Alternatives to Dropbox?
May 18, 2008 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Looking for software that's available now that's similar to online service Dropbox (, but not necessarily online.

I've been looking for software that's kind of like what Dropbox demonstrates in the video on its homepage, in that:

- it synchronises files across multiple machines,
- it does so instantaneously (and with delta compression), and
- it is cross platform.

Dropbox fits the bill in that regard, but:

- it's currently in beta, and
- it currently seems difficult to get an invite.

As far as I've searched, I've not been able to find anything similar. Although I like the idea of my files being always-available in an online "cloud", the primary feature I'm looking for is the foolproof, transparent synchronisation.

A bonus feature of such software would include the ability to add an external drive as a synchronisation point, so that I could plug in the drive, have the software automatically update the drive's copy to the latest version, and then be able to detach it and store it somewhere safe.

I don't think what I'm looking for currently exists outside Dropbox, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. :) Any ideas?
posted by TooManyGadgets to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One possibility:
posted by yclipse at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2008

if you want to try dropbox, I have a few invites I can hand out. Send me an email (address in profile) if you want one. I use dropbox across 2 macs and a Windows Vista machine and it is utterly seamless.

The only (very slight) negative is that I am not aware of how to point dropbox to various folders in one's file system. All files to be synced must reside in a 'dropbox' folder on your hard drive. so if you have a strict filing methodology, it is likely to be broken if you use dropbox.

edit: having checked the forum, it seems this is a feature coming in the medium-term, which makes me happy :)
posted by mooders at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2008

Best answer: Lifehacker has some good posts on this type of service. Dropbox is my favourite by far but there are alternatives. One is called SugarSync and there are several others listed in these posts. But my advice is to stick with DropBox. They'll be out of beta one day and their stuff work really well.

Best online file sharing services


posted by fredbaker at 8:38 AM on May 18, 2008

How cross-platform does it need to be?

I've been using foldershare since well before MS bought it. It is easy to use and works with macs and PCs
posted by Good Brain at 1:03 PM on May 18, 2008

Best answer: I've happily used unison to keep my desktop and laptop in sync for several years.

- it synchronises files across multiple machines
Unison supports this; you'll avoid headaches if you stick with a star topology (i.e. one machine is the "master" with which all others sync). One of the nice things about unison is that the synchronization is two-way; changes that don't conflict propagate automatically and those that do conflict are displayed for you to decide how Unison should handle them.

- it does so instantaneously (and with delta compression), and
What do you mean by instantaneously? Unison is run manually, which allows it to work with machines that aren't always online or external drives that aren't always connected. It transfers files changes using an algorithm similar to rsync's and can use a compressed ssh connection

- it is cross platform.
Unison works on Windows, OS X, and Linux.
posted by PueExMachina at 1:28 PM on May 18, 2008

Maybe not quite what you want, but Gspace is neat if you set up a separate Gmail account just for it, and it has 6GB of space and growing, available on any computer that has Internet access.
posted by joshrholloway at 1:51 PM on May 18, 2008

Response by poster: Some responses:

- By cross-platform, I mean Linux (specifically, Ubuntu), Windows XP (32-bit) and Windows Vista (64-bit).

- @yclipse - is an online only service; I'm looking for something that's more of a desktop application that just happens to have an online component.

- @fredbaker - I'm an avid Lifehacker fan. :) I checked out all that you linked to, but didn't feel like they met what I was looking for.

- @Good Brain - Foldershare is no good for me, as I need it to work with Ubuntu.

- @PueExMachina - unison looks nice at first, but then I realised:

* it's no longer actively maintained, and has not been for a long time,
* it's not automatic/instantaneous (for the record, I don't count launching unison as a scheduled task/cron job as automatic/instantaneous),
* it seems to needs to scan every file completely to determine whether or not it has changed; if it needs to pull the file over my wireless network to scan it (which seems likely), then I'm hosed,
* just looking at all the configuration options and trying to nut out how I'd set up all my machines gives me a headache. :(

A second bonus feature that I just thought of is if the application itself is portable - i.e. I could put it on an external drive and take it with me to work, and not have to install it.
posted by TooManyGadgets at 7:13 PM on May 18, 2008

It seems like Dropbox is designed for exactly what you're asking. Your two negative points are really only minor will be out of beta one day (even though the beta is stable) and they are really loosening up the invites (they gave out 5000 a couple weeks ago, and all members have several invites they can share if they like)...

Let me know if you need an invite (or anyone else for that matter) I have a couple I can share.

Literally it has become my favorite app recently. I'm getting all kinds of stuff going in my dropbox. (mIRC, XAMPP, Nethack...)

posted by AltReality at 5:56 PM on June 12, 2008

I have a dropbox invite if you want one.
posted by chunking express at 8:16 AM on August 15, 2008

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