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Syncing IntelliJ Android .apk Files Using Dropbox

During a typical day of Android development we compile Android applications (.apk files) dozens of times, deploying to emulators and devices simply by pressing the Run button in IntelliJ. This is great for our in-office developers, but it’s more difficult for our remote-pairing developers to install those same .apks on their own emulators and phones. As a remote developer, I wanted seamless, instant access to all .apks we build during development. Using Dropbox and some IntelliJ configuration changes I now have all .apks we build available for me to install on my local emulators and phones just seconds after we build them on our development machines, 2500 miles away.


Many developers already know about Dropbox, the fast, super-secure file sharing service. I installed Dropbox on all of our machines and created Dropbox directories for each machine our team uses. They happened to be named after streets in San Francisco, Boulder, and Atlanta.

Dropbox dir


Next, on each machine, create an apk symlink to the appropriate Dropbox directory within IntellJ’s ide_bulid directory.

~/workspace/PivotalAndroid$ ln -s ~/Dropbox/PivotalAndroid/grafton_apks ide_build/production/PivotalAndroid/apk

Next, tell IntelliJ to output .apks to that directory. We have to be careful here, especially if you check your .iml file and .idea directory into source control. You can select Project Structure => Facets => (Your Android Module) => Compiler => APK Path:, but this will follow the symlink you created and change your project’s .iml file to include the machine-specific Dropbox directory, and thus a merge conflict on each machine.

Instead, you can manually edit the appropriate value in your .iml:

<!-- old value: -->
<option name="APK_PATH" value="" />

<!-- new value, where '/apk/' is the symlink to Dropbox: -->
<option name="APK_PATH" value="/ide_build/production/PivotalAndroid/apk/PivoalAndroid.apk" />

Note: IntelliJ will sometimes reset APK_PATH back to either the default or to the Dropbox dir. Watch for this and fix the path again when needed. We run into this once per week or so.

Result: Updates Galore!

Now I have .apk files streaming in from three different development machines; as a bonus, each development machine is synced with each other, so we all have access to all .apks. Whenever I want to install the latest .apk from another pair (or my own) onto my local test phone I simply pass the machine name into a script:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
system "adb -d install -r ~/Dropbox/PivotalAndroid/#{ARGV[0]}-apks/PivotalAndroid.apk"

Thus, scripts/apk cedar installs the latest .apk file created on our machine named “cedar”.

  • Martin Larsen

    I do something similar. I have also symlinked the appropriate bin folder from Eclipse, containing the apk file, to my Dropbox folder.

    Then on my phone I have also installed Dropbox and created a shortcut to the same folder on my homescreen.

    Thus, by a couple of clicks I can instantly install and run my app on my phone even without it being connected by USB!

    Of course the same applies to other developers or testers as well, they just need to have Dropbox installed on their phones.

  • Joe Moore

    Excellent idea! We’ll install DropBox on the phones, too. Thanks for the tip!

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