Marrying ownCloud to Android

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This post is a follow-up to The Big Migration.

So, with moving many of Google-powered services to my personally hosted ownCloud, I've run into need of providing the necessary infrastructure on the device side. Since I own only Androids it was already easier for me to deal with a single platform, but subtleties, oh subtleties galore. In the post I describe the very ownCloud-compatible Android applications I use up-to-date and am quite happy with.


The primary task of ownCloud is, of course, file storage and sharing. ownCloud implements WebDAV interface to serve files. This means that you can use any of WebDAV applications available in Google Play which are plenty. ownCloud guys have their own application which costs $1 and doesn't do a lot, but is nice to have anyway. It allows you to view your cloud directories and download individual files for offline usage (similar to Dropbox and Google Drive clients). As a pleasant bonus, it provides Instant Upload feature for your photos, so if you tick the respective checkbox your pics will be automatically uploaded to your cloud (instead of Google+).

Because I required something more automatic, I installed FolderSync Lite to synchronize cloud folders with those on the devices. It operates the same as desktop ownCloud client — you specify folders you want to synchronize and respective local directories, sync interval, overwrite policies etc etc; and it will download/upload files in these folders according to the rules. There is also a paid version of the app, but I don't really notice the limitations of the free one.


ownCloud uses CardDAV protocol to synchronize contacts. Shamingly for Google, Android doesn't have native facilities to use CardDAV (while iOS does), so we need to install third-party software for this task. CardDAV-Sync is a great tool for this, it allows two-way contacts synchronization and overall is pretty reliable. It costs two bucks, there is a free version which is quite limiting, but I didn't mind paying for the good work, especially since there were no real alternatives at that point. Now it seems there are a couple of similar apps but I don't know how do they compare to this one.

Unfortunately I had to ditch Google's stock People application and default dialer for that matter. People does not understand CardDAV's groups and show the contacts altogether. Contacts+ turned out to be a good replacement, it works with groups correctly, allows to optionally show or hide contacts from separate groups, has a concept of account merging (thanks to this I was able to merge ownCloud contacts with some Google+ contacts so that profile photos are taken from G+). Albeit Contacts+ feels cluttered and overblown sometimes with all its social features, thus I would enjoy a simpler application if I managed to find one.


Calendar functionality in ownCloud is done using… wait for it… CalDAV. As always, we head to the Play Market and shell out another three bucks for CalDAV-Sync. No free version this time, and other free CalDAV applications available on Play kinda suck. This one does what it is supposed to do, with no real complaints. Luckily this time I didn't have to install any frontend, stock Calendar suffices completely.

A small hack I had to employ on the server side because ownCloud does not support iCal subscriptions. The solution is vividly described here. Basically you have to set up a cron job that fetches calendar entries from the link and pushes them to ownCloud via CLI WebDAV client cadaver.


Org-mode is my best friend forever, so it was natural to employ it for keeping my notes. There is a module for it called org-mobile that deals with synchronizing changes on the "server" (that is, desktop computer) side. For Android you can install MobileOrg, which is kind of meh when it comes to editing, but reading through notes is convenient.

MobileOrg has a native support for WebDAV, but I wasn't able to make it work; so I just synchronize the entire Notes folder using FolderSync, and in MobileOrg I selected option "Sync using my SD card".


I use the combination of pwsafe + PasswdSafe for Android to keep my passwords. The password database is stored in the cloud and synchronized via FolderSync.


ownCloud can store your music and play it in the browser. But what's more cool is that it can stream music via Ampache, and then you can listen to this stream using any Ampache-included music player. I haven't got to using this feature just yet, as I don't want to fill all my DO-provided storage with music (and it will take a while too). But having a personal Spotify sounds like a fun idea to me.

Final words

Managing and book-keeping all your data yourself is partly a vanity endeavor. You spend a good chunk of time on stuff you otherwise wouldn't do. But in the end of the day the warm fuzzy feeling of having everything under your control makes it worth the struggle. This, and the ability to backup all your data in a single shell command. So be safe, be aware.