What’s different, what’s better

The obvious way to generate a dual-folder display is simply to list all of the files in each folder, sorted by file names and with matching file names aligned, and to provide an indication of which is newer if they are not identical.  So much was already known (but never so well implemented as here!).

I was concerned that such a display could sometimes provide too much unnecessary information – too many rows of files – obscuring what mattered.  Large folders might contain many identical files with only a few differences scattered around, making it tedious to find and even more tedious to select each of them.

I started from first principles, and reasoned that there were only five possibilities to be considered.

If a file name was common to two folders then (i) the files could be identical, or (ii) the file in the first folder could be newer, or (iii) the file in the second folder could be newer.

But if a file name was NOT common to the two folders, then either (iv) it was unmatched in the first folder or (v) it was unmatched in the second folder.

PickSync provides checkboxes which determine which file names are displayed, and which are left out, depending on whether the file name corresponds to one of the above five possibilities:

Moreover,  I appreciated that some combinations of these possibilities could be useful for different purposes.  PickSync therefore has a dropdown menu that permits the user to select certain combinations, named to denote their purpose.

Different choices mean that different checkboxes are selected …

… resulting in selective display of the files in the grid:

These different options are useful in different ways:

  • All: The default, obviously displays all the files in both folders
  • Left side only: displays all files in the left folder.  Files which are only found in the right folder are omitted.
  • Update from left: displays files on the left which are (i) newer than those on the right, or (ii) are new and have no corresponding file name on the right.  Useful for backing up the folder on the left, as it lists only those new/newer files that have not already been saved in the folder on the right.
  • Different: displays all files which differ, i.e. everything except those where the file name and date match.  Useful for two-way synchronising.
  • Matching name: The file names match, but the dates may or may not do so.
  • Identical: the file names and dates both match.  Useful for identifying duplicated files that the user may wish to remove from one of the folder.

The drop-down menu allows very rapid selection of what file names will be displayed in the grid.  In turn this makes it very easy to select groups of individual files for copying or moving.  (In the ideal case simply “Select all”, as the grid will only be displaying those files with the characteristic of interest).

In this way the user has quick and simple – but very powerful – control over the synchronisation of folders.  I have found this to be very helpful for my own day to day needs, and now hope that others will too.

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Posted on January 1, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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