Sync attachements of Sente via Dropbox

Sente  from thirdstreetsoftware is one of the best reference managers in the town. It has some unique features putting it in superior position to most of its competators. The quote-comment-annotate feature of Sente has no real alternative in any of other reference managers and  PDF readers. Most PDF reader softwares can annotate  PDF documents, but they do not create as such comfortable environment for the individual/academician to read the content and write down his/her own ideas as Sente does. Not only for reading the PDFs, Sente is also a brilliant reference manager. I have been using Mendeley for many years,  since its beta stage. Adding metadata to a PDF article has never been as simple as in Sente. Mendeley offers you to extract metadata only from Google Scholar while Sente offers unlimited choices for the user, google scholar, medpub, worldcat (personal favorite), even you can create your own customized Sente to search any obscure search  engines (database). There also many other elegant features in Sente such as: hierarchical tags (QuickTags), Status markers, Smart Search (filters), synchronization to ipad and other mac computers, etc that put the application as a perfect companion for the serious academician.

With all elegance and beautify, there are, however,  a few trivial issues bogging down the useability of the application; these could also be big turn offs for some people to try it in the first place. I have been using the app for the last few months. I totally love it. And for some of the problems, I have come up with my own solutions, and I am here to share my ways to you.
One of the problems of Sente is putting a 20MB limit for file synchronization. If your PDF is larger than 20MB, it will not be synchronized. One possible work around this issue is to keep your pdf files outside of the Sente bundle, inside dropbox, and let Sente sync only the references.   For many reasons, this approach found to be problematic. It is likely that the link between the PDF and the reference or the annotations will be broken.  is not the  Hence, many experienced Sente users and the developers themselves recommend users to store the PDF files inside its own bundle.

The problem of storing the PDF files is the file limit. The files with larger than 20MB will not be available from distance.  That is not a good idea, as many of our files will not be available, specially for those people who like to scan books, this is a bad news as most of the PDFs scanned from books are huge files.

I have solved this problem in two different ways:

1. Reduce the files sizes using Acrobat. If you have acrobat (not adobe), you can reduce the file sizes. Open the files that you want to reduce the size. Then, go to Files, Save As, then Reduced Size PDF. You can then follow the prompts to finish the process. Acrobat also gives you the option to batch process (multiple files at the same time) the files. That is great. Just drop all the files that are larger than 20MB and acrobat does its job. In my experience, it cuts down the files size by 7X smaller, specially if you configure it to make the PDF compatible with  7.0 and later.

2. Syn the Attachment folder in Sente into Dropbox.  Sente doesn´t allow you to put the bundle inside the dropbox folder. They said dropbox causes file corruption. That could be true as the bundle is a package of highly delicate XML files that could be easily corrupted during dropbox synchronization. But, synchronizing just the attachments is not a problem by itself as far as I can understand. So, I am using Symbolic link to synchronize only the attachments inside the Sente bundle. Here is how you can  do it.

Open the Terminal and write the following text it:

ln -s /Users/username/path to Sente library/SenteLibrary.sente6lib/Contents/Attachments SPACE
/Users/username/path to dropbox/Dropbox/

Make sure you replaced the username by the appropriate username, and the paths by the appropriate paths.

To make it   clearer, assume that my name is John and I store my Sente Library inside Sente folder of my documents folder.

John/documents/Sente is where I stored my Sente library
John/dropbox is where I want to link  the attachements of Sente

So the above command looks like like  the following for me:

ln -s /Users/John/Documents/Sente/SenteLibrary.sente6lib/Contents/Attachments    /Users/John/Dropbox/

This command will link my attachments (PDF files) existing in  the Sente library into my dropbox folder as Attachments. Then, every time I add new files into my Sente library, the PDF files will be available in my dropbox folder, synchronized to all my computers.

This creates a good working environment if you want to work from distance, or you want to access your file from everywhere, as the use of dropbox we all know. This also exonerates you from the 20MB file limit Sente puts on you.

I hope this helps sb.


