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synchronize personal information management data

Manual section:1
Version: 1.0
Date: Apr 28, 2010


List databases:
syncevolution --print-databases [<properties>] [<config> <source>]
Show information about configuration(s):
syncevolution --print-servers|--print-configs|--print-peers
Show information about a specific configuration:
syncevolution --print-config [--quiet] [--] <config> [main|<source> ...]
List sessions:
syncevolution --print-sessions [--quiet] [--] <config>
Show information about SyncEvolution:
syncevolution --help|-h|--version
Run a synchronization as configured:
syncevolution <config> [<source> ...]
Run a synchronization with properties changed just for this run:
syncevolution --run <options for run> [--] <config> [<source> ...]
Restore data from the automatic backups:
syncevolution --restore <session directory> --before|--after [--dry-run] [--] <config> <source> ...
Create, update or remove a configuration:

syncevolution --configure <options> [--] <config> [<source> ...]

syncevolution --remove|--migrate <options> [--] <config>

List items:
syncevolution --print-items [--] [<config> [<source>]]
Export item(s):
syncevolution [--delimiter <string>] --export <dir>|<file>|- [--] [<config> [<source> [<luid> ...]]]
--luids <luid> ...
Add item(s):
syncevolution [--delimiter <string>|none] --import <dir>|<file>|- [--] [<config> [<source>]]
--luids <luid> ...
Update item(s):

syncevolution --update <dir> [--] <config> <source>

syncevolution [--delimiter <string>|none] --update <file>|- [--] <config> <source> <luid> ...
--luids <luid> ...
Remove item(s):
syncevolution --delete-items [--] <config> <source> (<luid> ... | '*')


This text explains the usage of the SyncEvolution command line.

SyncEvolution synchronizes personal information management (PIM) data such as contacts, appointments, tasks and memos using the Synthesis sync engine, which provides support for the SyncML synchronization protocol.

SyncEvolution synchronizes with SyncML servers over HTTP and with SyncML capable phones locally over Bluetooth (new in 1.0). Plugins provide access to the data which is to be synchronized. Binaries are available for Linux desktops (synchronizing data in GNOME Evolution, with KDE supported indirectly already and Akonadi support in development), for MeeGo (formerly Moblin) and for Maemo 5/Nokia N900. The source code can be compiled for Unix-like systems and provides a framework to build custom SyncML clients or servers.


A peer is the entity that data is synchronized with. This can be another device (like a phone), a server (like Google) or even the host itself (useful for synchronizing two different databases).
The device or computer that SyncEvolution runs on.
Each peer has one or more databases that get synchronized (Google Calendar, Google Contacts). Conceptually a database is a set of items where each item is independent of the others.
data source
A name for something that provides access to data. Primarily used for the configuration which combines backend and database settings, sometimes also instead of these two terms.
Synchronization always happens between a pair of databases and thus has two sides. One database or side of a sync is remote (the one of the peer) or local (SyncEvolution). For the sake of consistency (and lack of better terms), these terms are used even if the peer is another instance of SyncEvolution and/or all data resides on the same storage.
sync config

A sync configuration defines how to access a peer: the protocol which is to be used, how to find the peer, credentials, etc. Peers might support more than one protocol, in which case multiple sync configs have to be created.

Sync configs can be used to initiate a sync (like contacting a SyncML server) or to handle an incoming sync request (when acting as SyncML server which is contacted by the peer).

source config

Each data source corresponds to a local database. A source config defines how to access that database, like a sync config does for peers. This information about a local database is independent of the peers that the database might be synchronized with.

Sync configs use these shared source configs and add additional, per-peer settings to each of them that define how that local database maps to a remote database in the peer. By default a source config is inactive inside a sync config and thus ignored. It must be activated by setting the unshared sync property to something other than none (aka disabled).

In SyncEvolution's predefined configuration templates, the following names for sources are used. Different names can be chosen for sources that are defined manually.

