Has anyone done this: used Dropbox for master project plan and sub projects? RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Hi all, wondering if anyone has used Dropbox for a master plan /  sub-project setup. It seems to work. I am working with an org that used Dropbox for all it's files, so I am hoping all will be well... thoughts? We are using MS Project 2013... 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013 9:37 AM

All replies

  • Herojig,

    I can't speak for Project 2013 but I did have a user "send" me his master and subproject via a dropbox about a year ago. I ran the structure. (over 20K tasks in size), with no ill effects. I think as long as the whole structure is co-located or even moved as a unit, everything should be fine. It's when parts of the linked structure are renamed, moved or "saved off" as copies that sows the seeds of corruption. It's also not a good idea to operate a linked structure over a network, there's just too much chance for a little network glitch to mess things up.

    Hope this helps.


    Tuesday, July 30, 2013 3:20 PM
  • Jiggy,

    I use Dropbox all the time (with Project 2010) and with success.  HOWEVER, you need to understand what it is and how it works. Read carefully about that on their web site.  They have good documentation. Simplistically (and under the cover it's solving a complex problem!) it's just moving files from here to there.  If you make changes "here", it will move the changed files to "there".  It does NOT automatically handle for you issues caused if you make changes "here" and "there" simultaneously and independently.  Project will know nothing about Dropbox. It just opens files from a local location.  Project will "lock" files it opens, but it will not lock the files which exist in all the other DropBox locations.  Dropbox is not the same as multi-user file server and will not work like one. 

    My way of using Dropbox, which works for me, is to work with the Project files on the laptop in folder on c: drive that Dropbox manages.  When I get back to the office, the files with current versions are also going to be on the Dropbox folder on the c: drive of a desktop PC as Dropbox did that for me.  I work with the files in Project from the c: drive on desktop.  As far as Project is concerned, it's the exact same folder as the full path folder is the exactly the same on the PC as it is on the laptop.  Thus inside of Project where it stores full path folder/file names, it's all the same.  And since I'm working on only one machine at a time for this, there is no risk of multiple versions.


    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:25 AM
  • thx john. My testing shows that all works well but this oddity: if the master file and sub projects are copied to another Dropbox directory, the master plan will remain linked to the original sub projects in the original directory. Strange. But if I copy the entire folder of plan/subplans to a local drive, the links to DB are broken and all works as expected. Anyway, I appreciate your reply. 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:02 AM
  • thx rms, understood. All is working very well actually. I need to test this with the other users, as we are all using a shared Dropbox folder. Cheers,


    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:04 AM
  • Warning. Getting multiple users involved increases the odds of simultaneous changes.  They change their copies. you change your copy. Dropbox will then start sending around multiple versions of the same file. Dropbox documents how they handle this situation, but basically it's up to you.  It will probably get very confusing and probably will break your setup in Project as all the file names change.


    • Edited by Rob Schneider Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:08 AM spelling
    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:07 AM
  • thx, understood. this group fortunately uses shared DB folders all the time, and they are each assigned their own subproject file and told not to touch anything else (ha!). 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:37 AM
  • Also, perhaps you can help me with this problem: setting the timeline timescale to display something meaningful, in this case the month + year. Or what if I wanted Qtrs '13, or something like that. Can't seem to find any documentation on that. thx so much! 


    timeline timescale problem

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 8:52 AM
  • I've experience of using another web-based file repository (not Dropbox), and found it did work, but we lost the ability to open the master schedule without locking the child schedules. As soon as we opened the master, even with the "Recommend Read Only" setting switched on the child projects  and actively selecting to open the files as read-only, while they were shown as read-only in the title bar of MSP, the file store still locked up the children preventing others from editing.

    I recommend you test this with Dropbox and assess whether or not this will impact your working practices.

    I can't fully remember if we had the same issue when we opened up a child schedule - i.e. it may have locked the other children which it had links to, even though it was just refreshing the dates, but again, I'd recommend you test that.

    I hope that helps,

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:04 AM
  • thx Andrew for your thoughts. DB seems to be working remarkably well so far... but I will continue to try and "break" it before releasing files to users. I think the problem with shared files on dropbox, in general, is the lag time before changes are propagated to everyone's machines. Several times I've even tried to find a file before it's been updated or added :) 

    • Edited by Jigs Gaton Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:08 AM
    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:06 AM
  • Dropbox is not a "web based" repository.  The repository is on your own computer, and on the computers that "share" copies of the files.  Yes, files also sit out on the "cloud" somewhere; but that irrelevant as far as Project is concerned.

    Project knows nothing of Dropbox.  All it knows is opening a file which is on the filesystem, and it "communicates" with the filesystem to put locks on file, input the data, output the data, mark things "read-only" and all that.  All this has nothing to do with Dropbox.   

    The more important issue is that if you work with master and submaster files located in different file systems and the links are "different" (as they would be if you open/save in user's profile space), Project will try it's best to keep track of it all, but will eventually corrupt.  

    If the file system names for the folders are EXACTLY the same, the risk of corruption can be reduced e.g. c:\dropbox\projectfiles\. 

    BUT, Dropbox and Project will NOT control against multiple simultaneous use of copies of files in multiple locations.  


    • Edited by Rob Schneider Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:35 AM spelling.
    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:27 AM
  • BUT, Project will touch other files related to the subproject files.  Even if they don't.  

    Care req'd.

    And make sure the file system path, e.g. c:\dropbox\foldername, is exactly the same for each person.  To reduce risk (but probably not eliminate due to above affect) of file corruption.