23 thoughts on “Sync attachements of Sente via Dropbox

    • yes, I am aware of the new progresses in Sente. T
      Even if Sync 2 is still a problem for me; i m not getting my pdf files in my ipad. I still rely on Dropbox & iAnnotate.
      hanks for the comment!

      • if you rely on Dropbox & iAnnotate, then how do you reconcile the quote-comment-annotate notes in Sente with those you made in iAnnotate? As the latter surely show up in pdfs, they do not become ‘Sente’ notes and thus cannot be exported using Dana’s script.

        A side note: you can significantly reduce the size of scanned books, in much better quality, with the newly available FineReader Pro on Mac

        • Yes, the annotations from iAnnotate couldn’t be part of the Sente annotation system. For now, I am reading the PDF files either in Sente or in iAnnotate (acrobat compatible). For long books and complex documents, Sente (the desktop)is not a good reader as the bookmarks are not visible. I have to go with the iAnnotate (acrobat) combo. For simple and short paper, I just do them in Sente. But, generally, I personally like to the standard annotation system that iAnnotate and Acrobat have more than the proprietary annotations of Sente even if the “comment” field is so neat and useful in Sente.

          thanks for suggesting FineReader. I will check it out. is it better than Acrobat?

          • it seems I was wrong: the highlights made by iAnnotate didn’t show up in Sente’s attachment pane (though perfectly fine in Preview!). This means, I suspect, that Sente doesn’t check for any changes of PDFs after the initial sync, and thus won’t push the iAnnotated PDF back to its server. Nothing highlighted on Sente iPad either.

            I like the standard annotation system as well, but as much as I’d love to make this iAnnotate-Dropbox flow work, it’s basically dealing with two copies of a PDF file: I cannot see Sente notes in any other apps, which is natural, but neither can I see embedded acrobat notes in Sente. This is really frustrating.

            As for FineReader (Pro not Express): Yes, it’s way better than Acrobat in terms of accuracy, CJK and multi-lingual support, new compressing technology, etc.

            • Yes, even after annotating the files and modifying the reference information, Sente doesn’t update the file on the server. It updates only the annotation information; they are kept in separate.

              One strategy is to stick with the iAnnotate (acrobat) once you start reading a specific file in iAnnotate. Once I start to read a file in iAnnotate, I assign a tag xAcrobat to it in Sente library; I never open it inside Sente anymore. I finish it up in iAnnotate (iPad) and Acrobat(mac). (I actually use a windows application called PDF-Xchange viewer) via Crossover; because Xchange can export annotations made in iAnnotate since they adhere to the standard format).

              A major trouble I am having recently with the iAnnotate is that it cannot download files if the folder contains more than 800 of them. that means, I can to search them inside my iPad.

              • I alternate between PDF Expert 5 and iAnnotate: keep all PDFs synced in the former. When using the latter, I delete the file once it gets pushed back to Dropbox.

                You are probably right for not annotating on Mac. My experience is that all apps that use standard annotation system, Preview, PDFPen, DTP to name a few, are all buggy because they cannot handle CJK texts well. This is Apple’s fault. Acrobat is the only exception, but highlighted notes all get a comment window on the top which is aesthetically unacceptable.

                The primary reason I switched from Papers2 (3 is utterly worse!) to Sente6 recently is its quote-comment-annotate feature with embedded citation using Dana’s script, which I cannot do either in Papers2 or iAnnotate. Can PDF-Xchange do it?

                • If you have Devonthink and you like Dana’s script, you could try to get the annotations via Skim. Open the annotated file in Skim, convert the annotations to Skim annotations, and then export the annotations into Devonthink using Rob Trew’s script (which Dana based his script on), located here. I haven’t used it in a while, but I believe it should still work.

                  • Thanks, Joe. I did try and probably will use Skim to covert all my iPad-annoted notes and get them exported to DTP after all. Indeed, Skim is the one that gets closest to Sente, if not the other way around. The problem, however, is that the quote-comment-annotate feature only works if you do annotations inside the app. The conversion won’t produce any of it, i.e., quotations along with comments in one note. What it does instead is to convert highlighted notes with my comments, which could be done in either Expert or iAnnotate, into my comments ONLY: the quotation part is totally gone! (according to the developer, it’s because acrobat doesn’t support it…)

                    The other annoying problem is that even Skim can display the page numbers correctly, they are not correct in the individual exported notes in DTP using Trew’s script.

