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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?