General discussion

How do you keep docs in sync without the use of the cloud?

I use an iMac at home and a MacBook Pro for travel. My problem is how to keep the documents that I work on with both computers in sync. I really can’t just save all the documents in the cloud instead of on each hard drive because I am frequently without Wi-Fi when in my motorhome. I have been using Finder and having the files organized by “date last modified” and comparing the two computers, but I still manage to miss some, overwrite newer documents with older ones, etc. Any suggestions? Thank you.

--Submitted by Frank B.

Post was last edited on July 28, 2017 4:10 PM PDT

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On the same network, it's easy

Keeping files in sync is easy when the systems are on the same network. 1) Save the file on the computer you're working on, then 2) Save the same file where you want it on the other computer, then 3) Save the file back on the computer you're working on. Step 3) is redundant -- in fact, your computer will probably cuss at you when you do it with some variation of "replace the existing file?" when you do it. Do it anyway. Because if you can train yourself to do that all the time, every time, you will never have to question whether the file on the other computer is the exact same file as the one on the computer you're using.

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No Network

I think the OP implied there was no "network" available.

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How about when not on the internet?

My AT&T unlimited data plan does not allow using my phone as a hotspot. However, I did just purchase the AT&T Mobley device (and yet another data plan), which may allow this. Then I can save files on iCloud or Dropbox and be OK.

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Using Cell Phone as a hot spot

I solved this problem, at least as much as I needed, by using my cell phone as a WIFI hot spot and saving all work to my cloud account.

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My AT&T unlimited data plan does not allow using my phone as a hotspot. However, I did just purchase the AT&T Mobley device (and yet another data plan), which may allow this. Then I can save files on iCloud or Dropbox and be OK.

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On Mac/OSX/Unix, there's a command called rsync which will copy files back and forth based on date stamps.

There are a few ways you can organize it. If it's just two machines, then they can copy directly back and forth from each other. If there are three or more, then you could designate one as the "Master" and every other machine copies to/from him. But, I would recommend getting a NAS, Network Addressed Storage, to act as your master. That way, you don't have to worry about whether that machine is turned on, right now. You'd basically leave it on all the time.

You would probably want to set up a scheduled task to sync everything every night. But, you would also want to set up some scripts that would let you run them conveniently on demand.

You could back up your entire system. Or, to save time for the on demand instances, you may designate a few folders as you "shared" folders and just sync those.

Having a NAS also gives you the option to set up Time Machine on your Macs and back them up completely.

I have experience with two consumer level NAS boxes. I used a Linksys NAS about 5-10 years ago. It was Good Enough. When I ran out of room on that one I got a Synology, about seven years ago. The 2011 Synology had a lot slicker software than the 2007 Linksys. The newer Linksys and some of their competitors may have caught up, by now.

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RE: Rsync

I think rsync is probably a little tricky to setup for most people, but I do like the NAS idea. I run a Synology as well, and though I haven't used their Cloud Station server, I've heard some nice things about it.

Personally, I run an OwnCloud server on a leased dedicated server, but that might be getting a bit tricky as well. AWS does have AMI's for OwnCloud, but the billing is so far out I wouldn't recommend in case he gets a huge bill.

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Yes, rsync is a bit arcane

It is a little arcane. OTOH, it's the sort of thing that would be set up once in a script and then it would stay the same from then on. The user doesn't have to re-learn it over and over. Copying the line to add a new folder pair is also simple.

I'm sure there are GUIs available that sit on top of rsync. And, probably standalone sync programs with a nice GUI.

I'm not sure which would take more effort. Finding a reliable source for an rsync GUI/standalone sync program. Or, doing some Google searches and Copy&Pasting an example script. Prolly six one, half dozen the other.

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Not for me

Thanks, but these suggestions would have too steep of a learning curve for me.

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Hot spot or serial synchronization

wdmarshall already suggested using your mobile device as a wifi hotspot. That's the best simplest solution.
If you can't do that you can still sync with a cloud service, a portable hard drive or a flash drive. You sync from the iMac to the (cloud/portable hard drive/flash drive) as you work at home. When you pack up to go on the road, shut down the iMac and sync from the (cloud/portable hard drive/flash drive) to the laptop. Sync from the laptop to the (cloud/portable hard drive/flash drive) whenever you can while on the road. When you get back home, sync from the laptop to the (cloud/portable hard drive/flash drive) one more time, sync from the (cloud/portable hard drive/flash drive) to the iMac, and shut down the laptop. Repeat.
DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive are all good for this. They will sync automatically whenever you have an internet connection and keep your changes straight.

