Standalone dropbox sync

Hi everyone. I was wondering if someone could explain to me how I can setup Zotero so that it syncs with dropbox. In firefox I can change the data directory, but in standalone I cannot.

  • you really, really shouldn't do this. For some reason people keep suggesting this, but moving your Zotero folder into dropbox is an almost certain way to corrupt your database.
    If you find Zotero storage too pricey, find any other cheap or free WebDAV provider and sync with that, but do not use dropbox for syncing your Zotero data.

    Not sure if it's not yet possible to move the data directory in standalone - it should be, at least at some point, but please, for your own sake, don't use it to move the folder into dropbox.

    If you're in linux or mac to place a symlink to the _storage_ folder in the Zotero directory to the dropbox folder - that would be a) safe and b) work regardless of where the folder is.
  • Thanks, I wasn't aware of the risks! I set up with
  • You don't have to sync the entire zotero folder. All your files are contained in the storage subfolder. If you're using dropbox, you could symlink or junction the storage folder into your dropbox folder. On sugarsync I just add the storage folder to my list of synced folders. Works like a charm, doesn't touch the database.

    If there are any issues with this I haven't encountered them.
  • yes that's fine - I mention that above as a possibility, too.
    afaik symlinks don't exist on windows though, or do they?
  • oops, yeah I stopped reading at 'linux'....

    symlinks are in windows 7. hardlinks in any version of NTFS.

    I use this:
  • Got a request for more detailed instructions, this assumes using the shell extension linked above.

    Just to reiterate the point here, a directory junction acts like a folder, only it really just points to another folder, and any changes to either the original folder or the directory junction affect both 'locations' because they are really the same folder.

    On the 1st computer, you will need to create a directory junction in your dropbox folder that points to your zotero "storage" folder. If you let your dropbox sync, the directory junction will appear on other computers within your dropbox (as a normal folder!) However, it is not sync'd with your zotero storage folder yet on those computers.

    So, on the 2nd and 3rd etc computers, you need to first delete the storage folder from the zotero profile folder, and replace is with a directory junction of the storage folder that is already in your dropbox.

    To create a directory junction of folder A in folder B, you have to navigate to the parent folder of folder A, right click on folder A, and select "pick link source". Then, navigate the the parent folder of folder B, right click folder B, and select "drop as" -> "junction".

    the junction creation process is illustrated at the following site:
  • Adam, I'm thinking of moving my zotero data directory file to dropbox. i still dont get entirely why you think that's a bad idea. can you elaborate a bit more?
  • oxband: You will corrupt your database. Don't do it. If you want to sync just the 'storage' directory via Dropbox, that's generally OK.
  • i just want my data occasionally stored on dropbox. im not sure what you mean as a difference between storage and the database
  • If you're using Dropbox solely as a backup service and aren't using it on any other computers, you might be OK, though absolutely no guarantees. If you're using it on multiple computers, you will quite likely get a corrupt database sooner or later.
  • Yeah, all i want to do is have the data stored on dropbox so it's saved, not to use it on another computer. given that, i'm planning on copying the data file to zotero and then in the Advanced plane of preferences changing what the data folder is to have it linked to the one in Dropbox. Does that make sense? Is that the right way to try and do this?
  • edited May 28, 2012
    I've tried to understand the problems regarding integrating Dropbox & Zotero and I understand that I shouldn't just move Zotero into my Dropbox. I'm wondering if the following poses any risks:

    I store a good number of pdfs in my dropbox folder, can I, through Zotero, link to the pdfs in that folder? Or could this cause the problem of corrupting databases?
  • It should be ok to store PDFs on dropbox. The only thing that may cause problems is if you put your entire Zotero data directory (particularly the sqlite files) on dropbox and sync it between multiple computers.
  • I have a related question. I am using DevonThink Pro and wish to index my references without creating an entire new copy in DevonThink itself. Part of the problem is that the Zotero library is in the hidden Mac library. Is there a way to push/sync just the refs and their attachments to a shared folder (like Dropbox) without messing with Zotero's integration (e.g. the sqlite files)?

    I may also wish to annotate my pdfs with my iPad using some kind of app but not sure how to do this yet. Suggestions are appreciated.
  • I wrote some instructions about Dropbox here. They are written for users of ZotPad, but should apply to others as well.

