At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Dropbox

How to View Your Photo Book on Your iPhone or iPad

You’ve just created a physical photo book using your favorite online book-making service. Bravo! Now, you’ve decided you also need to create a digital version that works on your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how you do that…

I know the idea of creating a digital version of a physical photo book is entirely counterintuitive… I’ve been talking for years about the need to create photo books to organize your pictures. I’ve been preaching that merely maintaining your photos in digital form isn’t the right move. I’ve been warning how hard drives and Cloud services will likely not protect your precious digital files in the decades to come.

Photo books will stand the test of time. Plus, they serve as an analog platform right now to enjoy all of your wonderful pictures that are locked away in digital form.

So why do I suddenly see a need to reverse engineer this solution and figure out how to generate a digital version of a photo book?

Slow as Molasses
Well, there’s one problem creating photo books… You have to wait for what seems like forever after you order them online, because they take a few days to print.
(It can take over two weeks to receive them without express shipping.)

If you’re trying to hit a deadline to create one of these books as a gift and didn’t plan early enough in advance, you may need a digital version to show off to the gift recipient as a ‘preview.’

And that’s not a terrible back up plan, because people are used to viewing pictures digitally anyway.

The Price for Immediate Gratification
Sure, you can pay a few bucks to have your book-making website do it for you.
(I use Blurb through Adobe Lightroom…and Blurb’s price to create a PDF version is $4.99.)

But when I ran across this exact situation recently, my finger immediately deselected the “Create a PDF” button. I figured that creating a sharable digital version of a photo book is something Mr. At Home with Tech should be able to do by himself for free.

I needed to preview my new photo book via an iPad. And then I wanted to email the gift recipient an online link to the photo book as well.
(Emailing the file itself wouldn’t be an option due to the large file size.)

So, here’s how you do it…

Save the Finished PDF Book Using Adobe Lightroom
As opposed to just using a website’s book-making tools, there’s one big benefit to creating your photo books using software that resides locally on your computer.
(Such as Adobe Lightroom or Apple’s Photos)

You’re creating the finished file first before uploading it to the book-making website. And the file you’re uploading is a PDF. You should also be able to save that exact PDF onto your computer’s hard drive for your own use.

Adobe Lightroom’s book-creation module offers you the option to export one large PDF or a whole bunch of JPEGs that represent each page.

In ‘Book Settings’ on the top right… you’ll see the choice of ‘Blurb,’ ‘JPEG’ or PDF.

  • Choose ‘PDF’
  • And then on the bottom right, click ‘Export Book to PDF’ and choose the destination

Now, it’s time to get that file onto the iPad…

Move the PDF Over Via the Cloud
There are a variety of Cloud-based methods to easily move the PDF over to an iPad.
(Like Apple’s iCloud Drive)
But I’m a big fan of Dropbox, and that’s the route I chose…

  • Export the PDF into the Dropbox folder on your Mac
  • Then, find and open the PDF using the Dropbox app on your iPad

Save to iBooks
Finally, you want to save the PDF locally for easy access. Sure, it’s always available via Dropbox, but the big PDF takes some time to load up. And the pages don’t show up cleanly on Dropbox. The iPad’s screen dimensions don’t match the book’s… so there’s some page overlap.

Instead, use Apple’s native iBooks app. It’s is a great solution!
When viewing your PDF via Dropbox on your iPad or iPhone…

  • Tap ‘Export’
  • Tap ‘Open In…’
  • Tap ‘Import with iBooks’

Now, each page shows up cleanly and independently as you swipe through!

Send a Link Via Dropbox
If you’ve used a Cloud-based sharing method to get your file onto your iPad, you should be able to also create a web link to that file, which you can then email to the gift recipient.

In the Dropbox app on your iPad…

  • Select ‘Share’
  • Tap on ‘Create a Link’
  • Tap on the ‘Mail’ icon
  • Type in the email address
  • And ‘Send!’

Best Gifts Ever
If you’re wondering after all of this whether you actually still need the physical photo book, don’t lose sight of your original mission!

The digital conversion is icing on the cake and satisfies an immediate need for instant access.

