Recent Dropbox updates with Smart Folders

I love Dropbox. It’s a flexible sync service that does exactly what you expect it to do – reliably. At 47 Degrees, we use Dropbox to share and collaborate on documents, assets and general company resources. The service is completely integrated with each one of our machines (Mac house). Changes happen quickly with the only exception to be blamed on Comcast whenever one ore more members is off site.

During a typical work day, any one of us will have modified a file which may need to be reviewed or proof read by a peer. The quickest way to do this is to move your mouse cursor over the Dropbox icon in the menu bar to select “Recently Changed Files”. Clicking on any of the listed files will open the parent directory for the updated file.

Functional enough to provide a quick overview of recent changes but useless if you sync apps like 1Password, CodeBox or LittleSnapper. The list of recent changes provides an overview of ALL changes for your entire Dropbox folder so in the case of a shared company directory, updates are quickly shuffled out of view.

Smart Folders to the rescue

Likely to be one of the least used features in OS X for most Mac users, Smart Folders is the key to creating useful “recently updated” views specific to shared Dropbox folders. Here’s how I created a Smart Folder which monitors file changes for a shared Dropbox folder:

  1. Open Finder and navigate to the shared Dropbox folder. The path may look like /Users/[Username]/Dropbox/Shared/[Workspace]
  2. Press CMD + F to focus move focus to the search bar. In the Search row, you will see options ‘This Mac’, ‘[Workspace]‘ and ‘Shared’. Select ‘[Workspace]‘ (or whatever your shared folder is called) which will restrict new smart folder to the shared workspace in Dropbox.
  3. Now add rules which the Smart Folder will use to retrieve results. Click on the plus icon to the right of ‘Save’. Update your rules to imitate the screenshot above which looks for any files modified in the last 5 days. If ‘Any’ is too broad, filter results to display Documents, PDFs, Images etc.
  4. To save your search as a Smart Folder, press the Save button immediately below the search bar.

The default save path is /Users/[Username]/Library/Save Searches. I opted to save my new Smart Folder to the Documents folder. For even faster access to shared updates, drag the Smart Folder to your Dock.

Do you use Dropbox to collaborate with others? Any favorite applications you use in conjunction with Dropbox?

Discuss - 3 Comments

  1. Vonn says:

    I used the dropbox as well. It is great. It certainly helps me to get more organised.

  2. paul says:

    My company uses dropbox as well… thanks for your insightful tutorial! Im definitely going to be using smart folders in the future.

  3. Steven Piper says:

    We built an app for use on Mac to help with keeping track of lots of file changes etc. It also allows for quick file sharing.

    Best of all its free.