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Use Smart Previews with External Hard Drive Catalog

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I use Lightroom Classic v10. I keep my catalog, along with presets and images on an external drive along with my image files. I do this because I use a laptop (most of the time) and a desktop computer (sometimes). I don't want to have to keep catalogs synchronized between the two computers and find it easier to keep everything, except backups of course, on an external drive so I can easily move between the two computers.
Recently there have been times I want to be able to view and use my images without having to connect the external hard drive. Of course, since my catalog and image files reside on the external hard drive that's impossible. I thought about creating smart previews but unless I'm wrong the smart previews will be saved in the location of the catalog. So therefore, I would still have to connect the external drive, right?
Does anyone know of any way I can continue to keep my catalog and image files on an external drive yet be able to use smart previews to access my images when I don't want to connect the hard drive? Is there a way to tell Lightroom Classic to keep my smart previews on a cloud location? But then I'd also have to access to the catalog as well wouldn't I because the catalog is what tells Lightroom where to find the files and what if anything has been done to the files?
I am open to any suggestions. Oh, I almost forgot, there was a time long ago before the subscription model that I kept my catalog on a cloud drive (OneDrive). But when the subscription model came into being, I was advised not keep my catalog (and presets) on a cloud drive. Is that still good advice?
 
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You misunderstand what smart previews are for. They are not proxies for your catalog, they are proxies for the original files. That means you can work with smart previews when the originals are offline. Lightroom does need its catalog however. That is where the work takes place. So no, you can‘t have your catalog on an external drive and then work in Lightroom without having that drive connected.
 
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Your photography plan comes with both Lightroom Classic and Lightroom (Cloudy). You can sync any number of Smart DNGs to the cloud from Lightroom Classic and access them with Lightroom (cloudy) on any device running Lightroom (cloudy)
 
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You misunderstand what smart previews are for. They are not proxies for your catalog, they are proxies for the original files. That means you can work with smart previews when the originals are offline. Lightroom does need its catalog however. That is where the work takes place. So no, you can‘t have your catalog on an external drive and then work in Lightroom without having that drive connected.
Nope, I don't misunderstand what smartpreviews are, I realize they are stand-ins for the original. That is why I made note that I probably couldn't use smartpreviews unless I have access to the catalog. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything and that maybe there wasn't some way I could utilize smartpreviews without having to attach my external hard drive where my catalog resides. I may just have to consider putting my catalog back on the computer(s) and deal with having to sync the catalogs. That said, does Adobe still not recommend keeping the catalog on a cloud drive? Do you have a recommendation for keeping a catalog synced between two computers?
 
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Does anyone know of any way I can continue to keep my catalog and image files on an external drive yet be able to use smart previews to access my images when I don't want to connect the hard drive?
The Catalog is a file. You can not open a file that is not present. It is as simple as that.
You can move the folder containing the catalog file, previews (standard and Smart) to a local drive. Then you can open that loca catalog file with the Lightroom Classic app. If there are Smart previews present, you do not need the drive containing the image files to be connected except to print and export when LR needs to assess the original file.


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That said, does Adobe still not recommend keeping the catalog on a cloud drive?
I don’t think Adobe has ever said that, but it probably depends on what exactly your definition of a cloud drive is. Quite a few people use a catalog stored in Dropbox. Dropbox uses a local folder which is synced with the cloud. Because the folder is local, Lightroom will work fine with it. Just make sure you do give Dropbox enough time to sync before you open Lightroom on the other computer. The only thing I have read is that you can get ‘metadata have changed’ warnings if the images are on a cloud drive. I believe this especially occurs with OneDrive, but I am not sure about that and I never tried it myself.
 
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You can actually store the catalog (and if you have room, the Previews on the Adobe Cloud folder on your, local computer. Since it is a local folder you can run Lightroom like you would if it were stored in your DropBox folder or a One Drive Folder


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You can actually store the catalog (and if you have room, the Previews on the Adobe Cloud folder on your, local computer. Since it is a local folder you can run Lightroom like you would if it were stored in your DropBox folder or a One Drive Folder


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The 20 GB cloud space won't be enough for that.
 
