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I have several Numbers files that I sync between my laptop and desktop. I upgraded both machines to Lion and the latest version of Numbers. I love the Versions feature: many of these spreadsheets that change over time and Versions will be he very helpful.

But then I realized that Versions and Dropbox don't really interoperate effectively. Versions uses a hidden directory (.DocumentVersions-V100) at the root level to store the version history. Since that hidden directory isn't sync'd, all of the previous versions aren't available on all of the computers. I'm still experimenting, but it seems like the only way that a previous version is available is if it is explicitly opened in the application. If it has been changed (and enough time has passed since the last captured version) then it is stored in the version history.

I've thought about using some sort of Hazel rule or folder action, but there just isn't enough information at the filesystem available to make that effective.

Does anyone know if Dropbox has any plans regarding Versions? I expect that they've done some thinking about this issue.

Does anyone know how iCloud will handle this issue? Since it's native to Lion perhaps it will sync the version history as well.

Barring that, does anyone have any workarounds or best practices?

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Out of curiosity, I wonder what are the updates on this issue... –  Cawas Oct 19 at 21:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

My take on this is that Apple does not want users to see iCloud as another Dropbox or (even worse) another iDisk. Although I am not certain of what I about to write, my theory on iCloud based on what I have read so far is that there will not be an iDisk-like drive or a Dropbox-like special folder. Instead, iCloud's approach will be app-centric in that you will open the app you want and then get your files from iCloud regardless of which iPad, iPhone or Mac you're using at the time. In the practical sense, that most likely means that iCloud will "magically" get you the latest file as you switch contexts, but not the file's Versions history--that will be for now a Lion-only feature.

I do not anticipate Dropbox integrating with Versions or iCloud any time soon because it is not in the best interest of Dropbox for you to use iCloud and vice-versa. Especially considering how both have a vested interested in earning your storage needs business (And this is even more true for Dropbox than it is for Apple). At the technical level, there is no reason why they wouldn't be able to coexist: Lion would see the Dropbox folder as any other folder and allow you to keep its Versions history. Dropbox, in turn, will see the hidden folders used by Versions as folders it needs to sync up--unless Dropbox does not currently support syncing hidden folders. I have not tested to see what Dropbox does with them

It is important to remember that Dropbox's very own version history is kept at their server. That means that there would not be a physical conflict between the historic files Dropbox keeps track of and what Lion keeps track on that same folder for Versions. It will be up to you to choose where to go and look: On Lion's friendly Versions UI or on Dropbox's web-based file history. Of course, the caveat is that the individual historic entries won't be exactly the same. I guess you can say there will be two "versions" of the same story (pun intended).

I do not think there is a need for a workaround as there really is no technical conflict. iCloud and Dropbox will both do their thing and I will probably end up using Versions in Lion to browse the file history of all of my files, even those in the Dropbox folder, because it is friendlier to use. If I cannot use Versions on a particular file because its app doesn't yet support it, and if this is a file that I have in Dropbox, then I will go and take a look at the Dropbox website to get its version history. Hope this helps.

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Apple designed Versions to be separated from the file, so when the file leaves the computer, you only get the most recent version. I don't think Dropbox will interfere with this issue, because you may not know that Dropbox has built in file versioning. It isn't as pretty as Apple, but you can access the past 30 days of versions by logging in on the Dropbox website, finding your file, and right-clicking on it. Then, press previous versions. If there are previous versions, Dropbox will show them for about thirty days. However, if you have a Pro account, you can enable unlimited versions with Pack-Rat at https://www.dropbox.com/help/113. And these versions don't even count against your storage quota.

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Thanks @Nathan. I did mean to mention that I knew that Dropbox had built-in versioning but I felt I was getting long winded enough in my question. As you describe, however, Dropbox versioning is limited (unless you have Pro) and not as well integrated into the applications. This suggestion is one workaround (use Dropbox Pro and its versioning rather than Lion's), but I'd still love to know if there is any plans for tighter integration between Dropbox and Lion, Version support planned for Lion, or another workaround. Thanks again. –  David Ogren Aug 12 '11 at 16:38

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