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I have always believed that note taking apps should be simple bare minimum apps. The more features, the more you are likely to get distracted while creating notes. You don’t need fancy formatting and tags and categories. Most of the time all you want is to file away a thought or a task that you need to get back to later. Tomboy notes does that very well!
I often switch between Windows and Linux on my home computer and then also use a different computer at work, and you never know when you have jot something down quickly. So I like to have access to all my notes all the time no matter which computer or OS I am using. It is often too late and defeats the purpose of taking notes if you have to postpone adding them until you are on the ‘right’ computer.
So I have my homebrew method of syncing Tomboy notes across operating systems and across different computers, which I think is worth sharing here. There is nothing so special about the technique. All it uses is some built in Tomboy features and our favorite sync tool Dropbox. Here are the steps to achieve a perfect seamless sync:
- Right Click on the Tomboy icon in the tray or panel and choose preferences. In the dialog that opens we need to make sure that the Local Directory Sync Service Add In is enabled under the Add-ins tab.
- Next up we will setup Tomboy to sync all the notes to a local directory. This is done via the synchronization tab. Choose Local Folder as the service and then choose the folder you want to sync to (lets call it tomboy). This is the essential part. You either want to create a new folder within the Dropbox folder or you can create a symbolic link to the folder selected in this step within the Dropbox folder. In either case, what we need is to sync the folder you choose in this step via Dropbox.
- We are almost done. We have setup Tomboy to sync notes with Dropbox. Now we just need to receive them (so to speak) on the other side. The other side could be a different OS on the same computer or a totally different computer.
- All you have to do now is to repeat the steps above: Install Dropbox and sync so as to get the Tomboy folder on this new computer. Open up the Tomboy preferences on the new computer and tell it to sync with the notes folder within the Dropbox folder. Let it sync and voila, you can now see the notes you created on the other computer.
A Few Noteworthy Points
- Although not required in a typical case, you can get near real-time syncs if you lower the sync interval while configuring synchronization.
- In newer versions of Ubuntu, Ubuntu One can automatically sync Tomboy notes. So if you need syncing across computers running Ubuntu only, then you are saved a lot of configuration by going the Ubuntu One way.
- To install Tomboy on Windows, you need .NET framework 3.5 and installed before you can install Tomboy.
- You can substitute Dropbox with any of your favorite sync tools and the rest of the steps should remain the same. You can also share your notes with other users, by sharing the “notes” folder with any other Dropbox user.
Overall the technique works seamlessly. The only thing I wish I could do was to access the notes on a mobile device as well. We could use the Dropbox public folder for read-only access but the notes are not stored in plain text and aren’t readable as such without the Tomboy application. If you can think of a way to do so, share it with us in the comments!
What is your favorite note taking app? How do you sync your notes?