Your Dropbox is yours. People can’t just randomly come along and put things into it or find out where it is. Neither can you put files into someone’s Public folder.
(If you’re installing Dropbox for a new account after October 4, 2012, you won’t have a Public folder but you don’t need one.)
The contents of your Public folder are private as well unless you specifically share them. No-one can find their way to your Public folder unless you’ve shared the link to it and you can’t find your way to someone’s unless they’ve shared theirs.
Shared Dropbox Folders
Once you have Dropbox installed, you can invite another person to also install it. You simply create a folder in your My Dropbox folder that you invite them to share. The Shared folder then exists on both computers and files can be easily passed back and forth.
All your files in My Dropbox are synced to your Dropbox account. When you share a folder with someone the files in that folder are also synced to their computer.
For instance, my cousin and I share a genealogy filing system using a Shared folder. I put files into it, they sync to Dropbox in the sky and also appear on her computer. She can pass files over to me the same way. I haven’t invited anyone else to share this folder so no-one else can see it or find it.
How to share a folder:
- Create a new folder in My Dropbox on your computer.
- Right click and choose Dropbox/Share this folder.
- Type the email address of the person you want to share with into the box that pops up and click Share folder.
- The recipient will receive an email asking them to accept your invitation.
- If they say yes, the folder will also show up in their Dropbox.
- If they don’t have Dropbox installed yet, they’ll have to do that first.
I generally name my shared folders by the name of the person I’m inviting. For instance, JL-JGB so it’s clear to both participants. Folders can also be shared by a group.
Public Dropbox Folders
This Public folder is yours but you can choose to share links to the files within it. Anyone who receives a link can also share the link with anyone else so, in that sense, it is public.
You put a file into your Public folder, right click and choose Copy Public Link. This copies it to your clipboard. You then paste the link in an email, for instance, or post it on a website.
The recipient will only be able to see the specific file you send them a link to, not every other file in your Public folder, unless they can guess the file-names. If they try to access the main directory they won’t be able to unless you send the link to the entire folder. You can do this by right-clicking on your Public folder and choosing Dropbox/Get Shareable Link. You can paste this into an email or a web page and it will give the recipient(s) access to every file in that folder.
If you’re willing to make the link known to the public, i.e. through your website or other web property then, yes, your Public folder contents are completely public.
If you don’t share the links to the files in your Public folder, no-one can find them. There is no directory listing of people’s Public Dropbox folders and no such option as other people putting things into it.
For more information, read about the Public folder at the Dropbox Help Center.