Most likely you take advantage of one cloud or another to keep your data stored in the global ether. That’s all fine and good for most uses. However, you may have found some pieces of the data puzzle you don’t want stored on the likes of Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc. When you come across such data, what do you do?

Turn to your desktop…that’s what you do.

How? Let me have the pleasure of introducing you to a little app called Syncthing. Syncthing works on just about every platform and allows you to sync a folders on a mobile device (or multiple devices) to a desktop (or laptop). It’s incredibly easy to use and does a remarkable job of keeping specific data in sync between your mobile device and desktop.

I want to walk you through the process of installing Syncthing. I will be demonstrating on an Elementary OS Freya desktop and a Verizon-branded Nexus 6. The instructions for other platforms will be quite similar (the variances being primarily in the installation of the apps).

Desktop app install

First I’ll outline the installation of the desktop app. To install the desktop app on Elementary OS (the same steps apply to most Ubuntu derivatives), follow these steps:

  1. Open up a terminal window
  2. Install curl (if necessary) with the command sudo apt-get install curl
  3. Add the necessary PGP key with the command sudo curl -s | sudo apt-key add –
  4. Add the Synthing repository with the command sudo echo “deb syncthing release” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/syncthing.list
  5. Update apt with the command sudo apt-get update
  6. Install Syncthing with the command sudo apt-get install syncthing
  7. Allow the installation to complete

Start up the Synthing server with the command syncthing. This will open up your default browser and present the Syncthing main desktop interface (Figure A).

Figure A

The Syncthing main window.

Before you do anything on the desktop, let’s install Syncthing on the mobile device.

Mobile app install

Before you install the app, know that (for it to sync with your desktop) you must be connected to the same network as your desktop.

Here’s how you install the app on an Android device:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Search for Syncthing
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Felix Ableitner
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing carefully
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

You should now see a launcher for Syncthing on your home screen or your App Drawer. Tap the launcher to open the Syncthing app.

Setting up the syncing

The first thing you must do is add the desktop to the mobile device. Each device has an associated ID that is 56 characters long. Don’t worry, the developers have made it so easy to add a device that you don’t even need to type that ID. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to the desktop interface (your web browser pointed to
  2. Click Actions | Show ID
  3. Open Syncthing on your mobile device
  4. Tap the Devices tab
  5. Tap the + button
  6. In the Add Device window (Figure B), tap the Q code button in the Device ID line
  7. When prompted, line up the Q Code in the scanner
  8. Once the scanner populates the Device ID field, give the Device a name
  9. Tap to enable Introducer
  10. Tap the Save button in the top right corner
  11. When prompted, tap RESTART NOW

Figure B

Adding the desktop to the mobile device.

Go back to the desktop web browser. You should see a new entry listed asking you to click Allow, Ignore, or Later (Figure C) . Click Allow and the device will be added.

Figure C

You’ve officially added the mobile device to the desktop.

Setting up shares

The final step is to set up the shared folders. Out of the box, the desktop will list an unshared folder called Default. Let’s ignore that and add a folder from the mobile device, that will then be sync’d with the desktop. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. On the mobile app, tap the Folders tab
  2. Tap the + button
  3. Give the shared folder a name (Folder ID)
  4. Enter the directory to be shared
  5. Tap to enable the desktop the folder is to be shared with (Figure D)
  6. Tap the Save button in the top right corner
  7. When prompted, tap Restart to restart the app

Figure D

Adding a folder to be shared with the Elementary OS desktop.

Back on the desktop interface, you should see a prompt to accept the incoming share. Click Allow and the share will be added. Your shared folder will immediately begin syncing. You have officially created a desktop cloud for your mobile device. Any time you add a file to that folder (on either end) it will automatically sync.

Syncthing is one of the best apps for turning a desktop into a local cloud. It’s easy to use, reliable, and (best of all) free!

How do you get your files to sync between mobile and desktop?