Integrate to Dropbox/Box/Google Drive

This idea has come up before, but it’s not currently being discussed.

SimpleMind, a mindmapping outliner I like, uses Dropbox as an optional way to store its outlines. It works really well, and I’d love to see the same for Dynalist. It doesn’t have to be Dropbox.

The way it would work, you extend the Files tab to have an additional folder tree which is in Dropbox (you need to login). In Dropbox, Dynalist creates a new folder named Dynalist, and you can direct new outlines to be created there instead of stored on the Dynalist server. (Well implementers may choose to also have stuff on the Dynalist server for technical reasons.)


  1. There are now files you can look at directly, copy, backup, sync to your local computer, and open your own copy/import into another tool.
    (It’s completely understood that you might advise people not to edit the Dynalist file directly because of sync issues and editing errors. That would be “at your own risk”.)

  2. Having made a connection to Dropbox for the purpose of saving Dynalist outlines, you can immediately add a feature to link to other Dropbox files in Dynalist. Making up some syntax:
    [Cat Picture](drop:\x\y.jpg)

Now all users have a way to embed any kind of document in a Dynalist, and it will be portable to all machines, you just need to log in to Dropbox and Dynalist. This will be great for the inline document display, or for just linking files to open.

(A future extension would be to figure a way to deal with a shared folder so shared Dynalists would work with shared files.)

As for dealing with Syn issues between machines, I think if you route all updates through your server and to its connection to Dropbox, you only have one source for updates, and Dropbox sync won’t get in the way.

  1. This is huge. This one feature will transform Dynalist from a fancy outliner to a comprehensive information organizer.

  2. I’m looking at these floundering attempts by Dropbox company to make more collaborative tools besides just file sharing. I think this is a business opportunity to align Dynalist with a file storage solution and get added exposure for your tool, in addition to all the benefits for Dynalist users. Put together that in-action video to pitch it. (background: Dropbox itself started with that kind of video to sell people on their concept before they had the technology to actually make it happen.)

No responses, disappointed. Maybe the title was bad. I truly believe this is the biggest thing that can be done for Dynalist.

Yet another benefit: By having the data saved to a standard data, it automatically makes the data open to integrated features. You can make a program that reads the data file and analyze the data and generate new valuable things. Like the Google Calendar sync could be programmed independent of the developers if you had a certain way you wanted it done. Absolutely no limit how to use the data.

I integrate Google Drive quite closely to Dynalist by linking documents to outlines. That works well enough for me. But I’m happy for this idea to be further explored.

Is this a distinct advantage of Google Drive over Dropbox? I don’t see a way to do this within Dropbox.

Even given that, an integrated system could let you have a command to attach a file and give you a file browser to pick it. Seems quite the convenience.

From my current understanding of this, I think the average benefit is not enough to justify the amount of work needed for it.

I know it might not sound like a lot of work, just routing stuff through Dropbox and Google Drive. It’s a lot of work under the hood. Plus having stuff that’s not under our control is scary. Some questions that immediately come to mind:

What if Dropbox doesn’t respond? Should Dynalist display that file or not?

What if we can’t parse that data? When the data lives on your computer, it’s more easily corrupted because of people’s anti-virus software and whatnot.

What about version history, should we parse Dropbox’s version history somehow?

I’m sure we’ll have more challenges to tackle if we do look into this option.

And we’re already working on the API, with which you can read, manipulate, and write back data however you like. Isn’t that how this use case is supposed to handled?

With the desktop app, all data already live on your computer, and you can export any file to OPML (the standard outliner file) or plain text any time with the Dynalist app. All you mentioned can be done completely offline given you install the Dynalist app. It’s just that these files are not all immediately available in a human friendly format, but they are there, and when the need comes up you can easily convert anything into OMPL/plain text/HTML.

I’m confused what’s the real benefit it is. From how huge you describe the impact to be, I think I still don’t get it.

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The biggest thing for me is having binary files easily attachable to a DynaList. If it was easy, DynaList could be a total organizer. It is not this now.

I could easily provide answers to these questions, but it seems it’s not in the cards so probably not worth my effort.

“What about version history, should we parse Dropbox’s version history somehow?”

What’s this? I did not know there was a version history. I think I’m missing out on a key feature. In answer, no, just the current file.

Yeah, version history is a Pro feature. You can see the version history of a document in the document’s right click menu.

Binary files being easy attachable to Dynalist? Like an embed?

Sorry your original post was focused on how we can integrate with Dropbox and other services, so I didn’t think that’s the important part.

Minor point… could you spell Dynalist as “Dynalist” (“l” is lowercase) and Dropbox as “Dropbox” (“d” is lowercase) please? I probably have name OCD since I’ve corrected all the previous occurrences in your two posts above. (Shida used to work in Dropbox so I’m quite sensitive to their name too.) It’s like you calling me Erika or me calling you Elan :wink:

Now that’s clarified :slight_smile: I don’t have a pro edition, but a file history for Dynalist would be marvelous. I have this nagging fear of things mysteriously vanishing, and being able to go back to find those lost items and restore them (open old version, copy, open new version, paste – I’m not looking for a new feature to help) would be brilliant. Just goes to say, being files opens up a lot of possibilities that you don’t have to program.

P.S. I had no idea the L wasn’t capitalized.

Embed? No just a normal link to the file. The file would remain in its spot.

Yes, definitely. The challenge, again, is 2-way syncing and parsing the files effectively.

But from what I read on the SimpleMind website, it’s keeping its outlines in files.

I know it must be super clear in your head, but I’m still confused. Let’s say in Dynalist there’s outline A, and on your Dropbox there’s a file B. What do you want to happen?

My guesses are: (still not clear which one is the one you’re proposing)

  1. Contents in outline A will 2 way sync with file B. That is, changing outline A will edit file B, and changing file B will update outline A in Dynalist;
  2. You want to link to file B inside outline A, using some sort of syntax;
  3. You want to use outline A as a sort of file manager, and file B is one of the file to be managed.

Which one is closest to what you’re thinking?

I was thinking 2.

Also was not thinking any fancy parsing code. If the file isn’t exactly what you expect, just don’t open it; error. (Although, isn’t it just OPML and a standard parser?)

No, unfortunately OMPL is not as standard as XML. Most languages only have XML parser built-in, and we’ll need to do that OPML part. XML is also fairly strict, and we’ve had a few incidents where the Unicode characters input by user caused XML parsing issues.

You can already link to local files in the desktop app by doing [file name](D:\My Documents\resume.pdf.

Is the use case you’re imagining different? Is it that you want to use cloud storage instead of local hard disk, or that you want to make it work everywhere, in addition to the desktop app?

Yeah, can’t do d:… because on the next computer it isn’t at that location.

You can link to the Dropbox location too (the web link), given you sign in Dropbox.

I’m still trying to figure out why what you described requires integration on our end. Ideally, a Dropbox file has a direct link, and you can just embed or link to that direct link in Dynalist.