Using Dropbox to access your notes from many computers

Using Dropbox with WhizFolders is the perfect solution to access your notes from many computers. I have edited this article again to make it shorter.

Here is a short introduction to Dropbox that will help you use it with any file application like WhizFolders.

  1. Install Dropbox on all computers where you want to use a note file.
  2. Keep all your note files to be shared within Dropbox in a folder that you can identify later for locating that file. For example, normally you keep your WhizFolder files in “Documents” folder of Windows. But instead, now you keep them in a subfolder of Dropbox folder, for example, in “C:\Dropbox\My notes”.
  3. Now use your program normally with the above files in the Dropbox folder. For example, open a note file in WhizFolders and change it.
  4. As soon as you close this file, Dropbox will place copies of this file on all those PCs in the same subfolder of Dropbox. It uses Internet to do that so those PCs must be connected to Internet. Now, if you open the same note file on another PC, you will see the latest changes in it.
  5. What is more, all these files are also present in the Dropbox folder on the Cloud (server) and you can see them if you login to Dropbox from a Browser.
  6. This gives you great convenience! Suppose you have a Desktop PC at home, a laptop while travelling and a Desktop PC at your office. If you install Dropbox and WhizFolders on all of them, you are good to go. You can have all your WhizFolder notes available on all the PCs in their latest state, provided you follow certain discipline as described in the Key Points below.

Read another article at the end:

Also, don’t forget to read the nice article at the end, “Using Dropbox ( with WhizFolders,” contributed by Mary Bernard, a long time user of WhizFolders.

Key points on Dropbox overview and usage with WhizFolders:

  1. Dropbox operates through Internet. It watches the Dropbox folder on all your PCs that are connected to Internet and logged into the same Dropbox account.
  2. As soon as you change a note file on any PC (change means edit and close the file), it gets the file from that PC and transfers it to all your PCs.
  3. Since for typical note files, this may hardly take a few seconds, it means your notes are backed up and instantly available across all the connected PCs as well as on Internet folder of Dropbox itself.
  4. But to get this convenience, you need to follow a discipline as described in the following points:
    A. Do not keep the same note file open on many PCs. If you do that, the file is locked and Dropbox does not consider it a change till you close the file and it can read it.

    B.  If you don’t follow the above rule, conflicts may arise when uploading files. For example, you opened a file on PC1. Then you opened the same file on PC2 and added a note and closed it. Dropbox uploaded the file from PC2 to its own Internet folder. But then when copying to PC1, it found that PC1 has this file already open and Dropbox could not replace it. This is called a conflict. Now if you change the file on PC1 and close it, it’s already out of sync with the one uploaded from PC2 and on dropbox. In this case, Dropbox uploads the PC1 file with “conflicted copy” in its file name. This is just an example. Actual process may be more complicated and may follow a different sequence but you got the idea. So you need to look in your Dropbox folder from time to time to see if Conflicted copies exist. If they do, this means you didn’t follow the rule last time. But all is not lost. You have all your changes in both the original and conflicted files. But you will need to open them in WhizFolders and do some manual work to compare and sync the notes yourself. In this case, you can take help of WhizFolders’ “View–Topics by Modified date” feature to find the notes that changed recently in a file. But this may be tedious depending on the number of changes made on each PC. In any case, it’s better to avoid this situation and follow the rule I described above. If you do, it works smoothly.

    C. Always close WhizFolders before you shut down the PC or put it to sleep. Why? Because if you changed certain files, they will be uploaded by Dropbox to the cloud as soon as they are closed as the part of shut down. But if the file is large, Dropbox may not get the time to fully upload it before the shutdown. Dropbox does not seem to hold the shutdown just for uploads because they may take too much time. To avoid this problem, if you make it a practice to close WhizFolders explicitly before a shutdown then Dropbox gets enough time to finish the upload. In fact, you can wait for it to complete before doing a shutdown. Otherwise, if Dropbox is not able to complete an upload and then you go and edit the file on another PC, the conflicted copies will be created as described above.

What about accessing your notes from other types of computers or tablets? Currently, WhizFolders only runs on Windows so it’s not possible to access WhizFolder notes from other types of computers. But we are working on a web application that will allow that. However, you can export your WhizFolder notes to Text or RTF files and then copy them to dropbox. Then you can connect to Dropbox from mobile devices or a Mac and at least view those files by any text or RTF viewer. If you make a change to them, you will need to manually copy the changes on the original PC. But still, it’s possible.