  • addressbook: a list of contacts
  • calendar: calendar events
  • memo: plain text notes
  • todo: task list
  • calendar+todo: a virtual source combining one local "calendar" and one "todo" source (required for synchronizing with some phones)
Access to databases is provided by SyncEvolution backends. It does not matter where that data is stored. Some backends provide access to data outside of the host itself (CalDAV and CardDAV, ActiveSync).
configuration property

Sync and source configs contain configuration properties. Each property is a name/value pair. Sync properties are used in sync configs, source properties in source configs. The names were chosen so that they are unique, i.e., no sync property has the same name as a source property.

A property can be unshared (has separate values for each peer, therefore sometimes also called per-peer; for example the uri property which defines the remote database), shared (same value for all peers; for example the database property for selecting the local database) or global (exactly one value).

Sync and source configs are defined inside a configuration context. Typically each context represents a certain set of sources. The values of shared properties are only shared inside their context. That way it is possible to define a second work context with a work calendar source using one database and use the implicit default context for a private calendar source with a different database.
context config
The shared and global properties of a certain context.
configuration template

Templates define the settings for specific peers. Some templates are packaged together with SyncEvolution, others may be added by packagers or users. Settings from templates are copied once into the sync config when creating it. There is no permanent link back to the template, so updating a template has no effect on configs created from it earlier.

A template only contains unshared properties. Therefore it is possible to first set shared properties (for example, choosing which databases to synchronize in the default context), then add sync configs for different peers to that context without reseting the existing settings.

local sync

Traditionally, a sync config specifies SyncML as the synchronization protocol. The peer must support SyncML for this to work. When the peer acts as SyncML server, conflict resolution happens on the peer, outside of the control of SyncEvolution.

In a so called local sync, SyncEvolution connects two of its own backends and runs all of the synchronization logic itself on the host.

target config
In addition to the normal sync config, a local sync also uses a target config. This target config is a special kind of sync config. It defines sync properties that are necessary to access databases on the other side of the local sync. Sync configs can have arbitrary names while a target config must be named target-config.


The <config> and the <source> strings in the command line synopsis are used to find the sync resp. source configs. Depending on which other parameters are given, different operations are executed.

A config name has the format [<peer>][@<context>]. When the context is not specified explicitly, SyncEvolution first searches for an existing configuration with the given name. If not found, it uses the @default context as fallback. Thus the empty config name is an alias for @default.

The <peer> part identifies a specific sync or target config inside the context. It is optional and does not have to be specified when not needed, for example when configuring the shared settings of sources (--configure @default addressbook) or accessing items inside a source (--print-items @work calendar).

Listing sources on the command line limits the operation to those sources (called active sources below). If not given, all sources defined for the config are active. Some operations require the name of exactly one source.

Properties are set with key/value assignments and/or the --sync/source-property keywords. Those keywords are only needed for the hypothetical situation that a sync and source property share the same name (not normally the case). Without them, SyncEvolution automatically identifies which kind of property is meant based on the name.

A <property> assignment has the following format:


The optional <context> or <peer>@<context> suffix limits the scope of the value to that particular configuration. This is useful when running a local sync, which involves a sync and a target configuration. For example, the log level can be specified separately for both sides:

--run loglevel@default=1 loglevel@google-calendar=4 google-calendar@default

A string without a second @ sign inside is always interpreted as a context name, so in contrast to the <config> string, foo cannot be used to reference the foo@default configuration. Use the full name including the context for that.

When no config or context is specified explicitly, a value is changed in all active configs, typically the one given with <config>. The priority of multiple values for the same config is more specific definition wins, so <peer>@<context> overrides @<context>, which overrides no suffix given. Specifying some suffix which does not apply to the current operation does not trigger an error, so beware of typos.

Source properties can be specified with a <source>/ prefix. This allows limiting the value to the selected source. For example:

--configure "addressbook/database=My Addressbook" \
            "calendar/database=My Calendar" \
            @default addressbook calendar

Another way to achieve the same effect is to run the --configure operation twice, once for addressbook and once for calendar:

--configure "database=My Addressbook" @default addressbook
--configure "calendar/database=My Calendar" @default calendar

If the same property is set both with and without a <source>/ prefix, then the more specific value with that prefix is used for that source, regardless of the order on the command line. The following command enables all sources except for the addressbook:

--configure --source-property addressbook/sync=none \
            --source-property sync=two-way \
            <sync config>


syncevolution --print-databases [<properties>] [<config> <source>]

If no additional arguments are given, then SyncEvolution will list all available backends and the databases that can be accessed through each backend. This works without existing configurations. However, some backends, like for example the CalDAV backend, need additional information (like credentials or URL of a remote server). This additional information can be provided on the command line with property assignments (username=...) or in an existing configuration.

