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I tend to keep all my stuff in Dropbox. Now that I bought a second Mac, I thought that keeping also my applications preferences in Dropbox would have been a good idea.

I managed to sync some of the Application Support folders (I just want the more important apps to be in sync) by simply linking the shared folder on Dropbox to the link on the Macs:

ln -s ~/Dropbox/SharedPrefs/AnApp ~/Library/Application Support/AnApp

this way I ensure that every, say, Sublime Text 2 build I create on one Mac will be synched on the other Mac.

But I'm having troubles in synching actual .plist files. I did the exact same thing as above (the example is for iTerm 2):

mv ~/Library/Preferences/com.googlecode.iterm2.plist ~/Dropbox/SharedPrefs/
ln -s ~/Dropbox/SharedPrefs/com.googlecode.iterm2.plist ~/Library/Preferences/com.googlecode.iterm2.plist

So now I have the actual physical .plist file on Dropbox, and a placeholder link on the Mac.

But this doesn't seem to work: when I quit and re-open iTerm (or whatever application), it isn't able to use the symlink to access the preferences on Dropbox.

What should I do?

I'll appreciate every advice on how to keep application preferences synched between two Macs; I'm using the cmd-line just because I'm used to it but also a GUI utility is ok. Also, an utility which doesn't sync only the Application Support folder, but also the .plists and other shared stuff would be great!

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I guess if iTerm doesn't follow symlinks, you'll have to ensure that on each machine the file in the Dropbox is the symlink. – asmeurer Jan 11 '14 at 17:42
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Open preferences and check the box marked "Load preferences from a customer folder or URL""

You can browse to your Dropbox folder and the click "Save Settings to Folder"


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How can I turn all this off please !? And I don't see what you do in system prefs :-( – JRP Media Nov 26 '14 at 19:49

Another way, which would be useful for other kinds of files or other programs, is to use hard links instead of symbolic ones. Use "ln" instead of "ln -s". Beware - a hard link is very different than a symbolic. A sym link is just a pointer to the file. You can delete the link and the file is untouched. A hard link is a duplicate entry for the file in the disk's directory. It's as if the file were really in two places at once. A program can't tell any difference between the two. If you trash the link it deletes the actual file. These are so different that using the same name for both should probably not have been done.

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A program that open a file can't tell the difference between a hard or soft link – Mark Jun 13 '14 at 17:58

You could set up a folder action item that monitors the relevant folders and runs an Applescript that copies the relevant preference files to the Dropbox folder when the folder changes.

Another (similar) approach would be writing a launch agent:

 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
 <plist version="1.0">

Save this as a com.yourname.yourapp.plist file then copy it to ~/Library/LaunchAgents/. Load it in launchd using

launchctl load ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.yourname.yourapp.plist

start it: launchctl start com.yourname.yourapp

Now the launchd agent will run the script /Users/yourname/path/to/your/script every time "preferencefile1.plist", "preferencefile2.plist", etc, are changed.

For example "script" could be something that copies the preference files to the dropbox folder.

Another launch agent should be set on the other machine to monitor the files in the dropbox folder and copy them to the correct location when they change.

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