How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

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00 Dropbox Logo   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using SymlinksThere’s a long running discussion on Quora that grabbed my attention. The topic is about the reason why Dropbox is more popular than other free programs with similar functionality. The various answers boiled down to this: simplicity. You put your files in the Dropbox folder, and that’s it. The system will take care of the rest, including synchronizing everything to the cloud and to Dropbox folders on other computers linked to that account.

But this simplicity also means that you have to drag whatever you want to sync to the Dropbox folder. While this kind of arrangement is fine for most users, some users don’t want to re-shuffle their files and folders just for the sake of synchronizing. Luckily, there’s another possibility to synchronize folders outside Dropbox without messing up the structure of your folders: using symlinks.

The Symlink

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Symbolic Link” or simply “symlink”, here’s the Wikipedia quote:

… In computing, a symbolic link (also symlink or soft link) is a special type of file that contains a reference to another file or directory in the form of an absolute or relative path and that affects pathname resolution ….

… Symbolic links operate transparently for most operations: programs which read or write to files named by a symbolic link will behave as if operating directly on the target file. However, programs that need to handle symbolic links specially (e.g., backup utilities) may identify and manipulate them directly …

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Using symlinks to synchronize folders outside Dropbox is very easy. Create a symlink of the folder and put the symlink inside the Dropbox folder. Any change which happens to the symlink will be reflected on the original folder and vice versa. Symlink allows you to synchronize any folder that you want to Dropbox while having to move anything,

The question is, how do you create a symlink?

The Windows Method

The easiest way to create a symlink under Windows is to use an application called Dropbox Folder Sync. There’s one caveat though, the app will only work if the disk is formatted with NTFS as other Windows’ disk formats don’t support symlinks.

01a DFS Install   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • After the installation process is done, the app will ask you to set the location of your Dropbox folder.

02a Set Dropbox Folder   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • You can do that by clicking the “Change Setting” option on the main interface.

02b Change Settings   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • Then browse to the location of the Dropbox folder.

02c The Chosen Folder   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • Then including any folder to the Dropbox folder will only be a matter of right-clicking the folder and choosing “Sync with Dropbox“. Then the “UnSync with Dropbox” command can be used to exclude it.

03a Sync With Dropbox   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

The Mac Method

There are several options that you can use to create symlinks on the Mac, including doing it manually with the help of Terminal and command lines. But the easiest method is by utilizing a simple app called MacDropAny.

  • Every time you run the application, it will ask you to choose which folder you want to sync via Dropbox. Browse to the location of the folder and/or create a new one.

04a Create New Folder   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • Now choose where in the Dropbox folder you want to put the symlink. If you are an organization freak, you could create a new folder called ‘External Folders‘ or something similar, and put all the symlinks there.

04b Where in Dropbox   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

  • The last step is to give a name to the link. To avoid confusion, it’s better for you to name it something similar to the original folder.

04c Name The Link   How To Easily Synchronize Folders Outside Dropbox Using Symlinks

Best Of Both Worlds

There are other apps that will let you sync any folder on your computer to the cloud. But those apps require some complicated settings. By using symlinks to help you sync folders outside Dropbox, you get the best of both worlds: the simplicity of Dropbox, and the power of more advanced apps.

Do you synchronize folders outside Dropbox? Have you tried one of the apps that we discussed today? Or do you have another solution to achieve the same goal? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

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19 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Andrew

There also a tool like this for Linux: http://www.webupd8.org/2010/11

It displays an embed on the files you share and removes them automatically when you unshare them. Further more, the emblems are automatically removed if you delete a shared file from your Dropbox public folder the next time you share a file. And you can share folders too, not just files. The link above also shows a video with Dropbox Share in action (though it’s a bit old).

