Synchronize Documents with iCloud Drive

Starting with Notebooks 11 (iPhone and iPad) and Notebooks 2.4 (Mac), users have the option to select iCloud Drive as a storage location for Notebooks’ documents. By choosing iCloud, documents automatically synchronize between all devices connected to the same account.

There are a few things to be aware of, as detailed in the following sections.

  • We use the term iCloud as synonym for iCloud Drive; both refer to the same thing.
  • When using iCloud Drive as storage location, Notebooks still stores its documents locally on the device. They reside in a container which automatically synchronizes with your iCloud account. This ensures that you can continue to work on your documents even when the device is not connected to the internet; as soon as the device gets back online, iOS or macOS starts to synchronize any changes. – This means that the iCloud Drive is “just another folder” somewhere on your iPad, iPhone or Mac.
  • On your iPhone or iPad, iOS seems to stop syncing when the device is using an unstable or weak network connection. So the stronger the internet connection, the quicker the sync will finish.
  • Notebooks for iPhone and iPad is greedy in the sense that it downloads all its documents from iCloud to make sure they are available offline. This is in contrast to the, for example, which downloads documents on demand only.
  • When using Notebooks for iPhone or iPad with iCloud Drive, other sync options like Dropbox or WebDAV are not available. – However, if you keep a separate set of documents in Notebooks’ local storage location, you can sync those with Dropbox or WebDAV.
Select storage location in Notebooks

Select iCloud as Storage Location (macOS)

Selecting iCloud as storage location in Notebooks for Mac is straight forward:

  1. When launching Notebooks for the first time and deciding where to store your documents, select iCloudNotebooks then uses the folder iCloud Drive/Notebooks as location.
  2. You can always change Notebooks’ location (Notebooks Home) from Settings > General and select a folder on iCloud Drive.

Select iCloud as Storage Location for Notebooks (iOS)

The procedure slightly depends on whether you have been using earlier versions of Notebooks and want to move your existing documents to iCloud, or if you launch Notebooks for the first time.

In general, you turn on iCloud sync on an iPad or iPhone by opening NotebooksSettings > Locations and selecting iCloud.

Launch Notebooks without Preexisting Documents

When you first launch a fresh installation of Notebooks, with no existing documents, Notebooks asks you to select a storage location. You can either keep the documents in Notebooks‘ local storage, or allow Notebooks to store your documents on iCloud (in the folder iCloud Drive/Notebooks). When you select iCloud, you also choose that your documents automatically synchronize to devices connected to the same iCloud account.

Selecting iCloud disables all other sync options like Dropbox or WebDAV.
If you keep your documents locally, you can use Dropbox or a WebDAV server to synchronize your documents.

Launch Notebooks with Existing Documents

When upgrading from Notebooks 10 or earlier, you have the option to move your documents from Notebooks’ local storage to iCloud Drive (the default folder is  iCloud Drive/Notebooks). Moving the documents to iCloud takes just a few moments, after which you can continue to use Notebooks as usual.
After moving the documents, iOS starts to upload them to iCloud, from where they propagate to your other devices. The upload can take a while, depending on the the number and size of your documents and the quality of the internet connection. Notebooks continuously informs you about how many documents still need to be synced.

Please note: If you use Notebooks 11 on multiple devices, move your documents to iCloud from one device only, otherwise you may create unnecessary conflicts and duplicates. – On your other devices, go to Notebooks’ Settings > Locations, select iCloud, and Notebooks will download the documents automatically. You might want to wait until the first device has finished the upload, though.

Move Documents at a Later Stage

If you are not quite ready for iCloud when prompted by Notebooks, you can decide to move your documents anytime later from Notebooks’ Settings > Locations. Here you can switch between documents on iCloud and Notebooks’ local storage, and you can also move your local documents to iCloud or move the iCloud documents to the local storage.

The option to move documents between the local storage and iCloud is available only if the target folder is empty.

Resolve Sync Conflicts (iOS, macOS)

When working on the same set of documents from different devices, it is just a matter of time until minor conflicts arise. However, Notebooks tries to make it as easy as possible for you to resolve them.

  1. Notebooks indicates the current sync state of each individual document.
    • No icon means that the document is in sync.
    • Dedicated up- or download icons indicate unsynchronized documents.
    • A special conflict icon marks conflicting copies.
  2. When Notebooks detects conflicting documents, it adds a smart book iCloud Conflicts at its top level. This book lists all documents with conflicts, which is a convenient way of getting notified of conflicts and resolving them right away.
  3. To resolve a conflict, open the document and follow the suggestions presented in the alert dialog. You can choose which versions to keep, but you can also continue using the document in read only mode and resolve the conflict later.

