Dropbox is a great solution for online backup and, to some extent, for simple collaboration. One limitation, however, is that there is no way to know when a collaborator has opened a file for editing. If two people edit a file at the same time, Dropbox will save both edited files which will not have conflicting changes.
Notifybox is a third-party solution to this problem. It only works with Microsoft Office documents and on Windows, but it does seem workable and is free for use on a single folder.
When you open a file within a monitored folder, a dialog pops up:
If you choose “Check-out,” you can go ahead and edit the file. When you save and close it, Notifybox informs you that it is now checked-in.
If you choose “Cancel” instead, a dialog box tells you that you should close the file without saving it. This isn’t enforced, so it’s up to the user to pay attention to the prompts.
If you try to open a file that is already checked out by someone else, a different message tells you that you should close the file without saving since it is already in use. It appears that all the potential users must be using Notifybox … I don’t think that it can tell if someone has checked out a file unless that person is also using Notifybox.
It’s a simple solution that bridges a gap between Dropbox and more complex version control systems that are likely too intimidating for most casual users.
A full subscription costs $6 monthly and allows you to monitor multiple folders and subfolders, and to encrypt and compress files in your Dropbox folder. The free version lets you monitor a single folder.