It looks like everyone I know these days walk around with a notebook or tablet PC. These are everywhere, from office desks to meeting rooms, from cafés to airport lounges, to home.
The thing is I like working on a desktop. The keyboard feels better, the mouse is bigger and easier to use than a trackpad, and the (generally) larger processing power on a desktop makes all tasks much easier.
But there is a big problem here: how do I keep my files (and I am talking about thousands of them) always up-to-date in both desktop and tablet PC (or in someone else’s case a latpop)?
Of couse there’s the option of manually copying modified files, but I guess this is out of question after a couple of days work. Copying the wrong version of a file is too big a risk, and not having the latest file is even bigger risk for some businesses.
I have played with the freebie Microsoft SyncToy for a while, and while it does the job it seems a bit slow and it is still in beta – meaning that there are some unidentified bugs lying around.
During the CES 2006 I came across GoodSync (aff link). The software promised to keep my files in perfect sync, between my computers or between my PC and a removable drive –including USB memory, digital camera or any other device that can be mounted as a drive on a Microsoft Windows-based PC.
For the last couple of months I have been using Goodsync to make sure a few GB (yes, gigabytes) are completely in sync between my desktop (which I use everyday to work on Geekzone) and my tablet PC (which I use almost every day in some other projects or simply in front of the TV).
The program is quite simple to use. After you install it on a PC you can start creating jobs, having a left and a right side corresponding to a local and a remote drive. The remote drive can be a networked drive or a plugable device as described before.
Creating a job is an easy task, and each job is a tab in the program. While creating the job a baloon will give tips on what to use on each side.
The easiest way to use it is to let a job run. This will create a database with some metadata information about each file and folder, and their current status.
From there it is possible to work on these files on any of the locations (yes, you can synchronise multiple PCs by creating a job for each pair) and have changes in one being replicated across all others.
The software is smart enough to identify the differences and point out in an ordered list what is going to be done: copy a file from one side to the other, overwrite an existing file or delete a file.
And here comes the interesting part: although both GoodSync and SyncToy do this comparison on-demand, I felt the GoodSync operation was faster than SyncToy.
Although I have not tested exact times, updates on a relatively large folder (8GB, containing 2,085 folders and 50,000 files) seemed fast enough to allow me to run the program just before putting my tablet PC in Hibernate mode. In general it took about 4 to 5 minutes, as you can see on the screenshot below.
After this comparison GoodSync will suggest the actions, dividing the list in “Important Messages”, “New Files”, “Changed Files”, and “Unchanged files”. For each file there is an arrow indicating the direction of the action, from a drive to another.
It is important to note that the user keeps control of the process. It’s easy to accept the suggestions, or by clicking on the arrow it’s also easy to change it.
There’s an automatic synchronisation mode as well, which is more interesting for automatic backup of work in progress. In this case I think users would be utilising an external drive or other media – a network connection is not always permanent.
This automatic synchronisation can be started by inserting a removable device, on a schedule or when file changes are detected. In this case the program must be running in the background to keep monitoring changes.
And of course control can go to a more granular level, allowing the user to include or exclude specific files or folders.
In the end, GoodSync makes my daily exercise of keeping things in sync much easier.
Good level of information and action monitoring;
Interesting automatic synchronisation mechanism.
Some configuration menus are quite heavy, with loads of text explaining each option.