Frequently Asked Questions


Data Recovery and Backups

Running Synapsen on USB-sticks

Problems after updating Synapsen

Synapsen for JVM 1.4.2 or for Mac OS X 10.3.1

Synapsen does not start and reports "Unsupported major.minor version 49.0"

Displaying pdf-Documents within the browser reports "Java Null Pointer-Exception"

Remote-Search in GBV or LoC returns no result and reports "Found -1"

Connection to Open Office is disturbed

Insertion of the Clipboard into Synapsen's report

Synchronising Data Between two Computers

Transferring from Win32 to Linux or Mac OS X Including the Migration of Existing Data

The program won't start

Difficulties with the entry of library locations and publisher information

Starting the Program with (Error-) Reporting

Problem with the Bibliography

Problems with Installation in Unix or Mac OS X Environments

Data Recovery and Backups

Generally (since version 2.1): In order to save the data that you have been entering into the synapsen-database, it is necessary to save the internal database into one file via the Info|Database menu. Copy the new file to a secure location (Diskette, CD, Internet). Additionally you can archive the whole directory named "syndb" in synapsen's working directory via zip or another compression tool. Save the new archive file to a secure location as well.

For older versions than synapsen 2.1:

In Windows: In order to save the data that you have been entering into the synapsen-database, it is enough to simply copy this database file to a secure location (Diskette, CD, Internet). Should you only be using the database file Mbeya.mdb delivered with the program, simply copy it from the working folder of synapsen (using Windows-Explorer) to
another storage location. If Mbeya.mdb is larger than the capacity of a floppy disk, you can compress the data using normal compression programs in order to make it smaller (WinZip etc.) Should you be using more than one of the delivered databank files, simply use the above described process for the respective files.

In Mac OS X or Linux: The database system mySQL has many useful tools for backing up your data (according to the so-called »Dump«-Method) and even the recovery of lost data

Backing up with the Dump-Method: Open a terminal-window and enter the following line in order to save the entire contents of the database in a file:

mysqldump -B Mbeya2 -r synapsen2006-03-18.sql -uroot -proot

Depending on whether you have used a different password for the root-login for mySQL, you must change the password after -p. It is also possible that you have to put -h127.0.0.1 at the end of the line, if you have received a warning such as »Access denied« It is also possible that you have to give the add the directory location to mysqldump, so that – depending on your installation – it is possible that the command looks like MAMP:

/Applications/Mamp/db/mysqldump -B Mbeya2 -r synapsen.sql -uroot -proot

The new file synapsen2005-06-29.sql can be very large, so that it is advisable to compress it with a program such as:

zip -9 synapsen2005-06-29.sql

The new file should now be saved at a secure location. In your working directory of synapsen there is a script file which automizes this process. Simply change to the right directory and type:

sh synapsenSichern

Recovery of Data: If for some reason you have lost data, you can use the dump backup to simply repopulate the data into the database. Open a terminal window and type:

unzip synapsen2005-06-05

And then:

mysql -usynapsen -psynapsen -e "source synapsen2005-06-05.sql" Mbeya2

Instead of -usynapsen -psynapsen you can simply log in as »root« with -uroot -proot or -p<YourActualPassword>.

Problems after updating Synapsen

After you have updated Synapsen (esp. when you made an entirely fresh installation) it sometimes becomes necessary to update your old database. The solution is rather simple: You have to run the update routine again:

Follow the description and hints during the update process. Special attention is required during a panel called "Process" since the database is altered then. Make sure that messages like "Column Shorttitle added" or similar will appear. This indicates that the structure of the database has been successfully modified. It may be necessary to tag the check mark "external database" at the beginning of the update routine.

Running Synapsen on USB-sticks

You can install and run Synapsen on your USB-device, even if you plug it in different operating systems. The precondition, however, is that every system you'll connect your usb-stick with has already a current Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed, at least version 1.6. It is recommendable to store a JVM for different operating systems also on your usb-device, so in case a system needs a JVM-refresh, you have them with you.