If you open a conflicting document in another application which is aware of conflicting copies (TextEditBBEdit and many others), you will see a similar dialog asking you to resolve the conflict. However, applications which are not aware of conflicts will simply overwrite the conflicting copies with their own version.

Sync Status Icon (iOS)

On iPhones and iPads, Notebooks 11 displays a colored status icon at the top of the list of books and documents to indicate the current state.

iCloud status icon

The status icon has four modes:

RediCloud is not available, the user is not logged in.
OrangeiCloud is enabled, the user logged in, but iCloud is not reachable or sync has stalled. The device may not be connected to the internet, or mobile data are disabled for iCloud Drive.
YellowSync is currently in progress. Notebooks displays the number of documents that need to be synced. When no number appears, there is just a single document to sync.
GreenDocuments in sync

The state orange needs to be taken with a grain of salt. If the number of documents being synced does not change for about 10 seconds, Notebooks assumes that sync has stalled or iCloud is not reachable, so it switches the status to orange. You find more details below.

Sync Status (macOS)

Notebooks for Mac does not display a status icon, but when synchronizing more than a few files, it displays the number in the header of the document list (the second column). This provides a fair indication of the overall sync progress.

When iCloud Sync Seems Stuck…

When syncing thousands of documents, the sync progress sometimes may slow down, stall or get stuck. This is a general known issue with iCloud and not specific to Notebooks. Sometimes the situation resolves after a few moments, but if it does not change for more than a couple of minutes, you can try this:

  • Trigger sync with a “pull to sync” gesture from the list of documents (iOS).
  • Turn on Airplane mode, leave it for a few seconds and then turn it off again. (On a Mac, disconnect from your network and then reconnect). This seems to trigger iOS/macOS to pick up iCloud sync again.
  • On a Mac, a process called bird is responsible for synchronizing documents with iCloud. Terminating the process can unblock sync. Here are two ways to terminate and restart bird:
    • Open the Terminal app (Applications > Utilities), enter killall bird and type <return>. You may even enter that command twice, and after that you should see how iCloud finishes any pending sync.
    • Alternatively, open Activity Monitor from Applications/Utilities, look for the process bird and quit it.
  • In the worst case you can try to restart the device.

If this still does not Help

If sync still remains stuck on your iPhone or iPad and Notebooks displays a constant number of items to be synced, we might be dealing with duplicate documents created by accidentally uploading the same set of documents to iCloud from different devices. Another reason could be repeatedly moving a set of documents to the trash and restoring it before iCloud sync has completed (on iOS or macOS). These duplicates usually have a number appended, like “Text.txt” and “Text 2.txt”, and it is these duplicates that keep iCloud from completing sync.

So when you seem stuck with a number of items still waiting to sync and Notebooks‘ status icon is orange, you might look for these duplicates. As Notebooks on the affected device does not display these duplicates, it is better to check iCloud Drive from macOS Finder, for example. As you remove those duplicates in Finder you may notice how the number of items to sync changes in Notebooks.

Finding and removing duplicates on a Mac is simple in principle, but it involves some user interaction:

  • Open a Finder window on your Mac and select iCloud Drive / Notebooks or just Notebooks from the sidebar. The Finder window displays the contents of Notebooks‘ top level. (If you use a custom location on iCloud, please select that rather than iCloud Drive/Notebooks).
  • Alternatively, open Notebooks for Mac
  • The number appended at the end of a duplicate’s title is a hint we can use. So searching for 1. or 2. (please note the leading space) in the titles of documents should bring up a list of potential duplicates, but the user then needs to decide which of them are duplicates and which are not.
    In a Finder window, use macOS Spotlight for search, in Notebooks/Mac, use the built in global search.

Switch Between Storage Locations (iOS)

Starting with Notebooks 11, users have the option to manage two separate sets of documents. One set stored in Notebooks’ local storage and maybe synchronized through Dropbox or WebDAV, another stored on iCloud Drive. Switching between these sets is quick and easy, from Notebooks’ Settings > Locations.

This provides a convenient way of separating business documents from private files, or confidential from public records.

Select Custom Storage Locations (iOS, In App Purchase)

If you want even more freedom, Notebooks offers yet another option and allows you to select any folder on the device or on iCloud as storage location for your documents. You can create new folders, select existing ones, and even point Notebooks to the document folders in other apps – which allows you to use Notebooks as editor for documents stored by other applications.

  • Notebooks remembers the previously selected locations and lists them in chronological order.
  • You can rename those locations, because sometimes the automatically selected name may not be accurate or exact enough.
  • To delete a location from the list, just swipe left across its entry in the list. This just removes the entry from the list, it does not touch the location or any contained documents.
Select Notebooks' storage location: local or iCloud Drive