But when your gift recipient eventually opens up the actual book, you’ll remember that sometimes going ‘old school’ still has its advantages…

How to Use Dropbox on Your iPhone to Listen to Podcasts

If you’re not into iTunes to help transfer a podcast from your computer to your iPhone, then you should think about moving that file up to the cloud where your phone can find it.

If you’re not into iTunes to help transfer a podcast from your computer to your iPhone, then you should think about moving that file up to the cloud where your phone can find it.

My wife recently invited me to listen to an hour-long podcast that she was interested in discussing with me. “An hour?!” I wondered. Where would I fit that into my busy day? The obvious choice eventually percolated to the top of my narrowly focused brain…

Listen on my way to work on my iPhone!

Whether I was driving or commuting on the train, I could consume this content on the go.

Now the question was how…

Stream It
The podcast lived on a website… so I could simply stream it directly from there. Sure… that’s the easiest way. But when I travelled through dead zones in cell coverage, I’d be stuck.

iTunes is Always There for You…
The podcast creator, having already thought through this limitation, invited its Apple listeners to download the audio file onto their respective Macs. From your computer, you can move the audio file to iTunes and then manually sync your iPhone/iPad with iTunes to move the file over.
(And no… this particular podcast can’t be automatically accessed and downloaded online from iTunes. That, of course, would make it easier…)

The whole ‘transfer in… then transfer out’ process with iTunes on your computer seemed like an unnecessary amount of work, since I was intending to listen to this podcast only once.

Look to the Cloud
It all felt so yesterday. I immediately thought that a cloud solution should be able to better handle the challenge….

And of course it can!
Here’s how I did it…

Four Steps to Easy Podcast Prep

Dropbox is my personal cloud-sharing solution.
(There are many others out there.)

Step 1
So I downloaded the audio file from the website to my iMac and then simply dragged the file to a new folder I created in Dropbox.

Step 2
Then, I picked up my iPhone and opened up the Dropbox app…
(Can you believe it… the audio file was magically right there!)

I was already at the finish line in two steps, but the file would only stream when I tapped on it. I wanted to listen locally…

Step 3
There’s a ‘Make Available Offline’ option in the Dropbox app.
I tapped that, and Bam!
Now, I was ready to listen, regardless of cell coverage…

Step 4
I tapped the ‘downloaded’ file, which I could also access in the ‘Offline’ section, and a Dropbox audio player opened up.

My podcast began to play.


Happy Listening
Again, there’s nothing wrong with moving your podcasts into the iTunes ecosystem. I was just too lazy to take the time to get it there.

Dropping the file into Dropbox was so much quicker.

And that’s more time you can put towards your podcast listening!

YouSendIt is Gone. Should You Hightail It?

It looks like name recognition wasn’t that valuable an asset for YouSendIt. To stay relevant, they upgraded their mission, their name… and their pricing! Should you find another web link creation service?

It looks like name recognition wasn’t that valuable an asset for YouSendIt. To stay relevant, they upgraded their mission, their name… and their pricing! Should you find another web link creation service?

It’s darn impossible to send out a video via email attachment these days, because of how large video files have become.
(Everything is HD… on its way to 4K!)

Sure, you might be able to get a really short clip through, without blowing up your email program.
But anything more than a couple minutes worth of content…you can forget it.

Yes, there’s the magic bullet of file compression, but that’s an added step and a story for another day…

Instead of attaching a cripplingly large video into your email,
one solution is to include a web link that your recipients can click on.
They’ll be directed to a web page that hosts your video and then downloads your file.
Before you know it, they’re happily* watching the video from their desktop!
(*Blogger not responsible for actual download speed experience!)

Downloadable Video Links Vs. Streaming
In this golden digital age of easy-upload and stream websites like YouTube and Vimeo, you might question the very need for a service that downloads your video first before you can watch it.
And if you’re feeling a little twitchy about privacy and want to keep the video away from the public eye, simply password-protect your video page.

But in the video creation/collaboration business, there are usually multiple drafts of a video before the final version crosses the finish line.

A good method for offsite collaboration on these kinds of projects is via downloadable links.

