Dennis' blog

On Technology and Business

Syncthing: the good side of open source

I switched from Dropbox to Syncthing today. Much better experience than I expected. Within a hour I had several devices perfectly syncing my folders. I’m amazed at how much better it is than Dropbox.

I loved dropbox when I started with it 12 years ago. It solved a problem I had - syncing my files across devices - and did so while staying out of my way. The daemon was efficient, it did one thing and did it well.

Last week, my 2012 MacBook died (GPU issues), and I got a new M1 MacBook air. While installing Dropbox, I realized how far Dropbox had strayed from its original simplicity. A few observations:

  • It inserts itself in your others workflow: “Safely sync your photos to Dropbox!”, “take notes with Paper!”, “eSignatures!” – no thanks, I didn’t ask for that
  • 6 months after the launch of the M1, dropbox still doesn’t natively support the arm architecture. This means running the - already bloated - daemon under Rosetta. Dropbox suddenly is an unwanted battery drain, memory hog and CPU consumer
  • Poor detection of other devices on the network. Leading to slow synchronization.

With Syncthing, I found my Dropbox replacement. Reviews were generally positive and I thought: “Let’s give this a go”.

Now, its easy to assume that commercial software tends to have the better user experience (I’m looking at you, GIMP). So, I was expecting Syncthing to have some rough edges. I told myself that getting away from Dropbox would make it worth the effort.

As it turns out: in the case of Syncthing, there are almost no rough edges. Yes, its slightly more technical to setup file sharing than Dropbox. But, you don’t need to know much more than installing from APT or Homebrew and how folders work, and then its as easy as can be. Upside?

  • No banners, popups, no upselling, no artificial limits
  • M1 (arm) native client. No more battery drain
  • Like the 2009 Dropbox: doesn’t get in your way. Does one thing, and does it very well.
  • My data on my devices, not somewhere else (and E2E encrypted)
  • (By default) a global network of discovery and relay servers, so that you can start using it without setting up any servers yourself. But able to do so if you really want to
  • Very good local network detection
  • Even the ability to add ‘untrusted’ devices that store the encrypted data as for e.g. an offsite backup device. (You still need to set backups up on that device)

If you’re looking for a free and open source file sharing service, I highly recommend it. If you are already using Syncthing, consider donating to support their continued development.