When listing all databases of all active sources, the output starts with a heading that lists the values for the backend property which select the backend, followed by the databases. Each database has a name and a unique ID (in brackets). Typically both can be used as value of the 'database' property. One database might be marked as default. It will be used when database is not set explicitly.

When selecting an existing source configuration or specifying the backend property on the command line, only the databases for that backend are listed and the initial line shows how that backend was selected (<config>/<source> resp. backend value).

Some backends do not support listing of databases. For example, the file backend synchronizes directories with one file per item and always needs an explicit database property because it cannot guess which directory it is meant to use.

syncevolution <config>

Without the optional list of sources, all sources which are enabled in their configuration file are synchronized.

syncevolution <config> <source> ...

Otherwise only the ones mentioned on the command line are active. It is possible to configure sources without activating their synchronization: if the synchronization mode of a source is set to disabled, the source will be ignored. Explicitly listing such a source will synchronize it in two-way mode once.

Progress and error messages are written into a log file that is preserved for each synchronization run. Details about that is found in the Automatic Backups and Logging section below. All errors and warnings are printed directly to the console in addition to writing them into the log file. Before quitting SyncEvolution will print a summary of how the local data was modified. This is done with the synccompare utility script described in the Exchanging Data section.

When the logdir property is enabled (since v0.9 done by default for new configurations), then the same comparison is also done before the synchronization starts.

In case of a severe error the synchronization run is aborted prematurely and SyncEvolution will return a non-zero value. Recovery from failed synchronization is done by forcing a full synchronization during the next run, i.e. by sending all items and letting the SyncML server compare against the ones it already knows. This is avoided whenever possible because matching items during a slow synchronization can lead to duplicate entries.

After a successful synchronization the server's configuration file is updated so that the next run can be done incrementally. If the configuration file has to be recreated e.g. because it was lost, the next run recovers from that by doing a full synchronization. The risk associated with this is that the server might not recognize items that it already has stored previously which then would lead to duplication of items.

syncevolution --configure <options for configuration> <config> [<source> ...]

Options in the configuration can be modified via the command line. Source properties are changed for all sources unless sources are listed explicitly. Some source properties have to be different for each source, in which case syncevolution must be called multiple times with one source listed in each invocation.

syncevolution --remove <config>

Deletes the configuration. If the <config> refers to a specific peer, only that peer's configuration is removed. If it refers to a context, that context and all peers inside it are removed.

Note that there is no confirmation question. Neither local data referenced by the configuration nor the content of log dirs are deleted.

syncevolution --run <options for run> <config> [<source> ...]

Options can also be overridden for just the current run, without changing the configuration. In order to prevent accidentally running a sync session when a configuration change was intended, either --configure or --run must be given explicitly if options are specified on the command line.

syncevolution --status <config> [<source> ...]

Prints what changes were made locally since the last synchronization. Depends on access to database dumps from the last run, so enabling the logdir property is recommended.

syncevolution --print-servers|--print-configs|--print-peers
syncevolution --print-config [--quiet] <config> [main|<source> ...]
syncevolution --print-sessions [--quiet] <config>

These commands print information about existing configurations. When printing a configuration a short version without comments can be selected with --quiet. When sources are listed, only their configuration is shown. Main instead or in combination with sources lists only the main peer configuration.

syncevolution --restore <session directory> --before|--after
              [--dry-run] <config> <source> ...

This restores local data from the backups made before or after a synchronization session. The --print-sessions command can be used to find these backups. The source(s) have to be listed explicitly. There is intentionally no default, because as with --remove there is no confirmation question. With --dry-run, the restore is only simulated.

The session directory has to be specified explicitly with its path name (absolute or relative to current directory). It does not have to be one of the currently active log directories, as long as it contains the right database dumps for the selected sources.

