Dropbox is a great tool for saving and managing files on the web and between computers. But did you know that you can use it to host websites? If you still haven’t come across Dropbox click here for a full guide.
Note: As our commenters point out, even though the suggestion for website hosting comes direct from the Dropbox wiki, the service is not intended for ‘production’ web hosting. A few personal pages or a testing site shouldn’t cause you any grief, but Dropbox does reserve the right to turn off your public links if the system detects unusual levels of bandwidth consumption.
For this example, we’ll be using iWeb as the site building tool. iWeb comes with every new Mac and is very easy to use. To find out more click here.
1) To begin with, you must have a Dropbox account. If you don’t have one, get one here right now and download the software, install it, and then set up your account. I also suggest watching the video on the Dropbox home page to understand the concept behind the application and service (or reading some of our previous Dropbox coverage).
2) Once you’ve installed the Dropbox software and have familiarized yourself with it, you’re ready to roll. In the Finder, open your Dropbox folder and create a new folder inside of your Public folder. You can name it anything you want. For this example, I named mine “web.” I can really come up with some amazingly original names when I want to…
3) Open up iWeb and put together a website, or open an existing site. Clicking on the icon for your website in the left sidebar, the Site Publishing Settings page appears:
4) Select Local Folder from the Publish to pop-up menu.
5) Enter the name for your site, your contact email address, and then click on the Choose button for Folder Location.
6) Navigate to the folder that you created in Step 2, then click the Choose button:
The path to the web folder you created in your Dropbox Public folder is listed in the Location edit field.
7) For now, that’s it. If your website is ready to publish, go ahead and click the Publish Site button at the bottom of the iWeb window. This will publish the site files to the web folder in your Dropbox Public folder. Within a few seconds or minutes, depending on your connection speed and the size of your website, those files are synced to your Dropbox “in the cloud.”
As soon as folder syncing is done, open your Dropbox folder and go to Public/web.
9) Within the folder, you’ll see a folder containing all of your web files, and there will also be an “index.html” file. Right click or control click on the index.html file and select Dropbox/Copy Public Link on the dialog box:
The URL will then be copied onto your clipboard, and you can send that URL to friends or clients to show them the site.
10) One more step! In order to make sure that all of your links work properly, go back to the Site Publishing Settings in iWeb for your site. See that big, empty space where it says Website URL? Paste the URL that you just copied in Step 9 into that edit field and then delete the index.html at the end of the URL. That address is the root URL for your new site. Republish your site, then go admire your handiwork.
While I did not have time to check all of the widgets and features that are part of iWeb ’09, all of the ones that I was using on my sample site, including Countdown Timer and HTML Snippets, were working perfectly. Note that anything that uses a server-side capability that is specific to MobileMe will not work, so be sure to test your site functionality before sending out the URL. Note that the Site Publishing Settings are only available in iWeb ’09.
Is that URL ugly? Yep. Mine ended up being http://dl.dropbox.com/u/[redacted]/web/index.html (the user ID has been redacted to protect my Dropbox). If you’re setting up a website for family or friends, or just want someone to see what an iWeb site is going to look like before you publish it under their real domain name, this free solution is a great way to get your iWeb site online in a hurry. You could use a URL shortener service like bit.ly for easy sharing.
You could try registering a domain name for a few bucks and then setting up a redirect to the Dropbox URL, but I’m going to leave that as an exercise to the reader to see if links and RSS feeds would still work properly.
For help please leave a comment below or Submit a Question.