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I should have thought of this...

I have a portable hard drive sitting in a drawer and I am sure it is large enough for the number of Pages files involved.

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Flash drive on keychain

Please also consider an inexpensive flash drive which goes on your keychain, such as the Kingston Data Traveler. I have a whole 200-page website backed up on mine! If there is an accident, earthquake, fire, etc. you have the important stuff with you at all times!

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Interesting Problem

As some have pointed out, depending on your wireless (cell phone plan) you may be able to use your cell phone as a hotspot to provide WiFi and Internet connectivity. BUT, if you are in your motorhome, does that mean you DON'T necessarily have cellular service? If that is the case, you are limited to jump drives (or other external devices) to store your data. A NAS won't work if you have no network connectivity while on the road like you say with no WiFi (and no wired Ethernet either?).

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NAS and a AP/router

The OP could purchase a Wi-Fi Access Point or a full router and plug that in his motor home. All of his machines could log into that. I had assumed he'd done that. I'd prolly buy a router. There's not a lot of difference in price. Some routers can piggyback off of another Wi-Fi. That provides protection from public Wi-Fi set up by an amateur who doesn't know how to isolate the users from each other.

You can do the same rsync idea with thumb drives or equivalent. Treat the thumb drive as the master. It's just a lot more cumbersome.

One advantage I forgot to mention with the NAS is protection from overwrites. If you do accidentally work on copies of a file on two machines, and lose some of your work by writing one over the other, you can use your Time Machine backup to retrieve an older copy. That could save some important work that would otherwise be lost.

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An External SSD May Be Your Solution

Hi Frank

Let me say that both wdmarshall and MightyDrakeC provided plausible solutions. My solution (which on the surface may seem a bit involved) is not network; nor cellular driven, and only requires the use of an external drive. I recommend using an SSD for speed, lite weight, portability and durability against drops.

Mac products will always remember the last save location for the document type you are using. If you are using MSOffice for Mac you must train each document type once (i.e. Word, PPT and Excel) to save to the external drive location. The same applies for OSX_Pages, Keynote and Numbers. You would need to perform the training exercise for your iMac and MBP. Once done you can move the drive between both units and any document created; be it on the iMac or MBP, will always save to the external drive.

Note: If you change the save location for an individual document (MSOffice or OSX) let’s say to Documents Folder….then that will become the new default until you change it back to the external drive.

In practice let’s say you start a document on your iMac and save it to the external drive. The next day (or whenever) you connect the external drive to your MBP. You open the document you started on your iMac, do some editing and then save it to the external drive under the same file name. Now you do the reverse…that is you start a document on your MPB and finish it on your iMac. The key is that the save location must always the external drive when using either of your computers.

So now that you are using the external SSD for the save location it’s a simple matter to copy one or several documents to the Documents Folder on each computer (if you desire) and to iCloud when you’re on your network. This procedure requires that you discipline yourself to set time aside each week to perform the copy operation.

As long of the file name doesn’t change you won’t have fragmented files for the same document (project) saved on either your iMac or MBP. Also, during the copy procedure to the Documents Folder on either computer; or into iCloud, if the file already exists you will be prompted to select one of three (3) options – Keep Both, Stop or Replace. Essentially, you’ll have three (3) locations of back-up or as some might say “file redundancy”. An additional benefit is that accidental deletion from one location will not affect the others.

Note: To remove all trace of a file (for whatever reason) will require that you manually delete it from all three (3) locations.

Tip for Spring Cleaning: The process described can lead to having a lot of files that you no longer need in the Documents Folder of each computer and in iCloud. On a quarterly, semi-annually or annual basis I suggest you review the files on the external drive and remove those that are no longer needed (i.e. scrub the drive). Next highlight and delete all files from the Document Folders of each computer and from iCloud. Now copy the files from the scrubbed external drive to the Documents Folder of each computer and to iCloud.

If you don’t currently own an SSD here are several brands you might consider _Western Digital (WD), SanDisk, Seagate and Samsung. Personally, I like and use Samsung SSD T3 Drives. They come in several flavors 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB. At the end of the day price may be the determining factor. However, if you go with my suggested solution I strongly urge you to select an SSD as the external drive. Good luck!

