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Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Explorer | Level 3

I set up a Dropbox folder that is shared between myself and other person. It has a lot of layers of folders inside, so I've used a bunch of aliases so the other person can find things no matter what logic they use. For example, a spreadsheet related to the property insurance for a ranch lives in...

    Accounts > Insurance > Property Insurance > Ranch

But I have an alias to this spreadsheet in...

    Spreadsheets > Annual

And an alias to its parent folder in...

    Properties > Ranch > Accounts

 

When I first started setting this all up, I had the other person go into their computer and into these shared folders to make sure all the aliases worked once they synced through Dropbox to his machine — and they did. In fact, Dropbox was the only cloud service I found that correctly retained the link between an alias and its target when synced to another computer. It's literally the reason we chose Dropbox for this project.

BUT, once I got the whole folder tree set up and synced to the other person's computer, now none of the aliases work for him any more.

Am I missing something here?

5 Replies

Re: Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Dropboxer

Hey there @Robio - welcome to our Community!

At first, could you let me know more about the other person's setup and if they're getting any specific errors? If they do, could you forward me a screenshot so I can have a better look into this? Are you both using the desktop application by the way? Could you let me know what the desktop app reports for both of you? 

Based on your description, it sounds like you have some folders or files that have been symlinked to your Dropbox. Symbolic links, Junction Points, or "symlinks", occur when folders are added to Dropbox that reference directories outside of the Dropbox folder or inside of the Dropbox folder but in a different folder. Because these symlinks may reference locations where Dropbox may have limited accessibility, they can cause various issues. High CPU usage, poor syncing performance, permissions issues and quota usage disparities are a few of the problems that often come up when symlinks are added to the Dropbox folder.

To determine if there are indeed symlinks in your account, you need to:

  • Open your Terminal app (Located at /Applications/Utilities/Terminal). You can also search for "Terminal" using the magnifying glass at the top of your screen
  • Copy and paste the following line into the Terminal:
find ~/Dropbox -type l -exec ls -lah {} \;

This should give you a list of symlinks in your Dropbox folder and where they point to. The list the command provides shows you the full file path to every symlink in your account.

We ususally recommend removing these symlinks from your Dropbox account. You can do that by following the file paths that are provided when you run the command I provided above and remove the files in your Dropbox folder by dragging them elsewhere on your computer (if you don't want them deleted). After you've removed all of the symlinks you can identify from the Terminal command, please quit Terminal, open it again, and run the command again to ensure that no symlinks remain in your Dropbox folder.

More information on this can be found here: https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/desktop/high-cpu-usage

Specifically take a look at step 7 where it outlines the issues symlinks can cause and how to remove them. 

Let me know how it goes! 

 


Walter
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
https://dropbox.com/support


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Re: Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Explorer | Level 3

Hi Walter. Sorry so long to reply.

You've almost got it, but not quite. Let me draw a clearer picture...

- I created a folder inside my Dropbox folder called Rob & Joe Shared

- Inside that folder is a complex directory structure including dozens of folders, sub-folders, and documents

- For example, there's a folder called "FINANCIAL" inside of which are folders relating to bank accounts, inside of which are various spreadsheets...

- But because not everyone organizes things the same way, I created lots of aliases throughout these folders, for example, there's also a folder called "*SPREADSHEETS," in which there are aliases to all the spreadsheets throughout all the directories. This way Joe doesn't have to remember where I put each invididual spreadsheet. If he's looking for a spreadsheet, he can just go to the *SPREADSHEETS folder, and double-click the alias for the one he wants.

- ALL of these aliases are referencing documuents within this share Dropbox folder

- When I first set this up last year, Joe an I thoroughly tested that these aliases worked for him, even though I set them up on my computer — in other words that when they got synced to his computer through the desktop app, the aliases still underststood their relative path within the shared Dropbox folder

- AT THAT TIME, AND FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AFTERWARDS, THEY DID WORK 100% OF THE TIME on both our computers

- But in the last couple months, not only have the aliases stopped working (saying the linked file can't be found), but new aliases created by me don't work on his computer either

I specifically chose Dropbox for sharing this project with Joe because Dropbox was the only cloud service that correctly synced aliaes without breaking the links to their original documents.

But now it seems that feature is broken.

Hope that's clearer.

As an example, the alias...

Dropbox > Rob & Joe Shared > *SPREADSHEETS > Account1.xslx alias

...symlinks to... 

Dropbox > Rob & Joe Shared > FINANCIAL > Bank#1 > Account#1 > Account1.xlsx

 

Both the alias and the original are within Dropbox > Rob & Joe Shared

The alias — synced via Dropbox — used to work fine on both our computers, even though I created the alias on mine.

But now the alias works on my computer, but not on Joe's.

And any new alises I created within (and linking within) Dropbox > Rob & Joe Shared also don't work on Joe's computer.

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Re: Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Dropboxer

Thanks for the additional information and clarifications Rob - they're most appreciated. 

As I'm still unsure what the issue here is, would it be OK with you if I reached out to your Dropbox associated email address to have a further look into this with all of our tools at my disposal?

 


Walter
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
https://dropbox.com/support


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Re: Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Explorer | Level 3

That would be fine, Walter. But Let me take one more shot at this too. Here's an example.

Joe & I share a folder via Dropbox:

User/Rob/Dropbox/Rob & Joe Shared/

Inside that folder are...

User/Rob/Dropbox/Rob & Joe Shared/Cars/Honda/

and

User/Rob/Dropbox/Rob & Joe Shared/Insurance/Auto/

 

Inside each of these folders, I have created aliases to the other:

User/Rob/Dropbox/Rob & Joe Shared/Cars/Honda/Auto Insurance alias

and

User/Rob/Dropbox/Rob & Joe Shared/Insurance/Auto/Honda Alias

 

When I first created these aliases (maybe a year ago), they worked on my computer and on Joe's computer. And they worked for several months.

But now those aliases no longer work on Joe's computer, and when I make new aliases to replace them (thinking the symlink had just been broken somhow), those new aliases dont' work either.

 

The reason we decided to use Dropbox for this shared folder was specifically because these aliases continued to work on both our computers. No other cloud service maintained the symlink on the second party's computer. But now it's not working on Dropbox either.

Feel free to contact me however works best for you to get the clarification you need.

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Re: Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore

Dropboxer

Thanks for the extra detail and clarifications Rob - it's most appreciated.

At this point, I'll need to have a look at your current setup and account specific information so I've gone ahead and send you an email to your Dropbox associated email address.

At your earliest convenience, please take a look at your inbox for my message so we can investigate further. 

Thanks again @Robio

 


Walter
Community Moderator @ Dropbox
https://dropbox.com/support


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Mac aliases within Dropbox used to work on all shared devices, but not anymore
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