FolderWatch: Effortlessly Keep Two Folders in Sync

Keeping files synced between different computers, servers and external drives isn’t the easiest task in the world. You constantly have to compare multiple versions to see which is the most recent and spend far too much time manually copying files from one location to another. This is especially true of web developers who work locally and then have to push those changes to the web for testing.

With FolderWatch, virtually all of the work is removed from this process. After a simple setup process, FolderWatch will keep an eye on the specified folders and sync any changes automatically.

Getting Started with FolderWatch

Instead of walking through the various features in a random order, let’s go through a sample folder sync to see how it all works. Some of these apps can be quite confusing but FolderWatch makes the entire process remarkably simple.

To get started, we open up FolderWatch and find the following window.

screenshot

FolderWatch

As you can see, my folders list is empty so we’ll need to start a new sync. To do this, click the “Add” button in the top left.

Creating a Folder Pair

The entire FolderWatch process revolves around the concept of “Folder Pairs”, if you understand these, you understand FolderWatch. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple!

A Folder Pair represents the two distinct folders that you would like to keep synced together. One of these will be the source and the other the destination. For instance, lets say you have a folder full of images on your desktop that you would like to keep backed up on an external drive. Here your source would be the folder of images on your desktop and your destination would be the folder on your external drive.

Below is the window that pops up when you click the “New” button from the main screen. This is where you setup your folder pair. All you have to do is drop your folders into place or click the folder preview to choose a folder from a dialog window.

screenshot

Creating a new folder pair

After you choose your folders, name the sync anything you want, hit “OK” and you’re ready to go! I love how easy this process is here: drag, drop and you’re done. Exactly the process you would expect from a great Mac app.

Advanced Options

As I just mentioned, the steps above are really all that you need to do to get going, but if you need more control you can certainly have it. FolderWatch has a number of advanced settings for power users, including the ability to specify file type for inclusion or exclusion.

screenshot

Advanced Options

Starting the Sync

Once you’ve got your Folder Pair set up, you’ll be taken back to the main window. The only slightly confusing thing about the entire app is that, at this point, it’s easy to mistakenly believe that you’re all done. However, your folders won’t actually begin syncing until you click the little play button next to the pairing that you just created.

screenshot

Click the play button to start the sync

Once that button is clicked, the two folders are actively synced. The play button will then become a stop button, which allows you to temporarily deactivate the sync.

screenshot

The Play Button is Now a Stop Button

Syncing Options

It’s very important to note that, at this point, we’ve set up a one-way sync. What that means is that any changes made in our source folder will automatically update in our destination folder, but any changes made directly to the destination folder won’t affect the source folder.

It’s also important to note that only added and changed files will sync to your destination folder. Deleting a file in the source folder will not by default delete the same file in the destination. To change this behavior, select “Delete extra files” in the advanced options above.

In addition to the advanced options, there are some basic actions that you can take right from the main screen. For starters, the star-shaped button sets the selected Folder Pair to automatically sync every time you launch FolderWatch. Without this selected, you’ll have to manually hit the play button each time you restart the app.

screenshot

Advanced Options

The second action button is simply a one-time one-way sync from the source to the destination folder. The third action button is, as far as I can tell, the only way to implement a two-way sync so that any extra files in the destination will be brought over to the source. I’d really like to see a way to set an automatic sync to a “sync both” option.

Log

One final helpful feature included in FolderWatch is a log that simply shows you all of the recent actions the app has taken to keep your various Folder Pairs in sync.

screenshot

Advanced Options

Worth a Download?

FolderWatch is one of the utilities that you either have zero use for or can absolutely see simplifying your life. For those constantly working with remote servers and external hard drives, this app could be a lifesaver.

At $14.99, it seems a little steep, but I can tell a lot of effort has gone into making this a high-quality professional application. It’s smooth, responsive and super easy to use. If you’re buying it for work, fifteen bucks really isn’t a substantial investment.

As I mentioned above, my major concern about the app is that, as far as I know, there isn’t a way to maintain an automatic two-way sync, which would be nice for multiple people sharing a drive or server. There is at least the one time option though so the functionality is there, it just takes a click.

Another thing that might go a long way is an optional preview of the before and after of the folder contents. Working with these types of utilities on important files is super scary. One wrong mouse click and you can lose months of important work. I’ve seen other apps implement a visual early warning system and it works great.

Conclusion

FolderWatch is an outstanding app that does one thing and does it extremely well. This app makes setting up and maintaining synced Folder Pairs is a nearly effortless task and there are plenty of professional features and options to make sure you have complete control over how the sync operates.

Go give FolderWatch a try and let us know what you think in the comments below. Have you come across any other apps that perform the same task? How do they compare?


Summary

A simple but powerful utility for setting up "Folder Pairs" and syncing them together via a simple source and destination system.

9
  • David

    This looks interesting – I’m also wary of the lack of auto 2-way sync, but I suppose if you are very strict on only writing new files into your “source” folder it won’t be too much of an issue.

    The price might be reasonable compared to other tools – Synk had been recommended to me ( – http://decimus.net/Synk – that comes in $40 and $60 versions) – but you might get a lot more features for the higher price.

