Copy files and synchronize directories

I like to keep a copy of my address book, personal folders, and archive folder on a network server that is backed up daily. I also keep the directory containing my working documents synchronized on my notebook and desktop systems. I'm always looking for an easy, automatic way to copy files, so I was eager to evaluate Connectivity Software Systems' Directory Monitor Professional 4.1.

Directory Monitor is a synchronization utility that performs a simple function: It copies or moves files from a source directory to a destination directory, optionally deleting from the destination directory files that no longer exist in the source directory. The program's simple, intuitive user interface (UI) and powerful features eliminate much of the tedium from these usually repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

You can buy Directory Monitor over the Web from the company or one of its e-commerce partners. The 1544KB file downloaded quickly through my ISDN Internet connection and installed even faster. The installation wizard required no special information, so I simply took defaults throughout. I didn't even need to reboot. With the application, the wizard installs a Help file that does a good job of describing the product's use and features.

Despite the interface's overall intuitiveness, a couple of features confused me at first. The installation wizard placed a program entry in the Windows Start menu, but the program seemed to do nothing when I ran it. Finally, I noticed an eyeball icon in the taskbar's system tray. When I double-clicked the icon, Directory Monitor's UI launched. This action is handy, but it's not the behavior I expect from a Start menu item. Another problem occurred when I chose the Hide Tray Icon option, which lets systems administrators hide the interface from users in a business environment. With the icon hidden, I found that I couldn't access the UI under Windows NT. In response to these problems, Connectivity changed the installation routine so that the Start menu item starts the UI. The adjustment let me clear the Hide Tray Icon option's check box. This behavior is much more intuitive, but the standard software distribution doesn't include it. After I got past these problems, I found Directory Monitor quite easy to use.

Selections on the Options tab control many of Directory Monitor's actions, as Screen 1 shows. You can select one of four file actions for Directory Monitor to take when the software processes a directory pair. Copy and Move let you copy or move files from a source directory to a destination directory and choose when to overwrite existing files in the destination directory. The Inventory action creates four directory listings—one each for the source and destination directory and two that list files that appear in one directory but not the other. You use the fourth action, None, most often with an Advanced option that I describe later.

The Include sub-directories option performs actions on all subdirectories and the source directory. However, this option isn't available when you use a file filter to limit the files for the software to process from the source directory. Connectivity says this design feature avoids creating empty directories when subdirectories don't contain files that match the file filter pattern. In my opinion, this design is poor. Empty directories might not often pose a problem, and this design element limits what could otherwise be a powerful option. A better choice would be to offer an option to not create (or to delete) empty directories in the destination directory tree.

Directory Monitor automatically processes files according to one of a set of scheduling options. The Use Timer option processes the directory pair at the interval you specify. Other options let you specify daily and weekly processing at preset times. The On Startup and Not Scheduled options complete the list of scheduling choices. You can schedule each directory pair independently, and you can process directories on demand regardless of the schedule.

The UI's Add Directory Pair Wizard lets you start using Directory Monitor easily. I used the wizard to specify a source directory on a network file server and a destination directory on my desktop computer's D drive; Screen 2 shows how you specify paths on the Settings tab. Next, I selected Copy and Overwrite Older Files. Right-clicking the directory pair entry and selecting Process copied the source files to the destination directory. As Directory Monitor processes a directory pair, the View Events icon displays the names of the files as they copy, letting you track the progress.

You can use an FTP site as the source or destination directory. I specified Microsoft's NT 4.0 post-Service Pack 5 (SP5) hotfix FTP site as the source directory and a network server directory as the destination directory. I selected the Include sub-directories and Delete files not in Source options. Processing resulted in a mirror of Microsoft's hotfix site on my network server. Now, I can update my copy of the hotfix site with a click of the Process menu item.

The Advanced tab accesses the program's most powerful feature—its ability to execute commands and open files in the source or destination directory based on the application associated with the file type in Windows Explorer. You provide a sequenced list of commands to run and files to open. With this feature, you can perform tasks such as running reports from an application's log files and deleting temporary files from a directory. You can use the None option with this feature to bypass copying or moving files.

You can specify whether to perform an action before processing, after processing, or both. When you specify files to open, you can use the DOS wildcard characters (* and ?) to filter files for processing. When you specify a command to run, you can have Directory Monitor wait for the command to complete before continuing to the next command or processing the directory pair. You can enter a list of filename filters to specify and limit the files the program copies to the destination directory.

Directory Monitor is too expensive to implement widely, but consider the software for automating systems administration and routine operations tasks. You can buy a Light version for $49.95 that acts on only one directory pair at a time. I recommend Directory Monitor—perhaps Connectivity will enhance the file filter processing and add volume pricing for corporate buyers.

Directory Monitor Professional 4.1
Contact: Connectivity Software Systems * 520-325-5200
Web: http://www.csusa.com
Price: $99.95
System Requirements: Windows 2000, Windows NT Server or NT Workstation, or Windows 9x, TCP/IP protocol stack installed