Mobile sync horrors

Running a completely fresh install of Joplin for Android, using the dropbox sync and it will not complete, keeps cancelling, and is generally unusable.

So I have perhaps 10,000 notes originally imported from Evernote as Markdown. These seem to be syncing correctly with dropbox at the moment. They have been synced over onto a Mac that way without too much drama.

But it seems impossible to get them onto my phone, a PIxel 4a running the latest Android. What am I doing wrong?

I take a fresh install of Joplin on the phone, use the default settings for Dropbox, and get the sync underway. The phone is on the charger, so it won't run out of battery; I leave Joplin running in the foreground. Everything starts off at a fair clip, until the screen darkens, as it's supposed to do, and the phone locks. Then, as soon as I pick up the phone and unlock it, the sync cancels itself, with at most two or three thousand items synced. The sync log on the phone will sometimes show it is completed, even though only a very few notebooks have been transferred, and no tags at all.

This is hopeless. Is it Joplin, or Android, or both? How can I make the program actually usable?

I have read several posts here saying that the first mobile sync to dropbox is incredibly slow. That's all right. I can leave it running overnight if I need to. But there is a huge difference between something that takes six hours to complete and something that never completes at all, and for the moment Joplin syncing to mobile is for me something that never completes at all.

Turn off the automatic sleep/shutdown of the diplay. Since Joplin is not running in the background, the synchronization is interrupted when the phone enters the sleep mode.

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Thanks for this suggestion, but it's not actually very easy to turn off the automatic sleep in android 11.

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This comes up so often, it seems like there should be some documentation about this.

Maybe the solution is to have Joplin run in the background? Evernote has background sync and it works great and they don't have this constant complaint that we have here re: initial sync on Android (in fairness, they probably also don't have as many users migrating to their product with lots of notes). Even after the initial sync, background sync has the advantage of you pick up your phone, open Joplin and you're ready to edit a note immediately, as opposed to waiting several seconds for sync to complete (so that you don't accidentally edit a note that hasn't yet been synced).

It's just more seamless to have background sync as opposed to sync only when user opens the app, and only while app remains open with display on - that's a lot of user intervention required for what could be happening without the user even thinking about it.

Here's a screenshot from sync settings on Evernote's Android app. I've got 99 problems with Evernote, but mobile sync ain't one.


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Well, you can do it if you download an app: i'm using something called Screenon, which is free for simple things; It has held the phone awake while I've been syncing for almost two hours now, up to 34,773 local items created, 136,000 attachments not downloaded ... But I am confident of reaching the end in the next hour or so.

I would be happy to offer suggested changes to the documentation for this.

Presumably there is some technical reason not to have background sync, because it would otherwise be a nobrainer, as jb261 suggests.

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hahahahahahahaha It now says it has finished. There are no tags and two or three copies of almost all the notebooks.

I will uninstall it from the phone and and try once more. When that fails, I will go back to evernote. It works in fundamental, necessary ways that Joplin right now simply doesn't.

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Final Update

I left the phone plugged in and active overnight. The sync of 43,000 items (whatever that meant) took from 4:30pm until 1:02 in the morning. At the end of that time, most of my notebooks had been duplicated as well as synced, and some copied even more (there were three copies of the 2016 notebook, for instance) but there were no tags synced at all. Some of the notebooks that appeared on my phone had been deleted weeks ago from the desktop -- eg I tried out importing some enex files as html and then as MD to see which format worked better and quicker. Later I deleted the HTML versions from the desktop, but they were still synced to the phone a fortnight later.

To pretend that Joplin makes a possible replacement for Evernote when sync is this buggy and slow is completely ridiculous.

"Items" includes more than just notes (includes tags, attachments, etc.), so disregard that. It is an ever-present source of confusion. The sync process might be more easily understood if only # of notes being synced were reported in sync status; item count could be reported in the log for when troubleshooting is required; exposing this figure to users during normal function is unnecessary and just creates confusion.

The duplicate notebooks may just have been duplication of the notebooks, but not duplication of the notes. You could try searching for a note in Android and see if there are duplicates. I know some Android users have said there are no notebooks but their notes look OK.

But that could also be related to the deleted-from-desktop notebooks and notes. I think those will be deleted from android on a subsequent sync.

Android sync certainly has some issues, in particular the lack of background sync (thanks for finding and reporting that workaround), as well as no notebooks (for some Android users, though I'm not experiencing that), but I don't think data integrity is one of them. There should be a one to one correspondence of notes between desktop and mobile. You may not have gone through enough sync cycles to get there (the fact that you don't get there in one sync cycle is also an issue).

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of the app, but they're not entirely convincing.

No: there were notes, as well as notebooks, duplicated.

There were no tags at all synced.

It had gone through a second sync cycle at least by the time I woke up and looked at it. In any case, how am I supposed to trust a process so opaque and apparently random in its effects? Is it really the case that several sync cycles are need to actually sync everything? This is nowhere mentioned in any of the documents and it's hardly intuitive.

I quite see that a warning saying that "Large note collections may take up to eight hours to sync the first time, and then several more cycles before the android app is wholly synchronised" might put some users off, but not half as much as they will be put off by discovering it for themselves.

At the very least, these problems need a clear and honest section in the FAQ.

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For people reading this thread, the reason for such long sync times is because when you sync through a third party (e.g. Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.) Joplin must use the official APIs (an API is just the name for giving programs, like Joplin, access to a service, like Dropbox). These services provide the API, but rate limit it in order to prevent applications that use the API from abusing it. In the case of Joplin, this means that sync can be rather slow, with no option to speed it up. This is one of a few reasons that has motivated the creation of a Joplin specific sync server, it's in beta now can be used if you self host. In the future a hosted option will be provided for a fee. You're right that a description of these speed issues should probably be added to the FAQ.

From what you've described it seems that you have certainly experienced some of Joplin's rough edges (first time sync to android is certainly rough, but fortunately it's a smooth experience once it's done). You've also described some issues that it seems you are the first to experience, which means you've found an edge case bug with Joplin sync, or more likely some form of user error.
It's hard to add this to the FAQ aside from maybe some tips about the first time sync. What you've experienced is (AFAIK) unique and not "frequent".

I wish you luck in finding a note taking app that suits you. You're lucky that note taking applications are comically numerous. If I wasn't using Joplin I'd probably use inkdrop you might find it suits your needs.


I'm happy to make a bug report, but it's not clear which bits of this are bugs and which are things that everyone knows and no one talks about. Is it the duplication/triplication of notebooks?

In terms of note-taking apps, I started in the mid nineties with something called Ecco Pro, still unsurpassed for flexibility in terms of displaying information, but windows only, and with a proprietary file format, so that a lot of my notes from that period were lost when a file went sour after the company had been bought and run into the ground. Then Evernote, from versions one till seven. Version 2 was the best.

I need cross platform, legible file formats, web clipping and the ability to import old evernote files. I really thought Joplin might have been the answer.

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Thanks for the suggestion. I looked at Inkdrop but it doesn't seem to have any import facilities, and is heavily biased towards programmers, and I am not one.

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