A restore tries to minimize the number of item changes (see section Item Changes and Data Changes). This means that items that are identical before and after the change will not be transmitted anew to the peer during the next synchronization. If the peer somehow needs to get a clean copy of all local items, then use --sync refresh-from-local in the next run.

syncevolution --print-items <config> <source>
syncevolution [--delimiter <string>] --export <dir>|<file>|- [<config> [<source> [<luid> ...]]]
syncevolution [--delimiter <string>|none] --import <dir>|<file>|- [<config> <source>]
syncevolution --update <dir> <config> <source>
syncevolution [--delimiter <string>|none] --update <file>|- <config> <source> <luid> ...
syncevolution --delete-items <config> <source> (<luid> ... | *)

Restore depends on the specific format of the automatic backups created by SyncEvolution. Arbitrary access to item data is provided with additional options. <luid> here is the unique local identifier assigned to each item in the source, transformed so that it contains only alphanumeric characters, dash and underscore. A star * in --delete-items selects all items for deletion. There are two ways of specifying luids: either as additional parameters after the config and source parameters (which may be empty in this case, but must be given) or after the --luids keyword.

<config> and <source> may be given to define the database which is to be used. If not given or not refering to an existing configuration (which is not an error, due to historic reasons), the desired backend must be given via the backend property, like this:

syncevolution --print-items backend=evolution-contacts
syncevolution --export - backend=evolution-contacts \
              --luids pas-id-4E33F24300000006 pas-id-4E36DD7B00000007

The desired backend database can be chosen via database=<identifier>. See --print-databases.


Here is a full description of all <options> that can be put in front of the server name. Whenever an option accepts multiple values, a question mark can be used to get the corresponding help text and/or a list of valid values.

--sync|-s <mode>|?

Temporarily synchronize the active sources in that mode. Useful for a refresh-from-local or refresh-from-remote sync which clears all data at one end and copies all items from the other.

Warning: local is the data accessed via the sync config directly and remote is the data on the peer, regardless where the data is actually stored physically.

Prints the names of all configured peers to stdout. There is no difference between these options, the are just aliases.
Prints the complete configuration for the selected <config> to stdout, including up-to-date comments for all properties. The format is the normal .ini format with source configurations in different sections introduced with [<source>] lines. Can be combined with --sync-property and --source-property to modify the configuration on-the-fly. When one or more sources are listed after the <config> name on the command line, then only the configs of those sources are printed. main selects the main configuration instead of source configurations. Using --quiet suppresses the comments for each property. When setting a --template, then the reference configuration for that peer is printed instead of an existing configuration.
Prints information about previous synchronization sessions for the selected peer or context are printed. This depends on the logdir property. The information includes the log directory name (useful for --restore) and the synchronization report. In combination with --quiet, only the paths are listed.

Modify the configuration files for the selected peer and/or sources.

If no such configuration exists, then a new one is created using one of the template configurations (see --template option). Choosing a template sets most of the relevant properties for the peer and the default set of sources (see above for a list of those). Anything specific to the user (like username/password) still has to be set manually.

When creating a new configuration and listing sources explicitly on the command line, only those sources will be set to active in the new configuration, i.e. syncevolution -c memotoo addressbook followed by syncevolution memotoo will only synchronize the address book. The other sources are created in a disabled state. When modifying an existing configuration and sources are specified, then the source properties of only those sources are modified.

By default, creating a config requires a template. Source names on the command line must match those in the template. This allows catching typos in the peer and source names. But it also prevents some advanced use cases. Therefore it is possible to disable these checks in two ways:

- use `--template none` or
- specify all required sync and source properties that are normally
  in the templates on the command line (syncURL, backend, ...)
To prevent accidental sync runs when a configuration change was intended, but the --configure option was not used, --run must be specified explicitly when sync or source properties are selected on the command line and they are meant to be used during a sync session triggered by the invocation.

In older SyncEvolution releases a different layout of configuration files was used. Using --migrate will automatically migrate to the new layout and rename the <config> into <config>.old to prevent accidental use of the old configuration. WARNING: old SyncEvolution releases cannot use the new configuration!

