Using symbolic links revisited

During the beta testing, and on a couple of threads here, I’ve mentioned that I have been using symbolic links on my MBA to solve my problem of using my iPad to collaborate on a project with a friend in China, where Dropbox is blocked. I have had no apparent problems, with the project opening perfectly well, allowing me to work on it not only on my MBA and iPad, but also on my MBP and on the family iMac. However, I’ve been digging deeper, and think it best to give any of you who might need to follow my example the low down.

The shared projects are in a Cubby and they must stay there if my collaborator is going to be able to access them, so I set up symlinks—I don’t know if there’s a Windows equivalent, I’m afraid—in the Dropbox folder on my MBA pointing to each of the projects involved. On the MBA it appears with the ‘alias’ icon, which is fine, and on the iPAD it looks like other projects which are saved to the Dropbox.

And there is the potential problem. When the symlink is accessed for the first time, the full project is uploaded to the Dropbox server and it is this that is loaded into the iPad. When it is saved on the iPad, it is saved in the Dropbox version, but the changes are not automatically propagated to the Cubby version and if the project is edited on either of the other two machines without the MBA being turned on first, to allow Dropbox and then Cubby to sync all the changes, the two versions are out of sync and a conflict occurs. Now, the Mac is generally very forgiving where there are conflicted files, though I believe the Windows version is not. I have just looked in the .scriv package of the project I’ve recently been working on most like this and found a number of conflicted files, which I have deleted. They didn’t prevent the project from opening on any of my Macs, but I think if my collaborator tried to access it, she may have had problems.

It seems that, if I do any work on any of these projects on my iPad, as soon as I finish, I must open my MBA, and allow all the Dropbox and Cubby sync’ing to complete, and open it on that machine to ensure all is well.

So, a risky procedure which is not for the faint hearted. It has worked for me working alone, but I now know to be extra careful and disciplined, or only work on the shared projects on my MBA, which would be a pity.

Hope that helps anyone facing a similar situation.


Just a further note, for those who are so desirous of being able to use iCloud Drive for Scrivener projects, I have 50GB of space on iCloud Drive, and have Scrivener set up to send zipped backups there on close. Many days, it can take about 15 minutes for a 350MB backup zip to upload on a 30Mb+ cable connection. Dropbox and Cubby do the same job in seconds.


Or if you leave your MBA at home, keep it on and prevent it from sleeping (don’t know if “Power Nap” will keep 3rd party sync services going) so that both services sync on demand. Plus, in this scenario, you can keep the MBA connected to your Time Machine backup drive, making hourly backups of your work, just in case.

Whatever you do, I’d suggest never setting up the symbolic link for the same project on 2 computers. It seems like there could be a race to upload/download changes that could cause conflicts if both services are trying to do the sync on two different computers. But if it’s only linked on one computer, then it should be fine. On your second computer I’d just stick with Cubby then, so as not to have two duplicate copies that are sometimes a little bit out of sync (or a lot out of sync if you don’t have an internet connection).

Thanks, Robert/Bob/whatever … :wink:

I don’t know if it would work under Power Nap … I must check whether I’ve got the MBA switched to allow it to wake to network calls … I’ll try that. But I don’t like leaving it fully awake, and it seems to me that discipline is the key, and always making sure that after an iOS editing session, I always open any project on the MBA first.

But I had been wondering about eventually replacing the MBA and the iPad Air with a 12.9 iPad Pro, but in the end, I think the answer is to save my sponduliks to get a MacBook in due course. More or less the same weight and a full MacOS machine.