Between Dropbox and iCloud

As much as iCloud is the right idea still not realized, Dropbox is the wrong thing done brilliantly well. And at the end of the day, that still amounts to the wrong thing.

Interesting article by Rene Ritchie.

  • jacksonsquire

    No, Dropbox is the right thing done brilliantly well. iCloud is just shit trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the wrong way at that.

    The problem is people aren’t confused by a filesystem. They’re scared of saving files where they can’t find them, afraid of deleting things automatically they’re going to need, and are afraid they’re going to delete something and break the computer. If you take those problems out of the equation it works perfectly well which is what a chrooted dropbox folder would solve. It’d also have the added benefit of allowing you to use files in multiple applications which Apple doesn’t seem to think you need to be able to do…

    • JohnDoey

      You are wrong — it is a very commonly accepted fact that users are confused by the file system. It is the single biggest problem in all computer training. I provided Photoshop training for years to users who were already supposed to know the computer, and I had to spend half my time teAcging them the file system or helping them find files they could not find. Eventually, I started requiring the trainees to being a USB key, format it, name it “Photoshop Training,” and Save all of their work there, solely so they could find it easily at the top of the filesystem, and I STILL had to help users find that disk and their files.

      Apple sold 50 million iPads last quarter and 4.5 million Macs. A big reason for the difference in sales numbers is the lack of a requirement that you use a file system on iPad.

      If you owned a computer before 2007 or so, then congratulations, you are nerdy. DropBox may be great for you. However, today, all 7 billion humans need at least an iPhone or iPad mini. We can’t shut people out because they don’t know the filesystem.

      Your attitude is kind of funny because it’s the same argument that was made against the Mac in 1984: nobody is confused by the command line! Users don’t need a GUI! GUI’s are stupid extraneous features!

      Another thing to keep on mind is that even an advanced users the doesn’t want to spend any time in a filesystem. I certainly know the filesystem (and bash shell and AppleScript) but these days I work about 75% of the time with only iPad and iPhone, in Pages and GarageBand, and I really appreciate that I can make a document on iPad and later edit on iPhone and vice versa, with absolutely ZERO effort on my part.

      The key thing, I think, is to recognize that DropBox and iCloud don’t even compete. The former is built by nerds for nerds, and the latter is built for everyone. Some users will use one, some will use the other, some will use both. For example, a nerd might use DropBox as a general file storage for his iPad, but use iCloud to backup his iPad.

      Finally, also recognize that a nerd might have 10 kinds of general purpose document, like text files, and use 100 apps, but the typical user has about 10 apps and just wants the files that he or she makes with each app to be available next time they run that app. The typical user may have no concept of text files being universally readable, openable in various apps. They just want to open up the app they were using yesterday am pick up here they left off.

      • Hell of a point to make about what nerds like me consider a very simple concept, and it’s way too easy to overlook.

      • geekmee

        Mr Doey is right on the money. I have been a Windows end user trainer for close to 20 years, and the only thing I have to add is…. ditto, ditto, ditto.

  • I use Dropbox virtually every day of my working life, and it’s the best of a mediocre category by a very wide margin. It’s only limitation is my crappy bandwidth. FOR MY PURPOSES.

    Sounds like Rene Ritchie believes his use-case is universal. It isn’t.

  • iyagtr

    I find myself, as an apple user, storing my media files, calendars, reminders, and contacts on iCloud since Apple has created excellent user-end application for these things. But for other traditional documents, Dropbox is my top choice. I guess the reason is for traditional documents, we need direct access to them, and it’s hard to do that without a file system.

    • JohnDoey

      But “traditional documents” are important to only a small number of users. Mostly high-end computer users, who are 90% on Macs. Most Windows users do not have a clue what is going on inside the computer. I did freelance I-T consulting for many years and the most amazing thing was how I would go to hundreds of different locations and see almost every single user struggling with Windows. They can’t find files, they can’t figure out what to do with the files once they do eventually find them, and they are crying out for iPad/iCloud.

  • I’m sorry. Dropbox is a fad. It was a flawed idea from the get go. Albeit it works flawlessly and fills a void for some people. There have been, and currently are better services IMO. Foldershare (later Windows Live Mesh) accomplished everything that Dropbox did but in a smarter manner. Why do I have to remember to put things in my Dropbox folder if I want access to them from the web or on another computer? Like I said, a flawed idea.

    Live Mesh allowed you to keep specific files and folders in sync across the web and between computers. And, in my experience, it worked as flawlessly as Dropbox. Thing is I didn’t ever have to remember to put something in my Dropbox. My files were just available.