The switch can also be used to migrate a configuration in the current configuration directory: this preserves all property values, discards obsolete properties and sets all comments exactly as if the configuration had been created from scratch. WARNING: custom comments in the configuration are not preserved.

--migrate implies --configure and can be combined with modifying properties.

Shows all existing items using one line per item using the format "<luid>[: <short description>]". Whether the description is available depends on the backend and the kind of data that it stores.

Writes all items in the source or all items whose <luid> is given into a directory if the --export parameter exists and is a directory. The <luid> of each item is used as file name. Otherwise it creates a new file under that name and writes the selected items separated by the chosen delimiter string. stdout can be selected with a dash.

The default delimiter (two line breaks) matches a blank line. As a special case, it also matches a blank line with DOS line ending (line break, carriage return, line break). This works for vCard 3.0 and iCalendar 2.0, which never contain blank lines.

When exporting, the default delimiter will always insert two line breaks regardless whether the items contain DOS line ends. As a special case, the initial newline of a delimiter is skipped if the item already ends in a newline.

Adds all items found in the directory or input file to the source. When reading from a directory, each file is treated as one item. Otherwise the input is split at the chosen delimiter. "none" as delimiter disables splitting of the input.
Overwrites the content of existing items. When updating from a directory, the name of each file is taken as its luid. When updating from file or stdin, the number of luids given on the command line must match with the number of items in the input.
Removes the specified items from the source. Most backends print some progress information about this, but besides that, no further output is produced. Trying to remove an item which does not exist typically leads to an ERROR message, but is not reflected in a non-zero result of the command line invocation itself because the situation is not reported as an error by backends (removal of non-existent items is not an error in SyncML). Use a star * instead or in addition to listing individual luids to delete all items.
--sync-property|-y <property>=<value>|<property>=?|?
Overrides a source-independent configuration property for the current synchronization run or permanently when --configure is used to update the configuration. Can be used multiple times. Specifying an unused property will trigger an error message.
--source-property|-z <property>=<value>|<property>=?|?
Same as --sync-property, but applies to the configuration of all active sources. --sync <mode> is a shortcut for --source-property sync=<mode>.
--template|-l <peer name>|default|?<device>

Can be used to select from one of the built-in default configurations for known SyncML peers. Defaults to the <config> name, so --template only has to be specified when creating multiple different configurations for the same peer, or when using a template that is named differently than the peer. default is an alias for memotoo and can be used as the starting point for servers which do not have a built-in template.

A pseudo-random device ID is generated automatically. Therefore setting the deviceId sync property is only necessary when manually recreating a configuration or when a more descriptive name is desired.

The available templates for different known SyncML servers are listed when using a single question mark instead of template name. When using the ?<device> format, a fuzzy search for a template that might be suitable for talking to such a device is done. The matching works best when using <device> = <Manufacturer> <Model>. If you don't know the manufacturer, you can just keep it as empty. The output in this mode gives the template name followed by a short description and a rating how well the template matches the device (100% is best).

The changes made to local data since the last synchronization are shown without starting a new one. This can be used to see in advance whether the local data needs to be synchronized with the server.
Suppresses most of the normal output during a synchronization. The log file still contains all the information.
A legacy option, now the same as setting the global keyring sync property. When not specifying a value explicitly, "true" for "use some kind of keyring" is implied. See "--sync-property keyring" for details.
By default, the SyncEvolution command line is executed inside the syncevo-dbus-server process. This ensures that synchronization sessions started by the command line do not conflict with sessions started via some other means (GUI, automatically). For debugging purposes or very special use cases (running a local sync against a server which executes inside the daemon) it is possible to execute the operation without the daemon (--daemon=no).
Prints usage information.
Prints the SyncEvolution version.


This section lists predefined properties. Backends can add their own properties at runtime if none of the predefined properties are suitable for a certain setting. Those additional properties are not listed here. Use --sync/source-property ? to get an up-to-date list.

The predefined properties may also be interpreted slightly differently by each backend and sync protocol. Sometimes this is documented in the comment for each property, sometimes in the documentation of the backend or sync protocol.

Properties are listed together with all recognized aliases (in those cases where a property was renamed at some point), its default value, sharing state (unshared/shared/global). Some properties must be defined, which is marked with the word required.

