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How to sync annotations?
Hi there,

I have an Android tablet but a Mac computer, so I can't use the PC companion app. I have my library syncing to Google Drive as a backup. When I sync, I have every checkbox checked. (So it should sync annotations, find updates on both sides, sync with the most recent version, etc.)

What I would like to do is to be able to update annotations on either my computer or my tablet, and have them show up on the other device. But it doesn't seem to work. Here's what I've done:

  1. Annotate a song in MobileSheets. (Just added some text.)
  2. Sync library. All checkboxes checked.
  3. Find the relevant PDF file in Google Drive. Observe that the annotation does not show. 
  4. Edit the PDF on my computer, again just adding some text. 
  5. Upload that file to Google Drive, replacing the one that MobileSheets had added. 
  6. Sync library again. All checkboxes still checked. 
  7. View the song in MobileSheets. Observe that it has the original annotation added in MS, but not the one shown in the PDF I just uploaded to Google Drive. 

I would like this to work in both directions. Am I going about it wrong? What am I missing? 


Generally, you are not supposed to change the files in the sync folder on Google Drive, as MobileSheets is supposed to manage that. The feature is intended for multiple devices to be able to synchronize their changes back and forth, but not necessarily for you to modify the sync folder to push updated files to the device. Having said that, you can enable that if you want, it's just a little slower because then MobileSheets has to scan every file in the Google Drive folder to know whether it has changed. You will see there is a checkbox on the "Sync to cloud folder" screen called "Check for updated files in cloud folders". That has to be checked if you are going to modify the files yourself.

As a side note, MobileSheets will be available on Mac fairly soon, or if you have a newer Mac with an M1 or M2 processor, you can run the iOS version on a Mac which would give you an easier way of adding annotations and such.

Thanks. I did have that "check for updated files" option enabled, but it still didn't work. 

I don't have an M1 or M2 processor, so the iOS version isn't an option. But I'm glad to hear there's a Mac version coming soon! 

Just to verify - did you set the sync type to "Update device" when synchronizing to the folder? If you are wanting to pull down changes, I believe you would need to do that. I can look into this though.

Sync type was set to "two-way sync," which seems like it should cover it (especially since I also wanted to go the other way). All checkboxes are checked (sync annotations, check for updated files, etc.) Merge behavior is to use the version that was modified last. I think it's all the default settings, actually, but it looked like what I wanted. 

(12-18-2022, 02:46 AM)Tandava Wrote: Sync type was set to "two-way sync," which seems like it should cover it (especially since I also wanted to go the other way). All checkboxes are checked (sync annotations, check for updated files, etc.) Merge behavior is to use the version that was modified last. I think it's all the default settings, actually, but it looked like what I wanted. 


Hello! I'm having this same issue. I can't sync my annotations on my tablet back into the Dropbox Folder despite thinking I am doing it right. 

1) Make annotation 
2) Press 'sync library' 
3) Press 'synchronize to a cloud folder'
4) Choose either '2 way sync' or 'update folder' (currently neither work so I have tried both) 
5) Check all boxes (have tried unchecking 'search for new files') 
6) Press Start 

Things look like they happen but when I am checking the folder in Dropbox there are no annotations saved. 
Can anyone help!?
I don't use the synchronization to a cloud folder, but if Mobile Sheets uses the files in the same way as the synchronization to a device, then the original pdf files are not changed. So if you view the pdf files in the cloud folder with a normal pdf reader then you will not see your annotations. Only when you open (import) this folder again with Mobile sheets then the annotations should be visible.

Edit: I just saw that Mike has already answered similar above. If you have seen that then you can ignore my answer. :-)
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You would need to embed the annotations in the annotations editor if you want them saved in the PDF itself. It does make them more tedious to manage in MobileSheets then. How are you currently verifying if your annotations are saved? Are you just opening the PDFs as McAroni described? If so, that won't work unless you embed the annotations.

The same here (v3.8.16). I tried to synch two-way with all options activated, and none of my hand written annotions is synchronized back to the PDFs in Google Drive. 

Embedding annotations also doesn't help so much, because the annotations become ineditable. And you can't reimport them into MS as editable objects.
And there's no function like "export all PDFs with changed annotations within the last 3 months". Or at least, find or list all documents with annotations (or recently added annotations).
It seems that all annotations are hold in the sqlite-database only, in an undocumented format. So exporting/embedding them ist like printing single files, not like PDF-embedding (and I don't want to export hundreds of PDF files with then embedded annotations file by file).