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That is why I included the caveat "if you have enough room".
That was a bit confusing, because ‘if you have enough room’ seemed to refer to the previews. The previews need to be in the same folder as the catalog however. You could try to place them outside of that folder and use a symbolic link, but I have no idea if Creative Cloud sync follows such links or not.
 
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That was a bit confusing, because ‘if you have enough room’ seemed to refer to the previews. The previews need to be in the same folder as the catalog however. You could try to place them outside of that folder and use a symbolic link, but I have no idea if Creative Cloud sync follows such links or not.

I believe it does or used to on a Mac. As a test, I put my master catalog in the Adobe Cloud folder and symbolic links to the previews. For a while I used this as a storage location for running my master catalog on my iMac and my MBP. With the advent of Lightroom (cloudy) this became unnecessary.


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I believe it does or used to on a Mac. As a test, I put my master catalog in the Adobe Cloud folder and symbolic links to the previews. For a while I used this as a storage location for running my master catalog on my iMac and my MBP. With the advent of Lightroom (cloudy) this became unnecessary.


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I believe you mean that it doesn’t. If the CC sync does follow symbolic links, then that means that the previews will be synced, even if they are in a different location via a symbolic link. That would not only defeat the purpose of using a symbolic link (why use that if they are still synced?), it would also mean that 20GB will indeed not be enough very soon, because 20 GB previews is not very much at all.
 
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I believe you mean that it doesn’t. If the CC sync does follow symbolic links, then that means that the previews will be synced, even if they are in a different location via a symbolic link. That would not only defeat the purpose of using a symbolic link (why use that if they are still synced?), it would also mean that 20GB will indeed not be enough very soon, because 20 GB previews is not very much at all.
I agree that 20GB is hardly enough for previews and a catalog file. My current Previews folder is 46GB and the Smart Previews folder about 10GB. I did my testing some years ago. Then I had an iMac and an MBP. Then I was able to create a small catalog with previews in the local part of the Creative Cloud Files folder on one of my Macs. I was able to run my master catalog on either machine. for a larger catalog, I then created a symbolic Link on each machine for the Previews folders. I don't believe Adobe CC will sync local symbolic Links located in the local folder named "Creative Cloud Files".
At some point I upped my subscription to 1TB and not too long after that I retired the MBP and moved that portion of my work to an iPad Pro running Lightroom (cloudy).
 
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OK, so that means that Adobe CC sync does not follow a symbolic link. The symbolic link file itself gets synced, not the target of the link. Dropbox did follow links until about two years ago. Now it also doesn't do that anymore.
 
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OK, so that means that Adobe CC sync does not follow a symbolic link. The symbolic link file itself gets synced, not the target of the link. Dropbox did follow links until about two years ago. Now it also doesn't do that anymore (which I think it unfortunate, because it was very handy).

I can’t speak to symbolic Links on Windows, and I’m not sure about MacOS, but Apple made some changes a few version back that may even have broken the symbolic links for storing previews elsewhere on the same computer.


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Gnits

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I ran into issues with symbolic links. They were for temporary images / folders. I did not waste any time troubleshooting, just got rid of the troublesome items. My main image repository does not contain such items.
 
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I can’t speak to symbolic Links on Windows, and I’m not sure about MacOS, but Apple made some changes a few version back that may even have broken the symbolic links for storing previews elsewhere on the same computer.
AFAIK, storing previews elsewhere and using a symbolic link still works fine on a Mac, but I would have to check that (typing this on my iPad). I am certain that it still works on Windows, because I just helped some Windows user doing this in another forum less than a week ago and he reported that it worked like a charm.

BTW, I sync most of my Lightroom presets via symbolic links (original folders in Dropbox, symbolic links in the default locations) on my Macs. That still works fine for most presets and templates, except for develop presets. Using symbolic links in the Camera Raw folder never worked and still does not work.
 
