Before October 4, 2012, every accounts created in Dropbox actually came with a Public folder by default, and the purpose was that, every file or folder you throw on that folder will automatically have its direct links for everyone else to download or view. However, after the said date, Dropbox is now limited to two kinds of folders: a private or a shared folder.
Note: Dropbox still gives you the option to re-enable this Public folder on your account if you do not have one. To do so, go to www.dropbox.com/enable_public_folder and enable it.
By default, every new folder you create in Dropbox is set to private, i.e., only you can view and modify its contents. Sharing a folder will immediately change the look and the behaviour of that folder, and to differentiate:
- Private folders do not have special features on their icons. Whether it’s on the web or on your computer, these folders look plain and ordinary.
- Shared folders have icons that include two iconic individuals.
- Public folders have icons that include a globe/earth icon with them (if the public folder feature is enabled).
Unfortunately, such distinctions only apply to folders and hence you cannot distinguish shared files from private files. This is to push users to better organize folders according to privacy, and if one would want to share a file, he must put it in a folder for sharing (unless the sharing method will be via link).
Note also that if you have a public folder enabled in your account, you cannot share its subfolders as you would do on a regular folder. All files and folders inside the public folder are for sharing only via direct links.
Be careful also to know that not all shared folders do have collaborators aside from the owner. A folder can look like a shared folder even without other collaborators, and this happens if the owner kicks all collaborators out of the shared folder, or the owner has had revived this shared folder from his past folders.
If you find that the seemingly-shared folder appears to have only you on the list of collaborators, you may want to unshare the folder to make it look and behave like private folders.
Lastly, files or folders which you have shared a link with will still appear as ordinary folders. To view which folders you are currently sharing links on, click on the Links tab on the left side of the Dropbox page.