Sync properties

<< see "syncevolution --sync-property ?" >>

Source properties

<< see "syncevolution --source-property ?" >>


List the known configuration templates:

syncevolution --template ?

Create a new configuration, using the existing Memotoo template:

syncevolution --configure \
              username=123456 \
              "password=!@#ABcd1234" \

Note that putting passwords into the command line, even for short-lived processes as the one above, is a security risk in shared environments, because the password is visible to everyone on the machine. To avoid this, remove the password from the command above, then add the password to the right config.ini file with a text editor. This command shows the directory containing the file:

syncevolution --print-configs

Review configuration:

syncevolution --print-config memotoo

Synchronize all sources:

syncevolution memotoo

Deactivate all sources:

syncevolution --configure \
              sync=none \

Activate address book synchronization again, using the --sync shortcut:

syncevolution --configure \
              --sync two-way \
              memotoo addressbook

Change the password for a configuration:

syncevolution --configure \
              password=foo \

Set up another configuration for under a different account, using the same default databases as above:

syncevolution --configure \
              username=joe \
              password=foo \
              --template memotoo \

Set up another configuration using the same account, but different local databases (can be used to simulate synchronizing between two clients, see Exchanging Data:

syncevolution --configure \
              username=123456 \
              password=!@#ABcd1234" \
              sync=none \

syncevolution --configure \
              --source-property database=<name of other address book> \
              @other addressbook

syncevolution --configure \
              sync=two-way \
              memotoo@other addressbook

syncevolution memotoo
syncevolution memotoo@other

Migrate a configuration from the <= 0.7 format to the current one and/or updates the configuration so that it looks like configurations created anew with the current syncevolution:

syncevolution --migrate memotoo

Synchronization beyond SyncML

In the simple examples above, SyncEvolution exchanges data with servers via the SyncML protocol. Starting with release 1.2, SyncEvolution also supports other protocols like CalDAV and CardDAV.

These protocols are implemented in backends which look like data sources. SyncEvolution then synchronizes data between a pair of backends. Because the entire sync logic (matching of items, merging) is done locally by SyncEvolution, this mode of operation is called local sync.

Some examples of things that can be done with local sync:

  • synchronize events with a CalDAV server and contacts with a CardDAV server
  • mirror a local database as items in a directory, with format conversion and one-way or two-way data transfer (export vs. true syncing)

Because local sync involves two sides, two configurations are needed. One is called the target config. By convention it must be called target-config@<some context name>, for example target-config@google-calendar. The target config holds properties which apply to all sources inside that context, like user name, password and URL for the server. Once configured, the target config can be used to list/import/export/update items via the SyncEvolution command line. It cannot be used for synchronization because it does not defined what the items are supposed to be synchronized with.

For synchronization, a second sync config is needed. This config has the same role as the traditional SyncML configs and is typically defined in the same implicit @default context as those configs. All configs in that context use the same local data. The sync config defines the database pairs and the sync mode (one-way, two-way, ...).

The first step is to select a target config with syncURL=local://@<some context name>. Multiple sync configs can access the same target config. In the second step, the uri of each source in the sync config must be set to the name of the corresponding source in the target config. The sync property in the sync config defines the direction of the data flow. It can be set temporarily when starting a synchronzation with the sync config.

Warning: because the client in the local sync starts the sync, preventSlowSync=0 must be set in the target config to have an effect.

CalDAV and CardDAV

This section explains how to use local syncing for CalDAV and CardDAV. Both protocols are based on WebDAV and are provided by the same backend. They share username/password/syncURL properties defined in their target config.

The credentials must be provided if the server is password protected. The syncURL is optional if the username is an email address and the server supports auto-discovery of its CalDAV and/or CardDAV services (using DNS SRV entries, .well-known URIs, properties of the current principal, ...).

Alternatively, credentials can also be set in the databaseUser and databasePassword properties of the source. The downside is that these values have to be set for each source and cannot be shared. The advantage is that, in combination with setting database, such sources can be used as part of a normal SyncML server or client sync config. SyncEvolution then reads and writes data directly from the server and exchanges it via SyncML with the peer that is defined in the sync config.