Together Everyone Achieves More = TEAM

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Supplemental: An External SSD May Be Your Solution

Hi Frank

My solution using an external SSD does require some setup before it will work as I described. Not knowing your level of expertise, I decided to include the following instructions to make it easy to:

1. Access saved files on the external SSD quickly via a drive icon on your desktop with Right Click > Open.
2. Properly remove the SSD from your iMac or MBP with Right Click > Eject.
3. Format the SSD (if not pre-formatted) for OSX

To accomplish the above follow the instructions below in the order shown:

1. GoTo: Finder > Preferences > General > Show these items on the desktop > Check the box – External disks (you can check all the boxes if you like)
2. Next: Connect the drive to your iMac or MBP
3. GoTo: Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility > Select the New SSD > Select Erase (located across the top) > Give it a Name > Format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) > Select Erase (lower right) - Let the process complete > Done

Now the external SSD is ready to use with your iMac and MBP. It will appear on your desktop every time you connect it to one of your computers. Accessing files saved to the SSD and ejecting it are both done by Right Click to select the desired operation.

Once again Good Luck!

Together Everyone Achieves More = TEAM

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why is an external SSD better than a good flash drive?,

I'm not being snarky, it just seems to me like a lot more trouble than simply taking a flash drive with you (doing backups to whichever one you're on, for safety's sake.

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Depends on how you use the external storage

The one big advantage of an SSD is wear leveling. If your work process ends up with programs using the external storage for temp information, you could end up with some cells getting worn out.

For just saving files at human speeds, then a flash drive or SD card works fine.

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I'd start using a memory stick. Then automate the backup.
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Sometimes The Solution Is Right In Our Face

Hi Frank

When I submitted my first post (and supplemental) I did so from the premise that your iMac and MBP were rarely or never in the same location. I later realized that could not be true as you stated that you regularly use Finder to compare files for continuity.

That said there is a much simpler solution to your issue that requires no purchasing of an external drive (as I first suggested), NAS, AP Router, Software nor Cellular use (i.e. Hotspot). The tools you need are already built into your iMac and MBP – it’s called File Sharing.

When at home on your network this solution will require that you always connect to your MBP when working from your iMac. Your MBP will become your server from where you access all your documents and save new ones. Simply put your MBP is your external drive you access over your network via your iMac.

Since all documents, new, old and edited will be saving to your MBP you will never have to concern yourself with file syncing. When saving a new document created on your iMac just remember to click the drop down to the right of “Save as” to reveal your entire MBP save locations which in this case will always be the Documents Folder. If accessing/editing a document already saved to your MBP when on your iMac just click “Save” to store the changes.

When you are in the field (mobile home) use your MBP as normal. You'll have access to all your files with any changes made when you were at home.

Just remember to back-up your MBP via Time Machine and/or store your documents in iCloud on a regular basis. Oh...don’t forget to continue to back-up your iMac Happy

Note: Do not attempt to setup simultaneous file share (i.e. iMac to MBP). Keep it a one-way street – MBP to iMac.

Below are instructions on how to setup File Sharing.

On your MBP GoTo: Preferences > Sharing
1. You should see the Name of your MBP.
2. Below that you will see “Computers on your local network can access your computer at: Name of your MBP xxx.local.
3. You can ignore this

In the space to the left you will see two columns with the headings: On | Service
1. Check the box next to File Sharing - Follow this same procedure on your iMac

Restart your MBP and iMac
1. Open Finder on both computers
2. Under Shared for your MBP see your iMac
3. Under Shared for your iMac see your MBP

Go to your iMac
1. In Finder Double click your MBP – It should Connect and you’ll be able to access the Documents Folder

2. If it does not connect --- click “Connect as” and you’ll see:
a. Connect as Registered User
b. Connect as Guest
c. Connect with Apple ID

3. Use: Connect as Registered User
a. Type your UserID for your MBP
b. Type your Password for your MBP
c. OK
d. Going forward your iMac will remember your credentials and connect automatically to your MBP.

Note: When done remember to disconnect from File Sharing before you shut down your iMac and/or MBP

Good Luck...again Cool

Together Everyone Achieves More = TEAM

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If you are not able to Disconnect by clicking "disconnect"

shut down you iMac and MBP normally...iMac first.

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Use a decent Cloud app like Dropbox!

Perhaps you don't have a fundamental understanding of how the cloud works, as in the case of Dropbox. Your files are stored locally on each machine, and Dropbox just needs a few minutes of connection time to keep everything in sync.

I live in Nepal, and travel extensively to areas with no wifi with my rMBP, while my iMac sits in my KTM office. I don't have a problem, ever, and I don't have to think about it, at all. I pay 99$ a year for 1TB of storage, and that's well worth the money for a system that's a no-brainer.

Apple's newer operating systems have a similar feature, iCloud Drive (with Desktop & Documents Folders enabled), but it's a joke: way too slow and storage is expensive. Use Dropbox instead, you won't be sorry.