                    • Yeah, that’s what I like about Sente. It gives you the opportunity to fix the page numbers when they are incorrect. I must say the recent update of Sente is a bit disappointing in that regard: I used to be able to specify the page numbers in Sente and then the page numbers would (usually) work OK, but now I have to manually fix all the page numbers when I highlight on the iOS app. At least I have the option to fix them manually, but now it is a lot more work.

                      I’m not sure what the problem is with the Skim script. I always fix the page numbers in Acrobat, and Skim shows the corrected page numbers in the annotations pane. But when I export the annotations, it just reverts back to 1, 2, etc. The script must be reading something in the metadata in the PDF (Sente and every PDF reader I ever used seems to have the same problem: manually fixing the the page numbers in Acrobat doesn’t have an effect with the page numbering in the pdf reader). At least the link works correctly: so it isn’t that hard to find the page number, but it does make citations difficult.

              • Sorry for making another post, but the issue here is utterly odd: when I said that ‘highlights made by iAnnotate didn’t show up in Sente’s attachment pane (though perfectly fine in Preview!)’, I thought all acrobat standard notes could not be shown. But I was wrong: all notes made by PDF Expert 5 are visible. Could you tell me if you notes by iAnnotate ever show up in Sente?

                • Yes, they are visible in the desktop version of Sente. But, they are not visible in the iPad version of Sente. So far as I understand it, the problem is with the Sente Server; it doesn’t update the file itself (if you write on it or ORC it, you will not see the changes); it updates only the annotations made in Sente.

                  All annotations made in the standard format show up in Sente (though they are not editable) in the desktop version

                • Make sure you don’t make mistake in your symbolic link. I specially recommend you to create the symbliclink using MacDropAny (

                  Keep your attachment within the Sente bundle (with renaming format if you want to); and sybolic-link the Attachment folder of the bundle to dropbox using Macropany. Then, annotate from the Attachment folder in Dropbox. I hope your annotation will show up.

                  • Thanks for the advice, Dellu. I set up the symlink in the same way, but don’t think the problem has anything to do with it. I annotated the same page of a PDF file, one using Expert, the other iAnnotate. When both synced back to my Mac via Dropbox, both notes are visible in Preview, Acrobat, and Skim. But Expert notes show up in Sente, whilst iAnnotate ones do not.

  1. Thank you for this article. I’m thinking of doing this too. You speculate above that syncing of the attachments folder should not be a problem, and I agree with your logic. However, I was wondering if you noticed anything odd in Sente since you started syncing this way several months ago. My guess is no, but just wanted to ask.

    • Hi Phil
      I am using this method for months now; i have never had a problem at all. I even make my “attachements” both in Dropbox and Google Drive; works perfectly.

  2. Hi,
    I like your blog. This is a bit late, but I thought I would add some information in case people find this interesting. At first, I was wondering why you resorted to this practice instead of just directing Sente to store attachments in a different location (Sente does not require you to keep the attachments in a bundle). At first, that is what I did, because it is relatively easy. The drawback was that it broke a script I was using to export quotes from attachments in Sente. And even when I put the attachments back in the library, I had to use Script Editor rather than the Script Menu to run the script. I imagine you are able to run the script with this method? (it’s Dana’s script that I’ve seen you refer to previously).

    • Hi Joe. Yes, I am running Dana’s script; and works perfectly. As you said, yes, Sente doesn’t force you to store the references in its bundle. But, it forces you to put your bundle outside of Dropbox. I want all my references to be available in dropbox so that I can access them from everywhere, with every devise. You see, the weakness of the Sente server is that you can not access it with other tools (via web browser, or in windows machine).That is the main reason I prefer the symbolic link.

  3. Well, maybe I’ve not read carefully, but the free version of Sente limits to 100 entries each libray. I have 9000 in mine into mendeley, then sente is not an alternative to mendeley.

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