Autodesk Projects and Dropbox

Hello All,

While I would love to use something like Vault for with Inventor 2015, our team does not have a Windows server to install it on and the school is not very willing to install it either. In addition, we need access to files from anywhere with an internet connection. As such, we have resigned ourselves to using Dropbox for file storage/collaboartion. We’ve done it for years past, and while it does not work great, it is not a wholly awful solution either. Not looking to start a ‘I hate dropbox’ thread here. :slight_smile: In years past, we have not used an Inventor Project ‘.ipj’ file to manage our search paths, etc, and I’d like to implement that this year. However, in setting up a test project, I noticed that the project path is specific to the path where I have Dropbox installed. What happens when a student opens the project? will it be looking for the path that is on my machine? our students do not have the laptops they will use yet, so I can not just simply test this… so I’m looking to the community for wisdom.


  1. is there a way to setup a project using only relative paths. for instance, the base project is located in .\CAD with a search path including something like …\KOP and …\Field?
  2. do other teams, using Dropbox (or similar), also use Inventor Projects? If so, how do you set them up?
  3. any pointers for a newb to Inventor Projects as I attempt to plow ahead?
  4. does anyone know if the latest update to PTC’s Windchill will support Inventor 2015?
  5. does inventor has a Multi-User environment like SolidWorks?
  6. how to other teams, who run Vault, get around the ‘access from anywhere’ problem? I really liked the web hosted Windchill (we used CREO last year), but the school teaches Inventor, so we are switching back…

Enough questions for now…

DERT 2040

Have you looked at using Autodesk360? It worked well enough for us last year.

I have not looked into that, but I will now. Thank you. Do you guys use projects with that also?

Yea, we use projects with it.

The best part of 360 is that the web interface let’s you see each part and assembly without needing to install anything.

And one project can handle multiple students with different paths on their machines?

is 360 free for FRC teams? for our 6 CAD students plus 2 mentors, it would be over $1000 per year…

Technically, it’s free for students of most high schools and colleges, but no, you won’t have to pay $1000/yr for it.

Skunk Works Robotics (FRC Team 1983) successfully used dropbox with Inventor last year.

Among its major benefits: it’s free, available to everyone, the school does not block access, and it keeps a back up of everything. The initial 500MB space seems to be adequate for our needs.

Its major drawback is that it is not a library system. A student can overwrite another student’s work if they are not careful. You must be mindful of part names. If the student responsible for the “Arm Assembly” calls something a “Bracket” and the student responsible for the “Claw Assembly” also calls something a “Bracket”, there can be a conflict the next time the model is opened. If two students have the same part or assembly open at the same time, the person who saves last “wins”. You must be disciplined and communicate. Keep your folder hierarchy organized and it will be easier to manage the design.

Everyone must use the same project file. On our team, the student design lead created the project on dropbox and then had everyone else on the design team “browse” for it when they created a project on their personal and/or school computers. As long as you use that project file, you can use any computer anywhere and everything ends up in the right place. That is very convenient when working from both home and school.

As a mentor, I could see dropbox updates in real time while I am sitting at home. It was satisfying to know the students were hard at work. I could also view student work, take screen shots and post feedback on our OneNote document at any time. This kept progress steady and directed. If I wanted to look at a student’s part or assembly without creating a “.lck” file, I created a new assembly and placed their part or assembly in it. I was able to study, measure, and understand what the designer was doing without inadvertently saving over their work or preventing them from working.

We never had any fatal model corruption problems. There can be a significant delay in updating dropbox. Be sure an update is complete before you open/save your model. You will see the rotating update icon in the system tray. You can get what appears to be a corruption when you don’t wait for the update to complete. We did go back and retrieve older versions of models that dropbox created automatically. That feature was a life saver.

Overall, we were happy with dropbox. It isn’t perfect, but it is better than thumb drives (2011-2013). If we have to, we will use dropbox again or maybe Autodesk360. We hope to have a server with Vault this year, however.

Good luck!

Oh yeah, I mentioned OneNote. It is also free and is a fantastic documentation and communication tool. We use it for design communication/project management throughout the year.

This is why I wish a Dreamspark subscription was still part of the kit of parts, so we could get Windows Server to rum Vault on. I believe you can run Vault on Windows 7 Professional but I think you will be limited to 10 users.

