Welcome back! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas break. Even for those not celebrating, I expect the quiet was welcome.

Today’s post will be the first of an occasional series of so called “tech tips”. Computer skills are a great asset to a translator. Hopefully these tech tips will prove to be handy, time-saving and even crisis-averting.

What is it?
So, today’s tech tip is online file synchronisation, using Dropbox . There are a few such programs you can use, but I find Dropbox to be the best.

What are the key benefits?

  • Synchronise your files to access on multiple computers
  • Back up your files automatically online, every time you save
  • Never have to worry about copying the latest version of every last TM each time you set off somewhere with a portable computer
  • Easily share photos and files for public download and viewing (not your clients’ private files though, watch out for copyright)
  • If desired, easily offer a trusted fellow translator or proofreader access to the latest versions of all the relevant files
  • Never email files to yourself again
  • Never fear losing your lifelong portfolio, specialised TMs, things saved on your computer or physical back-ups (which you should also have) in a crisis

What does it do?
Dropbox is a service that can be signed up for online. You then download a small, password protected program that, when activated, constantly synchronises a normal folder on your computer with your online account. You can set this up on all the computers you work from so you can access your vital files wherever you are. It also doubles as an online backup facility and public file and photo sharing system, and can be accessed online through a browser on computers where you do not want to or cannot install the Dropbox software.

Why should I do it?
Many translators work from multiple computers, even multiple locations – especially over the festive period. Or perhaps you regularly work on two or more computers, but could do without the hassle of a home network. Using this software, you can pop your current TMs (translation memories) and documents in the folder, knowing that whatever happens, you can access your files from any computer – and that they are safely backed up should the worst happen to the computer you were working on. I also find it very handy for synchronising TMs and vital files (web hosting settings, CV, marketing products, basic profile image) between computers, making sure everything vital is always accessible.

How does it work?
Simple, you just save things in the Dropbox folder as you would any other file when you want them synchronised. A little green tick will appear when a file is synchronised, a red cross when it hasn’t been synchronised, and a blue transfer symbol when a file is in the process of being synchronised. Alternatively, you can set Dropbox to synchronise specific existing folders on your hard drive.

What does it work on?
The Dropbox software is available for Windows, Mac OS 10.4, Linux and many modern mobiles (iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry). The web application will work anywhere where there is a compatible browser and it is possible to save files.

What does it cost?
The basic package is FREE and allows you 2GB of storage space. The paid packages offer more space, but there are ways to get more without spending. See below…

How much space do I get?
You can however expand this 250 MB (up to a limit of 8 GB) by recommending it to others. The person you recruit will also get a bonus of 250 MB, too. If you’d like to use the referral system to get an additional 250 MB for us both, click on this link to be referred by me. For the record, I will not get any other benefits for blogging about Dropbox or posting this referral link! I just think it is a great tool for translators like myself. 🙂

How do I do it?
The site itself offers a great instructional video. So to find out more and join up, click below for the:

standard link – www.dropbox.com

referral link (+250 MB for us both) – https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTE0MjQ3ODkxOQ?src=global0

Happy synchronising!

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About the Author:

Rose Newell is a British-born, Berlin-based copywriter and translator specialising in high end and high tech. Rose works exclusively with direct clients, mostly located in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This blog is a labour of love for colleagues, not a sales funnel for paid membership groups, webinars, seminars, courses or coaching services. As one of those who has consistently spoken out against instagurus, readers can trust this blog will never be monetised. Truly successful translators have no need for the pittance generated by such activities.


  1. […] is a handy way to keep any changes I make to my signature consistent. To find out more about Dropbox, please see my post on sychronising and backing up files […]

  2. […] to consider further backup options – like using “cloud” (online) storage (e.g. Dropbox), or a second hard drive. In my case, I have a second hard drive where my data is backed up onto, […]

  3. Claudio Porcellana 28/12/2010 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    interesting and now I understand where a file of a customer of mine come from yesterday …

    this raises an interesting issue anyway

    1 – what’s the meaning, if any, for using such a system to send me a 48 Mb file, when every payed email account allows easily for 1 Gb nowadays?

    2 – what’s the meaning, if any, for using such a system to backup files instead of using an external HD, even considering possible ADSL failures that are anything but common occurrencies?

    as in the references/dictionaries case, I always prefer my off-line resources, but I think that this kind of tool will make more sense when cloud-working will be the rule

    • Rose Newell 31/12/2010 at 3:20 am - Reply

      Hi Claudio –

      1 – Many companies have a limit, even with a paid email service. This is because they have to be careful about weighty junk emails. Many agencies seem to use FTP systems for this purpose, though. I don’t think DropBox is best for one off transfers anyway, though. It is more about preservation and anywhere-access.

      2 – External HDs might fail, physically – whereas the internet is much less likely to fail, at least, permanently. HDs may also get lost, stolen or damaged. External HDs must also be remembered, but the internet just requires a log in.

      Re: resources, I think every translator has their personal style! Increasingly, however, agencies and localisation departments work with their own TMs, and it is useful to have a stash to hand for when more such work comes up.

  4. Jan Wilson 27/12/2010 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    I tend to use a flash disk with all my files on that I back up and take with me. I will give Dropbox a try so thank you for the recommendation.

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