The SkyDrive Sync Dilemma

One of the frequently asked questions as of late, being asked by some of you and a lot by me, is if the app syncs with SkyDrive or has plans to.

For those of you new to the Windows 8 platform, SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage system. Documents, pictures, music, and video in your SkyDrive account is available to you from any computer that you log into. Additionally, you even have offline access to the data if you are disconnected from the network.

Microsoft has given Windows 8 app developers a means to connect their apps to SkyDrive to allow users to retrieve and store documents there from the app. Brilliant! Some developers have taken it a step further and are using the user’s SkyDrive to sync the local database to. This allows users the ability to have the same data and settings for the app on any computer the user logs into. This too is brilliant…with a catch.

As a result, a new directory appears in your SkyDrive folder that you may have or may not have approved of. Usually the folder is named similarly to the app’s name though. But the danger is that the user can inadvertently delete or alter this folder or its data as well which can cause a loss of all saved data.

So, as the person who is solely responsible for the features implemented in this app, I have a dilemma. Do I build this capability into the app providing a great, but potentially hazardous feature, or do I work on other ways to improve the app and the availability of your data.

This is a great concern for me. I’m writing a book right now using Writing Type and I would love to be able to work on it from either of my two Windows 8 devices. But I can’t. Sure my development team could probably implement this, but I don’t know if we should. There are other options available, but they are beyond the current budget of this app, but possible if the app continues to grow its user base.

So, what are we working on? The next release, which should be released by the end of January, brings key features that are needed even more than sync: Backup and Restore, and Project and Section Export to various file formats.

I don’t know about you, but as I’m writing what is sure to be the next great American novel (yeah…sure), I need to be sure that my words are safe if my computer crashes. The backup option will allow you to save all your projects anywhere you choose with a couple of clicks.  The Share Charm feature works now if you need to export a specific project or a section, but it is no backup.

I apologize for not having this out there sooner!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, via the feedback form, or by a private contact message. Your input is key to making sure that I’m staying on track to make Writing Type the best Windows 8 tool for writers.

Posted in Blog
2 comments on “The SkyDrive Sync Dilemma
  1. Aragorn K says:

    I for one, am all for the capability of SkyDrive sync. I have a desktop and a laptop that both get used fairly heavily, and I’d really like to be able to work on my book wherever I am, regardless of the device I am using–this is especially pressing for me as I am looking into getting a Windows 8 Tablet (probably the Surface Pro) which will mean I’ll have even more frequent access to my materials on the go.

    Your concern about accidentaly deleting the data is very valid. There are two possible solutions for your concern that I can see.

    1. Make SkyDrive sync an opt-in feature. Do not enable it by default, but key it a possibility in the options of the application. When SkyDrive is enabled, notify the user of Writing Type that the application will be creating a folder on SkyDrive with their project’s data, and that deleting the file, even outside of the application, will delete their project.
    2. Have redundant data. Keep a copy of each project both locally (independent of Skydrive), and in SkyDrive. When SkyDrive sync is enabled, the application would first locate all projects within SkyDrive and check them against their local counterparts. This might be best done by having the application generate a simple XML file that lists all the projects that it has synced with SkyDrive, along with any instructions on what to do with them (the App is told to delete a project, for example [oh, the humanity!]). Local files would then be synced in the application’s local if necessary (or remain the same, if no changes have occured to them). If the application notices an inconsistency (a project exists locally that doesn’t exist on SkyDrive and has no ‘delete’ instructions in the XML file)–the user would be presented with an alert, asking if they’d like to restore the deleted projects.

    Right now, the lack of SkyDrive sync is literally the only thing keeping me from purchasing the full app. Sure, the app has its quirks, like being unable to arrange groups or how the app handles long group names, but those should easily get fixed with time and are only little annoyances. SkyDrive sync, for me, is critical.

  2. Will Brown says:

    Aragorn,
    Thank you very much for your feedback and suggestions. I really appreciate it.

    I’ve passed this on to the development team for their input.

    I’ll update this post and contact you if/when we move forward with a sync feature.

    Will

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