbox. If the recipient is not yet a member of Dropbox, the email will direct them to page asking them to register.

Sharing with someone who does not have a Dropbox account:
Dropbox will also allow you to share single files (but not folders) with people who do not have a Dropbox account. In order to do this, simply copy and paste a file into the folder called ‘Public’ which is already inside the Dropbox folder on your computer.

Next, navigate to your Public folder via your account on the Dropbox website, right-click on the file you want and select ‘Copy public link’. This will give you a URL which links to your file and you can then paste this, for example, into emails or blog posts in order to share it with others.

Blog post
Write about your first impressions of any or all of these tools and/or their potential uses for your work. If you are already using one or more of them, you could write about the kinds of projects for which they have been useful. If you wish, you could also compare and contrast the value of each of these different tools and consider how they could be used to further your own professional development.