Take Your Digital Filing System With You, and Keep it Secure, With SecretSync

SecretSync encrypted Dropbox sync

Last year I wrote about SecretSync, an app that lets you securely sync files via Dropbox. SecretSync encrypts any file that you drop into your SecretSync folder, and then sends it on to your other computers via Dropbox. If those computers are running SecretSync (and you’ve set up the proper security key), the file will then be decrypted on those machines as well. I covered all that in my previous article, though, so why mention it again? After taking SecretSync for a spin last year, I stopped using it. I’ve just found a great new use, though, that makes SecretSync an integral part of my paperless document management system.

You may recall that my document management system lets me put a document into my scanner, push the scan button, and then sit back and let my Mac do the rest of the work. The document will be automatically renamed and filed into the proper folder on my machine, with no effort on my part. This can be done with Evernote, too.

That system is great, but only works if you’re sitting at your computer. Wouldn’t it be nice to make that system portable? That’s where SecretSync comes in. I wanted to be able to scan documents while away from home, and have them sync via Dropbox back to my home computer, where they’d be automatically processed. I didn’t like the idea of sending sensitive documents through Dropbox, though, which doesn’t  have a stellar track record with security.

I now have SecretSync set up on all of my computers, including my iMac at home. I can now scan a document on any of those computers, and it gets sent into my SecretSync folder on each machine. On my iMac, Hazel moves any files in the SecretSync folder over to my “Action” folder, where they are automatically renamed and filed.

That’s all there is to it. This, of course, presupposes that you have a scanner when you’re away from home. My most common use for this system is when I’m paying bills over lunch at the office, where I do have a scanner. My next step will probably be to research iOS and Android scanning apps, to see if any of them offer optical character recognition. OCR is essential to this workflow, and truly would make this a “go anywhere” system.

When I last wrote about SecretSync, it was a Windows-only app. Since then, it has come to OS X and Linux.

Can you use your filing system while away from home? If so, share your setup in the comments.

Evan Kline

Hello, I'm Evan. I write about tech from my perspective – that of the average 40-something tech geek. You can also find me on Twitter and at my real-life job as a lawyer.    MORE ABOUT ME.


  1. Had a look on their website and they say it doesn’t just work with Dropbox. From their FAQ page:

    ‘… you can use SecretSync with any synchronization product that uses a local folder on your computer. We have users who use SugarSync rather than Dropbox. Since both tools behave in basically the same way, i.e. picking up changes in a regular folder on your computer, SecretSync is compatible with either’.

    That’s an interesting encryption alternative. I’m currently using Cloudfogger for this.

    • Awesome info- both about using other sync apps, and about Cloudfogger. I always worry when I rely too heavily on a lesser known tool like SecretSync, because you never know how long it will be around. Another one I’ve heard about but never tried is Boxcryptor. Nice to know there are alternatives.

  2. I’ve just started using http://Crashplan.com, which seems pretty awesome. Notwithstanding the current bug in the iPad app, it is also accessible while on the road. Of course it’s not as comprehensive as your system with scanning on the road.

    But couldn’t you just use Evernote’s online app rather than get too fancy?

    • I’m using Crashplan, too Karl. One of my earlier posts mentions how Crashplan (a paid version) is the tool I use to be able to easily access my documents from the cloud (such as from the iPad while on the go), using my system. Now that you mention it, the computer-to-computer version would be an option for computer to computer transfers. It could probably be made to work the same way with Hazel, too, although I’d have to think that through.

      Regarding Evernote, my initial post on this system mentioned how I used to use Evernote as my document management system, but never felt too comfortable with having sensitive data in the cloud. The only spot my data is in the cloud right now is in Crashplan, and it is encrypted there.

      • I guess I should be reading more carefully! :-) Love your blog. I’m working with a similar workflow, or at least am developing it. Evernote, Hazel, etc. Thanks for the insights.

      • Thanks for the nice words. If you look a few posts back, there’s a link to using Hazel with Evernote.

  3. Evan,

    This is a great article and particularly timely for me! I was just talking to my IT guys about their concerns with me using Dropbox to work on files from home. It sounds like this will answer their concerns and still let me do my job. Thanks man.

    • Good timing, Josh! From the comments above, it sounds like there are some other ways to address this, too (Cloudfogger and CrashPlan to name two).

      • Oh, and maybe you can talk the IT guys into a corporate Box.com account. We recently got an enterprise plan at our office, and it’s pretty easy to get stuff into it. It is encrypted, too, so I think it meets ABA standards.

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