What are the main features of Dropbox?

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Published date: 11 December 2022
4 January 2023 on 11:42 am

Among cloud storage and synchronization services, Dropbox is a pioneer. All of your digital files and folders are synced so you can access them from any device with an internet connection. By using Dropbox to host your files, you can also effortlessly share them with others. Dropbox stands apart from rivals because to special technologies including facilities for digital signatures. The primary disadvantage is that Dropbox charges significantly more for storage than what you would receive from a Google or Microsoft office suite subscription.

Because of this, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are the winners of our Editors’ Choice award for cloud storage and file synchronization. They surpass Dropbox in terms of value, OS compatibility, and online editing. Even today, Dropbox remains a great option for online storage, especially for people who prefer not to put all of their data into the hands of the major internet firms.

What Has Changed in Dropbox?
You could be surprised by all the extra features you receive with an account, especially a paid account, if you haven’t looked into Dropbox recently.

For instance, even the free account comes with a password manager called Dropbox Passwords (although for Business Standard and Business Advanced accounts, sharing features of the password managers are technically still in beta). You can also use a premium Dropbox account to e-sign papers and request digital signatures from others after Dropbox purchased the digital signing service HelloSign. Additionally, although though Dropbox isn’t exactly an all-encompassing online backup solution, the software does offer to assist you in selecting significant files and folders on your devices to sync and save in the cloud so you may recover them whenever you need to. If a computer is ever the target of ransomware or another assault, paying members can utilize Dropbox Rewind to restore their files to a state they were in up to 30 days earlier (longer for some plan types).

Pricing, Storage Capacity, and Upload Capacity
The topic of this evaluation is Dropbox for personal usage. Dropbox for Business is the subject of a separate assessment by soft360 for the corporate market.

There are many Dropbox apps available for download, all of which are free, but free storage is only so much. The minimal 2GB that the Basic account offers is free. You can gain additional space by referring friends, who will each receive 500MB (up to 16GB) of space, and by carrying out other tasks that Dropbox offers. Up to three papers may be sent for electronic signing by free users each month. However, other features of the service have more stringent restrictions for free users, such as a 100MB file transfer size limit and the inability to search PDFs submitted using the Dropbox mobile app scanner.

Using icons in Finder, the Dropbox program for macOS displays the status of files that are synced.
Icons for files that have been synced (green with a checkmark) and are currently syncing are displayed when viewing local files that have also been saved to Dropbox (blue with two circular arrows).
Dropbox offers two additional account types for people who require more than what the free account can provide. The Personal Plus account has 2TB of storage and costs $11.99 per month or $119.88 annually. Additionally, Plus includes remote device wiping, Smart Sync (similar to OneDrive’s Files on Demand), offline file access, and support for file transfers up to 2GB in size. The Personal Family account is the next option, costing $19.99 per month or $203.88 annually. Similar to Personal Plus, it has 2TB of space, but you may share it with up to six additional users.

Price Comparison
Dropbox’s costs are exorbitant and the amount of storage space you get with a free account is small when compared to other similar services.

For instance, Box offers 10GB for free, five times as much as Dropbox. However, be aware that Box only allows non-paying users to upload files no larger than 250MB each. For US customers, OneDrive’s free membership offers 5GB of capacity, which is more than double what Dropbox offers.

Although Google Drive gives you 15GB to begin with, the math becomes challenging. Google Drive, Gmail (including spam), and Google Photos together make up that 15GB. Some files do not count toward your limit. Anything you produce using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (often referred to as Google Docs) is not considered. For all the complex information, read Google’s help page on Drive storage limitations.

If you know you’ll need to pay for storage in some form, IDrive offers one of the finest deals at a massive 5TB for only $79.50 annually. The cost of a 2TB Google Drive subscription is $9.99 per month, the same as iCloud from Apple.

Utilizing the storage space included with an office suite subscription is an additional choice with a high value proposition. OneDrive 1TB capacity is available with a Microsoft 365 account, for instance, for just $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. You also receive a subscription to the online and installable versions of Microsoft Office 365, including Word and Excel, with that plan.

Another method to optimize value is via family plans. OneDrive Family accounts cost $99 annually and include the Office programs and 1TB of storage for your group of up to six users. Compared to Dropbox’s family plan, this offers three times the space for roughly half the price.

Dropbox’s web application displaying folder hierarchy
Compatible Apps and Supported Platforms
Dropbox has been storing and synchronizing files for many years, and this experience shows. For tablets running Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Kindle Fire, and iOS, you can download the Dropbox app (as a Windows store app). There is a web application that is useful in a pinch.