To install Synapsen on the usb-stick itsself simply run the usual installation program, installSynapsen.jar in order to install the program directly on the USB-stick. Please take care to choose the "internal database server". Otherwise Synapsen cannot save new data on the usb device.

Now, you can connect the usb stick with any computer running a JVM 1.6, simply open the usb device and double click on "JSynapsen.jar" to start the program.

Synapsen does not start and reports "Unsupported major.minor version 49.0"

In this case your operating systems runs a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) of version 1.4.2 or 1.5. However, in order to work with synapsen you usually need a JVM version 1.6, which you can directly download from Sun resp. Apple. In case you could not install an updated JVM on your system (e.g. Mac OS X requires version 10.4/Tiger for JVM 1.5), you can install a variant of Synapsen, which is specifically adopted to JVM 1.4.2 resp. 1.5:

After downloading double-click the file and proceed as usual.

Displaying pdf-Documents within the browser reports "Java Null Pointer-Exception"

This error occurs sometimes after updating Synapsen on Mac OS X. In order to solve it, go via Finder into the working directory of Synapsen. Press the right mouse button onto the symbol "Zettelkasten", select "Show Package Contents", then navigate to "Contents", "Resources" and "Java", where you delete ALL FILES BUT "JSynapsen.jar". Then start Synapsen.

Remote-Search in GBV or LoC returns no result and reports "Found -1"

If your remote searching in OPACs like GBV or LoC delivers no results and Synapsen reports "Found -1", then your system's firewall prevents the access to the OPAC. Adjust your system's firewall settings.

Connection to Open Office is disturbed

The connection between Synapsen and Open Office may be problematic on some systems, despite the correct installation of both components.

Windows Vista: It is a known issue that the bootstrapping on Windows Vista sometimes runs into problems and errors are reported (e.g., you are asked to run Setup again). Here, we have to wait and hope for a patch of OO.

Linux: Some Linux-versions, e.g. Suse 10 version 2.6.13, refuses to paste the clipboard's data into the newly generated footnote. Solution: Set the cursor into the footnote and press CTRL-V: now the content of the clipboard, i.e. the bibliographical data of your card will be inserted.

Insertion of the Clipboard into Synapsen's report

During the insertion of the clipboard data into the report of Synapsen's cards, the content will be pasted at the end of the report instead of being pasted at the current position of the cursor. It's an known issue (and it is based on a JAVA bug) and stems from the fact that insertion at the current position of the cursor would loose all formatting information. Therefore Synapsen tries to keep the formatting and inserts the clipboard at the end of the report. This bug will hopefully be solved during one of the next Synapsen releases.

Synchronising Data Between two Computers

It is possible to use synapsen on two computers (even with various operating systems) and, according to the operating system, synchronise your data (update changes made) in the following way. The following example assumes that the data transfer will take place between a desktop computer at home and a mobile computer.

In Windows: The most comfortable method is to create a special data-relationship between the mobile computer and the desktop computer. Connect both computers to a network so that you have access to the other computer through windows explorer. On the mobile computer you should then create a so called »Briefcase«. In this way you create a special folder, whose contents are constantly examined for modified data or files. Simply drag the database file from synapsen called Mbeya.mdb from the synapsen working folder on your workstation to the newly created »Briefcase«-folder on your mobile computer. Windows then creates a special copy of Mbeya.mdb on both systems, which is a so-called replica of the source-file. Afterwards you can use either system without needing the other one for entering new data. The update between the two databases should be done with Windows Explorer, by selecting the entry to update the file. In this way the entries will be compared to each other and put together. Be careful, because the newest entries will overwrite the oldest ones.

Another more simple possibility is to simply copy the file Mbeya.mdb (possibly compressed) from one system to the other. This method does not allow for a comparison of two files, but rather the one file replaces the other in its entirety. It is very important that you only write your entries in one file and then transfer it to the other system when you want to work at another computer. Only in this way can you be sure not to overwrite entries that you entered on the other system. In this way you also take on the role of administrator and must be careful not to make differing changes in both databases, which cannot happen with the »briefcase« system.

