Co.Design

Dropbox Unveils Incredibly Simple Two-Click File Sharing

Why didn’t Microsoft, Apple, or Google figure out a file-sharing solution this elegant?

I’m just minutes into my chat with Dropbox CEO Drew Houston about the company’s latest launch, and already I’m out of questions. But Houston wouldn’t have it any other way.

"If it takes really long [to explain], then there’s probably a problem with the product," Houston says with a laugh.

It’s that stripped-down approach to product design that’s turned Dropbox into a cloud powerhouse. The service, which offers arguably the simplest solution to accessing your files across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, has rocketed to well beyond 50 million users, and was said to be on track to hit $240 million in revenue last year. Today, the startup introduces its most convenient tool yet: the ability to share any files, right from your desktop, in just two clicks.

The new Dropbox. A mouse menu allows you to create a file-sharing link.

"It’s open sharing right from your desktop," Houston says. "In a couple clicks, you go from having a big PowerPoint or a bunch of photos on your computer to having them shared with a coworker or friend." To share a file, simply right-click on the item or folder in your desktop Dropbox, and click 'Get Link.' That’s it. The link can then be shared by any means—emailed, texted, tweeted, whatever—to give others access to your files, even if they don’t use Dropbox.

Windows 7, and it’s byzantine series of options.

If it sounds simple—obvious, even—that’s because it is. But what makes the feature all the more remarkable is that neither Microsoft nor Apple have yet to introduce such a streamlined, light-weight desktop solution. Sharing on Windows and Mac OS is a headache—a shockingly confusing and non-intuitive process of fiddling with system preferences and network settings.

Microsoft and Apple are trying to simplify this process with their own cloud alternatives, SkyDrive and iCloud, but Houston and his team knew the hassle average consumers faced every day with sharing files.

"As a company, we really think about how mainstream, normal people use computers: What are hidden problems that bother them?" he says. "It’s crazy. They have to use all these different file-sending sites; sign up for some website; upload something; deal with progress bars; get a link; and then open an email—all this stuff. It drove us nuts, which is why we built this."

Apple’s OSX Lion is no better: As if the only people you’d want to share with are in your network.

In fact, Dropbox has been internally using this feature for a long time to avoid the headache of traditional sharing services.

"It was pretty straightforward to us: There were way too many steps involved," Houston says. "We knew there had to be an easier way."

[Image: dani3315/Shutterstock]

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23 Comments

  • Phil Mayfield

    After installing and re-installing Dropbox on my HP computer, I still can't get it to show up on my desktop or elsewhere. I also restarted my computer and tried again, to no avail. Apparently I'm not the only one with this problem. I Googled it and found several comments on a Spiceworks blog about the same problem, but with no solution. I guess I'll have to use another photo-sharing app.

    Phil Mayfield - 817-572-4747 philsmayfield@gmail.com

  • IbarraG

    Hey, how about Google Drive? You can actually open .AI and .PSD directly on your browser! :0

  • Va

    I think you used a time maschine for your "chat" with Houston. This feature was indeed available for ages. Is it intelligent? no. It sucks, the same way Dropbox does. It is too expencive as paid service and extremely hard to understand for a normal user. There are lots of better and cheaper alternatives.

  • Mick

    Errr is this an old article?
    I've been using this in Win 7 for ages. How is the two click share feature new?

  • Martin

    Sugarsync already has this. And it is a much better service in general than Dropbox. File sync to iPad is super nice. And they give you much more free space and you are not limited to one folder. Hurray.

  • Joe

    There's a reason it is not this straightforward to share fils from your computer. Security. When you create your Dropbox folder on your computer, you get dropbox to open it to the world. 

    Without belabouring the point, there's a very good reason Apple, Microsoft and the collection of *nix  operating systems don't make this very easy. If you use your computer on open networks, like at cafes with free wifi, hen it would be a bad idea to be able to share files that easily.

  • Albert Lin

    I don't think Dropbox works that way - it syncs a copy of the file to their servers and the public link points to their server, not your machine. So it doesn't matter if you're on an open network or not.

  • tN0

    It is pretty similar on SkyDrive. The only difference is that you can't do it in the Explorer or Finder but on the website. Which looks almost the same like a file manager. Right click: Share. It even has Facebook and Twitter integration and you don't have to launch your mail client/service.

    On Windows it is even easier to access the SkyDrive website because you can pin the HTML5 website to the Taskbar.Furthermore, Microsoft release a huge update to it's SkyDrive services today with a beta app for Windows and OS X. It will integrate SkyDrive into Explorer and Finder.

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/arc... 

    PS: Just a side note: If you don't install bloatware on your PC, the context menu will look as clean as on Mac OS X. 5 menu items came from other software. ;)

  • Casey J

    what version is this available in? I do not see the get link when I right click.

  • Rasto Ha

    Sorry to say that, but this is not such a hot news, or maybe for Dropbox, but Sugarsync (I am using the service for a second year now) offers exactly the same feature (it is really identical) for at least a year now.

  • Deccanheraldus

    question, rather than a comment:

    if there is Qxpress file to be shared, the other person should have the Qxpress programme on his or her computer?

  • Businsky

    I'm confused. I've been using dropbox for years and this looks exactly the same? Oh, I just read it again. So, previously to share a file it had to be in your public folder. Now, it appears that it DOESN'T have to be in  your public folder to share? I'm guessing. I'll have to check out the dropbox site.

  • pecus

    This removes the most annoying limit of DropBox: sharing outside of the public folder or having to share a whole folders with specific recipients.

    It still does not address two critical factors:
    * files outside dropbox cannot be shared (thus "desktop" refers to the desktop client, not the pc desktop or any other folder, like, your document folder...)
    * files greater than the available space on DropBox cannot be shared (and users must wait for the file to complete upload). This differs significantly from LAN-based file sharing, that, despite being somewhat awkward to setup (as illustrated in the article picture), does not suffer of either of this limitations

  • Doug Campbell

    How long does a file stay on Dropbox servers? Can it be removed? Is the file moved to some part of your Dropbox folder temporarily?

  • Justin

    good questions, and that's where the "simple" process likely becomes a little more "complex" :)