    Live Mesh is gone and there is not a lot out there to replace it now. I totally agree that iCloud is the right idea (but clearly not a complete solution yet).

    I have been using Cubby as my Live Mesh replacement. Its been a pretty fantastic solution. Tell it what folders you want to sync to the cloud and keep synced across computers. Done. I don’t have to remember to drop the presentation I am working on in my Dropbox folder when I run out the door. I can keep my files organized how I like them.

    • beninu

      It seems to me you’ve completely misunderstood how to use Dropbox. You install Dropbox and tell it to Syncronize your “My Documents”, “My Pictures”, “My Videos”, etc. Or if you prefer to built your folder hierarchy from scratch you make a new root folder (perhaps on D:) in which you make the folders Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc. and then you move corresponding “My …-libraries” so that they point to the relevant folders. From that moment you’ll never Again pay any attention to Dropbox. The only times you actually notice Dropbox is if you save a huge Picture or Video file and the folder badge changes to busy for a few seconds until your local folder is mirrored to your remote Dropbox folder (in the cloud) and the folder badge turns green again. Now – whenever I open a computer in the house with Dropbox installed – I always have access to a local copy of my latest document revision. If a computer hasn’t been switched on for a week or so it might take a few seconds to sync with the cloud, but that’s actually done faster than I can type my password and login to Windows. I also like the fact that my iPad and iPhone that are also Dropbox enabled can show me all the files I have on my home computer with an easy to use app. I even opens the most widespread file formats in the app. I also like the fact that I never have to bring anything back and forth between my home and my office at work, as everything I save on my home computer is mirrored to my office computer at Work the very instant I click ‘Save’ on my home computer. I also like the fact that it always keeps a local mirror on all computers I use, so I don’t run into problems if I should lose my internet connection during the day. And the moment the Internet is back up and running Dropbox synchronizes everything I made and I don’t even notice. The nice thing about Dropbox is that you actually don’t have to think at all. And you don’t have to do a thing or keep your files in a particular folder to make sure it syncs to the cloud. If you want a folder to be synchronized just add it to the list of folders that should be included in your Dropbox-mirror. From the moment you include a folder in your list, the same folder will exist on all your computers next time you log on to these computers. So I really don’t get the point about having to move your files to the Dropbox folder to make them available elsewhere. That is exactly the opposite of the requirement for Dropbox. As a matter of fact you can define a whole HDD as your sync-folder and everything that’s written to the disk is synced to the cloud. (That would be stupid though. If that’s what you want you should consider running a RAID 1 setup, but thats another story). Best regards

  • JohnDoey

    iCloud works great for me. You couldn’t pay me to use DropBox because I already had iDisk for years before DropBox started and it is not as useful. iDisk or DropBox is like getting an additional computer that is hidden behind the slow network connection. iCloud is like a new kind of connection between my 3 computers that is sorely needed.

    I agree iCloud is new and immature, though.

  • Biggest problem with iCloud is the lack of a relationship with Windows. All my personal gadgets are Apple. iMac, iPad, iPhone. At work, I have a big ol’ ugly PC tower. If I want to share documents between my PC and my iPhone, I have to go to and download the file to my PC, work on it, and then remember to upload it and delete the old version. I’m dealing with file management in a system that was supposed to get rid of that.

    The other issue is that you are only allowed to keep each file in an app. It should be I open Pages and any document on iCloud that is compatible with Pages is available. I work on that document, close Pages, and then open Text Edit and should see that newest version in Text Edit’s available documents.

    And another issue is sometimes you have random ass documents and don’t want to think about what apps they belong to. Random photos, a video file, a few PDF’s. Dropbox just lets you dump random crap in without having to individually import stuff into separate apps.

  • Dropbox has one major benefit over other services, even those that are better… They arrived at the right time, released a useable API that developers can use with minimal effort (Apple’s iCloud API is a nightmare) and created a huge user base by giving away some free storage before anybody else did.

    Now pretty much every relevant productivity app (except Apple’s own) on the iPhone or iPad has native Dropbox support. This is a selling point nobody can beat, as due to Apple’s sandboxing, every other solution has to do with workarounds. And these workarounds are ugly, creating tons of duplicates – one big mess.

    As long as iCloud does not support document sharing and user-controlled exceptions to sandboxing (e.g. allow PDFpen to open all PDFs on my device, no matter in which sandbox it plays), it is utterly useless. Creating dozens of duplicated files using “open in…” is a disaster. (I do not insist on a full file system, I agree that it would overburden many users, just some flexibility.)