The database property of each source can be set to the URL of a specific collection (= database in WebDAV terminology). If not set, then the WebDAV backend first locates the server based on username or syncURL and then scans it for the default event resp. contact collection. This is done once in the initial synchronization. At the end of a successful synchroniation, the automatic choice is made permanent by setting the database property.

Warning: the protocols do not uniquely identify this default collection. The backend tries to make an educated guess, but it might pick the wrong one if the server provides more than one address book or calendar. It is safer to scan for collections manually with --print-databases and then use the URL of the desired collection as value of database.

To scan for collections, use:

syncevolution --print-databases \
              backend=<caldav or carddav> \
              username=<email address or user name> \
              "password=!@#ABcd1234" \
              syncURL=<base URL of server, if auto-discovery is not supported>

Configuration templates for Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar and a generic CalDAV/CardDAV server are included in SyncEvolution. The Yahoo template also contains an entry for contact synchronization, but using it is not recommended due to known server-side issues.

The following commands set up synchronization with a generic WebDAV server that supports CalDAV, CardDAV and auto-discovery. For Google and Yahoo, replace webdav with google-calendar resp. yahoo and remove the addressbook source when setting up the sync config.

# configure target config
syncevolution --configure \
             --template webdav \
             "password=!@#ABcd1234" \

# configure sync config
syncevolution --configure \
              --template SyncEvolution_Client \
              syncURL=local://@webdav \
              username= \
              password= \
              webdav \
              calendar addressbook

# initial slow sync
syncevolution --sync slow webdav

# incremental sync
syncevolution webdav

Here are some alternative ways of configuring the target config:

# A) Server has one URL as starting point instead of DNS auto-discovery.
syncevolution --configure \
             --template webdav \
             username=123456 \
             "password=!@#ABcd1234" \
             syncURL= \

# B) Explicitly specify collections (from server documentation or --print-databases).
#    The 'calendar' and 'addressbook' names are the ones expected by the sync config
#    above, additional sources can also be configured and/or the names can be changed.
syncevolution --configure \
             username=123456 \
             "password=!@#ABcd1234" \
             addressbook/backend=carddav \
             addressbook/database= \
             calendar/backend=caldav \
             calendar/database= \
             target-config@webdav \
             calendar addressbook

Finally, here is how the @webdav context needs to be configured so that SyncML clients or servers can be added to it:

# configure sources
syncevolution --configure \
             databaseUser=123456 \
             "databasePassword=!@#ABcd1234" \
             addressbook/backend=carddav \
             addressbook/database= \
             calendar/backend=caldav \
             calendar/database= \
             @webdav \
             calendar addressbook

# configure one peer (Memotoo in this example):
syncevolution --configure \
              username=654321 \
              password=^749@2524 \

# sync
syncevolution --sync slow memotoo@webdav


Exchanging Data

SyncEvolution transmits address book entries as vCard 2.1 or 3.0 depending on the sync format chosen in the configuration. Evolution uses 3.0 internally, so SyncEvolution converts between the two formats as needed. Calendar items and tasks can be sent and received in iCalendar 2.0 as well as vCalendar 1.0, but vCalendar 1.0 should be avoided if possible because it cannot represent all data that Evolution stores.


The Evolution backends are mentioned as examples; the same applies to other data sources.

How the server stores the items depends on its implementation and configuration. To check which data is preserved, one can use this procedure (described for contacts, but works the same way for calendars and tasks):

  1. synchronize the address book with the server
  2. create a new address book in Evolution and view it in Evolution once (the second step is necessary in at least Evolution 2.0.4 to make the new address book usable in SyncEvolution)
  3. add a configuration for that second address book and the same URI on the SyncML server, see EXAMPLES above
  4. synchronize again, this time using the other data source

Now one can either compare the address books in Evolution or do that automatically, described here for contacts:

  • save the complete address books: mark all entries, save as vCard
  • invoke synccompare with two file names as arguments and it will normalize and compare them automatically

Normalizing is necessary because the order of cards and their properties as well as other minor formatting aspects may be different. The output comes from a side-by-side comparison, but is augmented by the script so that the context of each change is always the complete item that was modified. Lines or items following a ">" on the right side were added, those on the left side followed by a "<" were removed, and those with a "|" between text on the left and right side were modified.

