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dropbox symbolic link

Dropbox is probably the most popular cross-platform service for file sharing, synchronizing and backup. It's biggest drawback is the fact that you cannot synchronize files outside your "Dropbox" folder. Out of the box, that is, because this is actually easily achievable.

One can sync folders outside the Dropbox directory by using a symbolic link to that folder. This way, all the files in a folder to which a symbolic link points out will be synchronized as if that folder was in your Dropbox folder.

Symbolic links are sort of like shortcuts, so if you had a folder called Sync on your desktop, you'd create a symbolic link that made it appear as though Sync is also available inside the Dropbox folder.

To find out how to create such symbolic links on Windows, Linux and MacOSX, read on!

Creating symbolic links on Windows

There are various applications for creating symbolic links on Windows, but I for one prefer Link Shell Extension (comes with a GUI) which is really easy to use.

If you want to do it command line (by going to Start > Run, type: cmd.exe and then running the command) you can either use the MKLINK command built in to Windows Vista and Server 2008 which you can use like so:
mklink /D "C:\Users\<your_username>\Documents\Dropbox\DesiredFolder" "C:\Path\To\DesiredFolder"
or by using a little application called Junction (you will find instructions for using it on it's webpage).

Creating symbolic links in Linux and MacOSX

This is really easy actually, all you have to do is either open a terminal and type:
ln -s /path/to/desired-folder ~/Dropbox/desired-folder 
"desired-folder" can actually be either a file or a folder.

Or, in Linux, if you use Nautilus, you can do it without the need of a terminal by simply right clicking a file / folder and selecting "Make Link", then moving the newly created link to your Dropbox folder.

What could you use this for?

Actually, after posting this about sharing your Firefox profile between multiple operating systems on the same computer I tried it on different computers by using a symbolic link in Dropbox on my Ubuntu PC and created a new profile on my work PC which uses Windows (instructions are available in this post - you just need to create a symbolic link to the Firefox profile) and it actually works if you give it a few minutes after you close Firefox / start your computer so that the Dropbox sync can take place.

Known issues:

Changes made to a junction point-linked file/folder on Windows may not update the Dropbox mirrored copies until you close and restart Dropbox. Recommend keeping the real files in the Dropbox folder and linking into other locations rather than the other way around.