    ZotPad 1.1 enables an annotation workflow. It is currently in review for App Store and will be available in a couple of days. You can also use Zotfile and Dropbox.
  • Cool. I will have a look.
  • edited September 10, 2012
    I'm trying to set my Dropbox Articles folder to be Zotero's storage for PDFs only. Though I used mronkko's guidance on symbolic links I could not make it work. I want my pdf's to be in Dropbox Articles, when I created a symbolink link target /zotero/storage path /Articles it actually created /Articles/storage folder (which suggests to move all articles to /Articles/storage/ Which I would rather not do.

    Secondly if I chose this option does it mean that when zotero adds PDF file as an item in the library it will be saved in Dropbox/Articles/storage or in zotero/storage? I do not want to run into situation where my pdfs are split in two folders - one added by Zotero and the other what I put in dropbox.

    I have both Zotero standalone and firefox under Ubuntu 12.04.

    What I want is my pdf storage to be Dropbox/Articles and hopefully any new pdf's saved by Zotero to be there as well. Suggestions are welcomed.
    Thanks in advance
  • It sounds like you're misunderstanding what this is for:
    mronkko's instructions are for keeping all your PDFs in Zotero's storage folder and having them in dropbox at the same time. This will only work if you have all your PDFs in Zotero/storage.

    Since one of the cool things about Zotero is that it downloads pdfs together with most articles you import - and saves them in Zotero/storage - most users find it desirable to keep that setting. Mronkko's blog post shows you how to do that while _also_ syncing the files through dropbox in a safe way.
  • Thanks, however he is also giving a hint that the opposite is possible as well: "It is generally recommended that you set up the in your Dropbox folder and use the Zotero storage directory as a target. Doing the reverse would work, but it requires that you first move the storage directory into Dropbox" but I may be interpreting this wrongly. So in order for Zotero to work I should keep the files in storage and mirror them in Dropbox, not the opposite?
  • He is still talking about a situation where you have all your files in Zotero/storage - you theoretically have a choice about the direction of the symlink:
    1. You can place a symlink to Zotero/storage into dropbox or
    2. You can manually move the storage folder to dropbox and then create a symlink to it in Zotero (which will then again be Zotero/storage)

    The two options do exactly the same thing and 1. is easier.

    You seem to be under the impression that if you use option 2., any additional files that you have in dropbox would import into Zotero. That's not the case. Anything that you see in Zotero is determined exclusively by the zotero.sqlite, which you aren't touching in this whole process.
  • edited September 10, 2012
    Can I just hop in here since this is "live" ... a basic "script" question about creating a symlink.

    I tried following Mronkko's instructions but I can't get it to work:

    - I copied the script from his blog: ""

    - I pasted that into an apple script editor file and saved the file in dropbox as zotpadscript.scpt but I got this syntax error:

    "Expected “,” or “]” but found unknown token."

    - Anyway, I proceeded to open terminal and typed chmod a+x [/Users/xxxx/Dropbox/zotpadscript.scpt]

    but I get this response:

    chmod: [/Users/xxxx/Dropbox/zotpadscript.scpt]: No such file or directory Peter-Mac:~ xxx$

    Suggestions appreciated.
  • Also, symbolic link does not mirror your files. It just gives the same directory two different addresses in the file system. It is like an alias or a shortcut, but on a lower level of the system.

    There is a small technical difference between the 1 and 2 in adamsmith's post, but for all practical purposes they are the same. I cannot think of any valid reason to set the linking into opposite direction.
  • I don't quite understand why you're going through apple script? I don't know much about Mac, but since it's a Unix system you should just be able use the shell script directly.
  • and of course mronkko is correct that a symlink doesn't mirror - I was looking for a good non-technical metaphor for what it does - I still think you could do worse than think of it as a mirror - but in technical terms that's incorrect.
  • edited September 10, 2012
    Peter: The instructions do not say that you should use the script editor. Just run it using the

    Or paste the following code to

    curl -O
    chmod a+x
    open .

    You will find the link opened in Finder. It looks like an alias. Then rename it like you want and move where you need it (e.g. in Dropbox). You can create many links with the same process if you like.
  • Okay... I did as you suggest and pasted:
    curl -O
    chmod a+x
    open .
    into to terminal and ran it. It created and I moved that to dropbox... but now what? Sorry, I am such a novice at all this.
  • edited September 10, 2012
    see mronkko's instructions:
    You will find the link opened in Finder. It looks like an alias. Then rename it like you want and move where you need it (e.g. in Dropbox). You can create many links with the same process if you like.
  • Sorry someone may have answered this already but does this take to files and link them to zotero so you don't have to use the zotero storage or the other way around?
  • sorry, I don't follow. Please take some writing your questions with a little bit of detail so we don't have to guess.
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