blender_sync_dropbox_feature

Keeping Blender Configs Synced Across Multiple Machines with Dropbox

Learn to use Dropbox to sync your Blender Settings across all your machines

If you use Blender on multiple machines, such as a desktop machine and a laptop, then chances are you get tired of constantly update your settings to match the other machine. This is particularly annoying anytime a new feature comes out and you change your default settings. Suddenly both machines are out-of-sync again.

In my studio, I have three machines. A 27″ iMac and a 15″ Retina Macbook Pro both running Mac OS X Mountain Lion, and then a custom desktop box running Ubuntu Linux. I use Blender on all of them. But due to the nature of constantly updating and improving my default configurations, I’m constantly finding the machines to have slightly different settings. More than anything, this is annoying for custom hotkeys.

For a while I simply stopped customizing my settings so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it being out of sync. Then I decided to solve this once and for all by making all of the machines sync automatically.

This is actually a little easier than it sounds.

Step 1: Use Dropbox

If you don’t already use Dropbox in your daily life then you’re missing out. It is an incredible piece of software that has become ingrained in daily life here at CG Cookie. We use it for everything. Seriously. It allows you to keep all of your files in sync across multiple machines, so long as those files are within the Dropbox folder.

 

If you’re not already familiar with Dropbox, then check out their tour HERE. Otherwise, I’m going to assume you already have it and know how to use it.

Step 2: Move Blender Config to Dropbox

Anytime you save your settings in Blender, it saves out specific files in a pre-defined location. This is also true for all user-installed add-ons, custom themes, etc. This location is known as the Blender Config folder and can be found at these locations:

Mac OS X: /Users/{user}/Library/Application Support/Blender/

Linux: $HOME/.config/blender/

Windows Vista/7/8 : C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\

Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Blender Foundation\Blender\

First you’ll need to find the directory above. In recent version of Mac OS X, and in Windows, the Library/ and AppData\ directories are hidden. But you can access them from the location bar in Windows by typing in the exact path, and in OS X by pressing Cmd+G from your home user home and typing “Library”.

Once you have found the Blender/ directory, we need to move it into the Dropbox. In my case, I’ve moved it to Dropbox/Blender-Config/Blender/

Note: while doing this don’t do ANYTHING with Blender. If you open or save anything with Blender during this move it’ll create a new settings directory, which you’ll have to remove.

We are now ready to do the real magic, making symbolic links.

 

Step 3: Make Symbolic Links

If you’re not familiar with symbolic links, then you’re in for a treat! Symbolic links act a bit like shortcuts, but they’re better. When you create a symbolic link from one location to another, it creates a connection between the two locations, making your computer think they both go to the exact same place, when in reality only the original location is real.

This is useful because it means we can store our Blender config directory in Dropbox and yet make Blender think it’s still in the original location.

For this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to create the symbolic links via command line on Mac OS X and Linux. If you’re on Windows then check out this tutorial from HowToGeek for the symbolic link portion:

To create the symbolic link first open a command prompt (on OS X use /Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app). Next do the following (be sure you’ve moved your Blender/ directory to Dropbox!):

 

cardboardbox_arrowsMac OS X:

cd Library/Application\ Support/

ln -s /Users/username/Dropbox/Blender-Config/ Blender

Linux: 

cd .config/

ln -s $HOME/Dropbox/Blender-Config/ Blender

That’s it! You should now have a symbolic link from the original config location to Dropbox. You can test this by going to the original location and checking for a Blender/ directory. Opening that directory will then take you to Dropbox/Blender-Config/Blender/. This also means that now when Blender saves out any settings, Blender will think it’s saving them to the normal location, when it’s actually saving all settings to Dropbox. Nifty huh?

But wait, there’s more.

Step 4: Repeat for Each Machine

You now need to recreate the above symbolic link for each of your machines that you want synced. Otherwise the syncing will not do any good.

Once you have done this you are ready to go!

Step 5: Live in Peace

With all machines now synced with Dropbox, and the symbolic links in place for each machine, your Blender settings will automatically be synced. This includes all add-ons you install, any themes your create, any layouts you change, and even any custom hot-keys you add.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

FAQs:

Q: Can I use other syncing software, such as Sugar Sync with this technique?

A: You sure can! Any software that keeps files in sync between multiple machines should do the trick. The symbolic links are what make this work, not the syncing software specifically.

 

 

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Discussion

51 Responses to “Keeping Blender Configs Synced Across Multiple Machines with Dropbox”
  1. Posts: 2
    noko says:

    >2012
    >using macs

  2. Posts: 1
    Eli Simon says:

    I’m on a mac and Blender is not in the Application Support Folder. I don’t know how to find the Blender/directory. Help!