  • Eleni

    Sounds really good, not only for external HDDs, but also for those using Dropbox, to sync outside folders automatically with Dropbox’s ones.

  • Raffael Erhart

    Together with Dropbox, FolderWatch is a killer app. Imagine automatic synching of all of your files to Dropbox. With FolderWatch, this dream has become true!

  • Caeles

    How is this any different or better than dropbox?

  • Clay

    How does it work with bundle folders, like iPhoto libraries?

  • vdebaie

    To solve the “sync both” problem, could you not just add another sync entry that is the opposite of the first entry you used?

    example:

    Folder Pair entry 1: Source = “folder A” & Destination = “folder B”
    Folder Pair entry 2: Source = “folder B” & Destination = “folder A”

    With “over write newer files” and “delete extra files” checked on for both entries, would this not fix the “sync both” problem?

    It’s an extra entry/step but it could achieve what your looking for.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Genius. Surprised I didn’t think of that. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m sure it will either work perfectly or cast me into Limbo for a thousand years. I’ll bring a top just in case.

  • Sebastiaan

    I though i’d check out this article to see if this program would be any better than user Dropbox. From what i can see it most certainly isn’t, especially when you take the 15 dollar pricetag into the equation.

    For anyone trying to sync folders outside of the Dropbox folder i recommend MacDropAny (there’s probably a similar app for windows but we’re on mac.appstorm.net here ;)).

  • http://www.perezfox.com Prescott Perez-Fox

    I’m an avid user of Dropbox (Which is super amazing), but keeping my files in sync with my external HD (in this case, a Drobo) is a constant hassle. For years I’ve used Automator scripts inserted into my iCal to run backups periodically.

    I’m going to give FolderWatch a spin because it seems to be a much more straightforward interface. The real-time syncing is useful, but since I’m working primarily by myself, it seems a bit of overkill. I wonder if there’s a way to slow it down to once or twice a day.

    I really wish there was a free trial version. I’m not sure how they’d limit the app (maybe only sync 5 folders, once each), but this is an annoying drawback of the App Store, methinks.

  • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

    I think those looking for a Dropbox replacement are a bit misguided. That’s a bit like complaining that Hulu isn’t as good as Pandora. They’re fundamentally different products meant for different tasks. You simply can’t make Dropbox sync any folder on your internal hard drive with an external FW drive. It’s not for that and probably never will be. FolderWatch however, shines at this task.

  • Chris

    If you are looking for a free alternative, I would suggest having a look at the UNIX tool “rsync”. It only provides a one time sync but you can improve it with Automator or AppleScript. Check out what this guy did! http://www.bananica.com/Geek-Stuff/Synchronize-two-folders-on-a-Mac-with-Automator-and-Rsync/#/

  • Frans Twisk

    Another free alternative is SyncTwoFolders. Looks like it does exactly the same (a little bit less prettier interface though). Work perfectly! http://tcfj.pagesperso-orange.fr/site/ind_JS.html?Prg_S.html&Prg_AutresRB.html

    • vdebaie

      SyncTwoFolders works well, I agree. It has been doing a good job for me over the last few months of using it.

      I’m sorry to see that Folderwatch doesn’t have a trial version on their web site or the app store. $10 isn’t much really for an app (imo), but with free alternatives out there – it would be wise to have at least a trial version available so that users can experience the app instead of dismissing it solely based on the fact that Folderwatch has a price tage.

  • docMD

    So I would like to set up a folder on my external to watch my downloads folder and extract only the video files that appear there. Anyone know a way to do that?

  • http://alexpascal.com Alex Pascal

    It’s only $9.99 right now on the App Storm as a 4th of July sale.

    I bought it and I’m satisfied with the results. My only gripe is that you have to keep the icon in the dock. There is an option to add a menu bar icon but if you quit the application from the dock, it also disappears from the menu and stops working in the background. Good thing the dock icon looks good. ;)

    I have it setup to sync with my Dropbox account and so far it’s been working well.

    Good review — thanks for finding this!

  • http://www.stanzilieri.com/ Steffen

    This is nothing but a graphical frontend for rsync, which comes shipped with every mac. How could that ever be worth this much money?

    rsync -av HOMEFOLDER user@server:REMOTEFOLDER

    Add the –delete flag if you want it to delete the extra files on the server end.

    • victor

      does this set it to run in the background so it will automatically sync any changes?

  • Sam

    @Alex, can’t you read? You get a choice of how you want the menu bar icon to work in the preferences ;-)

  • MJunior

    Does anyone knows how FolderWatch handle NTFS external drives? Thanks in advance!

  • Ben

    You could use Windows Live Mesh for Mac (free), which will sync folders across multiple COMPUTERS!

  • http://www.aeronaves.org Aeronaves

    to set up a folder on my external to watch my downloads folder and extract only the video files that appear there.

  • François

    “Go give FolderWatch a try and let us know what you think in the comments below.”

    I would love to if there actually were a free version to give that interesting software a try…

  • AK

    Try http://sourceforge.net/projects/synkron/.
    Does the job well.
    Free ->as in freedom and also as in free beer.

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow