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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data Internet
Note: This hint only applies to .Mac subscribers who have an iDisk. It's a long hint, but hopefully worth it to some people out there.

Apple promotes the iDisk as a way to "store files remotely" or "share files that are too big to email". It's also used as the location for storing your Address Book, iCal and Safari Bookmarks for use with iSync. This hint pertains to the "store files remotely" feature of iDisk, which Apple does not really elaborate on to any great degree.

I have two Macs: a G5 and a TiBook. My G5 (for obvious reasons) stays at home. My TiBook goes with me to work. One minor annoyance is that some things get out of sync between these two machines. I'll use two examples in this hint: NetNewsWire and MacJournal. NetNewsWire is a very well done RSS newsreader client. It's what I use to read articles from Slashdot, O'Reilly MacDevCenter and, of course, MacOSXHints, among others. MacJournal is (duh) a journal or "diary" program, although I use it for storing lots of stuff, like software license/registration keys, passwords, network information, etc.

When used on two different machines, the data accessed by both of these programs gets out of sync. It's annoying to have to wade through all the news articles that I already marked as having been read when I go back and forth between home and work. Similarly, if I add or change something in MacJournal, I want it to be the same on both my machines. This is where iDisk comes in. You can store the data files used by programs on iDisk. If that's all the information you need, you can stop reading this hint now. For detailed instructions, read on.

There are two approaches you can take:
  1. Access files directly on your iDisk.
  2. Maintain a local copy of your iDisk and have it sync automatically (or manually).
The advantage to (1) is that you know any changes you make are immediately available to the other machine. However, if you ever want to access the data when you don't have an internet connection, you're out of luck. Also, since the data is being sent over the net as it is read/updated, it may be a little slow depending on how much data is being sent and how fast your connection is.

The advantage to (2) is that your data will always be available to you even if you don't have an internet connection. Also, since the data is local, accessing/updating it is fast. The disadvantage is that you have to wait for iDisk to sync the data to ensure that whatever updates you made to your local copy are mirrored on your remote iDisk, and then again it needs to sync the data on your remote iDisk over to the local copy on your other machine.

To use option (1), you only need to make sure that your .mac account is set up and you're connected to your iDisk. However, setting up the symbolic links (below) will be slightly different depending on whether you use option (1) or (2).

To use (2), go to .Mac -> iDisk in System Preferences and check the box labeled "Create a local copy of your iDisk". This will take several minutes to complete. Once it does, the iDisk drive in Panther's Finder will be a local mirror of whatever is on your remote iDisk (which is on Apple's Servers). Note that in either case only SOME of the folders of your iDisk are writable by you. For example, there is a "Library" folder on your iDisk if you're using iSync. But you aren't allowed to create any folders in the Library folder. For that reason, I chose to put my files in the Documents folder. It's read/write for me, but no one else can see the contents.

I am using two different programs to illustrate this hint because one involves setting up a symbolic link and the other does not:

The data files used by MacJournal can be stored wherever you want to store them. You can set the path using the Advanced tab of the Preferences. All you have to do is change the path to point at the appropriate folder on your iDisk. In my case, I created a MacJournal folder in the iDisk/Documents folder, copied my existing MacJournal database files over, and told MacJournal to look there.

This program always looks for its files in ~/Library -> Application Support -> NetNewsWire. So how do you tell it to look on your iDisk? Set up a symbolic link:
  1. Move the NetNewsWire folder in ~/Library -> Application Support over to the Documents folder on your iDisk. Be sure the NetNewsWire folder in ~/Library -> Application Support is gone, because you're going to create a symbolic link to the one on your iDisk.
  2. Open a Terminal window and type cd ~/Library/Application Support/
    • If using option (1) from above, and your .mac username is "fenster", then type ln -s /Volumes/fenster/Documents/NetNewsWire NetNewsWire
    • If using option (2) from above, you don't need to worry about your .mac username, just type ln -s /Volumes/iDisk/Documents/NetNewsWire NetNewsWire
Note: To remove a symbolic link from the Terminal, type rm NetNewsWire just like removing a regular file.

The above can be adapted to use with any other programs for which you want to share the data files among two different machines using your iDisk. For example, you could use symbolic links to store individual preference files on your iDisk if you wanted. I don't think I'd do this for the entire Preferences folder, but I suppose you could.
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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data | 18 comments | Create New Account
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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: seanhussey on Dec 16, '03 11:40:57AM

Does this work with NNW Lite as well? it looks like I'd have to store my prefs file on my iDisk as well. The NNW Folder in Application Support only has the history.db file.

Otherwise, great hint!

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You can store anything you like on your iDisk
Authored by: iRideSnow on Dec 16, '03 02:09:49PM

I'm not familiar with NNW Lite as I've only used the full version so far. However, using the guidelines in the above hint, you can store pretty much anything you like on your iDisk, including individual preference files for NNW Lite.

Option 2 in the "detailed instuctions" portion of the hint allows you to maintain a local copy of your iDisk on your machine. That's its main advantage. You'll always have those files available to you even if the iDisk on Apple's servers is unavailable.

I can't guarantee that everything will always work 100% of the time when using iDisk. It *is* dependent on how well Apple holds up their end of the bargain and keeps your iDisk available. However, I'm willing to pay the price of some possible downtime for the convenience of keeping some files in sync without having to do it by hand.

I wouldn't trust my most important data to iDisk, at least not without doing regular backups.


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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: dogboy on Dec 16, '03 12:38:27PM

Doesn't iDisk in Panther automatically keep in synch with a local version, and therefore remain always available?

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Authored by: iRideSnow on Dec 16, '03 02:00:06PM

I'm not sure if you're asking a question or responding to the first comment. But yes, iDisk on Panther offers the ability to keep a local copy of your iDisk and either automatically or manually sync the contents. That's option 2 in the "detailed instuctions" portion of the the hint.


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Authored by: RemoBolli on Jan 02, '04 04:22:43AM

On my iMac i can't manually sync the idisk. There is a symbol to sync it, but it is not activ.
The local copy of idisk is there, but only synced once.
THX for your tipp

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Authored by: iRideSnow on Jan 03, '04 12:00:12AM

Assuming you're using Panther, in your System Preferences there should be a panel for .Mac. In there, click on the iDisk tab and there is an option to "Create a local copy of your iDisk". Under that is the option to synchronize automatically or manually. If it's automatic, then it will sync whenever (or soon after) any files contained in your iDisk (either the local copy or the .Mac copy) are changed.

I don't think this was available with Jaguar.


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Manual sync with iDisk only after reboot
Authored by: RemoBolli on Jan 05, '04 03:59:50PM

When i switch the modem on after the login, then i have not the correct icon to sync the idisk manually. There is no dot inside the sync-circle, and the icon is gray. The internet works, but the synchronization of the idisk works only after a reboot.
What's wrong with my installation ?
I'm using Panther 10.3.n.

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Manual sync with iDisk only after reboot
Authored by: iRideSnow on Jan 06, '04 11:18:04PM

I'm sorry. I don't have an answer for you. If you have it configured to sync automatically, it should just work. I haven't played around with manual syncing, and I'm connected to the net via a DSL line, so there is no modem involved. What happens if you tell it to sync automatically instead of manually?

If you continue to have problems, you might want to try posting to Apple's Support Discussion Boards, which you can find by going to and clicking on the "Support" link on the left.


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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: inik on Dec 16, '03 04:50:14PM

Same trick works great for BSD-end configuration files (I have my .gnupg folder linked to the iDisk, as well as my login files .tcshrc, etc...), and by putting your iDisk sync copy in your paths variables, you can have shell scripts and applications available and sync'd over multiple computers!

I'd love to move my whole ~/ folder to the iDisk, but I don't think I can afford the price of a ten gigabyte iDisk!

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Sync Microsoft Entourage?
Authored by: sowsinsk on Dec 16, '03 07:54:21PM

While I enjoy the integration of Apple's organization apps (specifically Address Book, Mail, and iCal), I really *don't* enjoy opening and switching between these different apps to accomplish very related tasks. I love the way Entourage is *completely* integrated--one app, all your organization needs.

I have 2 Macs--one at home, and one at work. Right now, I use iSync to sync up my contacts, calendar, to-dos, etc. It works very well, but I still prefer Entourage's total integration. I really want to use Entourage, but I can't keep the data sync'ed between home and work.

I imagine this tip could help my situation, but Entourage's data file is called 'Database', which holds ALL data for your Entourage identity--even e-mail messages. I am worried that syncing with iDisk would ravage my E-mail (and possibly other data). I wish Entourage's database was split into separate files based on the task (calendar, to-do, etc), but it's not.

Has anyone had any success syncing Entourage between Macs, whether by a "hack" or a program that I haven't found?

Many Thanks.