Interestingly, I came to know of Dropbox from an advanced user of WhizFolders, Mary Bernard. She contributed an excellent article that I’m including below. All along, Mary has been giving many nice ideas to improve WhizFolders. I’m sure this article will be useful to many users. Comments or questions are welcome but you need to send them to me by email.

Using Dropbox ( with WhizFolders
by Mary Bernard

Dropbox is a file syncing web application. The first 2 Gb of storage are free, above that there’s quite a reasonable monthly fee. So far I haven’t needed even 1 GB.

You can install the Dropbox wherever you want. I suspect it offers to install in My Documents, but I no longer remember. (I never use My Documents if I can help it.) The program has an option to change the path for its user folder, which is called ‘My Dropbox.’

You can use the Dropbox program for sharing files with others (they also have to install Dropbox on their computers), or to sync files on a home network. To do this, you have to install Dropbox on each computer on the network that you want to sync files with.

Anything you put in ‘My Dropbox,’ or one of its subfolders, propagates to the ether, very fast. If I put a file in ‘My Dropbox’ on my desktop computer, and walk across the room to my open laptop, the file has arrived in the laptop’s ‘My dropbox’ folder by the time I get there.

You can drop files into the main ”My Dropbox’ folder or into user-created subfolders (which will also sync across the network.

You can sync manually or automatically.

Manual Syncing

You drag files or folders from anywhere on your hard drives into ‘My Dropbox’ (copying or moving, as you wish). You then, in another computer on the network, go to Dropbox, select the files, and drag them wherever you want them on that computer.

One example: When I download a program or an update to one of my computers,  I drag a copy into ‘My Dropbox,’ then run it my other computers the next time I open them, and save a copy to the folder where I keep the downloaded files after installing them. When I’ve installed the program in all 3 computers, I delete it from the dropbox.

Automatic Syncing

You can store your data files in ‘My Dropbox’ or user-created subfolders. I have one called “WhizFolders,” and I have told the program to store all my WhizFolder files there. It’s a wonderful luxury. I add things to various WhizFolders just about every day. Now I don’t have to remember to copy the changed files to my laptops.

I’ve begun to use subfolders of ‘My Dropbox’ as the location for the data files for my most-used programs. For instance, I use Macro Express. The file that stores the macros, ‘macex.mex,’ is now in the Dropbox. I’ve only begun this process, because it takes time: changing the path for data storage in each program–and figuring out how to do it. I haven’t yet tried to make programs like Word and Outlook use the dropbox for customization files such as spell checkers, templates etc.

Nor, as yet, can I use  ‘My Dropbox\WhizFolders’ as the default folder for my customized WhizFolders spell checker and the .wzfgrp files that hold my Document Group settings. (note from WhizFolders support: we’re looking into improving this).


  1. It’s very easy to drag files into the Dropbox from the same drive, thus moving them when you only want to copy them.
  2. ‘My Dropbox’ has 2 folders pre-installed: Photos and Public. Unlike the main folder, or user-created subfolders, they and their contents are visible on the web by default.
  3. The usefulness of the Photos folder is vitiated by the fact that, if you want someone to see your photos, they have to install Dropbox. This is a serious limitation, since  computer-savvy people are usually leery of installing extra programs just to look at pictures, and non-computer-savvy people get flustered at the very idea of installing programs.

After reading this article, a thought popped up in mind as a developer–to use this properly, you need discipline too to take care not to edit the same file on two computers at the same time.

Here is a question I asked Mary: “Does this mean you keep  your WhizFolder data files in DropBox all the time and you update directly from in there? Or do you copy it out, edit it and then put it back? The reason is that WhizFolders has the file open Exclusively while you are editing it. All this while, DropBox can’t really get its data. So if you happen to edit a file on one computer while you have its copy open on another computer will put these files out of sync because both will have new data. In other words, this would need a little discipline. Same would happen with MS Word because it opens the file exclusively. Is there a way around this problem?”

Mary answered:
“Yes, the WhizFolder data files are now in the WZ subfolder of My Dropbox, permanently. (The backup folder is different in each computer.)”

“I don’t ‘update directly from in there’, if by that you mean ‘copy the files to another folder on the computer in order to open/use them’. I open them directly from the dropbox, and they are saved/updated directly to it.”

