Syncing ‘Things’ Across Multiple Computers with Dropbox

Things is pretty killer to-do list style productivity software for the Mac. It has a companion iPhone application that is pretty fantastic as well. What it doesn’t have, is the ability to sync itself across multiple computers. At least, out of the box it doesn’t. I do work both at my home iMac and my laptop, so I REALLY wanted to use Things on both, synced.

Forunately, keeping Things in sync across multiple computers is a possibility using the amazing Dropbox. This was my first experience really using Dropbox, and it’s really fricking amazing. Far nicer than the .Mac service that I actually pay for. I am basing this short tutorial on what I learned here.

  1. Get Things installed on both computers.
  2. Get Dropbox installed on both computers.
  3. Copy the folder at ~[user]~/Library/Application Support/Cultured Code/Things into your new dropbox folder, probably at ~[user]~/Dropbox
  4. Hold down the Option key when you start Things. You will have the opportunity to choose the location of the database. Do this on both versions of things (making sure you do your version full of data first).

You now have a synced version of Things! Dropbox updates constantly, so it stays up to date as soon as you enter anything. Very awesome.

WARNING: You will want to only be running one version of Things at a time. Otherwise, the out-of-date version might write to Dropbox and overwrite new changes you have made. You’ll be having a little syncing war, which isn’t good. Run only one at a time.

20 responses to “Syncing ‘Things’ Across Multiple Computers with Dropbox”

  1. Phil Havens says:

    If I’m not mistaken, I am pretty sure that if you make an alias of a folder and put it in your dropbox, then it will sync also. So you could just put an alias pointing to ~[user]~/Library/Application Support/Cultured Code/Things and it would sync seamlessly without having to change the location of the database. Not 100% sure that this works, but I am pretty sure.

  2. Tim Wright says:

    Dropbox is great man, I love it for collaboration at work

  3. @Phil It is not possible to use aliases: Things will think the database is corrupt or that the cause is a bug in an Apple Framework.

    @Chris Thanks for this valuable tip! I didn’t know about the option-option. :)

  4. Pip says:

    Hmmm. I wonder if the dropbox sync across multiple computers combined with Things’ new team management function would make it possible to use it as a sort of cloud-based collaborative project management tool.

    What I mean is, if you made a point to always assign tasks to a team member (adding yourself as a team member) you could have multiple users ticking things off/adding them to the shared database.

    I imagine the primary technical difficulty would be that Dropbox can’t be made to work realtime, so if you had multiple users making changes to the database, you’d encounter problems.

    Also, there’s the not insignificant issue of this model lacking project leadership/permission management.

  5. Tomas says:

    I have never used Things but am a huge Dropbox fan and highly recommend it! BTW, you can’t use an alias to sync folders outside of the Dropbox folder in OS X, but you can definitely use a symlink. ;)

  6. Joe says:

    You can also use the mac software called Expandrive and sync to your existing webserver or ftp space.

    The only problem with this is that Things can be slow to open or simply not open at all if there is a problem with the speed of your internet access.

    Hopefully Cultured Code ( the company that makes things) will be updating Things to sync across multiple computers (and also adding due dates to project tasks!)

    Love this software and its almost 95% there!

  7. Chase Adams says:

    Sheer Genius.

  8. Thanks for the clever solution. I was trying to use my iphone as bridge, syncing then pairing to my other system, to no avail. This works perfectly!

  9. Rhys Keepence says:

    @Sander – you can symlink the other way – create a symlink at ~/Library/Application Support/Cultured Code/Things to the real files in the Dropbox folder – this is useful for applications that expect data or preference files to be in a particular location.

  10. JackJack says:

    I tried the DropBox sync thing…. and it was a disaster. I set the application to sync between two MacBook Pros. iPhone syncing was set up to one of the MBPs.

    After i set up syncing on both computers, I rang THINGS on the first Mac and attempted to sync with iPhone. No changes. I turned the second Mac on to see what was going on. The data sets were out of sync. I turned the Macs off and checked the data on my iPhone and it too was a mishmash of old, new and olew (old+new).

    Once burnt, second time sky!

    My secretary uses THINGS to managed me, I suspect — tho she’d never admit it. Its hard to know when she has her Mac turned on and I travel for work. So its quite possible that she could be working in London while I log on at the same time 14 time zones away and presto! What do we have? Corrupted data!

    We need a more perfect solution. Not unless I am missing something. (And, no, OMNIFOCUS is NOT it!)

  11. Phil says:

    I am using live.sync to accomplish syncing the two directories but really this approach is still very imperfect regardless of what is syncing the database.

    If I forget to close Things on my home computer and I make a bunch of changes on my work computer, when I get home and try to close Things it updates it’s database and overwrites everything. Disaster!

  12. Clark Bennett says:

    I am using Dropbox to sync Things on my desktop and laptop and it is working flawlessly. I’ve been careful to avoid having Things running on both computers at the same time because of the warnings on this and other websites – but – I don’t why that is necessary and hope someone can explain.

    It seems to me that if the Things folder is in the Dropbox it will always be up to date (assuming a functioning internet connection).

    Where am I wrong? Thanks.

  13. Chris Coyier says:

    I have the same problem for sure. You just gotta be careful to only have ONE or THE OTHER open at any given time, otherwise you’ll write over each other and lose stuff.

  14. Steve says:

    What’s amazing is that things killer feature (integration with mail to drag and drop emails into tasks) seems to work *across* machines. I.e. you can drop an email into a task on machine a, fire up things on the other (and mail) and assuming the mail has arrived clicking the link opens the same mail.

    Props to culturecode – they may not have implemented sync, but the mail integration is clean.

  15. Rich says:

    Thank you! I was fighting iDisk for hours trying to get THINGS syncing between my Tower and MacBook Pro– and getting sync errors and all sorts of inconsistencies.

    Finally gave up on it and that’s when I stumbled upon your page.

    Got things up and syncing in about 5 minutes flat on Dropbox and it’s working flawlessly. Thanks again.

  16. maren says:

    Has anyone tried syncing via a mobile device? I am about to get a second machine and was hoping to be able to install Things there and use my iPod version to sync (it seems to work well with resolving conflicts when syncing with the lappy). I can’t wait for them to finish the cloud-based db, but till then…???

  17. shuchii says:

    Things and Dropbox joined together in utter awesomeness! Thanks man :-)

  18. vika says:

    @maren Syncing via a mobile device is what I tried first, and it’s a righteous mess. Areas get renamed, for one thing. Also, at my workplace I have to create a computer-to-computer network any time I want to sync (I think the wireless setup here throws my devices on different subnets), and that’s a big pain. Finally, the little four-digit code that Things makes you enter on a mobile device only works with one copy of it, so you’d have to remove and add the device every time you sync.

    @Chris Thank you, that was elegant and easy.

  19. Sweet! Things apps now synced with Dropbox across 2 Macs, iPhone and iPad. Already getting more done!

  20. Jimmy says:

    Here’s a youtube video showing how to do this also

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGEXvRMZgRQ

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