Setup Dropbox to sync on a schedule – Mac version

Currently I am living in a part of rural Virginia, where the only option for internet is ViaSat internet satellite.  The service has its ups and downs, but the worst part are the data caps, and they are cell phone low.  In fact the highest plan I can buy is 25GB of data transfer and that is about $140 per month.

One thing that I really miss is the ability to have my Dropbox synced at all times.  The data transfers can be high if I am putting videos and photos into my Dropbox.  Dropbox’s application currently allows you to throttle the bandwidth, but it’s either on or off…

ViaSat does offer something nice…  every morning from Midnight to 5AM they shut off the meters allowing unlimited usage.  I decided to leverage this and make Dropbox sync only during this free window.

Doing this on a MAC boils down to just two things.

1.  Create applications to launch and stop dropbox.
2.  Schedule a daily task to START Dropbox.app at 12AM and to STOP Dropbox.app at 5AM.

 

Create applications to launch and stop dropbox

On the Mac there is an awesome program called Automator that lets mere mortals create easy programs that can do various things.  I highly recommend looking into this capability.  It is really handy.  For this problem, we will use automator to both Launch and kill the dropbox app at the times we want.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 09.50.52

1.1. First lets open Automator,  which is in the system’s Application folder.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 09.52.33

1.2. Then click “New Document” to begin a new Automator document.

Select "Application"

1.3. Select “Application” to create a new application. (This first one will be setup to open the dropbox app)

 

Select Utilities on the left. Drag the "Start Application" task into the workflow pane on the right so it looks like this.

1.4. Select Utilities on the left.
1.5. Drag the “Start  Launch Application” task into the workflow pane on the right so it looks like this.

Save the new application into the system's Applications folder. I named it "Start Dropbox"

1.6. Save the new application into the system’s Applications folder.
I named it “Start Dropbox”

 

Perform a similar process to create another Automator app to "Quit Application." Make sure to assign the dropbox.app in the dropdown box, and also uncheck the save confirmation.

1.7. Perform a similar process to create another Automator app to “Quit Application.” Make sure to assign the dropbox.app in the dropdown box, and also uncheck the “ask to save changes” confirmation.

You should now have two automator apps that are in your applications folder.

1.8. You should now have two automator apps that are in your applications folder.

Next we will schedule these applications (a.k.a. workflows, scripts, etc.) to run automatically in iCal

 

Create a new Event in iCal on the first day you want this application to run. Setup to start at 00:00 i.e. midnight. Under alerts, setup a custom alert to open a file. Choose the Start dropbox app we made. Alert timing should be "At time of event" to make sure this fires off at the time we want.

2.1 Create a new Event in iCal on the first day you want this application to run.
2.2 Setup to start at 00:00 i.e. midnight.
2.3 Under alerts, setup a custom alert to open a file. Choose the Start dropbox app we made.
2.4 Alert timing should be “At time of event” to make sure this fires off at the time we want.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.29.36

2.5 Set this event to repeat every day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.40.45

2.6 Repeat 2.1 through 2.5 to setup an event to “Quit Dropbox” at 5am (or whatever time you want)

You should end up with two new daily events on your calendar.

You should end up with two new daily events on your calendar.

 

One more tip. I put both of these events on a new "Automator" calendar, so I can uncheck it so it doesn't clutter up my iCal.

One more tip. I put both of these events on a new “Automator” calendar, so I can uncheck it so it doesn’t clutter up my iCal.

23 thoughts on “Setup Dropbox to sync on a schedule – Mac version

  1. Hilary

    Thank you so much! What other tips or apps would you recommend doing or launching and quitting during that free period?

    Reply
    1. jsquaredz Post author

      The possibilities are endless. Maybe file backup, download movies from iTunes, stream a security webcam at a remote site, who knows. Any data intense application that isn’t critical if you time shift its operation into the freezone period.

      Reply
      1. Geoffrey Lantz

        HI & Thank you so much. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, with one caveat, I can’t seem to located “Start Application,” which obviously concerns me as to what I might find out as I move forward with your wonderful outline.

        Suggestion, or am I just missing the Trees for the Forest.

        Thank you again … This could certainly be godsend.

        glantz

        Reply
        1. Marilyn

          I had a hard time with that as well! It’s actually “Launch application” if you zoom in on his picture 😉

          Reply
          1. jsquaredz Post author

            Fixed this. Actually, should have said “Launch Application” in the instructions.

      2. Marilyn

        This is an awesome tutorial. I have the same problem as someone else- live in the country, limited bandwidth, lots of files to upload/download/sync. I was constantly having to purchase more bandwidth. Thank you so much for taking the time, especially for us Mac users!

        Reply
  2. Pingback: Setup Dropbox to sync on a schedule | JSquaredZ.com

  3. Internet Enthusiast

    Wonderful and creative solution. This solved my problem that I wanted to schedule Box Sync during off hours.

    Reply
  4. Alex

    Boom! So happy to have found this – thank you VERY much. Solves so many issues for me 🙂

    Reply
  5. pelicanism

    Good stuff. I added a couple more apps in to activate and deactivate – Google Music Manager, Google Drive.
    Looking through all the other options in Automator it gives me a few other ideas. Thanks for this solution that put me onto it.

    Cheers.

    Reply
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  7. James Harrison

    Followed your instructions but after several attempts couldn’t get this to work. For some reason when I create an event in my Calendar and then select Repeat, the Alert is not carried through to future events. A bug perhaps? Or am I missing something?

    Great idea – and thanks for your clear instructions…

    Reply
    1. Anna

      This is pretty brilliant! Thank you for sharing this, and for writing it out in simple steps.

      Reply
    2. jsquaredz Post author

      Sorry for the long delay responding to you. I hope you got this sorted out.

      I think there may be an issue where you can’t set this up on a cloud based calendar (i.e. one that syncs). Try creating a new calendar called Automator or whatever and make sure it is “On My Mac” and not on the iCloud. I filed this as a bug report with Apple. Not sure if this should work with the cloud based version or if the File based alert should not appear in the UI when using a cloud based calendar. They need to fix it either way.

      Reply
      1. MrDif

        jsquaredz thank you for sharing this. I work off a hotspot a lot and moving large photoshop files around in synced dropbox folders was sucking out all my bandwidth.

        @James Harrison thanks for the tip on the calendar syncing to the cloud. That would have stung me also.

        Reply
  8. Pvs

    Thank you for the tip, but every time I create a new calendar it’s moved automatically to iCloud and file based alerts are disabled 🙁

    Reply
  9. Cassandra Ramshaw

    This is terrific information. I’ve followed your instructions & it seems to launch / start the Dropbox application ok, although it does bring up a message “The action “Launch Applicaiton encountered an error.” It launches Dropbox & syncs successfully. However, the Quit Dropbox calendar instructions does not seem to work…Dropbox doesn’t quit. The Application (icon on the top bar) does not close. Any ideas?

    Reply

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