    • Posts: 491
      Metalix says:

      I don’t use a mac but try searching your hard drive for blender.
      -Alex

    • Posts: 92
      Joel Godin says:

      There are two ‘Library’s on a Mac. Look in both. Mine was in Users/myname/Library/
      That is different from /Library (or Macintosh HD/Library).

  3. Posts: 1
    esaeo says:

    On a Mac, I copied the path to the new location, entering it as:

    ln -s /Users/mthrapp/Desktop/DROPBOX – ESAEO/Dropbox/- LIBRARY/Blender Library/- Config/Blender

    And the Terminal returns “No such file or directory”. I copied it verbatim. What am I missing

    • Posts: 92
      Joel Godin says:

      Sounds kind of long. Not sure how you have Dropbox set up on your Mac, but on mine, I don’t go through the desktop. My command on your computer would be ln -s Users/mthrapp/Dropbox/Blender-Config/Blender
      Make sure though, you do that after cd Library/Application\ Support/

  4. Posts: 1

    ATTENTION Mac users, I was having the “No such file or directory” Terminal message too, but it was in response to the cd Library/Application\ Support/ command, not to the ln -s /Users/username/Dropbox/Blender-Config/Blender one.

    It appears the first command line was missing a part, and I actually put my actual username in both of them (only small letters), so the whole thing as it worked for me was:

    cd /Users/myactualusername/Library/Application\ Support/
    ln -s /Users/myactualusername/Dropbox/Blender-Config/Blender

    And only that made the alias folder, none of several other options had worked first. Some others created a sort of “alias blanc file”, but it never really worked and the test suggested in the cgcookie instructions never took me to the original folder in Dropbox, and it does now. So don’t be misguided, this worked for me.

    Hope it helps.

    Best,

    Demian

  5. Posts: 2
    Ed Baker says:

    Is it possible to sync between Mac and PC? will the PC read/write the same as my mac?

    • Posts: 3883

      Sorry about the late reply, but yes you sure can! Blender just needs the config folder to be located. The same structure is used across all OSs.

  6. Posts: 2
    karhu says:

    Thank you! Great tip and big time saver. And to make this bit easier for at least windows users: With Sugarsync, you can sync folders straight to the cloud and sync from cloud to excisting folders. No need to make those symbolic links. :)

  7. Posts: 3
    Andrew says:

    When I put in In -s etc… Terminal says “command not found”

    Any help?

  8. Posts: 1
    Bilal Mamdoo says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    Is it possible for you to tell me how to sync blender libraries (materials, models) for different machines to use?

  9. Posts: 4
    tynaud says:

    Thanks for this, never thought of making symbolic links for blender through some cloudsync (and I use ln -s quite regularly at work for some admin tasks). Did a setup using google drive, syncing on several computers running ubuntu 14.04, windows7 and windows8.

  10. Posts: 2

    For Ubuntu (and propably all Linux users) you can just Middle Click + Drag n’ Drop the folder to Make Link. Easy, simple, clean :)
    Thanks Jonathan, this is extremely useful for a network renderfarm.

  11. Posts: 24
    daddios says:

    After watching Kent’s tutorial on “Customizing Your Startup File in Blender”, I decided to look at the Dropbox option for sharing the Blender 2.71 configuration files between PC’s using both Windows 7 & 8. As Jonathan states setting up different machines each time there’s a new feature.

    Using the tutorial at ‘HowToGeek’ gives you all the information you need but it took me over 3 hrs to work it out and get things working, so looking through Dropbox tutorial comments, I noticed various people have given snippets of the necessary information but not the complete process. Therefore I thought I’d try and clarify the process in simple steps. (Hopefully)

    If you are going to give this a try, I suggest you read through all the text before attempting the process, and I would allow one hour to complete and test.

    After a few attempts of trying to use the Windows method detailed in ‘HowToGeek”, I decided to use the command prompt method to redirect Blender 2.71 to my Dropbox folder. Please

    note I will use ‘Daddios’ as my username in the file paths; change this to your specific username on the PC your’re installing the links on.

    Step 1 :- Make sure you have your Dropbox account installed and running on all the PC’s that you wish to access the Blender config file. (Little Dropbox icon in the bottom right of your

    screen.

    Step 2 :- Access your Dropbox account and Create a folder where you wish to save the Blender config file to. Mine is “Dropbox\Blender-Config\2.71″ (make sure you inculde the 2.71

    folder)

    Step 3 :- Start Blender 2.71 (or any other version) and change your start up file by adding a UV Sphere, then save this as your new start up file ‘Ctrl U’ this is just to make sure you have

    a folder 2.71.

