01 July 2007

#27. Sync or Swim

Devoted readers already know that I use ToDoList to manage all my task lists (see #12, 25 February 2007), both in the office and at home. To synchronize the two computers’ task lists, I copied the latest files onto my USB flash disk and then copied them again to the other computer. Yes, it was primitive and a bit of a pain. I knew I had to either find a way to sync my computers or swim in senseless extra work.

Everything but the Kitchen Sync

After a bit of searching and experimenting, I went with AllWay Sync. AllWay Sync boasts that it can synchronize files in all directions among multiple folders, disks, and portable storage devices. It also synchronizes entire folders, and works over networks and the Internet, too.

I decided to use a specialized version, AllWay Sync ’n’ Go, which is designed to work directly from any portable device (even MP3 players, digital cameras, or rewritable CDs). I installed it on my USB flash disk and set up a “job” for ToDoList task files. Now when I plug my flash disk into the USB port of any computer, AllWay Sync ’n’ Go launches the job automatically. It compares the ToDoList folders on the flash disk and the hard disk, and clearly shows which files need to be copied in which direction.

Here’s an example of how it looks. The files in the flash drive (E:) folder are listed on the left, and the hard drive (C:) folder is on the right. The arrows between them indicate the newer files in both folders.

Just click the Synchronize button to finish the job. There is a progress bar below the buttons, and an event log in the bottom pane.

Though you see manual synchronization here, you also are offered the choice to synchronize automatically when the program launches, though this does not seem to work for me. Other options include automatic synching at specified intervals or whenever file changes are detected.

You can set up many jobs, and you can configure all the options separately for each job you set up. For example, you can define filters to include or exclude certain files or folders, and you can tell AllWay Sync to save deleted files in a subfolder and to move overwritten files to the Recycle Bin. I discovered the value of the latter option when I failed to realize that deleting a file on the flash disk causes the file on the hard disk to be deleted, too.

AllWay Sync Free is free for personal, nonprofit, and student use, and supports all versions of Windows from 98 to Vista. However, the license agreement notes that the free version is restricted to 20,000 files per 30-day period, and that this can change without notice. The Pro version, of course, has no such limits. And there is also a U3 version for advanced USB devices. Download your choice at http://allwaysync.com/.

I tried only a few other synchronization utilities before settling on AllWay Sync. I’m reasonably happy with it, but if you know of other tools that are even better, do please let us all know in a comment (click below). You also can write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com.

Update on Web Backup Services

After last week’s roundup of free on-line file storage and backup services, an alert reader pointed out the existence of DivShare, which offers unlimited data hosting forever for free – and isn’t that what the world is waiting for?

DivShare could be a great solution, but it is not perfect. DivShare is supported by advertising, though they promise ads will not be intrusive. DivShare does not offer backup software, so you need to select files and upload them. Also, the company mentions in nearly hidden comments to its blog that free account uploads are limited to 200 MB per file – a limit not explained anywhere on their clean, simple Web site – though there is no limit on the number of files. Finally, the company is only six months old, so one might legitimately worry about the service’s longevity.

Despite my reservations, if DivShare sounds like just the ticket for you, try it at http://www.divshare.com/.

Thanks for checking in at Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill. Be sure to tell all your friends to visit here every week for more helpful utility reviews!

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