Online or off, DropChute tells you when a file is waiting

To send a file via DropChute, you designate the recipient and the file to transfer,
but—and this is the important part—you don’t send to the recipient’s
e-mail address, and the recipient need not be online.


If you are online and the recipient isn’t, DropChute from Hilgraeve Inc. of
Monroe, Mich., sends a note saying that a file is ready to send. The note pops up on the
recipient’s DropChute icon when the person goes online again. They click on the icon
to bring in the file.


If you are both online, transfer occurs immediately. You can even chat electronically
during a long transmission.


The scheme works best for LAN users with permanent Internet connections, but DropChute
isn’t limited to them. It works if you aren’t on a LAN or even connected to the
Internet. As long as sender and recipient have modems set to receive DropChute calls, the
software makes a modem-to-modem connection and transfers files over phone lines.


If the recipient is on the Internet but has a dial-up connection, DropChute can place a
brief call instructing the person’s computer to meet yours on the Web and transfer
the file there. The feature, dubbed Internet Rendezvous, would be useful for remote
offices that pay connect charges for large file transfers.


If you are offline when the recipient tries to pick up your file, that person’s
computer can call yours and instruct it to go online.


DropChute compresses messages on the fly, encrypts them and optionally runs them
through a virus scanner. It deals with broken connections by automatically reconnecting
and resuming the interrupted file transfer.


You need not buy a copy of DropChute for each user. Others who receive files from you
can download a free utility to make contact, although they must buy their own copy to
initiate transfers with people who don’t have DropChute.


Installation is straightforward—just insert the CD-ROM and follow directions. If
you have a permanent Internet connection, choose “Wait for calls” at all times.
If you have a dial-up connection, it’s best not to load DropChute at startup.


You can choose modem-to-modem connections, Internet-to-Internet or both. The last
option allows Internet Rendezvous even if you won’t want to perform long, direct
modem-to-modem transfers.


After a few minutes for installation and making some simple choices, you begin entering
contact information in the DropChute phone book. You cannot make an instant connection on
the fly to a new person, because the software needs contact information. Also, the
recipient must download the free DropChute utility to receive files.


Hilgraeve supplies a wizard to customize instructions for e-mail, faxing or printing
that will help others connect to you—or at least receive your files—via
DropChute 2D.


The only stumbling block in the phone book setup is specifying whether your
correspondents have permanent or dynamic IP addresses. Dial-up connections to an Internet
provider are almost always dynamic, or assigned at each connection, and DropChute
automatically senses such addresses.


You must know the recipients’ e-mail addresses to enable DropChute to locate them
uniquely, especially for dynamic IP addresses, but DropChute doesn’t use a
store-and-forward e-mail server. The addresses just serve for identification and automatic
determination of current IP addresses.


If you choose modem-to-modem connection, you also will have to supply each
recipient’s telephone number. The phone book entry makes an icon for each person, and
you send files by dragging them to the right icon.


Or, if you aren’t in DropChute, you right-click on a file and choose the Send To
option from the pull-down menu. Your DropChute entries are displayed, and you click on the
correct recipient along with any desired transfer and notification options.


Many send and receive options appear as defaults, which makes it easy to manage files.
DropChute can expand zipped files automatically, rename them, replace old versions, or
automatically cancel a transfer if a file with the same date, name and size already exists
on the target computer.


Almost nothing DropChute does is unique, but the inexpensive package completely
automates time-consuming encryption, compression and transfer of files without e-mail
delays.


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s.

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