Workflow to Sync Dropbox Files to a Local iOS Vault

This workflow allows you to sync your Dropbox files to your Obsidian vault on an iOS device. This is normally impossible due to the sandboxing iOS uses to prevent apps from communicating with each other.

Here is the shortcut required to utilize this workflow:
https://www.icloud.com/shortcuts/079db832cbc346f7a916f84ad3105a72

Configuring the shortcut:

  1. Open the link on an iOS device to add it to shortcuts. Make sure to enable outside shortcuts in settings.
  2. Create a Dropbox folder specifically named “Sync” inside of your vault, and place all the notes you want to actively sync.
  3. Create a local Obsidian vault with whatever name you prefer, or skip this step if you already have one.
  4. Download Toolbox Pro (free).
  5. In Toolbox Pro, go to Settings → Folder Bookmarks → Add (+) → Navigate to the vault from step 3 → Name it whatever you prefer.
  6. Go back to the shortcut. There are two Toolbox Pro codeblocks that utilize that folder bookmark created in step 5: the second codeblock, and the fourth from the bottom. Click on the “Vault of Demonstration” text and select your new folder bookmark from the dropdown.
  7. The shortcut is now configured! You can set up an automation to run the shortcut automatically, or you can create a shortcut on your homescreen to run it whenever you want.

How it works:
The shortcut first pushes all new files found only on Dropbox to local storage. Then, the shortcut iterates though every file and checks to see which version is newer. It then syncs the newer version to both places. Thus, it can overwrite content if you make changes to both copies without syncing them in between changes. Thankfully, it does not overwrite dates, so sorting by date will still work.
A future enhancement for large vaults would be the ability to skip files that haven’t changed. I’ve thought of setting up an airtable to do this, but I’ll have to tinker with it for a while.

Finally, let me know if you have comments. If you need help debugging, I am @NC or @NanoCourse on discord.

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Hi Nano thanks for the detailed steps
I double checked the procedure but still getting an error “the data is not in the right format”

Any clues ?

Hi Thumble, I’m actually getting the same error. I think Dropbox messed up their shortcuts integration. I’ll see if I can email them or post a bug report.

Thx let me know

Is there a similar method for onedrive and iCloud syncing?

Hi, iCloud is supported by default. You can also install iCloud on PCs.
Sadly, I have not discovered a way to integrate OneDrive.

Hi @NanoCourse! Thanks for sharing! I tried to repurpose the workflow/shortcut to sync files between my syncthing folder and my obsidian vault.

Does this presuppose that all files are in one directory? I have my notes organized into subfolders and am getting a file not found alert when I run the shortcut.

Do I need to put all my notes into a single folder?

I see now, yes. I will need to organize my files into a single folder and rely on tags/subtags for navigation. I’ll run a test and see how it works before I commit completely. Thanks again for posting.

Would have to set it up as some kind of sequence of multiple folders with their equivalent referenced against them. Some plugins, like daily notes, I believe, require that notes be in their own folder. Templates the same.

Hoping for development in this area this year. Not this workflow, but overall. Ideally I could point the mobile vault wherever I want to in ios files. Then I could sync automatically without a second thought. As it is, whole folders need to be synced first then overwritten.

I think it’s only the daily notes folder that I really need to worry about. More often than not I am jotting something down on the daily note. If I set this up to sync that folder, then perhaps I can set up the shortcut to run when the app is opened and when it is closed…

Sorry for the thought dump!

I’m replying for the community’s sake. I turned this over in my head for a bit before I realized I had no idea how to account for deleted items in the workflow/shortcut. I ended up on the couch late at night (relatively) after catching up on the second season of the Witcher. I opened YouTube on my tv and used the remote mic to throw a free-thought query into the YouTube search void. What returned at that moment is the answer I share now.

Let me link the video and the solution real quick for those who’d rather not skim this.

Solution: Mac Backup and Synchronization Free
OG Video that turned me onto the solution: The Best Video Backup App! Sync Folders Pro is Amazing - YouTube

The solution is an app called Sync Folders, winner of no design awards but exceptional at its job. It’s available for Mac and iOS, and it has free and paid flavours, but the free version works for my needs at the moment, and I’m happy enough to promote the app like a shill.

iCloud was noticeably not syncing Obsidian between desktop and phone. I would look for a daily note to add to it or whatnot, and it wouldn’t be there, and there’s no “Sync Now” button to force the issue.

I ended up moving my Obsidian Vault out of the iCloud Drive on my phone and desktop. I installed Syncthing, which I run on my little always-on mini, and it points to a folder, watches my Vault grow, and syncs it to a folder on my phone when I run the Syncthing iOS app Mobius Sync (https://www.mobiussync.com).

But I can’t just point Obsidian on my phone to that Vault. I also need to sync the Syncthing folder to my mobile Obsidian Vault, so I needed a solution: Sync Folders.

It’s an ugly little app that I set up on my phone with a task, the sync logic I want, exclusions, etc. It syncs my mobile Obsidian Vault with my Syncthing Vault when I run it.

TLDR: I write primarily on my desktop, but if I’m looking for notes on my phone and they are not there, I can now open Mobius Sync and Sync Folders, sync my desktop Vault to my phone and then sync my synced desktop Vault to my phone Vault.

It doesn’t seem like the best solution, but it works consistently and is new enough to be still fun.

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@NanoCourse Hey big thank you! It works flawlessly.

I’m new to Obsidian but I have a bit of experience tweaking with ios Shortcuts. So following @NanoCourse 's steps WITH a few additional necessary changes got the job done:

  1. You really need to find the path of the folder and plug it in two of the code blocks. Otherwise, Shortcuts won’t be able to find your folder in dropbox.
  2. In @NanoCourse 's original instructions, the 2nd codeblock and the 4th from the bottom needed to have “Vault of Demonstration” changed to the folder bookmark from Toolbox Pro. BUT if I was not mistaken, the 3rd codeblock also contains “Vault of Demonstration” and needs to be changed too.

Otherwise, it’s perfect! Loving Obsidian so far. Cross-platform sync was the last piece of the puzzle before I made the jump from Evernote. Now it’s complete!

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable with that much tweaking, you can always opt for the paid sync service and support the developers.

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So as I understand your setup:

  1. You now have two copies of your vault.
  2. You need to open/run both Möbius Sync and Sync Folders to sync.

I’m exploring a similar setup with SyncThing to sync my iCloud iPhone vault with my Android vault in my SyncThing folder. I personally use iCloud Drive a bunch and don’t experience any of the syncing problems you mention. :crossed_fingers:t2: I plan on using rsync to keep my iCloud vault and my SyncThing/Android vault synced from the desktop side.

It would be nice if we could just point the Obsidian app directly to the vault in Möbius’s SyncThing folder. This would obviate the need for vault duplication. I was thinking that Apple’s sandboxes wouldn’t let Obsidian access folders outside their own app folder, but if the Sync Folders app can do it, then why not Obsidian? Maybe we just need to get the devs’ attention and ask for this feature. Is there contact info for feedback or suggestions? I couldn’t find any.

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I’m not sure, but you’re correct about my set up. I tried to drop the folder path into syncthing but it wouldn’t take.

I need to sync from my desktop Vault to my phone (and now iPad), so I do that with Mobiüs. I then need to sync the Mobiüs folder to my Obsidian vault. This completes the sync without requiring iCloud.

Since setting this up, iCloud has returned to seemingly stable working order. I’m considering defaulting to iCloud again… The two-apps-before-Obsidian routine is kind of a thought-blocker. But it works everytime and is very solid.