“It had occurred to me that if I wandered from computer to computer, opening the same Whizfolder file and saving it, I could be in trouble –but so far I’ve managed to have enough wit to avoid that. You’re right that it needs a little discipline–but less than it does to remember to copy my recently used WhizFolder data files to 2 other computers.”

Also see:

The tips on “Cloud” drives at the end of the article What are WhizFolder files.

Backup features in WhizFolders

Before you read this article: You should know that WhizFolders saves a copy of a note whenever you save changes or delete that note. You can see these copies in the Changed Notes program that is accessible from the menu Edit–Recover Information from Changed Notes Archive. This database is deleted when it’s over 100 MB in size but you can change that setting to let it grow till you delete it. So whenever you lose any note accidentally due to changes or deletion, you can look for old copies in the above database.

Backup features in WhizFolders

On any computer system, a data loss or corruption can occur due to any reason–hardware or software problems, viruses, etc. You must make a backup copy of all your files belonging to all applications like WhizFolders.

A simple copy is enough: You can use standard backup software or you can do simple copy by using Windows File Manager. Just copy all your WhizFolder files from time to time to a safe location. That’s enough if you need a basic backup copy.

Then you can always copy WhizFolder files back in case of a disaster. No special software is needed.

WhizFolders backup feature is an extension of the simple copy operation

In WhizFolders, a Backup is simply a copy of the file with a different name. To reuse such a copy in case of a file corruption, you just need to copy it back to your original location and rename it to remove backup and date prefixes. That’s it. There is no need to do some kind of import or restore operation from the backup folder in order to use the copy. In fact, you can go to the backup folder and directly open a file to look at it. But that file won’t be added to the List of Files since it’s from the backup folder.

Setting up the backup folder: You can set it up on the Main Window menu “Tools–Backup Options.” WhizFolders will ask you to set it up anyway when you go to do your first backup.

Backup options

In the above picture of Backup Options, the folder “G:\Mybackups” is set as the back up folder.

There is a second option “Number of document copy names to reuse every day.” I will explain it in a minute. For now I select the value 3 for it.

First you need to understand how the backup takes place. OK. So I select the above backup folder and click on Apply. Now WhizFolders remembers G:\Mybackups as the backup folder.

Backing up a file: Once I set up the Backup folder, all I need to do is, use the Save and Backup operation on the File–Save Other menu. As soon as I do that, WhizFolders saves and copies that file to the backup folder. Actually WhizFolders copies it by the same file name but appends the date and a number to that name.

For example, here is a message WhizFolders shows after performing the backup: “File copied successfully to G:\Mybackups\Backup My notes 20 Dec 07, 2.wzfolder” Notice how it made up that name. The name starts with “Backup” followed by the document name “My notes” and then the date “20 Dec 07” and finally 2 to show that it is the second backup copy of that document on that date.

Now you will understand the meaning of that second option “Number of document copy names to reuse every day” in the above picture. If I make its value 0 then on each backup a fresh copy will be created. Since I selected 3 for the value, it will create copies by the following names:

  1. Backup My notes 20 Dec 07, 1.wzfolder
  2. Backup My notes 20 Dec 07, 2.wzfolder
  3. Backup My notes 20 Dec 07, 3.wzfolder

If I do another backup operation on that day, the oldest file copy “Backup My notes 20 Dec 07, 1.wzfolder” will be overwritten because WhizFolders will reuse that copy name. So I will always have last 3 backed up copies of a file on that day.

If you want automatic backup operation whenever a file is closed, you can set that up on the Settings–List File–Backup page.

There is another option there that also allows you to save an RTF copy of the file at the same time. Use it only for small documents as it will make the operation slow.

What if I want to see the contents of the backup folder to explore some old copies? You can do that by going to that folder in Windows File Manager. For example, in this case, I can open G:\Mybackups in Windows File Manager to see its contents. For this purpose, WhizFolders also gives a quick “Open Backup Folder in Explorer” menu on the Tools menu of List of Files tab.

Important Note: Note that I can directly open a backup copy of the file in WhizFolders but it won’t appear in the List of Files because WhizFolders treats the backup folder as not a “regular use” folder.

Don’t do this: For the reason given above, please do not set up one of your regular document folders as a Backup folder. It makes no sense. If you do this then any files opened from that folder will not appear in the List of Files.

