Syncplicity update: Google Docs sync now working (but slow)

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Earlier this week I gave a brief review of the file syncing service Syncplicity. While similar in many respects to Dropbox, Syncplicity offers a few differentiating factors including the ability to sync any folder on your computer, and integration with web services including Google Docs. Unfortunately, in my first run through Syncplicity, after setting up Google Docs sync, nothing seemed to happen. Well, when I woke up the next day, the folder I had set up to be synced from Google Docs was full of all my previously cloud-only documents, just as promised (if somewhat later than expected). As such, I thought it was worth providing a bit of a supplement to the original post.

Working, but slowly
So first things first, the syncing does appear to be working for the most part. Files that are created or modified in either Google Docs or on my local computer show up in the appropriate state in the other location. Deletes and moves are unfortunately not handled, though Syncplicitly claims to be working with Google to enable a solution (they claim the API is too restricted right now). As I mentioned in the previous post, when you link your Google account, you decide what file format to use for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your local machine.

Unfortunately, while this all looks great in a static state, the dynamics of the system leave quite a bit to be desired. In my experience, changes made on my desktop took anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes to show up on my Google Docs account. Changes initiated in Google Docs took even longer to sync to my local machine. This slow timeline is compounded by the fact that unlike the normal file sync in Syncplicity, there is no progress bar indicating whether things are in sync. For tens of minutes, my machine and Google would be out of sync, but the status indicator in my system tray indicated that I was "100% synced."

Backup, not sync
So unless I'm seeing abnormally slow sync performance, I'd be leery of even calling the Google Docs portion of Syncplicity "syncing." The beauty of something like Dropbox is that you never have to think about it; you can pop a file into your Dropbox in the morning and be confident that it will be accessible almost immediately. Just to reiterate, for normal file syncing (like what Dropbox does), Syncplicity seems to do a fine job as well. For Google Docs however, I would never feel confident like I can with normal files. I'd always be worried that the most recent changes weren't reflected in whatever copy I had access to.

As such, the main utility of the Google Docs integration, as far as I can tell, is as more of a backup system. If you spend most of your time editing in Google Docs, Syncplicity lets you keep a local version of your files in case all of Google's servers simultaneously explode (or your internet connection goes down). If you generally edit files locally, having an extra cloud copy at Google buys you a little extra data-redundancy and might enable some occasional sharing or collaboration. Unfortunately, given the current delay, it doesn't seem like Syncplicity really enables you to switch back and forth easily between Google and local editing.

So with the final piece included, I don't think my overall impression of Syncplicity has changed all that much. If being able to easily sync any folder on your computer is important, Syncplicity probably holds an edge of Dropbox. If multiple-platform compatibility is more important (Syncplicity is Windows and Snow Leopard only), then Dropbox is the winner. In any event, the Google Docs feature, while intriguing on a feature list, doesn't seem to provide much in the way of actual value.

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