Eric Cheng

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The right way to share a file or bunch of files using Dropbox

Let's say you want to share some assets you have on Dropbox with a friend. Easy, right? You just "Share This Folder" to your friend's email address.

"Share Link" and "Share This Folder" are very different

If your goal is to get the file(s) to your friend—and not collaborate on a project together—"Share This Folder" is probably not be the best way to do it. Consider the steps your friend must take, once you share the folder:

  1. from the email notification, click on the share link and login to Dropbox using the web
  2. make sure that the recipient email address is actually the correct Dropbox account (for me, it often is not, since I have multiple email addresses)
  3. sign in, and possibly, authenticate using 2-step authentication using iPhone app
  4. click to see outstanding sharing requests
  5. accept the share (at this point, every machine current logged into that account will start downloading the file(s))
  6. get the file(s) by explicitly downloading them or by waiting for the current computer's Dropbox instance to finish the download
  7. leave the shared folder

Also, as the sharer, you are subject to a large side effect from your folder share: the recipient can change the folder contents, including adding to, changing, and deleting its contents. Are you trying to collaborate with the recipient, or are you just trying to get them a file? Do you trust the recipient not to alter the contents of your shared folder?

If you're trying to get them a file or folder, you can easily grab a Dropbox share link via the web interface, or via Finder's shortcut right/control-click Dropbox menu. Use "Share Link" instead of "Share This Folder" to get a link that allows access to the file(s). Copy the link and send it to the recipient, or use Dropbox's built-in "Share Link" feature from the web.

Dropbox's web interface for "Share link"
From the web, you can copy the link with "Get link," or share it directly from the interface.

From the web, you can copy the link with "Get link," or share it directly from the interface.

By using "Share Link" instead of "Share This Folder", your recipient can just click on a magic link to download the assets. Dropbox will even automatically zip up the contents of the folder for download, if a folder was shared. The risk here, of course, is that anyone with the link can access the file, so be careful about sending the link around.

Once you've shared a link, the link is alive forever. When you're done sharing, you can go back to the Dropbox web interface and remove the links. Dropbox shows a link icon next to every folder or file that has an active, shared link.

Dropbox shows a link icon next to files or folders you've shared links to

To remove the shared link, click on the link icon to navigate to the shared link, click on the gear icon in the upper right, and select "Remove Link."

Remove links when you're done sharing them

This process is more work for you, but makes it easier for your recipient and doesn't leave you open to someone deleting or altering your content.

Are you not on Dropbox yet? Use this link to sign up and get 500 MB of bonus space for free.