How to use Dropbox with Presentation Computers

Updated 5. October 2022

To display presentations for an event, you only need one computer.  But it’s a good idea to also include a second-machine, in case the main computer is broken, or if you need to do some quick changes to the presentations.
In this article we will show how you can add flexibility to your presentation-computer setup by using Dropbox with two machines. The same methods should also apply when using other file-sharing services like Microsoft Onedrive and Google Drive.

Sharing files on Dropbox

What we want to achieve, is to have two or more computers sharing the same folder that stores all the presentations for the event. Both computers can read and write to the folder. This means that if you update the presentations on one of the computers, the other computer will soon have the same changes. An online Dropbox- server acts as a “master” folder from where the local computers are synchronized.


Advantages of online synchronization

  1. The backup is always updated
    To create a backup you could also just copy the files using a usb-stick or something similar. This would work perfectly well until you change something on the presentations. Then you need to update the backup as well. It can be a cumbersome process to copy the files manually and make sure that the backup is always updated. By using shared folders instead, the presentation-folders on all machines across the network are automatically synchronized.
  2. Remote access to the files of the main presentation computer
    Let’s say you have a conference where the presentation-computer on the stage is connected directly to the projector and/or the streaming-service. As long as the computer is displaying a presentation, it is difficult to update the files on this computer: you most likely have to exit the presentation to do this. So, practically speaking, the only chance to update the presentations is during the breaks.
    By sharing the files on a network and another computer, you get access to the files from a remote location. When a presenter comes with his updated presentation during the event, you can immediately use the backup-computer to update the main computer with the new files.

How to set up 2 computers with a shared Dropbox-folder for presentations

  1. First, remember that this workflow requires internet-connection. So, the first step would be to check the internet. If you don’t have internet-access or are unsure of the network-quality, then this might not be the best option for you. However, by using Dropbox you can still access the files if the internet goes down (see step 4 about Smart Sync)
  2. Install Dropbox on both machines
  3. A: Log into your Dropbox-account on both machines or

B: If the backup-computer belongs to someone else with a separate Dropbox-account, then you can create the presentation-folder and share it with both accounts. Make sure that both accounts can edit the folder. You can set this when you invite to share the folders

4. Go to “Sync settings” in Dropbox-preferences.

Make sure that Smart Sync is turned off. When files are updated, you always want changes to be saved on your local computer as soon as possible. Smart Sync will also work, but then the files are downloaded from the server only when you open them. This should be unnecessary.

5. Go to “Selective Sync” and make sure that the presentation-folder is selected.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 on both the backup and the main computer

After completing these steps, you should have 2 computers that share a Dropbox folder


Using the backup-computer to update the presentation-files

The picture below shows a simple setup where only one computer is connected directly to the projector. If everything is setup according to the steps above, then you can use the Backup computer to update the presentation-files on the Main computer. But there is  important requirement for this to work:
The files will not be updated from a remote location as long as they are opened on the main computer.
This means that you can never edit the current presentation while it is displayed for the audience. Secondly, if you have a lot of files opened at the same time at the Main computer, these files cannot be edited as well. If you want the flexibility to use the Backup-computer to update files on the Main computer, then there are two things I would consider:

  1. Be careful not to merge too many presentations into one file
    For example, if you merge all the presentations for your event, then you cannot edit any of the slides on the Main computer while presentations are displayed.
  2. On the Main computer, try to close all unnecessary opened files
    If a file is opened on the Main computer, then this file cannot be updated from the Backup-computer. Therefore, you should remember to close the files if you are not using them.





Using a Hardware Video Switcher

Will it still be necessary to use a shared dropbox-folder when both machines are connected through a hardware video switcher? Then you could update a presentation on a machine that is not shown on the projector, and display this with a click of a button.

Although it is true that a video-switcher gives you more options, I would still share the folders on presentation-computers that are running through a video-mixer. If else, your computers are no longer synchronised, meaning that you no longer have a backup: The use of a shared dropbox-folder is what makes the updated backup possible, not the video-switcher. The switcher only makes the transition to the backup more seamless in case of a failure.
And the video-switcher has a lot of other uses as well, like connecting remote speakers, cameras and other video-sources.  


How does Auto Presentation Switcher fit a workflow with shared folders

In the setup mentioned above you could use APS for two things:

  1. Switch between the presentations.
    APS is the first software-presentation switcher that works directly with the presentation-files through their original programs. Unlike other software-switcher solutions, you don’t need to merge the files together before they are displayed, thus always keeping maximum flexibility.
  2. Close unnecessary presentations on the main computer
    APS has a command that lets you close all presentations on your computer except the one currently displayed. This means that if need to change a presentation from the Backup-computer, you can always do this even when you forgot to close presentations on the Main computer.


I think it’s a good idea to put your presentation-files on a shared folder that can be accessed from a remote location. It gives you flexibility and redundancy both on simple and more complicated technical setups for conferences and events. And Auto Presentation Switcher works great with this workflow.  



Recent Posts: