I’ve yet to encounter anyone who has tried Dropbox and doesn’t like it – it solves an often-complex problem of sharing large files and yet presents itself to the user in such a readily-understandable way. It’s especially wonderful in not being limited to one operating system or brand, so you can happily keep certain files between Macs and PCs, and can even extend this to cellphones and tablets too.
Like anyone I use Dropbox for my own convenience and sharing material with others, but I’ve also been using it to test Lightroom plug-ins that I’m updating. Running them from Dropbox makes it that little bit easier to check something works on PC and Mac. But one thing I haven’t tried was mentioned by Adobe’s Terry White at the end of 5 Ways To Take Advantage of Dropbox:
In addition to the 5 ways above, I’m also using Dropbox to store my most frequently used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalogs. This way as long as the images themselves are on my file server or in the Dropbox as well, I can go to any computer and work in Lightroom on the same files/catalogs. Although I have a nice fast Mac Pro with a 30″ display I almost never used it for retouching in the past because everything was always on my MacBook Pro. With Dropbox that problem goes away as the files are on whichever computer I want to work on and automatically sync’d when I make changes or retouch them.
The viability of this idea will partly depend on your network speed, and on your internet connection speed and bandwidth. Here that wouldn’t be too big a problem as my cable connection is unlimited and runs at its headline 50Mb down/5Mb up (it’s Virgin cable and I have a promo code if you’re interested). It’s unlikely that I would want to open a catalogue on one machine immediately after closing it on another, I could probably wait for Dropbox to sync it. But what if you don’t like the idea of Terry’s fragmented catalogues and want Dropbox to make your main Lightroom catalogue available on multiple computers? And can the idea be taken further, to the cusp of a networked solution?
One promising approach is to use Mac aliases or Windows symbolic links (a bit like shortcuts). So for example, you would keep the catalogue itself in a Dropbox folder, but use aliases or symbolic links to store the catalogue’s previews separately in a folder that doesn’t get synchronised. When you move to the other computer, your catalogue will be available as soon as Dropbox’s sync operation has completed, just having to rebuild its previews which are stored locally. As always, the originals could be on a network address.
But you can adopt the same idea for the “application support” folders containing presets, templates and plug-ins, so they become available on multiple computers. On Mac these are stored in USERNAME/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom while in Windows 7 you’ll be looking at C:Users/USERNAME/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Lightroom and again on each machine you would move the folders to Dropbox and set up aliases or symbolic links.
For the last week or so I’ve kept the “application support folders” on Dropbox, and my Mac and PC have each been able to access the same presets, templates and plug-ins. That’s pretty convenient! There are one or two glitches:
- I’ve noticed some slowdowns when using the local adjustment brush. I suspect something is being written to the preferences.
- On PC your preferences are stored in a Preferences folder, which would be great if I only ran PCs because my preferences would be synchronised
- On Mac preferences are stored in a plist file, so you can’t use the technique to share preferences between Macs (more knowledgeable Mac users may have a solution)
It’s not a true multi-user networked solution, but it’s a rather geeky step in the right direction!
How to set up Mac aliases
For Mac, see this article by Sean McCormack.
How to set up PC symbolic links
I don’t particularly want to download Windows utilities such as the one Sean mentions or in Ian Lyons’s post. Because things like symbolic links can screw things up, I prefer to get my hands dirty. A command line method is described here, but for me it didn’t work first time, and Microsoft still haven’t understood that people may want to copy stuff into the command window. So I prefer to use batch files such as the ones attached – Previews.txt and app support.txt (batch files zipped).
So, at your own risk:
- In Explorer, go to C:Users/USERNAME/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Lightroom
- Cut the folder and paste it into a Dropbox folder
- Edit the batch file so it points to your Dropbox folder. To get the file path, just click in the Windows Explorer address bar
- Save the file with a bat extension and save it on the desktop
- Right click the batch file and select Run as administrator
How to remove PC symbolic links
- In Explorer, move the folder from your Dropbox and put it in C:Users/USERNAME/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/Lightroom
- Delete the symbolic link to Dropbox that’s in C:Users/USERNAME/AppData/Roaming/Adobe/