When Dropbox is installed on a computer, it practically disappears, acting more like an integrated component of your operating system than a separate application. Unlike other cloud syncing services like SugarSync, which offers a full app UI even on the desktop, it has a different appearance. In contrast, other cloud storage and syncing services like OneDrive, iCloud, and Google Drive integrate even more seamlessly with the OS.

The fact that Dropbox interacts with virtually every other app and web service available is a major benefit. Let’s say you have a mobile email program that is compatible with cloud storage options. Almost certainly going to be one of them is Dropbox. Additionally, Dropbox integrates with automation tools IFTTT and Zapier, allowing you to create rules that, when followed, will cause Dropbox to interact with a different program. For instance, “Automatically download a PDF of the application to Dropbox when an applicant submits it through such-and-such an app.” To build up those kinds of interactions, you don’t need to know how to code.

The menu bar of the Dropbox app for Mac displays the status of synced files.
How to Set Up and Install Dropbox
Dropbox can be downloaded through the company’s website for desktop installation and from the appropriate app stores for mobile devices. Due to the site’s ability to immediately identify your OS system and suggest the appropriate client, installing Dropbox is made simple for new users.

You may either create a Dropbox account or connect in to an existing one when you download and install the client. You can use your own email and password or one of Apple’s or Google’s sign-in services to log in. The application then creates a Dropbox folder on your computer. You can decide where to install it or use the suggested place (you can always move it later).

Once the installation is complete, a button that enables you quickly open your Dropbox folder will show up on the system tray in Windows or the top menu bar on Mac. You can access your Preferences and Settings from this same icon to change things like the folder’s location or the upload and download speeds.

Working Automatically and Invisibly with Dropbox
Simply place your files in the Dropbox folder and leave them there to utilize Dropbox. The rest happens automatically. Like the majority of other file-syncing and storage services, Dropbox automatically synchronizes your files across all of your devices, making them accessible from any internet-connected device on which Dropbox is installed or that has a web browser. On your office computer, files that you save at home automatically appear. Photos you upload using the Dropbox iPhone app appear on your home laptop, etc.

Although only available to paid customers and not free users, there is a way to keep your files on the cloud without also saving them on your computer’s local hard drive. The benefit of using this function, known as Smart Sync, is to offload files so that they don’t consume local storage space. Your computer only downloads files when you need to open and work on them when you utilize Smart Sync.

Similar functionality is offered by rival providers. Files On Demand is what OneDrive calls it, and it is functional for all account kinds. Users of Google Workspace as well as individuals can accomplish the same task using Google Drive’s desktop application.

Dropbox as a Backup Tool
Dropbox can back up a few folders that are not located inside the service’s master folder, including Documents, Desktop, and Downloads (OneDrive’s backup option includes Pictures), even though file synchronization services and online backup services are not the same thing. The Dropbox configuration for backing up these folders will not work if you are currently backing them up with another service. You can use any of these folders as usual after configuring Dropbox to back them up, and any files you save there will be accessible via the online and mobile apps.

Dropbox client recommendations for backup methods
If you delete files from your Dropbox folder on your computer, Dropbox will also delete the contents from your online Dropbox account and all other devices where Dropbox is installed. IDrive and SOS Online Backup archive (often known as “archive”) locally deleted files in the cloud indefinitely in case you unintentionally destroyed them. Although for a brief period of time, Dropbox does archive deleted files. You can retrieve any file or folder that has been deleted during the last 30 days with a Dropbox Basic (free), Plus, or Family account. You have 180 days to retrieve deleted files if you have any other account type.

Privacy and security
Dropbox encrypts data at rest with the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Regular and uses standard SSL/TLS for file transfers (AES). You have the option of using SMS text messages or a smartphone authenticator app for multi-factor authentication.

Dropbox adheres to the Department of Commerce’s Privacy Shield system, which ensures a certain amount of data privacy protection because it is domiciled in the US. The company’s privacy policy deserves praise for being stated in a basic and understandable manner. It specifies who may access your data and under what circumstances. The business asserts that it will not provide third parties or advertising agencies with user information. Dropbox also offers a transparency report that includes information on the quantity of government information requests it gets, the nature of the requests (such as search warrants or subpoenas), and the frequency with which Dropbox complied or discomplied with the requests.

Working together with Dropbox
Although Dropbox isn’t a true collaboration app, it does provide good assistance for users who want or need to collaborate on the cloud-stored files they have. Dropbox offers two essential techniques for collaboration. Sharing files and folders is one method. The alternative is to directly enable collaborative creation, editing, and commenting on shared files.

