Sync devices
Productivity

Seamlessly sync your data across devices

Work isn’t anchored to one device or one location. In a typical day, you can go from working on a multimonitor desktop rig in the office to a laptop at a client site to a desktop at home, working in sips on a tablet or smartphone in between.

This unfettered mobility means its more critical than ever that you’re able to access important files across devices, platforms and apps. Follow these tips for keeping all your data in sync, so you can keep doing business wherever your business takes you.

Bookmarks and browser settings

One of the more frustrating experiences of switching between multiple devices is the interruption to your Web browsing experience. Fortunately, popular browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox offer built-in support for automatically syncing bookmarks, history, open tabs and even passwords.

When you sign in to Chrome, your browser settings are saved to your Google account to be used by the Chrome browser on any other computer or device. To choose what settings get synced, sign in to Chrome—you will be prompted for your verification code if you have 2-factor authentication enabled—and follow the prompts to to either “sync everything” or select individual items.

Chrome advanced settings
Signing in to Chrome allows you to save your browser settings to your Google account.

Syncing Firefox settings requires a bit more work. Because all data is encrypted prior to being uploaded to Mozilla’s servers, a pairing process is required to synchronize the encryption key with each device you want to sync.

In the Firefox menu bar on your main computer, click Tools and select Set Up Sync. The first time you do this, you’ll need to create an account with the Firefox sync server. Once you complete this setup, go to the Sync tab of the Options dialog box. Click on “pair a device,” which will brings up a dialog box with three empty text fields. Do the same on your other device, but select “I have an account” when prompted instead. This will display an "easy setup" key that you need to put into the empty text boxes to get the second device verified and linked up. The process is the same for Firefox for Android. You can read more about the process on the Firefox support page.

Firefox sync setup
Firefox requires you to pair each of your devices to a Firefox Sync account using an "easy setup" key.

Documents and files

Not so long ago, it was necessary to shuttle documents between computers on thumb drives or other external storage. Fortunately, we now have cloud services such as Dropbox, SugarSync, Mozy and Box to store our files for easy access from any Web-connected device.

A frequent mistake when using cloud storage is neglecting to save newly created files in synchronized folders. Depending on your cloud service, it may be possible to synchronize the entire desktop or default document folders to prevent this. An alternative is to discipline yourself to create all new documents in a synchronized “catchall” folder – you can always file them into a more appropriate subfolder at a later stage.

Email, contacts and calendar

Chances are your email is either already accessible from multiple devices through the default system on your platform or from a Web interface. But if your email system uses only POP (Post Office Protocol), in which emails are downloaded and erased from the server, it’s time to switch to a modern cloud-enabled system or one with IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol).

These two options work similarly in that they allow you to see the same messages and folders from multiple devices. IMAP does not keep contacts or calendars synchronized. Cloud-based systems such as Exchange Online in Office 365 offers Contacts and Calendar sync via the Exchange Active Sync (EAS) standard; Google Mail and Yahoo Mail do so with their support of the open CalDAV and CardDAV specifications respectively.

Instant messaging

Most Instant Messaging (IM) services have clients available for all the major platforms. Things get trickier, though, if you juggle between two or more IM applications. There are a number of third-party chat clients that offer support for multiple IM services, with Digsby, Trillian and Pidgin being some popular options. Trillian offers a “continuous chat” feature that syncs conversations across all your devices. This makes it possible to switch from a desktop to a smartphone without missing a word.

Trillian accounts
Trillian syncs chats across all your devices so you can pick up conversations right where you left off.

Notes

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your notes, ideas and other scraps of digital info are properly synchronized. There are several solutions available, ranging from text-only solutions such as SimpleNote to more comprehensive options such as Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote. Not all platforms are supported by each of these—SimpleNote, for example, is not available on the BlackBerry 10—so do your research before you commit to a service.

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