Cloud Computing, Document Generation, Productivity

Easy Automations in Dropbox

If your firm or office is using Dropbox, then you should be aware that they have recently added some particularly useful automation tools that can help you keep your files organized without effort. Automations include categorizations, file renaming, and file format conversions.

To invoke the automation options, open Dropbox and add a new folder. When you add the folder check the box to add automation and it will display the options for the new folder. If you want to add automation to an existing folder or subfolder, click on the gear icon to the right of the folder name and choose “Organize” from the drop-down menu and then select “add automation” and choose your option. Automations are easy to set up, simply follow the prompts.

Choose a Category to Sort Files By

If you want to organize files on a schedule, choose this automation workflow. Choose options like “when files are added to this folder/subfolder” “then organize into folders grouped by”. You can group files by month, year, or keyword. If you choose keyword type in a keyword and when a file with a matching keyword from the file name or file body has that keyword it will be added to a categorized folder.

Set a Rule that Renames Files

This automation can be especially useful for lawyers. You can set up an automation that applies a rule that when files are added to a particular folder (including subfolders) then rename them with a variety of criteria. These criteria can include date uploaded, keywords, parent folder, and a variety of metadata primarily for image files. You can add more rules to apply, choosing whether you want to separate words with underscores, spaces, or dashes. For example, if your keyword is “lease” and you add a date (YYYY-MM-DD) with underscores then any file you upload to the chosen folder and subfolders will appear as “Lease_original_file_name_2024_04_02.docx”.

If you want to edit an automation, go to the gear icon to the right of the folder name and choose “Organize” from the drop-down menu and then select “edit automated folder”. Click the carat icon next to the automation you want to edit, then the pencil icon. In the example above, if you want the file name to begin with the date you can drag that up to appear first in the order of operations. Your files will be renamed “2024-04-02_Lease_original_file_name.docx”.

Convert Files to PDFs

Another useful automation is to create a folder that automatically converts any file placed into it to a .pdf. Click “Create” and choose Folder and Automated Folder. Then apply the automation “when files are added to this folder convert all supported file types to PDFs”. Note that files over 30MB will not be converted. You can then add an additional automation, like “rename them to YYYY-MM-DD-example_filename.pdf”. When you add files to this folder they will be converted to PDF and the original file will also remain in the folder with its original file type.

Choose an Image Format to Convert Files To

Similar to the automation to convert supported files to PDF, this automation will convert all supported file types to either PNG or JPG. Files larger than 48MB will be converted.

Choose a file format to Convert Videos To

Dropbox has a lot of support for videos, including recording screen capture and editing videos through Dropbox Capture. However, if you upload a recording from a video conference you may want to convert that file to a standard file format. This automation will do exactly that, by converting file types like .avi and .m4v to more standard file formats .mov and .mp4. Files larger than 2048 MB will not be converted.

Unzip Files

If you receive a zipped file, you can use this automation to automatically unzip the files in a folder. It will not unzip a file larger than 256MB. Not all zip files are the same, so if you have ever received a ZIP file with a non-standard file extension and tried to unzip it in Windows you may find this file conversion automation very handy.

Choose a File Format to Convert Audio Files To

Like the video conversion automation, this option creates a folder that will convert 11 audio file types to standard .mp3, .m4a, or .wav. There is a file size limit of 2048MB.


Once you have set up an automation you can save it as a template. At the bottom of an automation workflow check “Save as template” and name your template. When you create a new automated folder your workflow templates will appear as options at the top of the automation options. You can edit the template and resave it, or add a new template based on the modifications of the previous template.

Many of the file conversion automations (video, audio, image, pdf) could be extremely helpful if you receive a large number of documents that you need to convert, as the automation will save you a few steps.

Being able to add YYYY-MM-DD and a keyword or words, plus file metadata could be especially useful for some firms in terms of standardizing document naming conventions. Do keep in mind that the date is based on the date the file was uploaded, so if the date needs to reflect the date the document was created you will want to continue to apply that information to the file name manually.

These automations may or may not end up being useful for your firm, but if you are a Dropbox user you should certainly know they exist!