Joe's Blog

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Dropbox Public URL Service

Like many of you, I use Dropbox. It’s a very vital component of my workflow. Sadly, the nice contextual menus that it places inside Finder, don’t always work. I finally got fed up with this and decided to take the time to develop a service in Automator the copies the Dropbox Public URL for any file contained within my Public folder in Finder.

You can download the Dropbox Public URL Service here. Follow the instructions to get this working on your machine…

  1. Open the Dropbox Public URL.workflow file that you downloaded.
  2. A dialog box should appear. Click on the “Open with Automator” button.
  3. The file should look like the above image.
  4. Edit the $public_path variable to contain the full path to your Dropbox public folder on your machine.
  5. Edit the $public_url variable to contain the url for your Dropbox public folder. The only thing that should change is the id at the end of the url.
  6. Save the file and quit Automator.
  7. Reopen the file. Except this time you will click on the “Install” button.

That should pretty much do it for you. You will now have a Dropbox Public URL in the Services contextual menu when you right click on a file in Finder. I hope you find this useful!

Utility for Syncing App Data via Dropbox

I have a cool new utlity to release today! DropboxAppSync is a simple utility that will relocate any Application’s Support folder to your Dropbox account so that it can be shared across multiple Macs. I initially developed this so that my cusotmers could easy share their DomainBrain database and Rapidweaver Stacks across multiple machines. However, I quickly morphed the application so that it will sync the support folder from any application!!!

Download Now

NOTE: While syncing application data over Dropbox has become a pretty wide spread practice, not all applicaitons may support this behavior. Proceed with caution.

How to run DropboxAppSync

There are a lot of techie details below. As a common user, you just select your app and click OK!

On your 1st Mac

Make sure that you run this first on the Mac where you would like to use its application data first. The data from this Mac will be sync across all your other computers.

  • It will first prompt you for which application you would like to sync. Make sure that the app is not running!
  • The Application Support folder for the selected application will be located and backed up to your desktop.
  • A folder named Application Support will be created in your Dropbox folder if it does not already exist. (I stole this idea from BBEdit. Great idea guys!!!)
  • Then the support data for your application will be copied into sub-directory with the name of the application into the Application Support folder created on Dropbox.
  • Finally a symlink is created from the original Application Support folder to the one just created on Dropbox. This is the magic part that tricks your application into thinking that everything is copasetic.
  • Once you have verified that everything is working properly, you can safely remove the backup copy of your application’s data that was saved to your desktop.

On your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Nth Mac

  • Allow Dropbox to sync the application data before you run this on subsequent machines.
  • Just as before, you will be prompted for which application you would like to sync. Make sure that the app is not running!
  • Just as before, the Application Support folder for the selected application will be located and backed up to your desktop.
  • Since you woudl have already ran this on another machine, DorpboxAppSync will see that an application support folder for the selected application already exists. Therefore, no data will be moved into Dropbox.
  • Just as before, a symlink is created from the original Application Support folder to the one found on Dropbox.
  • Once you have verified that everything is working properly, you can safely remove the backup copy of your application’s data that was saved to your desktop.

And that’s it! You can not enjoy the cross machine syncing on any of your favorite applications. Here is a small list of some of the applications that I have done this with so far. They all seem to be running pretty smoothly for me.

  • BBEdit
  • Coda
  • Courier
  • Rapidweaver
  • DomainBrain

By now, I am sure that you have a DropBox account, right? If you don’t, what are you waiting for? Go and get your 2GB of free space in the Cloud!

DropboxAppSync v1.1 Update

Download DropboxAppSync v1.1 Now

The response to my release of DropboxAppSync this week has been awesome. People are really enjoying the benefits that it’s bringing them. I have received some really great feedback and have the first update ready for everyone. Thanks to Brett Terpstra for his blog post that brought some great insight into things as well. Here is a list of the enhancements…

  • The Application that you have selected will be asked to Quit for you. If you have any open documents open with changes, you should be prompted to save your changes (unless auto-save is used).
  • The Application Support folder is no longer located just by using the name of the application. Some application have custom App Support folders. These are now quieried for and used if found.
  • If a custom location is not found, then the CFBundleName is used. If for some very odd reason, there isn’t a CFBundleName defined, then the application name will be used.
  • A log file is now stored at ~/Library/Logs/DropboxAppSync.log

There is one feature that I have been hesitant to add. That is the ability to move your entire App Support folder for every application to Dropbox. To be honest, this is dead simple to implement. However, I dont think that I want to add this, at least for now. I think that its safer to add the handful of apps that you really need/want.

Now essentially, this app is a glorified Automator script. This means that there are no automatic updates and it somewhat limited when it comes to user interface. Who knows, maybe this can be a start of a actual app utility. But for now, I think that it should suit us well. I hope that you enjoy DropboxAppSync!

Update: I wanted to let users be aware of an upcoming issue that DropboxAppSync may face. Starting later this year, applications submitted to the MAS will be required to be sandboxed. This means that nothing outside the individual application will be allows to access the App Support folders. Where does this leave DropboxAppSync? I don’t know for right now, I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

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