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How I do it: Dropbox

14 Jan

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If you don’t have Dropbox installed stop what you’re doing and install it.

Go ahead.

I’ll wait.

For those not “in the know”, Dropbox is free a cloud based backup/psedo-versioning system. And it’s awesome, oh, and it’s free. Note: I really like Dropbox but Google Drive, SpiderOak, box.com, Microsoft SkyDrive, and BitTorrent Sync are all good alternatives. The important thing here is to backup your files! I also use Dropbox to keep my 3D modeling software in sync, here’s how I do it.

I keep all my SketchUp and SCAD files saved in my Dropbox folder at all times. Why? Because every time I hit save in SketchUp/OpenSCAD Dropbox automatically uploads a copy of that file to the cloud. Not only does it make a backup it also saves a revision of the file, allowing me to go back up to 30 days worth of versions of the file. Something that can be really handy when you accidentally save a mistake in SketchUp and lose hours of work.

Example of the version recovery dialog on Dropbox.

Example of the version recovery dialog on Dropbox.

Beyond the obvious advantage of automatic cloud backup the real killer feature for me is the ability to keep your Dropbox folder in sync between multiple computers. If I model something in SketchUp and export it to a STL file in my Dropbox, it will be waiting for me to feed it to my Makerbot from my laptop by the time I walk to the other room and navigate to the folder.

This leads into my next usage for Dropbox, keeping all your apps in sync. I have configured my SketchUp so that my “Plugins” folder lives inside of my Dropbox. This way when I update or install new plugins they are automatically installed on all the machines I have Dropbox and SketchUp running on.

My SketchUp plugins folder synced between Windows and Mac OS.

My SketchUp plugins folder synced between Windows and Mac OS.

This can be setup using Symlinks on both Mac and Windows. Below I’ll show how to do it on both OSes.

Setting up automatic SketchUp plugin synchronization on Mac OS

1. Make sure SketchUp isn't running.
2. Move your Plugins folder from ~/Library/Application Support/SketchUp 2013/SketchUp/Plugins to your new Dropbox location. I used ~/Dropbox/SketchUp/Plugins. Note: "~" on Mac OS is short for "/Users/Your_Username".
3. Open terminal and type the following command (changing directory names as needed.

ln -s ~/Dropbox/SketchUp/Plugins ~/Library/Application Support/SketchUp 2013/SketchUp/Plugins

 

Setting up automatic SketchUp plugin synchronization on Windows 7

1. Make sure SketchUp isn't running.
2. Move your Plugins folder from C:Program FilesSketchUpSketchUp 2013Plugins to your new Dropbox location. I used %HOMEPATH%DropboxSketchUpPlugins
3. Open terminal and type the following command (changing directory names as needed.

mklink /j "C:Program FilesSketchUpSketchUp 2013Plugins" "%HOMEPATH%DropboxSketchUpPlugins"

 

This set up will create what amounts to a shortcut or folder redirection in your original SketchUp directory. When you launch SketchUp it will think it’s loading plugins from your library but they will actually be stored in your Dropbox folder. Now do this same process on additional computers merging or discarding your plugins folder as necessary. Once this has been setup on all your computers you will have identical plugin installs on each. By installing a new plugin in your Dropbox folder it will automatically show up on all of your SketchUp installs giving you a more seamless experience.

I do the same thing for my Sublime editor install to keep it’s plugins up to date and in sync on all of my machines. Instructions on moving your Sublime Text settings and packages folders to Dropbox can be found here: Syncing Sublime Text 2 Settings via Dropbox. You can setup many programs to sync in this way, the main thing is finding the locations of all the important settings and plugin folders and mapping them to your Dropbox.

I use Dropbox to sync program settings and backup files. But there are all kinds of other cool uses online. Here are a few:

 

Know of any other cool uses for cloud storage I haven’t mentioned? Leave me a comment below and tell me about it!

 
 


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