In Mac OS X or Linux: Since synapsen running on a Unix platform uses mySQL, it is recommended to use certain tools for the synchronisation of data between two computers, which compare mySQL-Databases with one another and update them respectively. Programs such as the mySQL Data Migration Toolkit, or Navicat, or SQLLog allow for such a synchronisation. Another, less comfortable method is to copy the entire database (perhaps compressed) from one computer to the other. To do this, create a backup of your data with the dump-method described above. Copy the backup-file (either as .sql or compressed as .zip) to the other system.

Reconstruct the backup on the other system as described above. With this method, however in contrast to "real" synchronisation, there is no comparison of existing data sets in the respective databases, rather one database replaces the other in its entirety. Pay attention to this and only update one file, so that you don’t lose new entries by writing over a working file.

Between Mac OS X and Windows: The prerequisite for this is that you are using synapsen in Windows with a mySQL-database (see Section 2, p. 7). With the help of the usual database tools you can undertake the synchronisation between the two systems, such as with a program like mySQL Data Migration Toolkit, or Navicat, or SQLLog whereby you create a connection between the mySQL-databases and then let the contents be updated where necessary.

Transferring from Win32 to Linux or Mac OS X Including the Migration of Existing Data

Since synapsen functions in Windows as well as in Linux and Mac OS X, changing platforms should not be a problem. Simply install the appropriate version of synapsen on the new system. The migration of the data in the database is the real hurdle. Experts are advised to use the program mySQL Data Migration Toolkit, with which it is possible to make a transfer from MS Access databases to mysql. The less-recommended procedure of maintaining two databases on different operating system requires a ShareWare-program that allows you to maintain and update data in both directions, such as for example Access to mySQL or Access-MySql 2.5.

Registered users of synapsen can have their data converted for a fee of 10,-- ?. Simply send your synapsen-database from Windows (the file "Mbeya.mdb" in the working folder of synapsen as a zipped (compressed) e-mail attachment to You will then receive a file called dump.sql, which you should use thusly:

1. quit synapsen, if it is currently running.

2. Save the file "dump.sql" to your desktop

3. Open a terminal-window in Linux or Mac OS X

4. Enter the following and press return:

mysql -usynapsen -psynapsen -h127.0.0.1 < /Users/_YourLogin_/Desktop/dump.sql

Alternatively you could do the following without pressing return:

mysql -usynapsen -psynapsen<

and then drag the file from the desktop onto the terminal-window. Then press return and start synapsen.

The program won't start

Instead of starting normally, synapsen shows errors like:

at com.mkr.synapsen.synforte.JSynapsen.makeEditorLine(
at com.mkr.synapsen.synforte.JSynapsen.initDB(
at com.mkr.synapsen.synforte.JSynapsen.<init>(
at com.mkr.synapsen.synforte.JSynapsen.main(

That means that the program cannot find the database. In Win32 check to make certain that the registration of the database has been done according to the description in the manual (section 2.5).

Users of synapsen with Linux or MacOSX please examine the registration procedure described in the manual under section 2.5.1 and check out the database registration of synapsen.

Difficulties with the entry of library locations and publisher information

The creation of new entries in the lists of library marks or publishers, it is important that you enter the information on two lines, such as:

1. "Alfred A. Knopf ", then press return
2. "New York ", return again
3. Then click "Accept".

In the list of possibilities there is just one line, which shows simply "Alfred A. Knopf ". In the selection window for publishers you will also only see this first line. As soon as you click on it however, the respective fields will be filled in with the name of the publisher as well as the location.

This is the same procedure for entering libraries. This somewhat unusual setup will be reconfigured during one of the next updates.

Starting the Program with (Error-) Reporting

If the program does not function as expected, it is recommended to look at the (error-) reports generated by the program. Simply start synapsen in a different way than you would usually.

Win32-User: In the startment of synapsen, click on the entry for "Card-Catalog with Reporting". In the "task-bar" there will be a command line window that opens, which you can click on. Then you will see reports such as:

"Database is being addressed under Win32..."

