Review: GoodSync for Mac

Offers detailed customization to backup or sync files. (August 1st, 2010)

Flexible and simple. Should do well with those who want to customize their syncs or backups and do not mind a Windows-like interface.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Siber Systems

Price: $29.95 US

The Good

  • Simple way to keep identical files in multiple folders or back up files or folders to another location.
    The interface is clear.
    Allows more complex jobs such as chained backups and synchronizing to a server.

The Bad

  • Help only for the Windows version.
    Sometimes unclear if the feature or procedure works on the Mac version.
    Open dialogs and other features donít follow Mac interface.
    Information buttons donít work.
    Ported from Windows and some features on Mac donít work.
    Free solutions from other vendors exist.

Virginia-based Siber Systems publishes GoodSync for Mac, a file synchronization and backup utility. The program syncs your files between your computer and a mobile device, such as a smart phone, specific folders, or an external hard drive. GoodSync for Mac 1.4.3 runs on Mac OS X 10.4 and up. Its simplicity may make friends with home users, and its versatility make it useful for syncing work files between desktop computers, laptops, and portable drives.

Installation is Apple-easy. You download the 7.7 MB file from the site, decompress the file, and drag the GoodSync for Mac icon to your Applications folder and you are done. Unfortunately, you must download the PDF help file separately from the web site or view it online and it covers the Windows version, not the Mac version. When GoodSync for Mac first opens, you see a welcome window to create your first backup, which is oddly referred to as a job.

Splash Screen

Splash Screen

You choose whether you want to Synchronize or Backup your files from the next dialog, which is the same dialog that appears when you choose New from the Job menu. The menus highlight that GoodSync is ported from Windows, because no File menu exists and other menu commands are non-standard. You also assign a unique name to your new backup or sync from this dialog.

Choose and Name Your Job

Choose and Name Your Job

You can also create a new job when you click on the Plus (+) at the top center of the Job window. The job window includes three main columns, which they refer to as panes: A job pane and two folder panes. The window shows two folders and you choose which folders to sync. You must have created a new folder on your storage device before you can sync, if you want a new separate folder.

The job dialog opens with no folders selected and it is very clear as to where to click to select your folders to use. This resulting folder selection dialog for some unknown reason includes a list of disconnected servers on the left side, but not your connected external drives if those exist. In addition, the folder list on the right includes hidden folders that you normally would not be able to access. This open dialog also does not follow Apple interface guidelines, because you can only click the selection arrow to see inside the folder, i.e. you cannot double-click to open the folder. We caution new or less experienced Mac users to be careful which folders you choose, i.e. do not choose any folder names you do not recognize or system folders.

Select Folder

Select Folder

The buttons you use to initiate your Sync or Backup live on the upper left of the window. You must first click Analyze and GoodSync for Mac checks to see if you can synchronize or backup your files. No separate backup button exists, so you click Sync for both operations. When you click Analyze, the program recommends an action in the center column between the two panes. In the screenshot, the green arrowhead indicates in which direction the file will be copied.

File List Window

File List Window

If you right-click the file name, a shortcut menu gives you other choices, such as include or exclude the file, open, copy or delete the file. To sync the two folders, click Sync. GoodSync for Mac shows you in real time as it syncs the files between folders.

Shortcut Menu

Shortcut Menu

The Right folder or destination can be another folder on your Mac, an external hard drive, a USB drive, or a network drive. You can sync a folder of new pictures to a folder on a digital picture frame. If you return from vacation with a week's worth of vacation pictures, after you upload them to your Mac, you can use GoodSync for Mac to copy just the new images to a digital picture frame, while retaining the older images on it.

The ability to filter files to be synced or backed up is a very useful feature of GoodSync for Mac. Sometimes you may want to only sync files from the last week, or after a specific date and by using filters, you can tell GoodSync for Mac what files to exclude or include in the Preferences.


Preferences - Global Filters

The online GoodSync for Mac Users Guide includes a section on creating filters, with lots of examples. By default, system files and folders are excluded from synchronizing, but you can change that in the Preferences. You likely will not want to sync or backup your programs, so you could exclude the Applications folder. Making inclusions and exclusions to your job is very powerful; you can fine-tune a job to only touch those files or folders you want. Unfortunately, in the files list, as seen in the File List Window screen shot above, all of your folders display open, so your it might take more time to select what you want than desired.

For example, Ilene wanted to backup a folder inside an enclosing folder that contained 50 other folders. All of them displayed open in a tree-based structure and locating the one folder she wanted to backup became a long scrolling exercise. The dialog jumped around as she closed unwanted folders, which added frustration to the process. When she finally selected the desired folder and clicked Sync, the program started to copy the enclosing folder, because she had not excluded it and all the other folders. I'm sorry, but that is just a kludgy way to select files to backup.

Once you create a job to do just what you want, you can automate it to run when you are not at the computer. If you have information on a flash drive, you can set GoodSync for Mac to sync whenever you connect the drive to your Mac. On the Jobs menu, click Options, and make your choices in the Auto tab. You can set GoodSync for Mac to sync to an external hard drive and create an automated backup of certain files. goodsync7-auto.jpg On the GoodSync web site, you can download GoodSync for Mac Pro. To purchase GoodSync for Mac Pro you may pay by credit card, PayPal, or paper check or money order; you will receive and activation code by email.

On the Positive Side

GoodSync for Mac is a simple way to keep identical files in multiple folders or back up files or folders to another location, but it may not be painless to initially select those files. The interface is clear, but not intuitive or Mac-like, so some may find it confusing. There is also a depth to GoodSync for Mac that allows more complex jobs such as chained backups and synchronizing to a server. GoodSync for Mac will also email logs of a job, but I did not get this feature to work.

On the Negative Side

GoodSync for Mac has an extensive web-based help site documenting the more advanced features of the program, unfortunately the site is written for the Windows version. For the simpler tasks or features, this is probably OK, but instructions on how to sync between your computer and a Windows Mobile phone may be of limited help if you have a Mac and an Android phone. The web site provides a wealth of information in an easy to read style cleanly laid out, I just wish I didn't have to translate the Windows information to what will work with my Mac.

The Bottom Line

If you consider the other backup options, such as Time Machine, iSync, MobileMe, Carbon Copy Cloner, and SuperDuper, GoodSync for Mac has plenty of competition and may not hold up. Its flexibility and simplicity should allow it to do well with those who want their synchronizations or backups done their way. While Ron thinks the programs has its merits, Ilene found it cumbersome and prefers the programs developed for the Mac platform.

by Ronald Robbins and Ilene Hoffman


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