Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Why I Hate Shuffling Files Around

Many of you reading this post are probably too young to remember Sneakernet. In a time before everything was networked, people relied on Sneakernet to transfer files. They grabbed a floppy disk, a zip disk, or (in the 1980s) an audio cassette containing the files or information they wanted to move and literally walked it over to another computer.

Take a moment to laugh …

Guess what? Sneakernet still exists today. Ever use a USB flash drive to move files between computers? If you have, then you’re carrying on a venerable tradition!

Most of us work on more than one computer or device. And I’m willing to bet that a large number of people don’t put too much thought into shuffling files between their computers and devices. When they need to, chances are they use email or USB flash drives.

And to be honest, I really don’t like shuffling files around using USB flash drives or even email. Why? Several reasons.

First off, while flash drives are useful it can be a chore to always have one with you. I’m pretty diligent, but I still don’t always carry one. They’re easy to lose, too. I haven’t done that (yet), but I know a few people who have.

Emails, on the other hand, can get deleted or lost. If a file is attached to a message and I haven’t downloaded it to a computer, then it’s gone. History. Sucked into a digital black hole. You can add your favourite metaphor … And vhat about devices, like smartphones and tablets, that don’t have ports for flash drives?

But the biggest problem that I have is how easy it is to confuse versions of a file when moving it around via email or using a flash drive.

Getting Around These Problems

There are a number of ways to do that. I usually have several folders in Dropbox (a web-based file storage and synchronization service) synced to my computers and devices. When I save a file to one of those folders, I can get almost immediate access to it when I log in or connect to the internet. On top of that, Dropbox saves versions of the files I’m working on. So if, for example, I cut a sentence or a paragraph out and want to get it back, I can restore the previous version of the file while still keeping the one I’m working on.

Of course, Dropbox isn’t the only storage application on the web. There’s also Box, SugarSync, and several others.

If using a service like that doesn’t appeal to you, you can also try Google Docs or even a wiki like WikiPack. They centralize your documents, keep a history of the versions, and even allow you to collaborate with others.

Finally, most of my writing online is done with either typerighter.com or TextDrop. typerighter.com is simple, distraction-free online text editor. TextDrop, like typerighter.com, is a simple text editor but one which links to Dropbox. It offers the best of both worlds —a tool I can use with a web browser and which works with another tool that lets me easily get to my work on my desktop.

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