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Sparkleshare – A Great Open Source Alternative To Dropbox [Linux & Mac]

Danny Stieben 07-07-2011

<firstimage=”//”>dropbox alternativeThere’s been quite a few problems and concerns that have risen about Dropbox in recent months that is making some people feel uncomfortable about using it and are seeking refuge by means of an alternative. Yes, there are plenty of other online storage services, such as 5 Super Easy Tools to Share Files With Friends or Your Devices File sharing is more than just a shared folder in the cloud. When you need the right apps to make it happen, try these online instant file-sharing options you may not have heard of. Read More , but it seems that there is absolutely no alternative that can compete with the benefits that Dropbox provides, namely file synchronization.


However, you don’t need to look any further because a solution has finally appeared, called Sparkleshare.

About Sparkleshare

Sparkleshare is an open source file synchronization Dropbox alternative. It is not a website server in itself, but rather a service that you can deploy yourself to create your own synchronization setup. Since you can choose where it actually stores the data you wish to sync between systems, you can have complete control over your own data at all times and never have to rely on a third-party service.

Sparkleshare uses the GIT system as its backbone. For those who don’t know, GIT is a great file repository and version tracking service. Many different projects (especially open source ones) use GIT to control the progress of new code within more recently modified files. Best of all, Sparkleshare will eventually be completely cross-platform. Currently, builds are available for Linux and Mac, with eventual plans for Windows, Android, and iOS.


Windows users will eventually get an easy-to-use installer, and Mac users should already know how to install their package. Linux users have a slightly (and I mean this in a relative way) complicated way to install Sparkleshare, but it shouldn’t be much of a problem.


Ubuntu users need to add a PPA that contains the Sparkleshare packages. You’re in luck, as this PPA was erected not too long ago. Add the PPA with

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:warp10/sparkleshare

, update your repositories with

sudo apt-get update

, and install Sparkleshare with

sudo apt-get install sparkleshare libwebkit1.1-cil git-core



Fedora users need to follow a similar path. First you need to add a repository containing the Sparkleshare packages by going to the folder containing the repo files (

cd /etc/yum.repos.d

), download the new repo file (

sudo curl -O

), and install the necessary packages (

sudo yum install -y sparkleshare openssh-askpass

). To be on the safe side, it’s recommended by Fedora users that you remove a certain package to prevent unnecessary crashes. To do this, you’ll need to type

sudo yum remove -y nautilus-python



Users of any other distribution are on their own (as there are plenty of other distros!). However, do not assume that a Sparkleshare package does not exist for your distro, so do some Googling and see what comes up.

Getting Set Up

Since Sparkleshare uses GIT, you have a large variety of choices as to where to store your files. When you first start Sparkleshare, the setup gives you a choice between the top three GIT-running websites that people can get free accounts on, as well as the possibility of defining your own server.

Actually creating your own GIT repository to run Sparkleshare on is outside the realm of this article, but if you Google around a little you’ll be able to find some instructions. You can also be sure that there are instructions for creating a web interface for your own GIT repository. For the example in this article, I will be quickly setting up and using my own server.

dropbox alternative


After installing, go ahead and launch the program from your menu. When it opens, fill out your name and email address, then continue.

alternative to dropbox

Next you can choose your source, and fill out the information as requested. Make sure you look at the site first, as they may require you to do an extra step, such as using an SSH key for secure, password-less access. For example, if you’re connecting to your own server, you’ll need to create an SSH key with

ssh-keygen -t rsa

and send it to your server with


. Then you can connect with Sparkleshare.

Other than that, you should be finished! You can now start synchronizing in the folder you chose.

dropbox alternative


That’s it! Now you can use it like you used Dropbox, but with added peace of mind. If you’re extra paranoid, you can apply the same encryption techniques as outlined here How To Encrypt Your Dropbox Data With ENCFS [Linux] Dropbox is arguably one of the best online file sync tools around. However, if you've been skimming through the tech news lately, you'll see that Dropbox is having some privacy issues as of late.Therefore, encrypting... Read More as well. What you do now is up to you.

Does this Dropbox alternative work for you? Are you wanting to switch to something else or stay with Dropbox? Do you think projects like Sparkleshare are valuable? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Collaboration Tools, Dropbox, Ubuntu.

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  1. Conrad Carter
    July 12, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Having a hard time getting past all the ads in the text and over the images. I appreciate it's free, but I the excess advertising makes me skittish. Dropbox is free for my data size. Good luck.

  2. Anonymous
    July 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    How does this compare to iFolder which also seems like an open-source dropbox clone?

    Also, as a side note, if you have these running on your own centralized server, and depending on the config, you kinda already have a iOS and Android access. Just use any SFTP capable application to get on the central server and there you go, mobile access. 

    • Danny Stieben
      July 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      First off, apologies for the delay. I was on a trip where I didn't have any guarantee to an Internet connection.

      iFolder is another great choice, and you are welcome to use it if you wish. Sparkleshare is client-only, as you're only running a GIT repository on the server side to host your files. iFolder seems to have its own server part as well. Therefore, iFolder may have more configurability, especially when it comes to sharing the same folder to multiple people. However, you can achieve the same thing with Sparkleshare easily. If you want to know which one is better, you should just try them both out and see for yourself.

      Actually, SFTP access would not let you have access to the files. Since Sparkleshare operates on a GIT repository, the files will not all be plainly available in a folder. Instead they are inserted into the GIT repository, which is simply a .git file on the folder. Therefore, with SFTP you'll only see the .git file, and not what's inside it without using Sparkleshare.

      I hope that answered your questions! :)

      • Anonymous
        July 24, 2011 at 11:28 pm

        That is interesting about the local storage as *.git. I have not really played with git for any reason (I am forced to use CVS...shudder!!!). I have a central server it will be running on but the flexibility of Sparkleshare and the ability to some day not run it centrally may make the difference. I do not need it yet so I will probably wait a bit anyway.

        Thanks for the great reply though.