Using Dropbox to sync your Sibelius settings and scores

Tutorials

This tutorial was contributed by Robert Puff, orchestrator, arranger, copyist and Sibelius user. For more information about Robert, check out his company’s web site.

If you’ve ever worked on the same project using two different computers, you may have wondered if there was a way to synchronize not only your scores, but your settings in Sibelius.

It turns out your scores, plug-ins, house styles, manuscript papers and ideas library in Sibelius can be automatically synced between your computers. It only takes about 30 minutes to set up so your Sibelius scores and your support files are always synchronized. Read on to find out how!

To achieve this, both computers somehow need access to the same files, available in a central location. We’ll use the Internet to keep these key files in sync, using a free Dropbox account in combination with a little-known feature built into Windows and Mac OS X called symbolic links. Symbolic links are nothing new, of course – shortcuts in Windows and aliases on Mac are basically symbolic links – but few users know how useful they can really be.

The first step is to go to Dropbox and sign up for a free 2GB account, if you don’t already have one. Download the Dropbox application and install it on both of your computers. Any folders or files saved inside the Dropbox folder will now be shared between your two computers.

The most obvious files you might want synced are your scores. This is really straightforward; simply create a Scores folder inside the main Dropbox folder, and save any scores you are working on into it. Just remember to navigate back to this location to open the score each time you start work on it. Any changes you make to the scores in this folder will update across the network, so you will always have the current version available on either setup. You can set Sibelius to save into the Dropbox folder by default if you wish, by changing the setting on the Files page of File > Preferences (in the Sibelius menu on Mac).

If there is ever a situation where a file is updated on one computer incorrectly and then synced, not to worry: with auto-save enabled, you can always go back and retrieve a previous version on a specific machine. (You do have auto-save enabled in Sibelius, right?)

While scores can be saved anywhere, computer applications typically access any plug-ins and other support files from a specific location. We’ll use symbolic links to allow Sibelius to see our Dropbox folder as this location.

While symbolic links can be created from the command line in either Windows or Mac, there are tools that are designed to make creating them much simpler without having to type any arcane Unix commands from the Terminal:

We’ll move the original support folders and the files they contain into a subfolder of the Dropbox folder and then create symbolic links of each of them, making sure the symbolic link files are pointing back to the exact location as the folders they are replacing, and have the exact same name. On Mac OS X 10.6, symbolic links created using the Symbolic Linker utility show up just like a System 7 Alias in the same folder as the source file.

I created a subfolder in my Dropbox folder labeled Sibelius 6 and copied the following folders and their contents into it: House Styles, Ideas, Manuscript Papers, Menus and Shortcuts, Plugins and Word Menus.

The file path to locate the default folders on is:

  • Mac OS X: /Users/your username/Library/Application Support/Sibelius Software/Sibelius 6
  • Windows Vista/7: C:\Users\your username\AppData\Roaming\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 6
  • Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\your username\Application Data\Sibelius Software\Sibelius 6

You can simply move the folders from their default locations and then create a symbolic link back to their original locations, but I recommend making a copy of each folder that you want to sync and place these in your Dropbox folder. Create a symbolic link for each folder, then drag their symbolic links back into the Sibelius 6 support folder. Don’t overwrite the original folders with the symbolic links. Instead, move your original folders from their default location and store them in a safe place. Once reason for this extra precaution is in case you accidentally overwrite an important House Styles or Menus and Shortcuts file, you have a way to return to your original files.

It’s worth noting that not all the support folders will appear in the application data folder specified above  until you have saved off your own custom settings from within Sibelius at least once, but presumably, if this tutorial has held your interest this far, those folders are already there. By linking the separate folders rather than syncing everything as one folder and contents, you can make sure you are synchronizing only relevant folders and files.

After making copies in the Dropbox folder, move your original folders from their default location and store them in a safe place.

Now, if you’ve already downloaded and run the appropriate symbolic link creation utility, you can select each of the folders you’ve created in Dropbox, and create a symbolic link for it which points to the original location of the folders/files. Here’s my Dropbox folder:

and here’s my Sibelius 6 application data folder, with the symbolic links replacing the original folders:

On the Mac, using Symbolic Linker, you select the subfolder in Dropbox you want to link to, such as House Styles, and right-click. Select the contextual menu item Make Symbolic Link from the list. The link shows up in the Finder just like an alias, and you can drag this link file to the default location for that folder in Application Support.

Importantly, note that if you delete any of these linked folders inside Dropbox or move them to a different location, your symbolic link file will no longer function properly. Also, the name of the symbolic link file must be exactly the same as the folder it is replacing, or Sibelius will not recognize it. For instance, the Symbolic Linker app adds the word symlink to each file it creates, which you will need to remove.