Use the program as usual and pay attention to the (Error-) Reports that will be displayed here.

Mac OS X or Linux-Users: Open a Terminal window and move to the working folder of synapsen. Start the program by entering

sh ./

Simply work with the program as usual, and pay attention to the (Error-) Reports that will be displayed here.

Problem with the Bibliography

Exit the synapsen program, change to the working folder of synapsen and delete the file called "BibTab.ser". Restart synapsen. If it still produces errors: Start the program with the option of displaying the error reports and create a bibliography with the option "BiBTeX" and "All Entries". A report will be given for each entry generated, and eventually an error, at which point the program stops. Then search for the keyword that arose immediately before the error and load the card. Search the card for incorrectly formated or missing information and close it again. Try to make the bibliography again according to this method until you have gone through all the cards without error or crash.

In case the creation of the bibliography in synapsen does not progress and the progress cursor remains displayed, check your version of Java by opening a terminal-window (under Utilities) and then type "java -version". Ideally your Java Version should be 1.4.2 or higher.

In the case that after updating to the newest version of Java you are still having difficulties making the bibliography, you must go through each and every entry you wish to use in the bibliography by opening them as cards, then clicking in the literature report and finally closing them. Although it might sound like electro-mysticism, it is necessary that the literature report is created in the correct RTF-format. If it still isn't working, delete all the entries that were in the database before you began creating cards. (These are likely to be the entries walser:1908, foucault:1993, kluge+mueller:1996, and also perhaps bickenbach+stolzke:1996, zettel:synapsen, doeblin:1978, ermann+simon:1892).

Problems with Installation in Unix or Mac OS X Environments

Depending on the operating system, there may be another shell in the terminal-window. The script you have received functions under bash 2.05.

In Max OS X 10.2 "tcsh" is normally used as shell. Load both files ( and fill_Mbeya2.sql) by saving them to you system, then changing your location in shell to the folder where you have saved the script
and then enter: "bash ./". In Mac OS X 10.3, however, "bash" is the standard shell, which means that you should be able to simply enter "sh ./". If this does not work, simply try "tcsh ./".

In other Unix- or Linux-systems you should use the shell that is appropriate for this script.

If the script reports during its executation that " mysql: command not found", you must then bind mysql to your system directory. This functions as follows:

"For the tcsh shell, which was the default up to Mac OS X 10.2 , you can do this by running this command once:

echo 'setenv PATH /usr/local/mysql/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.tcshrc

For the bash shell, which is the default for new user accounts created under Mac OS X 10.3, the command is:

echo 'export PATH=/usr/local/mysql/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.bash_profile

Then you have to close and re-open the terminal window."
(Citation of

Execute the script again and follow the instructions given there.


In case the script reports the following error at the very beginning:

': not a valid identifier read: `status
'/ line 35: syntax error near unexpected token `in
'/ line 35: ` case "$status" in

Use these files (Version 2.0) and fill_Mbeya2.sql (Shift-Key to download it), by saving both to your computer in the same folder and execute the first one in a terminal window with:


Last Update: 2012/01/10




Current Version 4.3.7, 19.11.2018

Since the first release of Synapsen 1.0 in October 1999 the program has been continuously developed, improved and enhanced. The current Version 4.3.7 is dated from 2018/11/19.



Verantwortlich für den Inhalt gemäss § 5 TMG i. V. m. § 55 RStV:

Angaben gemäß § 5 TMG und verantwortlich für den Inhalt nach § 55 Abs. 2 RStV:

Prof. Dr. Markus Krajewski
Universität Basel
Holbeinstr. 12
4054 Basel
Telephon: +49 3643 58-3840

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Auf Wunsch können Sie auch eine CD-ROM mit dem kompletten Programm erhalten, auf der sich neben der jeweils aktuellsten Version von synapsen eine JAVA Virtuelle Maschine, ein vollständiges MikTeX-Paket sowie passende Datenbanktreiber befinden, überweisen Sie dazu bitte €5,-- für CD, Porto und Versandkosten an:

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