    Make sure you take backups frequently.


    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:29 AM
  • Jiggy,

    An "oddity"? No, remember what I said about not "saving off" as copies. Whenever you copy a file in a linked structure, you replicate the links and that most assuredly will lead to file corruption.


    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:30 PM
  • yes John, I remember :) I'll test that next. I do see users of dropbox here doing that: copy the file from their local drobox structure, mail files around, put somewhere else, etc. and then return those files to the local dropbox structure. The good news for my scenario is this, there is a gatekeeper in charge. here, let me share my diagram. An entire resource person is in charge of making sure that data is input correctly and that the files are in the right place, backed up, etc. 

    Now on to creating Excel templates that can feed into the subplans. I know this works in theory, and I used to do it with Version 2003 back in the day. Wonder how it works today :)

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Thursday, August 1, 2013 12:50 AM
  • Herojig,

    I'd be willing to bet that those other users of dropbox are NOT working with Project files in a linked structure.

    The best way to "back up" a dynamic master is to convert it to a static master and then save that to wherever because when the dynamic structure is converted to a static structure the links are removed so there is no greater chance for corruption than there is with any normal unlinked Project file. However, converting to a static master is a little more interesting if the subprojects have links between tasks in the subprojects. Converting that type of structure requires a macro.

    As far as creating Excel templates, the process is a little more complicated with Project 2010 than it was with Project 2003. There are more issues with data types and it just seems to be "fussier".

    Good luck.


    Thursday, August 1, 2013 2:34 AM
  • John,

    I use Dropbox and files are linked.  I have Project master and sub-master along with resource files (with an associated global.mpt), all linked, in a folder.  That folder replicates to other computers via DropBox.

    : I make sure Dropbox finishes it's sync before shutting down.

    : I make sure Dropbox finishes it's sync before using the files on other computers.

    : The filefolder name is the same on all computers, e.g. c:\dropbox\project\project name.

    : There is no simultanous use by other users.

    Works fine, far as I can tell.  I do have a good backup regime (with CrashPlan and TimeMachine), just in case.  Files also copied/check in/out to SharePoint.


    Thursday, August 1, 2013 3:53 AM
  • yes, that's what I find as well. So on Sharepoint, does the enterprise have to have the Sharepoint server set up to get check in and check out. I would like to see something like that in Dropbox. MindJet Mindmanager has a check in and check out function in their version of the cloud. 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Thursday, August 1, 2013 4:48 AM
  • Jiggy,

    Yes, to use SharePoint, you have to have it installed!  :-)

    The *trick* is that we use SP this way and only this way with Project.  

    : Check out the file in SP

    : Copy file to a prescribed folder on C: drive.  EVERYONE uses the same file, e.g. c:\data\project\projectA 

    : Open the file from that c: drive.  Do NOT open by double clicking link in SP, or anything that involves the browser.

    : when done, upload the changed file(s) back in to SharePoint and check in

    NOBODY can edit a file that is checked out.  They wait.

    IMHO it is unlikely that Dropbox will have have check out/in features like SP.  They are different.  Maybe. Dunno.

    You just have to remember that Project is very picky how it works with files.  Maybe 2013 better. Dunno.  We just make Project *think* it is working with files that are on, and only on, the c: drive in the same folder all the time. All the time.  

    I would not mix DropBox with SharePoint with teams.  Pick one method or the other, but not both.  I use both in that for me DropBox is how files move for me from the various machines I use.  To get everyone up to speed with the nuances required beyond the rules above is just too complicated.  Put their brain cells into managing the project, not the files.


    Thursday, August 1, 2013 5:12 AM
  •  Put their brain cells into managing the project, not the files.


    Yes. more good advice. Will stick to Dropbox for this project as all the folks using the files are very familiar with it. But personally, I would prefer a check-in, check-out system. Unfortunately, in Nepal, there are very few share point users, and I have never seen a full-blown MS Project server setup in this country. oh well… 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Thursday, August 1, 2013 5:33 AM
  • Rob,

    Yes, your method appears to be sound. I was queueing on the comment by Herojig that stated, "copy the file", indicating copying of a single file in the structure. And as I'm sure you know, that's where the link duplication/corruption problem gets started. Your process keeps the whole structure together.


    Thursday, August 1, 2013 3:10 PM
  • thx all! 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Saturday, June 13, 2015 2:28 AM
  • Our conversation on this was almost two years s ago, and your "thx" was just now.  What's happened in the two years? Did it all work out? Did any changes to DropBox, SharePoint availability, Project, or how your team works with all this complexity make any difference.  Did it work?  Did the projects get done on time, in budget, and to the quality required?


    Saturday, June 13, 2015 4:56 AM
  • My how time flies, seems like just yesterday.... no, seriously I was just trying to close out old threads started - in light of a bunch of new questions I have on Project Server :) But to answer your Qs: yes, peeps are still using Dropbox with linked projects and they do get frustrated with "conflict" files generated by DB. But the system in the diagram above is still working, and mostly because there is a single person gatekeeper that deals with DB. However, now that I have my own MS Project Server 2013 and learning how it really works, I would encourage anyone in the future to just bite the bullet and install this, or go with Office 365 online. As far as the actual work, MS project makes a big difference in those PM's lives now that they are not doing this work in word files and excel spreadsheets. So all and all a success for Nepal :) Then the earthquakes hit. 

    Jiggy Gaton, Trainer and Media Consultant for Nepal and S. Asia

    Saturday, June 13, 2015 5:30 AM