Where the hell did that thing go?

A little Dropbox trick for making sure I never misplace an orphan file

Most of us now have at least two computing devices that we use on a regular basis. For some it’s their laptop and mobile phone. For others like me it’s my iMac, MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. They all have their purpose and are used regularly. With the exception of my iPad everything is used regularly, which means the likelihood that a file is on one of those devices and not others is high.

I needed a trick. Something foolproof that would ensure that my files wouldn’t be trapped on a device I didn’t have access to at a certain time.

Dropbox is just the start

While some would immediately jump to saying “just save stuff in Dropbox,” I would say in return: what about my Desktop, what about the Downloads folder? Something more was needed. The best part? It’s remarkably easy to fix.

Note: These examples will be for OS X but the same principles apply for Windows computers too.

The first thing I did was to switch my browser’s default Downloads folder to one I made inside my Dropbox, cleverly named “Downloads.”

From the menu bar go to Safari > Preferences

Next to “Save downloaded files to:” just switch that to a folder in your Dropbox, such as after creating a “Downloads” folder in there.

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From the menu bar go to Chrome > Preferences.

Scroll on down to where it says “Show advanced settings…”

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Click that, then scroll again till you see where you can change the Downloads folder.

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Now all of your downloads will be uploaded to Dropbox, accessible by any of your devices. This has been a particularly helpful tweak for me, knowing that I won’t have to go fishing for that random file I downloaded days ago.

You’ll also want to make sure that your Dropbox Downloads folder is dragged into OS X Finder’s sidebar, that bit is pretty simple. I also like to put the folder into my OS X Dock by dragging it down there.

A messy Desktop gives me anxiety. Not only that but I’m often realizing that some file I needed was on the wrong computer.

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Clean Mac App

Enter Clean, an app that does one thing very simply: periodically sweeps files on your Desktop into a folder of your choosing, at a frequency of your chosing.

The one extra thing I did with this app was to set up a folder in my Dropbox called, you guessed it, “Desktop.” This means that once per day all of the things that I randomly threw onto my Desktop will be synced up and accessible by all devices.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for synchronizing your various devices? Just drop a response in and I’ll try to repost it!

Written by

Dad, Midwesterner, product designer, coffee snob, craft beer lover, GIF enthusiast.

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