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When To Use Dropbox Vs. Google Docs

March 18, 2015 Stephanie Fisher

Dropbox and Google Docs are amazing collaboration tools. We've already discussed the basics of Google Docs, so if you need a quick reminder click over here to learn how to Google Doc Like a pro.

Dropbox 101

I like to think of Dropbox as a cloud-based filing system. For SpinWeb, it's our shared space for files, documents, photos, videos, and other digital assets that we need to store.

In the old days, and organizations still do this, you would have a "shared drive" on your server. Dropbox is similar to that, only better. What makes it better?

There are several reasons why it is superior to the old model of a shared local server. First, it's more secure. You never have to worry about backing up your server or updating software–it's automatic.

There are two ways to access your account: through Dropbox.com or through a folder you set up on your computer. You can set up this folder on your computer so that your files automatically save to Dropbox and they sync automatically.

Your computer gets stolen or damaged? No problem. All of your files are safe in the cloud and you can login to retrieve them from a new computer or mobile device.

Dropbox also makes it really easy to share files with others, create shared folders for clients, and to share links.

All of your files sync seamlessly so you can save a document on your laptop, update it on your phone, and a coworker can access it later and make changes. Everything syncs automatically.

So, when should you use Dropbox instead of Google Docs?

Working Documents in Google Docs

I always use Google Docs to write drafts of ebooks, blog posts, and other content that needs to be shared, reviewed, and approved by others. 

For example, if I am going to collaborate with a client on an ebook we're co-writing, I will start a Google Doc and make a draft. Then I'll send her a link so she has access to the file. She and I can both go into the document at the same time to make revisions and add comments or questions for the other person.

Then I send the doc link to our designer. Once the document is finished, then I put it in Dropbox. 

Google Docs for Editing

Google Docs is great for opening and editing documents when you don't have the right app. For instance, if you don't have Pages or Word, you can upload a Word document to Google Docs and it will convert the file into an editable format. I use it sometimes for converting Excel spreadsheets to the right kind of .csv file for uploading to HubSpot. It can even replace MS Office for many people.

Filing in Dropbox

Our SpinWeb Dropbox is organized by client projects. We have a very organized filing structure so I know exactly where marketing materials or website images for a specific project are going to be. 

Google has a similar feature with Drive, but we prefer the usability aspect of Dropbox for storage. Dropbox has great backup features so if we need to recover a past version of a file, we can do that. It also has features to allow us to selectively sync only the folders we use often so we don't have to clutter our own computers with folders and files that are in the archive.

Sharing Screenshots in Dropbox

I also use Dropbox for sharing screenshots. If I need to send a coworker or client a screenshot, I use a set keystroke (shift+cmd+4) to capture a screenshot. Dropbox automatically puts a shared link in my clipboard and then I can simply paste the link into an email, chat window, or Basecamp. This saves the step of capturing a screenshot, saving the image, and attaching the image to an email.


Both of these fantastic tools can do similar things, but I find that they are different enough to warrant using both. Simply put:

  • Google Docs for real-time editing and collaboration on word processing, spreadsheets. Replaces MS Office.
  • Dropbox for ultra-organized shared storage, backups, syncing, and screenshot sharing.

How do you use these tools at your organization? 


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Stephanie Fisher

Stephanie Fisher

Steph leads our client delivery team and is obsessed with delivering quality work, creating an efficiency machine, and mastering the tools and disciplines to achieve success for our heroes. At home, she loves listening to true crime podcasts, playing with her daughters and two pugs, and singing in a local rock band with her husband.

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