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I don’t think Adobe has ever said that, but it probably depends on what exactly your definition of a cloud drive is. Quite a few people use a catalog stored in Dropbox. Dropbox uses a local folder which is synced with the cloud. Because the folder is local, Lightroom will work fine with it. Just make sure you do give Dropbox enough time to sync before you open Lightroom on the other computer. The only thing I have read is that you can get ‘metadata have changed’ warnings if the images are on a cloud drive. I believe this especially occurs with OneDrive, but I am not sure about that and I never tried it myself.
It has been so long ago, pre-subscription based model and pre-Lightroom cloud that I can't find the support email recommending that I don't use the cloud, which BTW I mean OneDrive and Dropbox, to store my catalog. It was not only not recommended by Adobe but also by a Lightroom educator whose name I won't mention endorsed by Adobe.
But I did actually use OneDrive to store my catalog when it was just a desktop app.
 
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I don’t think Adobe has ever said that, but it probably depends on what exactly your definition of a cloud drive is. Quite a few people use a catalog stored in Dropbox. Dropbox uses a local folder which is synced with the cloud. Because the folder is local, Lightroom will work fine with it. Just make sure you do give Dropbox enough time to sync before you open Lightroom on the other computer. The only thing I have read is that you can get ‘metadata have changed’ warnings if the images are on a cloud drive. I believe this especially occurs with OneDrive, but I am not sure about that and I never tried it myself.
If memory serves I believe when I stored the catalog on OneDrive I was having a problem with Lightroom syncing metadata. But that was in the standalone desktop version days. When I did it I don't believe anyone else was doing it.
 
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Adobe has two Products Lightroom Classic which is the successor to LRv6.x that has a local catalog and all of the image files stored locally. And Lightroom (which we have dubbed "cloudy") which is entirely cloud based, all of the images are stored in the Adobe cloud and can be accessed via an app that runs on the computer or a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Those cloud based images can also be accessed from a browser using Lightroom for the Web.

Adobe managed to confuse everyone with product names. All standalone version (LR6 and earlier) were called Lightroom. When the cloud based version was introduced, both versions were known by various names that included "CC". Finally the "CC" was dropped from the names and the cloud based version was called Lightroom and the computer based version which is the classic version of old was named Lightroom Classic. To distinguish between the standalone versions and the cloud based version here in this forum we usually ad the (cloudy) to the name for clarity/. Since we in this forum provide support for all versions of the Adobe product.

Lightroom Classic and Lightroom (cloudy) can work together in that some cataloged images can sync to the cloud as proxy SmartDNG files and there for any images in Classic can ba available to any Lightroom (cloudy) app accessing the cloud.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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Adobe has two Products Lightroom Classic which is the successor to LRv6.x that has a local catalog and all of the image files stored locally. And Lightroom (which we have dubbed "cloudy") which in entirely cloud based, all of the images are stored in the Adobe cloud and can be accessed via an app that runs on the computer or a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Those cloud based images can also be accessed from a browser using Lightroom for the Web.

Adobe managed to confuse everyone with product names. All standalone version (LR6 and earlier) were called Lightroom. When the cloud based version was introduced, both versions were known by various names that included "CC". Finally the "CC" was dropped from the names and the cloud based version was called Lightroom and the computer based version which is the classic version of old was named Lightroom Classic. To distinguish between the standalone versions and the cloud based version here in this forum we usually ad the (cloudy) to the name for clarity/. Since we in this forum provide support for all versions of the Adobe product.

Lightroom Classic and Lightroom (cloudy) can work together in that some cataloged images can sync to the cloud as proxy SmartDNG files and there for any images in Classic can ba available to any Lightroom (cloudy) app accessing the cloud.
I see it's just LRQ forum jargon. Got It. Thank you. I just call it cloudy Lightroom since the desktop version is now referred to as Lightroom Classic. That is how Tim Grey of GreyLearning.com has conditioned me to refer to the cloud and desktop version.
 
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