Dropbox Surprise: I think we should be warned

I switched everything from Evernote ten days ago, and imported my notes. I wanted to sync with my phone and iPad. I looked through the forums for an answer to a question I had: why is Joplin storing my data in two places? I found this thread, which answered the question, in a surprising way: Resources with Dropbox

I am posting to suggest that a clear note about this should be added to the FAQS and the documentation about synchronisation.

While I understand Laurent's reply this nonetheless means that Joplin is using Dropbox "the wrong way round" from the point of view of any experienced Dropbox user.

Every app I have used (Scrivener springs to mind) stores its data inside the Dropbox folder, saves locally to the Dropbox folder, and lets Dropbox do the syncing. I tried to delete the local files in .config/joplin-desktop/resources at one stage "to save space", thinking I didn't need them once I had the files in Dropbox. I realised later, when I had found the thread containing Laurent's reply, that I had made exactly the wrong choice. I should have deleted the 3.18GB files in the Dropbox folder and left the ones in .config/joplin-desktop/resources where they were.

I like Joplin a lot and I am happy to have found it. I think though you might ease some other newcomers pain a little by explicitly pointing out the entirely logical but completely non-standard way in which Joplin interfaces with Dropbox.

Many thanks,
Owen

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@MisterKelly welcome to the forum.

Whilst it may not be what you have previously encountered, there’s nothing non-standard about the way Joplin connects. It connects and syncs directly with Dropbox just as many apps do, especially mobile. This is how Dropbox’s own mobile app connects to a Dropbox account. You connect to a Dropbox page via an app and authorise the app to link. That is why there is an entire settings page in Dropbox dedicated to “Connected Apps”. Using this method does not require the installation of the Dropbox client on a desktop PC. It also therefore enables the use of a “portable version” which cannot be done if the user is relying on the presence of not only a Dropbox client on the computer they are using, but also one that is logged into their own Dropbox account.

As mobile devices only connect in this manner the desktop also has to connect in this manner so that all are accessing the same data on Dropbox the same way. Sure you could set up a Joplin file system folder sync to a folder in your computer’s Dropbox sync folder but the Joplin mobile app would not be able to access it. Then you would have Joplin (Client1) syncing to the Dropbox folder on Client1, then Dropbox Client1 syncing to Dropbox, Dropbox syncing to the Dropbox sync folder on Client 2 and finally Joplin Client2 syncing with the Dropbox Client2 sync folder. Joplin uses: Joplin Client1 to Dropbox, Dropbox to Joplin client2.

And if someone was to put the whole joplin-desktop folder into the Dropbox sync folder there would be a world of pain as Dropbox then syncs not only the resources but also the Joplin database itself which will (and should) be in different states on different devices.

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Instead of deleting files you should just use dropbox selective sync. This gets them off your hard drive without deleting any of your notes.

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Hi,

Thanks for your reply. I understand how Joplin connects to Dropbox and, as I said, it is completely logical and makes perfect sense. As you pointed out it is how mobile apps connect to Dropbox so it is not in principle "non-standard" either.

I did find it unexpected though, in that most Windows desktop apps use Dropbox as "just another folder". The main result of my misplaced expectations is the one I posted about: I ended up with a folder for Joplin in the Users folder of 3.84GB and a(n unnecessary) folder of 3.18GB in Dropbox/Apps/Joplin. I reset the folder in Dropbox to not sync (using selective sync) which will save me both bandwidth, disk space and unnecessary syncing activity.

I still think that a note in the syncing section of the docs might be in order, unless I am the only user likely to make this trap for myself - which I might be :slight_smile: Something along the lines of:

"On the desktop Joplin syncs directly with the Dropbox servers, and does not require the installation of the Dropbox client. If you have the Dropbox client installed you should set the Dropbox/Apps/Joplin folder to not sync locally, using Selective Sync. This will avoid unnecessarily storing and syncing duplicate data."

I think this might make things clearer for at least some new users, without causing any confusion.

This is, of course, just a suggestion, and you may well disagree.

Owen

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Thanks. I have indeed done just that, and I am currently waiting to see if Dropbox will automatically remove the folder from the desktop client, now it is no longer set to sync, or whether I will need to do that manually.

I should know in a few hours :slight_smile:
Owen

Later that same day:

Dropbox deleted the folder and its contents itself. All is now well :slight_smile:

I second your suggestion. Excellent clarification- would have saved me some time in working it out for myself