These days we all have our many ways of sharing content online, be it email, Dropbox, or any number of other services, and it can be hard to keep them all straight. The developers of Dropzone have tried to simplify and streamline the sharing process (and other tasks) through automation and a single interface. Let’s see if they’ve succeeded!
Dropzone is probably best thought of as a set of automated actions that take a file as their input (similar to an Automator Action or an AppleScript), with a convenient drag-and-drop interface that keeps everything in one place. There are two types of actions managed by Dropzone: uploading to various services, and local actions that speed up common tasks on your Mac.
Dropzone 2 is a menu bar app (in contrast to Dropzone 1, which had an unusual Dock icon interface), and performing actions is as easy as dragging a file to your menu bar, then dropping it on the icon for the service you’d like to use. By default, you only have a couple actions to choose from, but if you go to Preferences, you can add all sorts of actions.
Sharing Files with Dropzone
In the course of researching this review, I realized that I probably subscribe to way too many file sharing services. Dropbox, Cloud App, and Droplr are the ones I use most often, but I also have an Amazon S3 account and my own domain that I could publish files to. While the free apps are great for quickly sharing a screenshot or document, sometimes I need something more professional and scalable, and I always ignore S3 because the interface can be so clumsy, and it’s easier to drag a file to Cloud App or Droplr on my menu bar than open up my FTP client. Dropzone brings this drag-and-drop simplicity to Amazon S3 as well as your own domain via FTP.
In addition to S3 and FTP, Dropzone also supports several web services for photo sharing, including Flickr and Image Shack, as well as text-snippet sharing via pastie.org. You can also use Dropzone to compress and email a file using Mail, but this functionality is also built in to the Finder contextual menus.
Like other file sharing apps, Dropzone conveniently copies the URL of your uploaded content to the clipboard so you can share it right away. One of the most useful features of Dropzone is the ‘recent files’ drop down list, which lets you re-copy the URL of a recently uploaded file to the clipboard. This is especially useful if you use a bunch of these services and can’t remember how you’ve shared something, since it’s all kept in one list.
Though it only supports a couple file sharing services by default, you can download one of many plug-ins to extend Dropzone. Currently you can add plug-ins for TwitPic, Dropbox, Posterous, GitHub Gist, bit.ly, and Is.Gd.
Dropzone also automates a number of common tasks on your Mac, allowing you to move files around without navigating through the Finder, and perform various actions with them. One of the more useful actions for me was the ‘install application’ feature, which mounts a .dmg file, moves the app to your Applications folder, unmounts the .dmg, and launches the application. While it’s not really that much trouble to install an application, I download loads of apps in my AppStorm research and those disk images really pile up quickly.
You can also set up a drag-and-drop file moving or copying action, which may not be useful to everyone, but it can reduce the number of Finder windows you have open if you repeatedly make copies or move files. None of the local actions do anything that you can’t do with the Finder, but I can see some of them being useful in specific circumstances.
Dropzone 2 introduces a new interface feature called ‘circles,’ which lets you drag files to the side of the screen and then drop them into one of the animated circles that pop up (inspired by Path). Though the animation is pretty neat, Circles doesn’t do anything that the menu bar interface doesn’t already, so I’d prefer if you could just use Circles and get rid of the menu bar icon. Circles can also interfere a bit with Spaces, but I haven’t found this to be much of a problem.
Dropzone is pretty expensive ($14) for an app that doesn’t really add any new functionality to your Mac, but I can’t deny that the features are useful, and the price could be well worth it for some users. Power users and keyboard-shortcut ninjas laugh at these kinds of apps, but a lot of casual Mac users love the simplicity of a drag-and-drop interface, which doesn’t require any memorization and has no learning curve.
Though I probably wouldn’t be the kind of person to buy this app for myself, it’s the kind of thing I’d install on my mom’s computer, so she won’t have to worry about keeping all her file sharing services straight, and (hopefully) help her keep her downloads folder a little slimmer.
A lot of functionality is added to Dropzone through plug-ins, so I think the app’s true value will depend on whether or not it gets popular enough for developers to create an extensive library of actions. If Dropzone were eventually extended to include social networking platforms, for example, I could see it gaining a lot more users.
Are you a file-sharing addict like myself? How do you keep it all straight? Though I’m guessing most AppStorm readers tend towards the more tech-savvy, power user side of the spectrum, I’d be interested to see if you’d find this kind of app useful.