Plus, if you simply want a video to get from Point A to Point B, streaming it isn’t going to get the job done. You’ve still got to download it!

Goodbye YouSendIt
If you’ve ever downloaded a video file from a web link, there’s a good chance the link was generated by a company called YouSendIt.
They’ve been around since 2004 and currently have over 40 million users.
This month alone, they’ve shared more than 100 million files.
(“Most impressive.”)

But if you haven’t heard, you’ll never get a link from YouSendIt ever again.
Don’t panic. The friendly folks from YouSendIt are still there.
They’ve just been going through an identity crisis of sorts, and they’ve “rebranded” themselves.

YouSendIt is now ‘Hightail.’

Hello Hightail
Yes, it was a surprise to me too.
An email from them would have been nice…

Everyone knew what a YouSendIt link was…
(It was almost a verb unto itself.)

Now a ‘Hightail’ link?
(They seem very excited by their new name. I’ll leave it at that.)

They claim their business model needed to change, as there are dozens of competing choices clouding their future.

To survive, they have to grow beyond a simple file-sharing service.
Today, it’s all about being a collaboration and file management tool.

I get all that.

The Cost of Progress
I just want to know if their shiny new kitchen can still brew a simple cup of coffee.

Today, I just want to make my video links.
Drum roll, please…

Yes, you still can, but there have been some ‘modifications’ to their subscription plans.

My existing YouSendIt Pro account plan cost me $49.99/year.
(They were running a deal when I renewed it…)

The Pro plan gave me a maximum sharable file size of 2 GB with 5GB of total available storage.
That’s plenty for what I need.

Both YouSendIt’s old free plan and Hightail’s no-cost ‘Lite’ plan give you just 2 GB of storage.
But the killer with this free deal remains the per-file size limit…
Only 50 MB.
That doesn’t get you very far with video.

Hightail’s value proposition is its new Professional plan which offers you unlimited Cloud storage for all your files.
That’s a real wake-up call to the competition.
(And you can still share files up to 2 GB.)

But all this goodness is going to cost you $159.99/year.
That’s a chunk of change.
And a lot more than I’d prefer to pay.

Is Free Really a Deal?
There are so many free ways to send out links these days.
So why pay anything?

Well, call me old school, l but I still subscribe to the concept that you get what you pay for.

If sending out a video link is really important, then you might want to use a company you know with a good track record.
And you may have to pay something for the privilege.

The question is how much…
I‘ve been willing to pay $50/year for peace of mind, but three times that?!

For the record, I’ve been completely satisfied with YouSendIt, and I’m sure Hightail will be equally wonderful…

I just don’t want to spend $160.
(Especially when the onward march of tech innovation is supposed to decrease pricing!)

So what now?
Time to shop around and look at the competition…

Starving with Too Much Choice
As I considered the cluttered landscape offering to help me create my links,
I quickly grew frustrated with all the choices.

Others have already gone through this lengthy exercise:

Google Drive
Yes, Google Drive keeps popping up everywhere, and it’s free.
Plus, they give you 15 GB, which is hard to beat.
But it’s a service that requires you to download yet more software onto your computer.

That said, I realized I’ve got Dropbox on my desktop.
And I’m already happily creating links with them.
(Dropbox gives you 2 GB for free…and a little more when you get friends to join.)

So, problem solved… right?

Sort of…

I’d Like the Burger Deluxe, Please
I’ve realized I enjoy some of the cushier bells and whistles I had with YouSendIt.

  • You can set the link’s life span from a few days to a few months
  • It’s also nice to have the option to see when your file has been viewed

Adobe SendNow
Then I found Adobe SendNow.
They do all that and more for only $20 a year.

  • Maximum file size of 2 GB
  • Maximum storage of 20 GB


And Adobe is no mom-and-pop operation.
(What can I say… I like a well-known brand.)

Put your Jackson to work, and problem solved!

Hightail it or Hightail it?
So is it time to leave Hightail?
I think so.

I’ve still got more time on my legacy YouSendIt plan.
But if Hightail can’t get more competitive against Adobe SendNow or another similarly featured service, (any other suggestions?)

…I’m hightailing it elsewhere!

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