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Tech tips: Synchronize content between computers

Doug Behl and Ken Getz
Special to The Union
Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

I have multiple computers (one at work, and one at home) and I’d like to keep data synchronized between the two computers.

In the old days, I would have used a floppy disk to copy stuff and carry it with me.

I don’t even have a floppy drive any more (and the IT guys at work don’t even know what they are!)



What’s the best “modern” solution to synchronizing data between my computers?

There are as many answers as there are computers.




Some people just use a USB key and copy files from one to the other manually: that’s affectionately called “sneaker net.”

If your computers are located in the same facility, you can easily network your computers and manually copy files.

If the computers are in separate facilities, networking is a bit more trouble, but can be doing using a technology called Virtual Private Network (or VPN). Setting this up would require someone with a bit of networking experience.

You can also use software that synchronizes folders on schedule or on demand.

My favorites include Beyond Compare (for Windows computers, http://www.scootersoftware.com/), and ChronoSync (for Mac computers, http://econtechnologies.com/)

Using these software packages, you could synchronize folders with a portable device (USB key or external hard drive) at one end, and then synchronize again at the other end. Synchronizing is faster than simply copying the files, as it precludes copying files that haven’t changed since the last time you synchronized.

But we think the best solution for keeping files synchronized between computers is a free service called DropBox.

It’s both a Web service (that is, a service hosted on the Web) and a client application.

You aren’t required to install anything on your computer, but DropBox can’t automatically synchronize files unless you do.

DropBox does far more than simply synchronize files — it also allows you to share files with friends, family, and coworkers. Once you upload a file to your DropBox account, you can share it with anyone simply by sending a link to the file. Pretty sweet!

DropBox not only synchronizes your files between computers; it also backs them up to the Web where they are securely stored. DropBox also keeps backups of multiple revisions o f files, so if you inadvertently change a file, you can go back to a previous version.

It is a great service, and for 2 GB of storage, it’s free.

You can pay more for more storage but certainly it is the best of its kind and it’s a product that we can’t work without.

You can also get more free storage by convincing friends to also sign up — kind of like Tupperware!

Make text larger or smaller while browsing

I find that often, when I’m browsing the Web, I can’t easily read the text on the screen.

Is there some way to easily make the text larger? The same thing often happens when reading emails, or viewing PDF files, as well.

On a PC, most applications support the following keyboard shortcuts: Hold the CTRL key down and tap the plus sign (+) key to make the text larger, and CTRL key and the minus sign (-) to make it smaller.

If you have a mouse with a roller button you may find that you can hold the CTRL key and roll up for larger and down for smaller text.

On a Mac, press the Command (Apple) key and the plus sign to enlarge text or the minus sign to make text smaller.

This technique doesn’t work the same in all document readers; it works in most and it can help you manage the size of fonts in your documents.

NOTE: This article is an updated version of a column that ran previously.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to questions@techtipguys.com.


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