Had a disk crash? Lost WhizFolders? Want to reinstall on a laptop?

Login to the self-support web site to get the download again and reinstall the program. Depending on your purchase date, you may need to buy an upgrade to continue getting this facility to get the latest version.

This takes care of installing WhizFolders. What about your documents?

You should have kept a backup copy of all your .wzfolder files by using simple copy from Windows Explorer. WhizFolders also includes a simple backup feature that allows you to copy a document to a safe location from time to time. Whatever method you choose, you alone are responsible for keeping a safe copy of your files not only for WhizFolders but for other applications too.

When you reinstall WhizFolders on a new machine, put your files in a documents folder of your choice. Then, just double-click on a file name to open it in WhizFolders and it is automatically added to the list of files. Do that for all your files. Or, add them all at once by the right-click menu operation “Add File to List.” You are all set to go. Don’t forget to continue keeping a copy of the files in case it happens again. We can help you reinstall the program but we can’t help you get back your files.

Using Dropbox is a great idea. Please search Dropbox in this blog to get other useful articles on how to use Dropbox for WhizFolder files.

Sending a WhizFolder document to someone who does not have WhizFolders

I want to send a WhizFolder file to my friend. How can she view my notes without WhizFolders?

Ask her to use the freeware WhizFolder Viewer available from the downloads section to view the notes. If you want her to be able to add to or update the notes, give her an exported RTF file that she can view and edit in Word or Wordpad. Ask her to mark her modifications so that you can find and import her text by copy paste into your original WhizFolder file.

Keeping notes on two computers

Question: Can I keep all of my notes on two computers? How is that accomplished?

The WhizFolder files (.wzfolder) are like any other documents that you can copy to any computer and use them there. You need to install WhizFolders on both the computers.

But if you are talking about Synchronizing your notes, that is not built in. You can either put the files on a portable USB drive to use on other computers. Or, use special software like Dropbox as described in another article on this blog. Just search for Dropbox.

Remember, USB writes are not reliable and the documents can get corrupted. Hence, it is better to keep regular backup copies of your notes. Take help of the Backup feature in WhizFolders or copy by using Windows File Manager.

The WhizFolder files (.wzfolder) are like any other files and can be copied easily. Each .wzfolder file keeps many of your notes inside it. There are no other file types involved.

Also see: What are WhizFolder files?

What are the limits of the application–the number of topics, file size, number of parents, number of children, note size, etc?

Theoretically, WhizFolders has the following constraints or limits. But you should also look at the practical tips given.

  1. The file size of a document should stay under 2 GB.
  2. A topic can be as large as a GB but it is not practical as it slows down the browsing (clicking on a topic to see it). Each person has a different perception of what is slow. You will find your own limit. When browsing the list becomes irritating, it is time to break the topic into several. In fact, the whole design of WhizFolders encourages breaking of information into pieces for easier management and reviewing. You can always join many (or all) pieces to make a large document to paste in a word processor.
  3. WhizFolders uses a very smart virtual listing technology to list the topics. The whole tree list is loaded without loading the text of names themselves. The names are obtained from the file and displayed dynamically as you scroll the list. Hence, the number of topics do not matter much. There is no limit as such on the number of parents, children, etc.
  4. The virtual scheme doesn’t put too much strain on memory too. The only objects in memory are the topic name pointers as above and the topic contents for only those topics which are being viewed or edited.
  5. There is no limit on number of topics but if the list is too large, it might slow down certain operations like adding a new topic where it has to resolve a unique internal name for it. You have to find your own limit depending on how the speed of operations affects you. We have even seen cases having more than 5000 topics in one file.

My document is showing up with a “Read Only” label on the top right. I can’t modify it. How to remove this Read Only state?

This happens when you have this .wzfolder file marked as read-only in the file system. Note the file location at the top. Open Windows File Manager and go to that folder. Select the .wzfolder file and right-click to see the properties. Uncheck the Read Only attribute and you are all set to be able to edit it again in WhizFolders.

If the above properties shows that Read Only is already off then the reason might be that this file is already opened by another application or another user on the network. For example, if someone is viewing it with WhizFolder Viewer, WhizFolders will automatically open it Read Only.