This is a big difference to a real PDF editor like i.e. the software from Sony or Onyx. Both of them embed all hand written annotations directly and instantly into the PDF, which makes them feel like electronic paper. MS does not feel like that and is more like an image viewer with an additional database. For me MS doesn't seem to be the right app for people who use annotations (i.e. hand written) heavily.
I disagree. The annotations are designed for viewing it in MSP in connection with the database and it works very well.
It's designed that MSP doesn't change the underlying PDF (unless you want it to and to embed them) and I like and prefer that very much.

If you sync or export your files with the means MSP provides you can very well see and use the annotations on another device with MSP (and the synced data). Without MSP of course only if you embed the annotations purposely into the PDF:

But MSP isn't intended to be a PDF Editor and change your files locally or online just by annotations (though Mike probably is working out some requests in this respect already. The new page arranger is an indication already).
If you stay inside the "MS world", everything will work fine, yes. But if you leave it, things become complicated, from my point of view.
The question is where to store additional information like annotations: in a seaprate database or included in the documents (like tags and cover pics in mp3-files).
I would prefer the latter and can't see the advantage of leaving the PDFs untouched.
So I would appreciate very much if Mike could add such PDF-editor functions.
You have to explicitly embed the annotations in the annotations editor, and you can enable the "Allow editing of embedded PDF annotations" option in the annotations editor if you want to be able to manage those annotations. There are downsides to this:

1) Not all editing features are available in the annotations editor for embedded annotations because the PDF specification doesn't support everything that MobileSheets does
2) The PDF has to be reloaded in an editable state every time you enter the annotation editor (there are complexities with the PDF library that require this).
3) This can potentially cause problems with the page ordering feature in MobileSheets because now if you repeat the same page multiple times, the same annotations are present on every duplicated instance of that page. Some users may want this, some may not (it depends on the particular annotations).
4) Embedded annotations can't support things like highlights being drawn behind the page content because the PDF specification doesn't allow for that.

I used to support an option to automatically embed all annotations in the underlying PDF in the annotations editor. This resulted in far too many problems, and users would enable the setting without realizing the implications and cause all sorts of headaches for themselves. So I'm not going to bring that option back as it created far too many support requests that I had to deal with. You can manually embed them if you need that for your workflow, or as mentioned previously, you can export the song from MobileSheets, which will produce a PDF with the annotations embedded if you need to work with them outside MobileSheets.

I think you may also be forgetting that I support annotations for file formats other than PDFs (images, text/chord pro, and in the near future, Microsoft Word documents). So annotations have to be stored in MobileSheets for those file types.

I'm with BRX in not having MS update the pdfs. In particular, this means the files can't be corrupted if something goes wrong (something that is likely to happen with all the cross platform code, multitude of device models and the 3rd party libraries being used)

Embedding in the pdf is possible but MS isn't/wasn't designed as a pdf editor; Mike is just trying to add features that users have requested (and doing a brilliant job). There is always a trade-off in doing this - it takes almost no time to update an extremely small pdf but could lead to unacceptable delays for a several hundred page file.
Keeping the annotations separately eliminates these variations in performance.

A purpose built pdf editor is always going to do a better job at handling annotations. To my mind, MS should just do the basic operations (I suppose it all depends what each user classes as basic).
Adding extra pdf features means that Mike will have less time for customer support and designing/creating new features like song versioning.

Samsung Galaxy Tab A6
"Embedding annotations also doesn't help so much, because the annotations become ineditable"
Wrong. Annotations embedded by MobileSheets into a PDF can be edited with a common PDF editor. I checked that with PDF XChange Editor V 2.5, others should also work.

"find or list all documents with annotations (or recently added annotations)"
Has been discussed already here: https://zubersoft.com/mobilesheets/forum...p?tid=3415
You can find a working SQL query there. But yes, a filter in MobileSheets would be convenient.

"MS ... is more like an image viewer with an additional database"
First of all MS is a feature rich database, thoroughly adapted to the spedific needs of musicians of many (all?) genres.
Furthermore it does a great job as a viewer and editor for PDF, ChordPro, TXT and many kinds graphics files

"can't see the advantage of leaving the PDFs untouched"
- you have the choice to share your PDFs with or without annotations with fellow musicians
- you can have different layers of annotations in a song and switch them on and off as desired
- you can use the same PDF for several versions of a song with different annotations, e.g. to be used for different bands
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