Review: SyncTogether

Sync address books, and all those files that make your life work. (April 18th, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Mark/Space Inc.

Price: $49.95 US

The Good

  • Cheaper than .Mac. More flexible syncing options than .Mac. Capable of remote syncing.

The Bad

  • No keychain syncing. May need to get your hands dirty to get it to work satisfactorily. Troubleshooting problems is time consuming.

SyncTogether, version 1.01, is a Mac-to-Mac synchronization tool that works without a .Mac account in Mac OS X 10.4.8 and above. It uses Bonjour to discover clients on a local network, and can use IP addressing for remote machines. It also synchronizes files that belong to different users on a single machine. Each SyncTogether license allows synchronization of up to three machines. Just like .Mac, SyncTogether is capable of syncing Safari bookmarks, address book contacts, iCal events and tasks, and Mail's various settings. Syncing for third party applications, such as Yojimbo items, Transmit Favorites, Entourage 2004 notes, and Mark/Space's own Notebook, is also supported. Keychain syncing is not supported, presumably for security reasons.

More Flexible Than .Mac

Installation and setup is simple, but quite flexible, and provides a degree of control that is missing from .Mac. For example, you can choose which Address Book groups or bookmark collections to sync. The required synchronization mode, publish only, subscribe only or true sync, can be selected for each application. Syncing can be performed manually or automatically according to a schedule that can be different for each machine in the synchronization group.

Problems Encountered

Despite the easy setup, SyncTogether didn't function as well as I'd hoped. With two machines on a wireless LAN, a G4 PowerBook as server and a Core2Duo MacBook client, synchronization went quite smoothly, and after the initial sync, was fairly swift. When I added an 800 MHz G4 iBook client to the sync group, it unfortunately somehow upset the Apple cart. Although the initial sync went smoothly, I wasn't able to get the iBook to sync properly afterwards. To get things working again required a trip to the Mark/Space SyncTogether user forums (http://forums.markspace.com/viewforum.php?f=14). The solution involved sync process killing, preference trashing, sync history resetting, rebooting, permission repairing, PRAM zapping, and reinstalling. To cut a long sad story short, fixing the problem required a whole lot of tedious messing around that a casual user really doesn't want to get involved in doing.

Helpful Emergency Tool

In the end, I did manage to get all three machines to sync satisfactorily, although the iBook is still very slow at syncing. I never did track down the reason for the problems with what seems like a simple local server and two client set up. Despite all the antics required to fix things, and even though Yojimbo crashed three times during the process, no data was lost. SyncTogether does provide an Emergency Data Restore tool that can rebuild databases from archives created during syncing. I was able to test this in a rough and ready way by intentionally corrupting the Address Book data on a client machine. The Emergency Data Restore tool successfully rebuilt the database, and subsequent syncs were uneventful and worked fine.

Not for Casual User

After a frustrating initial period, SyncTogether does do its job fairly well, although I still get anxious when the iBook takes an unreasonably long time to sync. Due to the previously mentioned problems, I didn't even attempt to test syncing of remote machines via VPN or using direct IP addressing. On balance SyncTogether is potentially a very useful tool, and a much more flexible and cheaper replacement for .Mac, but getting it to work properly can be tricky. This problem may steer more casual users to other solutions.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Stephen Austin


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