Oh yeah, disclaimer: I’ve created Dropbox Share :)

Reply

Andrew

There also a tool like this for Linux: http://www.webupd8.org/2010/11/dropbox-share-023-gets-emblems-for.html

It displays an embed on the files you share and removes them automatically when you unshare them. Further more, the emblems are automatically removed if you delete a shared file from your Dropbox public folder the next time you share a file. And you can share folders too, not just files. The link above also shows a video with Dropbox Share in action (though it’s a bit old).

Oh yeah, disclaimer: I’ve created Dropbox Share :)

Anonymous

Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Cemery50

I would love to find a way to create a system to track CD/DVD contents and control search/backup/restore operations using this info.. I’ve been thinking of trying to use Windows indexing and tying it to symlinks but am afraid of processing overhead.

Reply

sut

Dropbox Folder Sync is no longer supported by Dropbox and the download link has been removed due to safety concerns.
An explanation can be found here (click on ‘Forum Thread’ link at top left of page).
http://wiki.dropbox.com/DropboxAddons/DropboxFolderSync

An alternative to this method can be acheived using ‘Link Shell Extension’ as explained here (scroll down page to comments by Rochak A.)
http://forums.dropbox.com/topic.php?page=7&id=19392

The handy aspect to this solution is that when syncing files/folders with Dropbox, a junction (for folders) or hardlink (for files) can be created in the Dropbox folder rather than having to physically move the files/folders to the Dropbox folder. The actual files/folders can remain in their current location which makes more sense.
Been using his method without any problems.

Aibek

thanks for the handy tip

Reply

sut

Dropbox Folder Sync is no longer supported by Dropbox and the download link has been removed due to safety concerns.
An explanation can be found here (click on ‘Forum Thread’ link at top left of page).
http://wiki.dropbox.com/Dropbo

An alternative to this method can be acheived using ‘Link Shell Extension’ as explained here (scroll down page to comments by Rochak A.)
http://forums.dropbox.com/topi

The handy aspect to this solution is that when syncing files/folders with Dropbox, a junction (for folders) or hardlink (for files) can be created in the Dropbox folder rather than having to physically move the files/folders to the Dropbox folder. The actual files/folders can remain in their current location which makes more sense.
Been using his method without any problems.

Reply

Umberto Gatti

Since i didn’t want to hack my way down to obtaining some basic features, I switched to SugarSync.
Free accounts provide 5GB of disk space and you can choose which folders to sync in your hard drive, not only one single dropbox. Shell extension is also there, for both mac and pc, without the need of 3rd party tools.
If anyone wants to register for an account, feel free to use my referral link that will add 500 MB further bonus to both mine and your account :)
https://www.sugarsync.com/refe
Thanks!

Reply

Umberto

Since i didn’t want to hack my way down to obtaining some basic features, I switched to SugarSync.
Free accounts provide 5GB of disk space and you can choose which folders to sync in your hard drive, not only one single dropbox. Shell extension is also there, for both mac and pc, without the need of 3rd party tools.
If anyone wants to register for an account, feel free to use my referral link that will add 500 MB further bonus to both mine and your account :)
https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=do5qm2rpjareh
Thanks!

R. Pannen

I’m a Dropbox user now, but will give this sugarsync a try. Thanks for the tip.

Reply

Aibek

This would be an ideal question for MakeUseOf Answers,
http://www.makeuseof.com/answe

Reply

G

Cheers Umberto – have used your link :-)

Reply

Miggs

Where’s the Linux method?

Anonymous

If you scroll up this comment a little bit, you’d see similar tools for Linux. Posted by Andrew, the creator.

Miggs

I know Dropbox Share. I’m a constant reader of WebUpd8. The point I was trying to make was for the author of the article. It seems a lack of respect for the Linux users especially because he actually covered both Mac and Windows and Dropbox is a cross-platform popular tool.

Reply

Satyadeep

New version (2.5) of Dropbox Folder Sync is released with unsync feature added and automatic dropbox path detection and several other fixes.

Reply

Ron T.

What about Linux? Where is the “Linux Method”?

Reply

Sowrabh

Dropbox Folder sync now has a latest version! check it out

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