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I don't see the problem

Frank B,, you are a writer. You are the primary/only user of both computers, but you use only one at a time. Am I correct so far?

Your manuscript is important, but you don't necessarily have to retain every change you make during the writing process; what you really need is to be able to use the most up-to-date version on whichever computer you happen to be using. But you may also want to keep one or more preliminary versions where you can access them, in case you need to go back at some point. Correct?

All you need is a portable storage device -- a USB hard drive, SSD or even a flashdrive. -- with the version(s) you need, and which can be plugged into either computer as needed. Save each older version with XXXXXxx, where XXXXX is the main filename and xx is a two-digit revision number: XXXXX01 is the first "old" version, XXXXX02 the second, etc. The filename XXXXX (without a revision number) is your "working" manuscript file, which will be copied to storage using "Save As" and appending the next available revision number when you archive it prior to continuing or editing your work; XXXXX (the working copy) is the only version you need to keep on whichever computer you are using, and it can be copied to the internal drive on the other computer as needed. The revision numbers give each version it own unique filename as far as the computers are concerned, so they don't get over-written; just change the revision number before you "Save As" to storage at the end of the workday.

Personally, I'd keep XXXXX (the current working copy) on a portable storage medium as well, but not necessarily the same one as your earlier versions. You might even make two copies, just in case you misplace one.

Because word processor documents are relatively small -- generally megabytes rather than gigabytes -- a decent-sized flash drive can hold multiple earlier versions of even a long work-in-progress along with loads of reference notes, still images and even videos you might need while writing. A much smaller flashdrive can hold the final work, which can get go into a safe-deposit box at the bank or an office safe in your home workspace.

By keeping all the needed manuscript versions and reference materials on a flashdrive or other medium, you can easily copy everything to the internal drives on either computer (or both, just one at a time), *and* provide a backup you can slip into a pocket wherever you happen to be.

If you're cautious-bordering-on-paranoid, make extra copies while on the road, keeping one on your person; use a NAS (network-attached storage) device at home; and arrange to stash a copy somewhere offsite (a trusted friend's home, perhaps) now and case of fire or natural disaster.

And don't write off cloud storage completely. Simply use a service such as iDrive or Carbonite -- continuously at home, and whenever you can on the road. Many coffee shops and restaurants (notably) Starbucks and McDonald's) offer free public Wi-Fi; these services aren't especially secure, but you can always encrypt your files before uploading, and the employees are used to seeing people using their laptops while they sip or dine.

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Cloud storage

Yes you can save all of your documents to the cloud and have a service like Dropbox or one cloud or iCloud sync the documents across as many different platforms as you desire. I have them synchronize documents across two Macs an iPad and a Windows 10 machine without a problem. You just have to assure the last device you use is on-line before using another device.

Document backup, "what me worry?", I have four copies plus on line.

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Cloud storage is still an option

You would still be able to sync your documents even without a network. When you are traveling, you make all the changes. Get home and connect to network and the changes sync automatically and are then available on the other device.
Both OneDrive and Google drive work this way. I can't speak for any others though.

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For all those recommending cloud

If I understand the OP's situation correctly, he needs a solution for when he is in a location where he has no service. He has edited one or more documents, some on one machine and different documents on the other machine. Now, he needs to sync everything back and forth. And, he's still in a location with no service. The cloud solutions are not available at the time he needs them.

I think the only solutions in this situation are external storage, a personal router, or a cell phone hotspot.

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You're Correct

I was going to say that but I can't figure out why people insist on a "cloud" solution when the OP said, effectively, NO CLOUD. How can it be an option if most of these cloud solutions require you to finish working on one device before working on a different device and the OP is out in the Boonies. Also, not everyone can use a WiFi hotspot with their cell phone. I have an AT&T account and can't use a Personal Hotspot unless I agree to pay for 5 GB of data. I only need one GB, max.

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Not Really

If he brings more than one device with him, and uses multiple devices while out in nowhere, that the cloud will be confusing at best, not possible without some complicated work. For my work, I was not allowed to use the Cloud at all because we were involved in Criminal Justice systems and could not use the public cloud for security/privacy reasons.

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Use an External Drive

I do not trust the cloud (fear of 'public' hacking) yet I need my files at several locations so I use 2 USB drives - one for everyday use and the other as a weekly backup.
I download, create or scan to the USB then when I travel I simply unplug, put it in my 'pocket' and go.

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Re: external drive

Nice, but be sure to have a backup. Storing things only on an external, especially when putting it into your 'pocket', is a sure way to lose everything.

Post was last edited on August 5, 2017 2:38 AM PDT

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