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Sync OmniFocus With DropBox? [Not supported, use the free Omni Sync Server instead] Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Syncing a program like OmniFocus that expects to find its database file at a particular spot on your Mac hard drive is really quite easy. Credit for this tip must go to Don McAllister over at There is a more elegant explanation than what is set forth below in the second segment of Don's ScreenCast #202. It deals with syncing TextExpander which, like OmniFocus, looks for data in a particular spot.

Main Mac Steps:
Go to your main Mac that has OmniFocus and DropBox installed. Go to the Apple start page and search for "Create Symbolic Link." You will be directed to a site called "JuneCloud" where you can download JuneClould Automator Actions. Please consider making a donation to JuneCloud; you will find many great uses for the Automator Actions that will appear when you open the downloaded disc image.

Next, open Automator in your Applications folder. Run file import in Automator and import "Create Symbolic Link" on the JuneCloud disc image.

Next open DropBox and create a folder called "Library." Now go to your Mac hard drive and navigate to user|Library|Application Support. There you will find an OmniFocus folder. This is where your OmniFocus database resides and where OmniFocus goes looking for your data when the program is opened.

Now drag the OmniFocus folder from user|Library|Application Support on your hard drive to the Library folder you created above in yur DropBox. You now have to replace the moved folder on your hard drive. You do this with Automator.

Open Automator and select Custom workflow. You will be looking at a window that wants you to drag something into it. Go back to your DropBox and drag the Omnifocus data file into this Automator window. In the column to the left of this window is a list of Automator actions. Go down to the "Create Symbolic Link" action and double click it. The action will appear below the Omnifocus data file in the Automator window.

The Create Symbolic Link box in Automator will have a window asking you where to place the Omnifocus Symbolic Link. Go down the menu to "Other" and navigate your hard drive to user|Library|Application Support and hit open.

There is a run button in the upper right hand of the Automator window. Hit Run and wait for the completion bell. Close Automator; there is no need to save anything.

Now you have to do something that is a bit different than what Don McAllister does in his ScreenCast regarding TextExpander. This is because, unlike TextExpander, Omnifocus makes an automatic backup of your data file. You need to bypass the backup. You do this by now doubleclicking the Omnifocus Symbolic Link folder on your hard drive in user|Library|Application Support to start Omnifocus.

Remaining Macs:

Get the JuneCloud Automator Actions and imput "Create Symbolic Link" into Automator per the above. Trash the OmniFocus file in user|Library|Application Support. Do the Automator dance described above on the second Mac to replace the OmniFocus file you just trashed with the OmniFocus file that will be found in your DropBox in a folder called Library.

Make sure the other Mac is not running OmniFocus [if it is you will get a locked out message]. Double-click the symbolic link and OmniFocus will open all synced up.

I like this solution because you don't have to be a Mac geek to pull it off and, as I said at the top, it will let you sync any program that looks for data in a particular place.

Alternatively, take a look at danielcompton's input. Thanks Daniel.

Last edited by Lamike; 2010-12-31 at 12:58 PM.. Reason: Alternative approach
DropBox knows how to copy around data, but it doesn't know how to resolve conflicts when data is edited in two places before being synchronized.

OmniFocus does know how to do this, so if you want to avoid potential data loss when resolving conflicts I strongly recommend using OmniFocus' built-in sync facility rather than using something else to try to synchronize your data. OmniFocus understands how to sync its data through the cloud (via MobileMe or WebDAV or a file server), through the local network (via Bonjour), and through portable drives (such as USB sticks).
One thing Dropbox is good for with OmniFocus is keeping your Themes and Perspectives folders (OmniFocus scripts, too) in sync, as OmniFocus does not synchronize them. Relatively little risk that you're going to be editing those on more than one machine at a time, too :)

While I appreciate that some will do anything to avoid using the Terminal, that writeup of how to use another app to do the equivalent of typing one brief command is probably longer than even a fairly detailed description of how to do the same thing with the Terminal!
whpalmer4, Great point and I agree. Only thought is there are a bunch of people out there who are frightened of Terminal. The folks at the OmniGroup, I think will tell you they spend an inordinate amount of time helping folks correctly input Terminal script. This is the reason for my post.
Ken Case, As we have twitted back and forth, you make a solid point. Thank you for the post. Would expect a company response that says to the effect do it our way. That said, I've sent a little note to DropBox asking if they might add a conflict page for changes.

Just understand the following: A lot of us want our databases to be independent so that if a company say fails for whatever reason, we have access to our data.

Last edited by Lamike; 2009-07-22 at 04:34 PM..
Originally Posted by Lamike View Post
Just understand the following: A lot of us want our databases to be independent so that if a company say fails for whatever reason, we have access to our data.
With OmniFocus syncing, none of your data is held hostage: each device has its own local copy of the data, and you have complete control over where the synchronization database is stored (it can be on your own computer or device, or on someone else's out in the cloud).

I should also mention that all Omni applications store their data in plain text files (which happen to be compressed with standard tools, generally zip or gzip), so even if you move to a platform which can't run our software you can still get at all of your data. (Your data belongs to you, not us!)

Last edited by Ken Case; 2009-07-22 at 07:03 PM.. Reason: fixed a typo
Originally Posted by Ken Case View Post
With OmniFocus syncing, none of your data is held hostage [...] even if you move to a platform which can't run our software you can still get at all of your data. (Your data belongs to you, not us!)
Here here!

I only wish more companies took this attitude! Thanks for doing the right thing, Ken.

The payoff you reap in customer loyalty is an 'unvalued' item (in a numbers sense), but a very worthy indicator of your business' soundness, is worth a great deal to OG's shareholders whoever they may be (you, employees, others?), and is evident throughout these forums.

Kudos to you and everyone at OG,

PS Now if you only relocated to sunny Calif instead of overcast Seattle (yeah, I know, except this time of year), I'd want to come work for you! ;-) Hey, what's your telecommute policy?
Has anyone looked at the way Agile Web Solutions' 1Password does syncing via DropBox?

It's built into the app and I've never had a synchronization problem between machines/devices with 1P. Presumably 1P doesn't have any problems because it syncs on every change to the password database which I imagine is difficult to impossible with OF's infinite undo ability, it'd be updating DB with every letter you type... maybe I'm wrong though?

Regardless my biggest complaint with OF is that syncing between devices isn't instant. If I input something on my iPhone I expect it to show up in a few seconds on my Mac and not require manually clicking sync repeatedly. I've tried both Bonjour and WebDAV they both take too long to sync.
1Password is syncing small independent pieces of data. OmniFocus is syncing potentially large interrelated bits of data.

DropBox doesn't guarantee that the file you retrieve from their server will be the latest version which was sent to their server. (They just figure that if you don't get what you want immediately, you'll try again a little lateróor if you're still getting the wrong copy somehow, you'll go retrieve a different version using their history mechanism.) Without that guarantee, we really can't use it as a basis for robust automatic syncing.

Last edited by Ken Case; 2010-10-06 at 02:13 PM..
P.S. — Since this thread started, we've introduced our free Omni Sync Server. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in syncing with a free cloud server.

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