One problem almost all laptop users have experienced is not having the "latest version." I'm not talking about a particular piece of software, a driver update, or even the laptop itself. I'm talking about that moment when you're on the road or at a conference and you smack yourself in the head because you forgot to get the "latest version" of that important file off your desktop PC. From there, it's a scramble to call your co-worker, roommate, or significant other to find a way to get the latest version to you.
While I don't have the power to make people remember to sync every important file to their laptop, I can certainly provide ways to make the process easier. A good syncing application makes it easy to see which files are up to date with your latest work, and which ones are not. Usually syncing apps provide a dual-paned interface so you can browse folders on different drives and computers. The good ones have helpful alert icons so it's easy to pick the right files to transfer so you always have the latest version. Of course, the nature of syncing programs make them a great choice for creating regular backups of your important files and folders as well.
Synchronize It offers a two-paned interface for easy folder and directory syncing. A start dialog helps you designate what you want to sync up, whether it's between your desktop and your laptop, folder to folder, or even FTP sites for Web site updates. There are several preset rules for syncing up your data, but you can use the options to create new rules, select specific file types, and create filters so you know you're getting exactly what you want. If you want a hard copy of folder contents, Synchronize It offers options for HTML reports and printouts. Synchronize It is shareware so you'll get 30 days to sample its features before you'll need to register ($19).
Easy2Sync offers free and paid versions, but this free version is great for simple folder and file syncing. Easy2Sync offers helpful wizards so you can set up rules for syncing, schedule regular syncing tasks, and make sure you sync up only the files and folders you want. Though initially even the wizards can seem a bit complicated, the Easy2Sync help system gives you all the basics to make the job a lot easier. This free version does not support syncing of subdirectories or performing multiple tasks, but if it's simply a folder you need to sync up on a regular basis, it does the job nicely. The full version of Easy2Sync business edition costs $79.
GoodSync is a popular free syncing program that boasts one-click functionality. You can set up filters for specific file types and folders like the other apps, and you can schedule regular syncing for backups and to make sure, for example, your laptop always has the latest versions. It supports syncing to FTP sites like Easy2Sync, or several other media types like USB keys, CDRW drives, and Flash drives. You also get a number of options for when you want GoodSync to sync up important files, such as at system start-up, on a schedule, or when your laptop is first connected. One thing I particularly like about GoodSync is the tabbed interface so I can quickly get to different syncing jobs with the click of a mouse.
The last thing you want to happen when you're on the road for work is find out the project you've been working on is completely out of date. Make sure all your important folders are synced up using one of these apps. As always, if you have a favorite that isn't listed here, please tell us about it in the comments!