Email nailed communications, and tiny file sharing. Dropbox nailed syncing folders between colleagues. CloudApp and Droplr nailed small file sharing. But none of the above helped us send large files (RAW photos, and videos, and such) quickly.
Oh, there’s ways to send large files. You can FTP them to your server or put them on S3 and let your colleague download them later. If you both have large enough Dropbox accounts, you could just sync the files over Dropbox. But either way, you’ve got to upload the files, wait for them to upload the whole way, and then remember to go email your colleague that the files are sent. Oh, and once they’ve downloaded/saved the files, you’ll likely need to go delete them to clear up space.
How about something that’ll let you send files of any size within seconds of realizing you need to send them? No waiting for uploads, just drag-and-drop the files — of any size — and send the message, then forget about it.
That’s exactly what Minbox lets you do.
Drag the File, Send it, and You’re Done
Minbox strips the process of sending files to others down to — literally — 3 steps that you can complete in under half a minute, no how many files or how large of files you’re sending. You’ll just drag-and-drop your files to the Minbox icon in your menubar, enter your colleague’s email address and optionally add a quick message, then hit the send button. And with that, your files are sent, and you’re done with the task, ready to forget about needing to send files.
Really. That’s it. Whether you’re sending a few photos or a 1.5Gb video file, you can send it and forget about it in seconds. Your colleague will get a basic email with your (optional) message and a link to view the files online, download each file individually, or download a zip of all of the files together. Just about can’t get more practical or simple than that.
That Just Can’t Be.
Of course, the laws of physics — and the limits of today’s internet connections (unless you’re on Google Fiber already) — still exist. Minbox has a few tricks up its sleeve to make it faster.
First up, it does concurrent uploads to get all of your files up faster, and uploads directly to Amazon’s S3 storage rather than sending the files first to its own servers. Then, it actually queues the message until your files have been uploaded, and then sends it. That makes it feel fast for you — since you can get back to your work and forget about sending files — and also makes it work perfectly for your receiver as the files are ready to use from the second they get the email.
But, they likely won’t have to wait too long, since Minbox also by default converts your files, downsampling videos to 480p Mp4, and images (including RAW images) to 2400px width JPEG. You’ll see some serious savings there, taking a 5Mb RAW image down to a few hundred Kb, and a 22Mb screencast video down to just over 2Mb. That’s fine if you’re needing just to let your colleague see the pictures or videos you’re sending, and even might be good since it’ll save you the step of converting RAW images to lossy JPEGs that are fine for basic viewing.
But, it’s decidedly not what you want if you’re needing to send the real original files for work. The good thing is, Minbox alerts you that it’ll compress your files before you send the first message that’ll have compressed files, and you’ve got an option to turn the compression off, with individual settings for images, RAW images, and videos.
Don’t Forget to be Sociable
Sharing via email might seem a tad quaint today, with most sharing apps focused on social networking sharing. That’s why most of us keep CloudApp or Droplr around, and they work great for the small files you might want to tweet about. They don’t work great for sharing, say, a folder of images with others, though, if you don’t want them to have to download a zip file to see the pictures.
Email makes the most sense for most scenarios that would warrent using an app like Minbox. The larger files we share are, after all, more likely to be for a private project, and email’s still the best direct messaging tool for the most part.
But Minbox threw in some social networking features as well. If you enable the social networking integration, it’ll tweet a link or post on your Facebook when you’ve shared an image gallery in Minbox — but you’ll first have to share said gallery via email first. That makes it rather unadvisable to turn on, as you’d likely end up accidentally tweeting an image gallery you meant to keep private.
Minbox makes most sense for private file sharing, and I hope they’ll add, say, Twitter DM and Facebook private message support in the future. That’d make the most sense.
Seems Like I’ve Seen That Before…
Now, Minbox isn’t the only app in town that lets you share links to files before they’re fully uploaded. In fact, the web app Ge.tt has been doing this since 2011. You can drag-and-drop files (up to 2Gb total) into your browser, and it’ll instantly give you a short URL you can share, before everything’s uploaded. Of course, there’s the problem that your recipient still won’t be able to receive the files until they finish uploading, but at least you can share the link and get back to your work.
Minbox makes it simpler by being directly actionable, letting you actually send your files via email in the same action as starting the upload. And, it lives on your Mac’s menubar, so there’s no webpage to keep open while your files continue to upload — or the inherent problems of failed browser uploads that’s especially troublesome with large files.
A Halfway House with some Nice Tricks
Which brings up one more thing: Minbox lives at a slightly uneasy spot between the Mac and the web. You upload via the Mac, but your files are stored online, and your recipients will see them in the browser by default. And that’s nice: they can see a whole folder of RAW files or watch a video without downloading it. The web interface looks decent, too, though it doesn’t display PNG files with transparency very well.
Then, the app itself is rather tied to the web. The login/queue screen is a web view, and tends to be a tad slow to respond — or refreshes at odd intervals.But that’s not too big of an issue, especially since that app does work reliably once you’re logged in.
But the rest of the web integration is practically missing. You can’t manage uploaded files, and the only way to manage your email notification settings (which can get noisy, since it emails you each time a file is viewed by default) is through a link you’ll get in an email. There’s no way to manage your account, or tweak settings like that in the Mac app.
That’s not a deal killer, per-se, but it’s for sure something the team will have to address going forward.
Go Try Minbox
Minbox is ready for you to try today, and if you have to send files of any size privately to colleagues on a regular basis, then you should definitely give it a shot. It’s simple to use, does what it says on the box, and is almost guaranteed to be quicker and simpler than whatever other file sharing tool you’re using right now. It’s free by default and will keep your files online for 30 days with no upload limits. There’s pro accounts coming as well, which will add extra features and indefinite storage.
There’s one caveat, though: you’ll need to wait to get in. If you download the app today, you’ll have to get in the queue to try the app, similar to the way Mailbox worked when it first launched on the iPhone. The wait shouldn’t be too long, though, as one of my friends downloaded it yesterday and had a 3 day wait time.
So go download it, get in the queue, then let us know what you think of it. It’s not going to replace Dropbox, or CloudApp, or email, but it’s a good compliment app for something that none of those apps do great.
UPDATE: We originally reported that Minbox sends the email before the files are fully uploaded, but it actually just queues the email to be sent as soon as the files finish uploading. Sorry for the confusion!