    Step 4 :- Exit Blender

    Step 5:- Download the files; “vcredist_x64.exe” (64bit) or “vcredist_x86.exe” (32bit) depending on your PC, and the “Link Shell Extension” from

    http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html#download

    Step 6 :- Install “vcredist_x64″ or “vcredist_x86″ first onto you PC

    Step 7 :- Secondly install the “Link Shell Extension”; You will be asked to restart Windows Explorer so the desktop will disapear for a moment, but will return.

    Step 8 :- Using File Explorer “My Computer” go to the following file location:- c:\Users\Daddios\Appdata\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\

    Step 9 :- Rename the ’2.71′ folder to ’2.71_Backup’

    Now you are ready to set up the link between Blender and Dropbox

    Step 10 :- In the start menu. search ‘Command Prompt’ in the search box and when it appears at the top of the list under programs, right click and select ‘Run as administrator’

    Step 11 :- Type the following at the prompt;

    mklink /J “c:\Users\Daddios\Appdata\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\2.71″ c:\Users\Daddios\Dropbox\Blender-Config\2.71

    See below for help in typing this, as mistakes are time consuming.

    Step 12 :- Hit Return – You should see the following message “Junction created for c:\Users\Daddios\Appdata\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\2.71″ <> c:\Users\Daddios

    \Dropbox\Blender-Config\2.71

    (If not check your typing and the error message)

    Sorted!

    Step 13 :- Repeat the process on all the other PC’s you wish to share the same config file, I used a memory stick to transfer the downloaded files, but ran the installation from the hard

    drive of each PC.

    Step 14 :- Testing; Run Blender on one of you PC’s and change the start up file by adding a couple objects and save as a new start up file, ‘Ctrl U’

    Step 15:- Run Blender on the other PC’s and your newly created start up file should load.

    Step 16:- On one of the PC’s make all the real changes you require for your start up file; save it (Ctrl U) and that’s it.

    Step 17:- You can always return to individual start up files on your PC’s by erasing the ‘c:\Users\Daddios\Appdata\Roaming\Blender Foundation\Blender\2.71′ folder, which appears as a

    shortcut icon in File Explorer.

    Mistakes I made -

    Typing the path at the command prompt incorrectly and the wrong way around, (it should be Hard Drive loaction followed by the Dropbox Location). To assist at the command prompt

    start by typing ‘c:\Users\’ then use the ‘Tab’ key to scroll through the list of folders in that directory, when you have the one you want put in a backslash ‘\’ use the ‘Tab’ key again and

    repeat the process until you get to the last directory folder. If you scroll past the directory then use ‘Shift+Tab” to scroll backwards. When a folder has a space character in it, you will see

    ” ” automatically added at the front and back of the text, leave them in and ignore them, just put any backslashes after them and continue, they’ll move to the end on their own. Also make

    sure you have a ” at the end as sometimes you delete it putting in the 2.71.

    Trying to use the Dropbox folder under the Appdata directory, and not the Dropbox folder directly under my username (I’m new to Dropbox too).

    Not renaming the 2.71 directory on the hard drive; as I had already changed my start up file, it already existed. This is why I included step 3 to create one.

    Mistakes you might make -

    Not changing ‘Daddios’ in the command prompt text to your ‘username’

    Missing the quotes (” “) around the command prompt text if there is a space in the directory path as in ‘Blender Foundation’ using the ‘Tab’ key method adds these for you so be careful

    not to add more quotes than needed.

    Using an older version of Blender and not using the correct directory structure; Blender 2.69 needs a config folder of 2.69 and not 2.71. (maybe obvious to some)

    If all goes wrong then go back to Steps 8 & 9 and rename the ’2.71_Backup’ folder to ’2.71′ and your back to using your hard drive for the config files.

    This may seem a bit long winded compared with Jonathans for the Mac but hopefully it will help somebody access this useful facility.

    If you are new to Dropbox, then you can also create a folder for saving Blend files too, Create a folder at c:\Users\Daddios\Dropbox\ on your hard drive.

    Note your Blender “User Preferences” file will also be stored in Dropbox.

    • Posts: 24
      daddios says:

      Since setting up the Dropbox link as described above, I have also used the facility to save Blend files in Dropbox to be able to access the current version being worked on from all PC’s. Using the following command.

      mklink /J c:\blends c:\Users\daddios\Dropbox\Blend-Files

      This creates a phantom directory called ‘blends’ on the root of the ‘C’ drive and points to the Dropbox folder ‘Blender-Files’ in Dropbox.

      Don’t forget to change the ‘daddios’ to you username in the command.

    • Posts: 3883

      Fixed! And thank you for the very detailed instructions! These will surely be helpful for others.

      • Posts: 24
        daddios says:

        Thanks for sorting that out for me Jonathan, I’ll know better the next time.

        I can see why you didn’t bother with the Windows procedure.

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