Three Reasons to Use Dropbox for Programming

There are far more than just three reasons to love Dropbox, but today I thought I’d highlight three reasons that Dropbox is a killer tool for programmers.

1. Automatic file backup

plasmagikDropbox keeps backups of your files and maintains a version history.  If there were no other reason to use Dropbox in programming, this would be reason enough.  I simply cannot express strongly enough my enthusiasm for this feature.  And honestly, until you’ve had that “oh no” moment of having just blasted three days of coding with a misguided delete — and been relieved to find that Dropbox had your back all along — you might think I’m raving without good reason.

this awesome feature has saved me in two ways.  First, it allows me to roll back some nasty code changes that haven’t worked out for me.  It lets me turn back the clock to happier times when my code didn’t absolutely butcher the accounting figures or randomly delete database records.  After the shock of discovering your code has gone Frankenstein on you fades, you can easily jump into the DeLorean and go back to the latest known good copy of the code.  Second, when I mistakenly scrap some really essential package files, classes, and other necessary sundries, Dropbox can get them back for me faster than I can say “have you tried clearing your cache?”  Dropbox is great.

Setting this up is as simple as pointing your development folder to a Dropbox subfolder in your favorite IDE or coding app.

2. Automatic File Synchronization

preferences-system-network-sharingAfter signing up for Dropbox and getting the application set up on your computer, everything in your Dropbox folder will be available in your private web portal.  That means you can log on from any browser and download or share a copy of the file without even having your computer powered on.  While I acknowledge that this can be pretty freaky from a security standpoint, I assume you’ll be taking all security precautions available and let it suffice to say that this is wicked convenient.

With your files all gelling happily in the interwebs you can now enjoy the awesome fact that just installing the app on a second computer and signing in will cause that second computer to get the entire library of content from your dropbox folder.  This is great if you need to share content between multiple computers and keep everything in sync.

Dropbox also has a great mobile app for smartphones and tablets, which makes dialing up a document or any other file and sharing it with a colleague a breeze.  If you have a bar of service, you can probably get them the info they need and get on about the business of whatever it was you were doing out of the office.

Shared Folders

basketI use this with my team to share project code and it has been fantastic.  Just using Dropbox alone has been great, in that you can share projects and work on individual files from within the project with ease.  This is a great way to get people working together in different times and spaces.  Using Dropbox alone takes a bit of careful planning to make sure no two people are working on exactly the same files at once, but still it’s a great tool.  If you pair in Git and mercurial in a tool such as SourceTree, then you have a really flexible, free, stable tool for developing between a group of people regardless of time or location.  If you’re interested in the steps we use, drop a comment in this post and I’ll post and edit.

If those three reasons aren’t enough to at least consider using this flexible, powerful, oh yeah and free tool for your application development ninja backpack I could probably come up with a hundred more.  But then again, if these didn’t do it for you, I’m not sure a hundred more would make a difference.  I’d like to hear how you’re using Dropbox as a developer.  On the converse, if you’re dead-set against using it I’d like to hear about that too.  Please drop a comment in the comment area below to let me know what works for you!

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