July 02 KoolTools
Volume Number: 18 (2002)
Issue Number: 07
Column Tag: KoolTools
by Michael Harvey
ChronoSync is a file synchronization utility that lets the user backup, save, and synchronize files to local or network locations, and schedule these functions to run at specified times. Bet you couldn’t figure that out from reading the name.
ChronoSync’s documentation is provided through the Help Center. It is complete, and easy to use. The manual can be read through, beginning to end, to learn all the details of the program, or searched to find specific information. Additionally, ChronoSync makes use of Tool Tips throughout the application to make identifying various buttons and elements of the program easier.
Synchronization settings are established in documents, which are the main windows of the program. On launch, you will be presented with a new, untitled, document. In preferences is the option to disable this feature. The main window presents you with a toolbar displaying buttons that activate the main functions of the program, and three tabs. Hanging off the right side of the window is a drawer called the Options Drawer. Additional setup options are listed here which are specific to each tab. This can be opened or closed from the Actions menu.
The first tab is Target. The Target tab is where you set the local and remote folders you want synchronized. The options drawer here lets you set the synchronizing direction, and the kind of file system on the target and remote disks.
ChronoSync also supports drag and drop set up of target folders. From the Finder, just drag a target disk onto the document window, and drop it there. The application will then display the path of the folder you just dropped on to it. In fact, dragging works throughout the program. Within the Rules tab, for example, dragging a file onto the window will have it’s attributes copied into whatever fields are selected at that moment, much like dragging a file onto the search window of Sherlock does.
Once targets are established, you are then able to determine rules to apply to your synchronizations. Out of the gate, the simple rules are easily configured, and will be more than enough for most users. Intermediate rules settings allow for very fine definitions for what to include in a synchronization. Advanced settings allow the same specific control over inclusion, just like the intermediate settings, but also allow the user to set exclusion criteria, as well. The Option Drawer for this tab holds the radio buttons to change between basic, intermediate, and advanced rules displays.
The third tab in the document is Analyze. From here, you can compare files at the local and remote locations, see their synchronization status, and what is excluded. You can also set exclusions. Highlighting an item and clicking on the Exclude button will put an X between the local and remote files, indicating it will passed over during all subsequent synchronizations. The options drawer for Analyze displays the synchronization direction, the same as is displayed under the Target tab. The rest of the drawer is given over to Special Handling choices. One of the more significant choices is verbose logging. This one is, by default, unchecked, but should be, as the basic logging does not list specific errors when they crop up during scheduled runs.
Once all your settings are established, you are ready to synchronize your files. You can do this manually, simply by clicking on the Synchronize button in the document, or by scheduling it. From the Actions menu select Add to Schedule. The presented dialog lets you schedule when ChronoSync will run the document with great detail. You can also choose to run the schedule at application launch or quit. The last item in the Actions menu will be either Resume of Suspend Scheduler, which oddly enough, starts or stops scheduled documents from running. Show Scheduler from the View menu will display a list of all the scheduled documents.
Running schedules over the network is simple. The first time a schedule runs, and the network volume is not available, you will be given the option to allow ChronoSync to access log in information from the Keychain. You can allow access once only, or always. If always is selected, the volume will automatically be mounted on all subsequent runs of the scheduled document.
ChronoSync falls short in only one area. It does not run as a daemon or faceless background application. If the program were to run scheduled tasks in the background, providing only enough information on screen to let the user know it’s working, it would be far more ideal.
This is a fairly minor quibble, though, and overall the program is very capable. It lacks a few of the bells and whistles of some of it’s competitors, but that is to it’s advantage. ChronoSync is a small, focused application that does it’s job well. And, at $19.95, it is much less expensive than some of those competitors. ChronoSync is Mac OS X only shareware available directly from Econ Technologies, Inc..
Michael R. Harvey