DropBox vs iDisk- it’s not even a contest

Posted on May 28, 2008 in Featured, Opinions

I’ve been participating in the DropBox beta now for a few days and whilst there any many similar competing services out there, the DropBox guys have really been able to distinguish themselves through their seamless OS integration.

Competing services such as Omnibox, Moxy etc. offer similar OS clients, but DropBox is the first that seems to match Apple’s own .Mac iDisk in terms of seamlessness: Your DropBox appears in the Finder and adding a file is as simple as drag and drop. A utility that runs in the background then uploads that to your DropBox account.

I’d even go a step further and say that it actually seems to work better than the iDisk. Adding files to your iDisk is a sluggish process that usually ends in a two second progress bar claiming your 200MB file has been uploaded in record speed, followed by 2 hours waiting for .Mac to “finish” the file.

The DropBox folder looks and feels like a regular local folder. The default behaviour is even “move” rather than “copy” when you drag items into it, which is a bit disconcerting at first. (Tip: Use option drag!)

Once you’ve dragged in a file, DropBox takes care of the rest silently in the background. Files are instantly visible online at your Dropbox account, even whilst they’re still being uploaded.

I’ll have a some more impressions later this week, but initially it does beg the question:

Why on earth doesn’t .Mac work this well? Apple already has OS integration baked in, so there’s almost no excuse for the current state of the .mac iDisk. For me at least, snappy, pretty DropBox – even in its current beta state – beats the pants off the iDisk in every respect.

Let’s hope the “.mac overhaul” the rumor-mill has promised for WWDC pans out.

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  1. agreed. i’ve tried a handful of backup/sync/sharing apps in the last few months and perhaps with the exception of sugarsync, dropbox has elevated itself above the rest. the best thing about it is that it works seamlessly and unobrtusively, as mentioned. the web interface, while not necessarily fancy (a good thing) is very functional and easy to use.

    i have a few invites so anyone reading this is welcome to hit me up at my screen name via gmail.

  2. I discovered an .boxdrop folder which is growing very fast. Its allready more then 4 Gb. Do you think i could throw it away?

  3. @willem I think the . folder is the bit that does all the syncing magic behind the scenes. Keep an eye on it, but I’d leave it for now. How large is your real dropbox?

  4. Its now about 120 Mb but i had a very large file in it for a while. I worked on it on several computers, but now its finished so I put it out. In the .dropbox map there is this huge cache map. I think my big file is stored there, maybe several times. Nothing to be found on the getdropbox site though.

  5. I found out the answer:


    so its save to delete the content of the cache folder, not the .dropbox folder itself

  6. I use Dropbox and enjoys a 2 G storage space for free. IDisk sucks. It’s anti poor just like the rest of the Apple products.

  7. re: “looks like a local folder” and “use alt-drag”.

    The great thing about it is that it *is* a local folder, that syncs to the ‘cloud’. If you’re alt-dragging you’re wasting your hard drive space by creating duplicates.

    I suppose it depends on how you use it, though. I use it to keep live projects in (I’m a designer). That way I can access them wherever I am. When a project is done, it’s backed up on my hard drive or external hard drive.

  8. Uhm.. just one comment, it doesn’t “look” like a normal folder, it _is_ a normal folder. That means Mac OS (Or Linux or Windows) doesn’t know anything special about it because there isn’t anything special to know. It also means that just like any other folder, of course the default operation will be move.

    The dropbox daemon just synchs this normal folder to your dropbox account (i.e. Amazon’s servers) in the background.

  9. Helpful discussion, but for those folks saying Dropbox is just a normal folder, it isn’t. It syncs two ways with the cloud, so if your copy on the dropbox server or copy on another computer is corrupted, deleted, etc you’re screwed. Sure, dropbox can recover that from backups from you (or so I’m told) but no reason not to keep a copy of that folder somewhere else on your Mac for safety’s sake.

  10. DropBox is NOT seamless… in theory it *IS* awesome, however, I’ve noticed that my VERY FAST Mac operates VERY SLUGGISHLY when Dropbox is active.

    Anyone else notice this ?

  11. Dropbox has made lots of big strides it seems in reducing the overhead of the application. It is by FAR the best app for memory and processor use.

    I use it for backing up all of my business files, and it’s great because it also includes unlimited version backup as well. Go Dropbox!

  12. MobileMe’s iDisk uses a Compressed file which uploading takes time. DropBox is uncompressed and works faster and better. I’ve had too many issues with Mobile me a dropped it. I got DropBox for file sync, and XMarks for BookMark sync (free) so all works good at a lower rate.

  13. Have to say MobileMe works fine, and the dropbox daemon does hit performance. I understand that MobileMe is “anti-poor,” but dropbox offers 50GB for 9.99 a month ($120) while Apple offers mobileMe (via Amazon) 20GB for $65 a year. That’s pretty close, especially considering the other services that MobileMe offers.

  14. i have just been fighting with both, iDisk is such a pain!… Dropbox feels a lot nicer and doesn’t force me to sift through other folders… but the dropbox iphone app is giving me problems for now.

    Still, it’s dropbox hands down.

  15. Been fighting with iDisk for hours trying to get it to sync THINGS for Mac on two computers. Got sync failure messages over and over, when it did sync, it was so inconsistent (like one out of 5-10 time it got it right). Other times I got sync conflict messages over and over. Finally I just gave up.

    I set the whole thing up on DropBox in a few minutes and it’s working flawlessly– in fact the moment I close THINGS on one computer a Growl notification pops up on my laptop confirming the sync… real time.

    If you are looking to sync THINGS this is what worked for me: http://chriscoyier.net/2009/01/03/syncing-things-across-multiple-computers-with-dropbox/

    Now, that said, I’ve had no problem at all using iDisk for documents like PDFs that I later access on my iPad, iPhone, etc. So, I’m not abandoning iDisk, it’s just didn’t work for the THINGS sync.

  16. I love my MobileMe account…BUT, as several others have already stated, there’s no competition between iDisk and Dropbox in terms of performance. The same 10mb folder took nearly 10 times longer to sync with my iDisk than it did with my Dropbox. And Dropbox has an iPad app out which makes the switch even more compelling (you can open the iPhone formatted app for iDisk on the iPad, but its small size renders it useless). Anyway, kudos to the Dropbox team for creating a simple but stellar product.

  17. I am really impressed with the simplicity and undemanding performance of Dropbox. Over the years, since the inception of .Mac and its giving to both iDisk/MobileMe I have thought it second rate. There have been spinning wheels, the forever syncing scenario and sync conflict messages that baffled me. During this period I have run 5 different Macs which, even as they advanced in processing power and memory all reacted the same to iDisk. Yes, I use its space for archiving files, that’s all, its realtime syncing is just not snappy enough.
    Welcome Dropbox. Today I migrated all of my files across without effort, both iPhone and MacBook carry all my work in progress. I love the understatement. The no nonsense and the ease with which what used to be a fingers-crossed exercise is now nothing more than the saving of a file, as it should be. Well done for falling into my in box last week sent by someone who I don’t know.

  18. I’ve had .mac for years now and find that dropbox is far superior. I have projects that I share with others, use a PC desktop, Mac desktop and a Mac laptop and iPhone. All seamlessly integrated. Shame iDisc isn’t as good.

  19. DropBox is terrific except for the braindead quota-double usage for shared folders (which they say they’re going to fix soon). iDisk still has the one monumental advantage that it can be accessed anywhere there’s a ‘net connection, from any OS, with WebDAV; so giving people access to directories of files or letting them upload the same to you is much more straightforward than with DropBox. Overall though, and for offline access and sync, DropBox just wins.


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