As soon as your second computer has Internet access, it will automatically download the new Sibelius folders and files to its Dropbox folder. Using the same steps as above, create new symbolic links of the same folders on this computer and drag them into the application support location on the second computer, remembering again to first save off the original folders.

Your Sibelius scores and settings should now be in sync. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Mark Isaacs

    Great article Daniel. I’m using and loving Dropbox. I did investigate symbolic links, but decided I wanted to leave my folder hierarchy as it was. My solution was to use a powerful backup program like Cobian Backup to regularly back up the selected files to my Dropbox folder (it might be counter-intuitive to “backup” to the same drive but the program doesn’t mind). So effectively Cobian synchs my folders with their clones inside the Dropbox folder and Dropbox synchs that to the cloud.

  2. Amy Bennett

    Wow, this is a great idea. I regularly work between my Macbook and my work computer which is a PC. I’m always fussing around with checking and worrying which score is the most recent. This is a powerful elegant solution I’ll be trying out.

    Thanks Daniel!

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      One thing to be aware of is that the Menus and Shortcuts files for custom keyboard shortcuts aren’t cross-platform, and nor are the keyboard shortcuts saved in Word Menus files (though the terms in the word menus themselves work fine), so if you’re sharing between a Windows PC and a Mac, I would suggest not syncing the Menus and Shortcuts folder at least.

  3. Steve

    Great article..
    I have used Dropbox for a while for other stuff but never Sibelius. Very useful or interesting tip.

    An interesting positive/additional comment..
    If your two computers are on the same network/LAN (i.e. use the same IP Mask) then they actually sync directly across the LAN and not via the internet. Yes, the internet copy also gets sync’d but it makes syncing between computers quicker and saves on some internet bandwidth. Check the Dropbox site for details on local LAN syncing .

    Dropbox is also available for MAC, PC, Iphone, IPad etc.. So has many other uses.

  4. Peter Roos, San Francisco

    Dropbox is a great program and I use it all the time to securely send and receive files with / from filmmakers and other libraries (compressed movies don’t take up that much space). I usually work just on one computer on my Sibelius scores and if I have to sync I do it ‘old school’ style (with backup programs etc), but this is an interesting article.

  5. Ed Hirschman

    Has anyone tried SugarSync to do this? Someone had recommended that tool to me over Dropbox…

  6. Robert Puff

    Dropbox works very differently from SugarSync. Instead of a file management client, it integrates itself into the file manager (Windows explorer for Windows, Nautilus for linux and Finder in Mac) so that you can handle your files like you have always done. There is no learning curve at all and you can use it immediately after you have installed it.

    Dropbox gives you complete control over what you share with whom. For instance, your House Styles folder could be shared between your two computers plus one or two friends or coworkers, while you could have a “client X” folder shared with one specific individual or group, who can only see that folder and its contained files in their dropbox.

    It’s true there are quite a number of online backup alternatives out there: Box.net, Carbonite, Dropbox, Mediafire, MobileMe, Mozy, SugarSync, Syncplicity… I’m sure there are others. But Dropbox seems to be very popular, so if I do want to share files with someone else, chances are they already have a free account, or at least have heard of it. And 2 gigs of free storage is pretty generous – I’m typically using only about 5% of that (I move project files out of the Dropbox folder and archive them as completed.)

    Also, as Steve mentions above, you also have access to files via your mobile phone (iPhone, Android and Blackberry). For instance, the iphone app will allow you to select a specific file and forward it to someone via email.

    All in all, it’s free, and it works.

  7. Henrik Skram

    Hi,

    this looks really helpful.. What I really would like was to synk my Playback Configuration between two computers. I use Vienna Ensemble Pro for orchestral scores, and it always a pain to setup all the midi channels on the different systems. I know that the Playback Config. is “system-based”, but is there a way to synk/share the Manual Sound Set settings?

    Cheers,

    Henrik

  8. Ed Hirschman

    Well, five years later and I actually gave this a try today using Dropbox and got it to work with Windows 10. I used a different tool than Daniel described. I can share a simple step by step write-up if anyone is interested.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Ed, I would be interested if you would be willing to write something up.

  9. Martie (Ms) Nash

    A bit simpler is edit the destination folder. Create a “scores” folder in your dropbox folder(or dropbox\Sibelius\scores) then
    run “regedit” .

    Use “find” to search for “scores” or “Sibelius” in the registry. (It should automatically be in HKEY_CURRENT_USER under SibeliusX\ Path\scores but just search registry )

    In the “default” entry on the top right side you can use “modify” to change the destination of all your *.sib files from “C:\user\documents\scores” to C:\user\documents\dropbox\scores. Then all is backed up directly to dropbox folder.

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