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We’ve all been there.  You’re trying to share a file with a friend or colleague.  That shouldn’t be too hard to do, right?  But traditional methods of sharing files take way too long and require you to go through multiple screens in order to perform what should be a simple task.  Email uploads are a hassle, and you don’t want to put your data on one of those less-than-reputable ad-packed file sharing sites.

So how do you upload and share files?  This article will cover five applications that you can use to share files right from your desktop.  These utilities are extremely helpful because they don’t require you to launch or use a browser window, and in many cases can perform file (and screenshot) uploads with either a drag and drop maneuver or a couple clicks of the mouse.  Best of all, this guide will cover options for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and the Linux operating system, meaning there’s no excuse to continue using old and redundant upload systems.

ZScreen (Windows)

If you’re using Microsoft Windows, you can take advantage of ZScreen to quickly and efficiently take and upload screenshots to a variety of services.  With just a couple clicks of your mouse or by using a pre-defined hotkey, you can select the area of your screen that you would like to capture.  From there, ZScreen will do the rest – automatically uploading your file to the service of your choice and copying the URL to your clipboard for easy sharing.  While privacy concerned users will likely want to use their own FTP server to store their uploaded screenshots, ZScreen also offers a number of public third-party options such as Imageshack and TinyPic.  With an extremely simple user interface, ZScreen was one of my favorite and most commonly used applications when I was using Windows prior to switching to Linux.

Moreover, the makers of ZScreen have more recently introduced the ZUploader application which builds on ZScreen’s uploading mechanism in order to upload files to your own FTP server or public hosts such as RapidShare and FileBin.

If you’re on Windows you should definitely give ZScreen or the ZUploader a try.  Released under the GNU GPL 2.0 license, the application is free to not only use, but modify as well.

ScreenGrab (Mac OS X)

Integrating beautifully with the Mac OS X operating system, ScreenGrab – an application which is produced and maintained by contributing author Michael Morris – allows for users to take and upload screenshots using OS X’s built-in screen capture system.  The application itself uploads files to privately run FTP servers or the RackSpace CloudFiles CDN for ultra-fast (and cheap) image storage.  Once you’ve configured your upload and image settings, ScreenGrab allows you to take screenshots of your entire desktop, a selected area, or a specific window via hotkeys.  After your upload is completed successfully, ScreenGrab will automatically copy the URL of the uploaded file to your clipboard so that you can easily past it into and IM or chat conversation.

Much like ZUploader, ScreenGrab also allows you to upload other miscellaneous files from your local hard-drive, making it easy to share documents and archives with friends and family.

ScreenGrab can be freely downloaded from Michael’s personal website.

Courier (Mac OS X)

Unlike all of the other file upload utilities in this article, Realmac Software’s “Courier” application does not have a built-in screenshot mechanism.  What makes it a useful program, however, is the fact that you can pre-define reusable “envelopes” that you can drag and drop files onto in order to upload them to one or more pre-configured destinations.  Not only does Courier upload to traditional FTP server, but users can opt to have files uploaded to more “social” services such as Flickr, Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube.  This vast variety of upload options (which can be expanded upon with their large library of addons) honestly sets Courier out from the rest by making it a very universal and powerful upload utility.

Even though the application will set you back about $10, I can easily see where media-focused individuals who often upload to sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube can benefit greatly from the product.

Courier can be downloaded from the new Mac OS X App Store.

CloudApp Mona Lisa (Mac OS X)

CloudApp is a new storage service that is based heavily on Amazon’s S3 backend.  While CloudApp is very much like S3 in the sense that it provides cross-platform uploading via means of a web browser, the company also has released a utility dubbed “Mona Lisa” that ties into the Mac OS X operating system, allowing users to upload files by from their desktops by dragging the onto their menu-bar applet.  CloudApp then goes to work moving the file onto Amazon’s proven and reliable S3 backend, and provides the end-user with a link – which like all of the other applications – is copied onto the users clipboard for easy and quick sharing.

Mona Lisa is unique in the sense that it is primarily a file uploader as opposed to a screenshot utility; however it does allow for screenshots taken with the built-in OS X utility to be uploaded automatically.

Perhaps the biggest setback with Mona Lisa is the sense that it only uses CloudApp’s storage service and does not give users the options of using their own third-party services or servers.  Because of this, Mona Lisa users are locked into CloudApp’s admittedly reasonable pricing rates.  Users who upload no more than ten files per day (max 25mb each) can take advantage of CloudApp for free.  Those who need to go above this limit can sign up for a premium account that allows for unlimited uploads (max 250mb each) for $5 per month.

Upload Script (Linux)

Having been a major screenshot addict when I was on Windows, moving to Linux presented the challenge of finding an application to easily take and upload screenshots.  While I was never able to find an application to meet my needs, I did come across a relatively simple script that used “scrot” to take a screenshot and then uploaded said file to a FTP server.  I eventually ended up building upon said script – turning into a much larger and powerful screenshot and upload script.

Available on the BestTechie forums, my screenshot script allows you to take and upload screenshots to FTP/SFTP servers, Amazon S3, RackSpace CloudFiles, and CloudApp.  And, like the other solutions featured in this post, you can also upload miscellaneous files as well.

Because it is a standard Linux bash script, it can be used via the command-line, however I have personally found it easiest to add the script to gnome-panels as a launcher.  This allows me to click the icon to take and upload a screenshot, or drag and drop a file to upload it.

All in all, there are a number of great upload programs out there – regardless of the operating system you use.  Taking advantage of one of these systems can allow you the freedom to share files with ease and make your communications that much simpler.

Do you have an upload program that you use or recommend?  Let us know in the comments!


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