The automatic unit testing (see HACKING) contains a testItems test which verifies the copying of special entries using the same method.

Modifying one of the address books or even both at the same time and then synchronizing back and forth can be used to verify that SyncEvolution works as expected. If you do not trust SyncEvolution or the server, then it is prudent to run these checks with a copy of the original address book. Make a backup of the .evolution/addressbook directory.

Item Changes and Data Changes

SyncML clients and servers consider each entry in a database as one item. Items can be added, removed or updated. This is the item change information that client and server exchange during a normal, incremental synchronization.

If an item is saved, removed locally, and reimported, then this is usually reported to a peer as "one item removed, one added" because the information available to SyncEvolution is not sufficient to determine that this is in fact the same item. One exception are iCalendar 2.0 items with their globally unique ID: the modification above will be reported to the server as "one item updated".

That is better, but still not quite correct because the content of the item has not changed, only the meta information about it which is used to detect changes. This cannot be avoided without creating additional overhead for normal synchronizations.

SyncEvolution reports item changes (the number of added, removed and updated items) as well as data changes. These data changes are calculated by comparing database dumps using the synccompare tool. Because this data comparison ignores information about which data belongs to which item, it is able to detect that re-adding an item that was removed earlier does not change the data, in contrast to the item changes. On the other hand, removing one item and adding a different one may look like updating just one item.

Automatic Backups and Logging

To support recovery from a synchronization which damaged the local data or modified it in an unexpected way, SyncEvolution can create the following files during a synchronization:

  • a dump of the data in a format which can be restored by SyncEvolution, usually a single file per item containing in a standard text format (VCARD/VCALENDAR)
  • a full log file with debug information
  • another dump of the data after the synchronization for automatic comparison of the before/after state with synccompare

If the sync configuration property logdir is set, then a new directory will be created for each synchronization in that directory, using the format <peer>-<yyyy>-<mm>-<dd>-<hh>-<mm>[-<seq>] with the various fields filled in with the time when the synchronization started. The sequence suffix will only be used when necessary to make the name unique. By default, SyncEvolution will never delete any data in that log directory unless explicitly asked to keep only a limited number of previous log directories.

This is done by setting the maxlogdirs limit to something different than the empty string and 0. If a limit is set, then SyncEvolution will only keep that many log directories and start removing the "less interesting" ones when it reaches the limit. Less interesting are those where no data changed and no error occurred.

To avoid writing any additional log file or database dumps during a synchronization, the logdir can be set to none. To reduce the verbosity of the log, set loglevel. If not set or 0, then the verbosity is set to 3 = DEBUG when writing to a log file and 2 = INFO when writing to the console directly. To debug issues involving data conversion, level 4 also dumps the content of items into the log.


The following environment variables control where SyncEvolution finds files and other aspects of its operations.

Overrides the proxy settings temporarily. Setting it to an empty value disables the normal proxy settings.
SyncEvolution follows the XDG desktop standard for its files. By default, $HOME/.config/syncevolution is the location for configuration files. $HOME/.cache/syncevolution holds session directories with log files and database dumps.
Setting this to any value disables the filtering of stdout and stderr that SyncEvolution employs to keep noise from system libraries out of the command line output.
Enables additional debugging output when using the libsoup HTTP transport library.
Overrides the default path to the bluetooth device lookup table, normally /usr/lib/syncevolution/.
Overrides the default path to plugins, normally /usr/lib/syncevolution/backends.
Overrides the path where additional helper executables are found, normally /usr/libexec.
Overrides the default path to template files, normally /usr/share/syncevolution/templates.

Overrides the default path to the Synthesis XML configuration files, normally /usr/share/syncevolution/xml. These files are merged into one configuration each time the Synthesis SyncML engine is started as part of a sync session.

Note that in addition to this directory, SyncEvolution also always searches for configuration files inside $HOME/.config/syncevolution-xml. Files with the same relative path and name as in /usr/share/syncevolution/xml override those files, others extend the final configuration.


See known issues and the support web page for more information.



Main developer:Patrick Ohly <>,
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