Vault has been excellent for us. As mentioned, the downside is no home access, unless we had VPN. But, we’ve structures ourselves basically to keep CAD work at the lab only, which has been a good thing actually. I still encourage students to practice at home though.

We use SoliWorks, but for the last few years, we have use Assembla with Tortoise SVN to share files. It allows users to “lock” or “chechout/checkin” files so they won’t be over-written. Another way to share files is Dropbox, like you said. The only thing that I have had problems with was other people over-writing my corrections on parts.

We use SVN and Inventor on 846 (TortoiseSVN being the graphical user interface most of us use).

Having used both SVN to Dropbox to collaborate on projects, I greatly prefer SVN. When conflicts do happen, SVN provides a better means of resolving to the revision that we want to move forward with. It prevents students from just overriding changes and forces us to communicate, consider the issue, and make the correct decision.

We host our own repository on our own website, but you can very easily (and for free) host your own SVN repository with a 2 GB max. capacity on

Disclaimer: 2 GB capacity would not have worked for us in 2014, but in every other year I’ve been a member of 846 the repo has not exceeded 2 GB in size.

I signed up for it through the autodesk educational website, but it appears I only get a 30 day trial… will keep digging. thanks for the info!!

FWIW: My 360 account from the start of build season last year is still active, I assure you that we didn’t pay anything. :stuck_out_tongue:

Received a PM and thought I’d share:

Does A360 have features like check-in/check-out?
Can it be accessed directly from Inventor?
How do you use it on your team?

There doesn’t appear to be any concept of Check In/Out in A360, but it does keep track of changes to every file so you can roll back changes. It also shows who made what changes too, if you make everyone log in with their own account. A360 acts very similar to a dropbox, or shared network drive in most regards.

Yes, you can access it directly from Inventor, as well as any other application as far as I can tell.

My team uses it like a regular shared directory. Everyone kinda just works on their subsystem assembly and when it comes time to join their subsystem to the full robot’s assembly, we work together on one computer to do the final constraints and bolt holes.

I’m pretty sure as long as you have an .edu email it’s free for 3 years with 25GB of storage per user. I used my account to make a folder and then ‘shared’ it with each of my team members (who also made A360 accounts). Then the shared folder showed up in everyone’s 360 accounts. I recommend you just sign up and give it a shot, 360 is installed automatically on recent versions of Inventor, so you should just have to sign in and it should just work, you’ll have to log in to the 360 website to share a folder and such.

Benefits over dropbox are: 25GB for free, and online 3D preview for all parts and assemblies.

I don’t have much experience with these things (I’m hoping we can step up from thumb drives).
I think that if you are going to go for Dropbox, then you would be better off going with Google Drive. Dropbox was the first of it’s kind, but Drive lets you do the exact thing, but with 15GB to play with (instead of 500MB). The Drive web interface is way ahead of Dropbox. Drive also lets you use Google Docs for communications, notetaking, etc.

Hi All,

Just getting up and running for the 2015 season.

Always interesting to see the comments on file management. Ideally you want a system that allows checkin / checkout and Vault is the answer. As I know from many discussions offline with FRC teams it is not always possible to setup given the server restrictions in school labs.

Let me know if I can help with any file management issues. Looks like there are few good work flows and suggestions already posted.

We now have Vault up and running and have successfully designed a drive base / custom transmission project this fall. It is definitely the way to go. We have been able to figure out the basics.

Are there tutorials available to show us the proper use of Vault? I’m sure it’s pretty powerful and we are just scratching the surface.


This isn’t related to using Autodesk/Dropbox together but, Dropbox comes with 2GB of space.*

*Then there was the race for space and some promo with my phone and Dropbox, and suddenly I’m sitting at 60 GB…

Hi Phil. We used Vault in 2014 with great success, but we encountered great difficulty in setting up the project file and working folder. We recently went through the process again in preparation of the 2015 season and found it no easier to set up again, since we forgot a lot about what we did the first time. Also, we’ve had some difficulty using autoloader and bringing in files from other sources.

We’d be most appreciative of any tutorials you have.

Also, will Vault continue to work fine with files containing HSM data?

Finally, can we upgrade Inventor to 2015 and still keep our Vault server at 2014? Or will we need to upgrade that too?


Grab CAD is now free for frc teams. It’s awesome.

Web viewer, version history, unlimited storage, works with any cad fotmat.