Sharing the documents for use at work and at home

Question: I use Whizfolders and love it. My problem is that I can have it either at home or at work. My home computer is a desktop and the work computer is a laptop. At the moment my Whizfolders is on my home computer and I have an evaluation copy on my laptop. It is invaluable and as a teacher, I do most of the work at home but need to access all the ideas and plans at work. Is there a way to do this or do I have to purchase another copy? If I do this, how can I share the folders between both computers or copy them across?

As for your first question, no, you don’t need to purchase a second copy. You can use your license on the laptop too as long as you are the only user using it on both machines. Just download a paid version installer from the special web site and use it on the laptop to install.

Your second question: You can copy your .wzfolder document files to the laptop to use them at work. But, you will have to remember to update a file from one computer to another when you make changes. There is no automated syncing available for that unless you use a software like Dropbox. See Using Dropbox to access your notes from many computers

If you do not understand where the document files are and how to copy them, please understand the concept What are WhizFolder files.

Sharing the documents over LAN or through USB, Flash drives: You may also decide to keep the documents always on the laptop and use them over the LAN from your desktop. If you do that, remember that LAN writes are not very reliable in Windows and there might be a data loss at times if the data is not flushed out properly. Same thing is true when you use flash or USB drives. In both these cases, you must take regular backups of your documents.

Use the new Backup feature: In any case, it would be a good idea to use the backup feature in the new WhizFolders to keep a regular backup copy of your documents, both at work and at home. It allows you to even keep multiple copies of a document, separate for each day.

How to set the default location for new WhizFolder files?

Question: How do I set the default location for my WhizFolder notebook files to a specified location (like c:\notes\)? At present, they are placed in “My Documents” unless I make special effort to move them.

There is nothing like a default location but a starting location. The first time location is controlled by the desktop icon from which you start WhizFolders. If you see the properties of that icon, its location is set up as Documents in Start In box. But you can always change it to another location.

More important, WhizFolders conveniently changes current location to the last file opened or created.

As soon as you open a file from another location, WhizFolders remembers that as the working location for the next File New or Open operations. This is quite convenient once you know how it works. So if you are planning on using a particular location for all your files, change the desktop shortcut, and move all your existing files there so that the working location remains same through out.

Moving your existing files: This needs some explanation so I am answering it in another article, Moving your existing documents.

Also see: What are WhizFolder files.

Moving your existing files

Before we discuss this, do you know that your WhizFolder files are separate files like any other application files on your disk? If you understand this concept, please read this article. Otherwise, first read the concept in What are WhizFolder files.

When you create a new file, WhizFolders always asks you for a file name. It selects the location Documents by default but there is no reason why you can’t change it. If you have not been paying attention, perhaps, all your files are ending up in Documents.

You might want to move over all your files to a new location, for example, a Dropbox folder. Here are some tips on moving them.

Tips for moving your files:

Simple case: I am assuming a simple case where you have determined that all your files are in Documents and you want to move them.

  1. Make sure that WhizFolders is not running or does not have any files open.
  2. Open Documents in Windows File Manager
  3. Make sure that you are seeing the files list in details mode (View–Details menu)
  4. Click on the column heading “Type” so that all WhizFolder files appear together in the list.
  5. Select them all using standard Windows keys.
  6. Right-click and Copy to clipboard. (don’t use Cut unless you are an advanced user already)
  7. Go to the desired target folder in File Manager where you want to put the files.
  8. Right-click in the folder contents (right-pane) and do a paste.
  9. A Windows Copy operation starts. If there are any errors (for example, if the file is open in WhizFolders or there is not enough disk space), correct the situation and try a paste again.
  10. Once you are sure that all the files are copied properly, you can now update the List of Files in WhizFolders. Here are the steps.
    1. Start WhizFolders and click on the List of Files tab.
    2. Select all the file names that are pointing to the old location.
    3. Right-click and do “Remove from List.” This merely removes the old location file name entries from the list.
    4. Right-click and do “Add an existing file.” A file open dialog comes up. Go to your new folder where you copied all your files above. Select all those file names in the file open dialog and then click open.
    5. Your list is now updated to point to the new location for all those files. Open a few files from the list to see that the new documents are opening correctly.
  11. Once you have updated and verified the List of Files as described above, you can now take a safe backup copy of your old files in the old location and then delete them.

Not so simple case:? What if your files are scattered over several file system folders and you want to move them all to one place?

For this, Windows Search Files operation can be useful. Chances are, if you have created files in many locations, you are already an advanced user of File Manager and you can do the moves yourself.