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Sync Microsoft Entourage?
Authored by: DeltaTee on Dec 17, '03 08:01:27AM

Paul Berkowitz has a script that supposedly syncs Address Book with Entourage (though i couldn't get it to work in the 10 minutes I played with it). You can sync those on a machine and then use iSync to keep multiple machines up to date.

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Sync Microsoft Entourage?
Authored by: stuart14 on Jan 15, '04 06:29:00AM

I have been using Entourage on 2 machines regularly. I have a very low-tech solution which nevertheless does work.
I close down entourage (and any other Microsoft application) and then simply copy the whole of the "Main Identity" folder to my other machine. (If your rename the target destination folder, you also have a backup if things go wrong).
Presumably, this could be automated via Backup or iSync

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Sync Microsoft Entourage?
Authored by: djflux on Jun 12, '04 09:05:35PM

Has anyone tried putting the whole Entourage database on their iDisk and sharing it from 2 different computers? My database is over 400MB and iDisk only gives you 100MB to start, so it'd probably be considerably more money to upgrade to that level. I'd be willing to pay for it but it seems like a costly experiment so I thought I'd ask if anyone else has had any success with it.


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Sync Microsoft Entourage?
Authored by: jxpx777 on Aug 25, '04 03:46:52PM

I had some luck with the Entourage conduit for Hotsync Manager. I too was using both Mac Apps and Entourage. By setting Entourage to receive its data every time from the handheld rather than syncing. Then I used isync to keep my material in sync between Mac Apps and my Palm Tungsten. The trick to this is that changes cannot be made in Entourage. Of course this doesn't work without a pda.

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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: drm0223 on Jan 02, '04 04:02:04PM

I have tried to use .Mac to share a Quicken database between my desktop G5 and my laptop TiPB. I can copy the file to the Documents folder of my iDisk from one machine and use it from that machine.

However, when I examine that file from the other, it appears as a folder and not a file! I get the same result regardless of which computer (G5 or TiPB) I use to copy to the iDisk/Documents folder.

I am using Panther 10.3.2

This file does not 'share well' for some reason.

Anyone have an explanation?

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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: iRideSnow on Jan 03, '04 12:34:25AM

The "Quicken Data" file is actually a package, which is really a directory. If you right click (control-click) on the Quicken Data "file", it will give you the option of opening the package contents. Similarly, if you're comfortable with the Terminal, you can navigate to the location of the Quicken Data "file" and see that it is actually a directory. I'm saying "file" in quotes because it's really a directory.

I haven't tried this completely since I only have Quicken installed on one of my machines, but this *should* work. I did do all the steps, and everything looks like it should work to me.

1. Exit Quicken.
2. Make a local of your Quicken Data file just to be safe.
3. Copy the Quicken Data file to your iDisk->Documents folder.
4. Delete the Quicken Data file on your two machines.
5. On both of your machines, open the Terminal and navigate to where your Quicken Data file was. On my machine, it was in ~/Applications/Quicken 2003 for Mac.
6. Again, on both of your machines, create a symbolic link to the version on your iDisk. You'll need to wait until the Quicken Data file is synced over of course.

ln -s /Volumes/YourMacLoginName/Documents/Quicken\ Data Quicken\ Data

Note the use of backslash before the space in the "Quicken Data".

7. There is no step 7! (haha)

The Quicken Data file on your other machine will appear as a folder, but I wouldn't expect that would prevent it from working. Although I could be wrong. I mean, it really is just a folder when you get right down to it. If it doesn't work, then I don't know if there's anything you can do.

Hope that helps.


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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: CardinalRoost on Jan 14, '04 09:04:37PM

What you need to do is stop using the file on your machine, only use the iDisk file. Then this works great.

1. set up iDisk to keep a copy locally.
2. find you quicken file on your hard drive and copy it to the iDisk Documents.
3. make an alias pointing to this new location.
4. use the alias to open quicken.
5. after checking the file from another location, delete the original - or back it up to CD or ...

I have iDisk set up to replicate between 3 computers: home, school (where I do support), work.

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10.3: Use the .mac iDisk to store common application data
Authored by: rezolution on Jun 08, '04 01:21:34AM

I have verified the problem. The offered solutions do not help. When accessing the Quicken data file from iDisk from another machine, the "unpackaged" file/folder appears corrupt. Even the data file within the resulting unpackaged directory is not readable by Quicken (version 2003.) This is a problem for users that wish to access their Quicken data from multiple machines at multiple sites (ie. a G5 at home and a Powerbook at work.)

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