How to Use Dropbox

The cloud storage platform has so much more to offer

An image graphic of the dropbox logo on a computer monitor.

Dropbox is a popular cloud storage platform that allows you to upload and store files remotely. You can then access them from any device via Dropbox.com or the Dropbox app—plus share and collaborate on them with others. Here's how to use Dropbox effectively.

How Does Dropbox Work?

Dropbox basically solves many of the problems associated with local file storage.

If you store certain files on the hard drive of your laptop, then you can only access them locally from that computer. If you lose your laptop, those files are gone, and if you run out of storage space on it, you won't be able to store any more files on your computer until you remove some.

By using a cloud storage platform like Dropbox, your files are safely and securely stored on Dropbox's remote servers, meaning you don't have to worry about running out of local storage space or losing all your files if you lose or break one of your devices.

Anything you upload or edit is synced across your Dropbox account, making it the most convenient file storage option. Better yet, it can even be integrated with many other popular platforms like Gmail, Google Docs, Slack, DocuSign, Asana, Trello, and more.

Getting Started With Dropbox

All you need to get started with Dropbox is a free account and access to Dropbox via the web or app. Simply create your account at Dropbox.com.

With a free Basic account, you get 2 GB of storage space, and you can upgrade any time you want.

You can get more storage space for free by referring others to sign up for Dropbox too. For every referral, you get an extra 500 MB of space—up to 16 GB just from referrals. If you need more space right away, you can also sign up for a premium individual plan to get 2 or 3 TB of space, or a premium business plan to get 3 TB or more, plus access to advanced collaboration tools.

You can use Dropbox via:

The following sections will feature instructions using the Dropbox desktop client for macOS. You can follow along if you're using the desktop client for Linux or Windows, although you might notice a few slight differences in the desktop clients for these operating systems.

How to Upload Files to Dropbox

  1. Open the Dropbox desktop client. On a Mac, click the Dropbox icon in the upper right-hand menu. On a PC, select it in the lower right-hand corner.

    A screenshot of the Dropbox web client for macOS.
  2. Select the folder icon beside the search field at the top. This will open your main Dropbox folder for your whole account.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.

    Once you have files and folders stored here, you'll be able to see them listed.

  3. It's a good idea to create folders to help organize your files rather than simply uploading files directly to your main Dropbox folder. To create a folder, select Create > Folder.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.
  4. A new folder field will appear highlighted in blue. Type a name for the folder into the field.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.
  5. Double-click the new folder to open it. (It will be empty.)

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.

    You can also create folders within folders. To create a new folder within an existing folder, select the folder icon at the top.

  6. Open Finder on your Mac, or File Explorer on your PC, and find the file(s) you want to add to your newly created Dropbox folder. Then click, drag, and drop the file(s) into the box where it says "Drag files and folders here."

    If you're adding several large files or folders, it might take Dropbox a little while to upload them all.

  7. Your file(s) will appear in Dropbox. You can double-click any file to open it, and can do so from any other device where you're signed into your Dropbox account.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.

You can select the thumbnail icon or list icon in the top right to view your files in two different styles. The thumbnail view is ideal for photos.

How to Share Files From Dropbox

You can share files and folders with others via Dropbox, a hyperlink, or popular services like Slack and Zoom.

  1. There are two different ways you can access a file or folder's share options:

    • Right-click the file or folder.
    • Select the file or folder, then select the three dots in the preview column to the right.
    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.
  2. To share the file or folder with other Dropbox users or by email, select Share.

  3. In the window that appears, type the email address or name of Dropbox users (or group of users) into the To: field, then select the blue Share icon when you're done.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.
  4. To share the file or folder with others via an integrated service like Slack or Zoom, repeat step 1, then select Share in followed by the service of your choosing.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.

    Check out all of the other app integrations Dropbox offers.

  5. To simply share a hyperlink to the file or folder, you have three options:

    • Select the file or folder, then select the link/chain icon in the preview column to the right to copy the link.
    • Select the file or folder, then select the three dots.
    • Right-click the file or folder, then select Copy link from the drop-down list.
    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.
  6. You can then paste the link into a email, a Facebook message, a text, or anywhere else.

How to Use the Google Dropbox Integration

Dropbox makes it super simple to create files using Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides directly within your account.

  1. Navigate to any folder of your choice.

  2. Select Create.

  3. Select Google Docs, Google Sheets or Google Slides.

    A screenshot of Dropbox for macOS.

    For this particular tutorial, we're going to select Google Docs.

  4. A new tab or window will open in your default web browser, loading a new Google Doc via your Google Account.

    A screenshot of Google Docs.

    If you're not signed into your Google Account, you will be asked to sign in first.

  5. You can start using your Google Doc as you normally would, giving it a title in the upper left corner and typing your content on the page. Notice that the address bar will say dropbox.com instead of the usual docs.google.com when you use Google Docs normally.

    Note that Google products like Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides have an autosave feature, so you never have to manually save your work. Everything will be autosaved in Dropbox for you.

  6. Access your Google Doc any time (and from any device) by navigating to the appropriate folder in your Dropbox account. You should see the name of the Doc appear there as soon as it was created.