Dropbox screen displaying file-sharing tools
File Sharing: Collaboration
You have a few options for sharing files and folders with other users, including using a computer, a mobile device, or a web browser to sign into your Dropbox account. The sharing controls are fantastic for paid customers and good for free users.

Any file or folder can be shared with a specific person by emailing them a message with a link, which is an option available to all Dropbox customers. You can decide whether to grant the recipients permission to edit the files or just read them. The individual with read-only access is still able to download the document, copy it, and alter it as they see fit. However, it prevents them from replacing your own file.

You can also produce a link to particular folders or files that you want to share, which you can then distribute to other people however you like, as another way to share goods.

Business-grade members (i.e., those who do not subscribe for free, plus, or family) receive extra options for managing how they share things, like the ability to add an expiration date to a link and to password-protect shared files. The same functions are available in OneDrive, although unlike Dropbox, personal paying accounts do receive these capabilities from Microsoft.

Dropbox alerts you when someone accesses, comments on, or interacts with a shared file. If you have the desktop app installed, you will also receive a message letting you know what transpired. You receive an email that details who did what.

File Request is another tool for collaborative file sharing. You create a folder and ask users to upload files; they are unable to view what other users have uploaded. You may share folders with other services as well, such Google Drive, but the permissions operate differently. A collaborator can choose between view-only access and editing access in Google Drive. In either scenario, the user has access to every file in the folder, regardless of who uploaded it.

Authoring, editing, and commenting together
You shouldn’t anticipate Dropbox to have all the benefits associated with Google Workspace or Microsoft Office when it comes to co-authoring and -editing files as it isn’t an office suite.

However, Dropbox may interact with Microsoft Office programs so that you can modify a file saved in Dropbox using programs like Word or Excel, for example, even in a group setting. You can create and share Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides in Dropbox thanks to a similar interaction with Google Workspace.

Additionally, Dropbox features a built-in collaborative editing tool that is substantially more limited in scope than an office suite called Dropbox Paper. You can create new Paper documents directly from the Dropbox web app, and your collaborators can include videos, photos, tables, emojis, and stickers.


Only the web browser and its own mobile apps support Dropbox Paper. Your Paper documents won’t even be visible in your computer’s Dropbox folder, but a link from the system icon opens Paper in your browser. Nearly all of its features may be utilized collaboratively by simply adding the @ symbol and the name of the relevant collaborator. It has commenting tools almost everywhere. There is a to-do list option, for instance, where you may add things you have to finish or tasks for a team, with @names to indicate who is responsible for what.

There are no typing-flags visible when working together on a Dropbox Paper document, but you can see the initials of each collaborator and an insertion point of a different color, just like in Office Online. A Paper document can be exported as the markdown (.md) file format, Word, or PDF. Although Paper is a contemporary approach to office collaboration, it should not be confused with a comprehensive project management tool like Asana.

Features and Integrations Not Listed
The digital signature service HelloSign was purchased by Dropbox a few years ago, and its technologies are now part of Dropbox. This entails that you can submit files with a signature request and safely and legally sign documents using an electronic signature. You can ask for and get up to three signatures each month with any paid Dropbox subscription. You can upgrade to the Professional + e-Sign plan for a total of $24.99 per month to get rid of that restriction.

three screenshots of the Dropbox mobile application
The Dropbox mobile apps have extra convenience features and function just as well and as smoothly as the other apps. For instance, you may configure Dropbox to automatically upload any pictures, videos, and screenshots you take with your phone to your account. You may scan documents and save them to a folder of your choice all at once using the built-in scanner in the Dropbox mobile app. For example, if you want to show someone a snapshot you took and uploaded to Dropbox, you can label files to save offline and view only photographs.

The extent to which Dropbox supports other applications is another asset. It entered the integration market fairly early on and has a solid track record of ensuring that other well-known tools and apps, particularly productivity apps, integrate with Dropbox as seamlessly as possible.

With Extras, Simple and Reliable Syncing
The service Dropbox isn’t especially eye-catching. But what makes it appealing is the way it operates quietly, consistently, and easily in the background. Paid Dropbox accounts come with a ton of useful tools that make it simple to collaborate, share, and get signatures on documents. Are the prices higher than those of competitors, terabyte per terabyte? Yes. Making a compelling argument for Dropbox is especially challenging if you already pay for another storage service, like Google Drive or OneDrive, as part of your office suite subscription. Our Editors’ Choice winners, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, continue to be those because of their excellent value and feature sets. But Dropbox is a great substitute that we wholeheartedly endorse if you don’t want to save your data with such companies and don’t mind spending a little bit more.

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