I’m a huge fan of Dropbox, the online service and app that together let you keep files synchronized between multiple computers, the Dropbox website, and even your iOS devices thanks to the Dropbox iOS app (and many third-party iOS apps that use Dropbox for storing files). Like many of my fellow Macworld editors, I keep all my in-progress work in my Dropbox folder so I can access that work from any device, anywhere, at any time.
But the one significant complaint I hear about Dropbox is that it syncs only the files and folders inside that special Dropbox folder. If you forget to put a particular document or folder inside the Dropbox folder, that data won’t be available on your other devices. I’ve admittedly fallen victim to this limitation myself, wanting to work on a file while away from my office, only to discover that I had apparently left that file on my desktop or in my Documents folder.
Which is why I’ve found Spotdox so useful. Also a combination of a Web service and a Mac app, Spotdox lets you remotely browse the files on your Mac and copy any of them—again, from afar—to your Dropbox folder to make them accessible.
The first time you launch the Spotdox app—you choose whether it lives in your menu bar or in the Dock—the app requests authorization to access your Dropbox account. Once you approve, you’ll see Spotdox’s Web interface; you can close this page, as it’s mainly for remote access (described below). Spotdox then sits in the background and waits for your remote requests.
If you have multiple Macs, you can install the Spotdox app on each of them to allow you to access each computer’s files. To ensure you always have access to each Mac’s files, you’ll want to enable Open Spotdox At Login, from the app’s menu, so Spotdox is always running.
To use Spotdox, you load a special Spotdox URL on any of your other devices: Mac, iPhone, iPad, or other smartphone or tablet. You’ll be prompted to authorize the Spotdox Web interface to access the Spotdox folder in your Dropbox folder—for security reasons, this happens each time you access the Web URL. You’ll then see a nicely formatted webpage showing your Home, Documents, Desktop, and Downloads folders, as well as your startup drive and any connected drives. If you have the Spotdox app running on multiple Macs, you’ll see each Mac’s files and folders in a separate section.
You can browse any of these folders or volumes to find the stuff you forgot to copy to Dropbox. While browsing folders, tapping a folder’s name opens that folder; tap your browser’s Back button to go back up a level. Tapping an item’s icon, or the plus-sign (+) button next to it, shows you a preview of the item—including, for files, a preview of the item. Tapping the Info button displays information such as the item’s file path, modification date, and size. Unfortunately, longer names are cut off in these file listings, and the Info details don’t include the full file name, nor do they show you the file type.
A search field at the top of this webpage offers options to search any visible folder or any parent folder, as well as to filter your search by type of data: images, movies, audio, presentation, Word, Excel, Numbers, Pages, PDF, PNG, JPG, Photoshop, or Zip. Searches aren’t as fast as a Spotlight search while sitting at your computer, but they’re fast enough considering you’re searching your Mac from afar.
Once you’ve found the desired file or folder, you just tap the Copy To Dropbox button that appears next to the Info button. After a short delay, you’ll see a dialog box confirming the copy. Your file or folder—a copy of it, at least, as the original remains in the location you found it—is now accessible in the Spotdox folder inside your Dropbox folder. (Specifically, the copy of the file is created in Dropbox/Apps/spotdox/uploads.)
This means the file is now available on any of your computers and other devices with access to your Dropbox folder, as well as on the Dropbox website and from within any Dropbox-enabled app. You can also tap the Uploads button in the Spotdox Web interface for quick access to all the files you’ve copied to your Spotdox folder, or tap the Dropbox button to peruse your actual Dropbox folder in Spotdox’s browser.
If you want to move a file out of your Dropbox folder—say, to free up space in a Dropbox account that’s nearing its capacity—you can do that, too: While previewing an item in the Dropbox view, clicking or tapping the Move Out Of Dropbox button moves that item to your Downloads folder.
Browsing your drive in Spotdoc’s Web interface is a bit sluggish, and using Web-browser Back/Forward buttons to navigate between representations of folders feels clumsy compared to using the Finder. But if you rely on Dropbox to keep your files and folders accessible from all your devices, I feel confident in saying that Spotdox will eventually get you out of a self-inflicted jam.