File Synchronization: A Step Closer to Switching to OS X

2002 – There are several attitudes toward Mac OS X on the Mac Web. Some have become cheerleaders, strong advocates that everyone abandon the classic Mac OS as quickly as possible and jump on the OS X bandwagon. Some even go so far as to recommend you dump all your Classic Mode software and replace it with OS X-native applications.


Some obviously have much bigger budgets than the average low-end Mac user.

Others take a “forward into the past” approach and praise Mac OS 9.2.2 as the culmination of 18 years of Mac OS evolution, bemoan the eventual inability of new Macs to boot into their beloved OS, and see OS X as a threat to what they perceive as the greatest Mac OS ever. (Some System 6 users feel the same way about System 6 vs. System 7.)

Some are obviously content with what they have and see no reason to change.

Neither of these groups will offer realistic advice for those wondering if, when, and how to make the switch. Several writers on the Mac Web, Charles W. Moore and me among them, fall between the extremes. We know and love the classic Mac OS. We generally have older hardware. We could be called power users – the Mac OS is second nature to us.

We represent the large base of Mac users who are wed to Quark Xpress, Claris HomePage, Claris Emailer, or any of a host of other programs that are simply not yet available in OS X-native versions. Some never will be. And some are too costly to upgrade.

We acknowledge the benefits of OS X and look forward to the day when we can make an unqualified migration, but today we switch between being productive with the classic Mac OS we know and mostly love and the new Mac OS that feels different and entices us with stability, better multitasking, the end of out of memory errors, and new applications (iTunes 3 in my case) that don’t run under the classic Mac OS.


It will be a long time before I completely abandon my classic applications – if that ever happens. I still have antiquated programs like Microsoft Word 5.1a, Claris Emailer, Claris HomePage,* FileMaker Pro 3.0, Photoshop 5.5, and many others that I don’t see any reason to replace or upgrade. Classic mode will remain a fixture of my Mac OS X experience for a long time to come.

Beyond those, I have QuicKeys, Default Folder, Retrospect Client (for backup), and other utilities I don’t want to invest in upgrading.

Another very real obstacle has been smart copying. Since the System 7.1 days, I’ve used CopyDoubler, followed by Speed Copy, and now CopyAgent to intelligently copy files between drives and between computers. The best feature of these programs was smart copying – they would compare the source and destination and then only copy the files that were different.

The Mac OS isn’t so smart; it will copy everything, simply overwriting existing files and wasting a lot of time. I love smart copying.


As noted above, I love iTunes 3. I finally started using iTunes over the summer, and I really appreciate the control over playlists, the way it handles burning, and almost everything else about iTunes 3. But I have to boot into OS X to use it.

That’s just one way Apple is enticing us to make the Mac OS switch. iPhoto is another, although I have to admit I haven’t even tried it yet. And then there are iCal, iChat, and a few other OS X-only programs.

For me, the biggest enticement is Apple’s new email client with intelligent spam handling. I want to switch to Mail, but the minute I do that I can’t go back. I’ll only be able to access my email in Mail – unless I’m willing to have some available only in OS X, the rest on Mac OS 9 and Classic Mode.

A reader is looking into getting me a copy of OS X 10.2 Jaguar, which will let me test Mail on one or two of my accounts. If I like it, the goal is to completely replace PowerMail and mostly replace Claris Emailer (I have some scripts that I use for list management, so Emailer is unlikely to disappear from my hard drive).

Smart Copying

I shared my thoughts about OS 9 vs. OS X on one of my email lists, and the author of File Synchronization (a member of the list) recommended his program as a replacement for CopyAgent. I had to boot into OS X to download, install, and try it. [Update, March 2016: File Synchronization is currently available in versions for OS X 10.3 Panther, 10.4 Tiger, and 10.5 Leopard through 10.11 El Capitan. The latest version can be purchased via the Mac App Store from $7.99 or from Nemesys Software from $15 depending on which license you choose. The version from Nemesys is especially helpful for Leopard users, since the Mac App Store version doesn’t support PowerPC or OS X 10.5. Versions from Nemesys are also available as 30-day trialware, so there’s no risk in trying it out.]

The program does what I need, albeit differently than the three programs I’ve used with the classic Mac OS. Instead of a control panel that sits in the background and intercepts copies and makes them “smart,” with File Synchronization I have to configure and run an application. As an OS X application, it can work in the background, just like the classic Mac OS smart copy utilities.

File Synchronization app

File Synchronization (FS) lets me choose which folders are copied to what destinations, as shown in the above image. The two-headed arrow means that FS will make both locations identical. The one way arrow indicates which is the source and which is the destination; this arrow can point in either direction.

The most important option in FS has to do with orphans, which are defined as files existing in only one of the two locations. With full synchronization (the two-headed arrow), if you enable “Delete orphaned files,” any file that exists in only one of the two locations will be deleted. With orphan deletion disabled, any file that exists in only one of the two locations will end up in both.

The same applies with the one way arrow, but only in the direction you are copying. Everything on the source side will end up on the destination side, but if you enable “Delete orphaned files,” anything that exists uniquely on the destination side will be removed.

It’s easier than it sounds. Best of all, it works. It’s more cumbersome than the classic Mac OS smart copiers, but it does the job. It’s slower than the classic OS smart copiers, but it does remove one very big obstacle in my eventual switch to Mac OS X.

File Synchronization can be used to copy files from one partition or drive to another locally or over a network. It can even be set to mount remote drives. You can try it for free for 30 days. I’m guessing you’ll decide to pay the shareware fee long before the software expires.


* I finally left behind Claris Home Page, Classic Mode, and, for the most part, OS X 10.4 Tiger in 2013 when Low End Mac moved to WordPress. Home Page was that one last Classic app I couldn’t leave behind until we had a content management system in place.

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