iCloud Drive

I know that using iCloud with Scriv is a big no-no, but how have others found its use with other software?

The reason I ask is that I’m running out of space on my painfully gained 6Gb (via referrals etc) with DropBox, meaning I either have to pony up the subscription or seek an alternative. 1Tb is way beyond my needs and ICloud offers a 50Gb tier for £0.79/month. Even 200Gb is only £2.49/month which would be entirely adequate.

My main reservation is that using iCloud Drive doesn’t really tell you what it’s doing so you’re not always sure whether sync has finished or not.

Anyone any experiences good or bad?

That’s the main thing I have noticed about it on the few occasions I’ve tested it. It is very opaque when it comes to knowing the status of your system, you have to be looking at the file that is currently syncing to know whether it is syncing, which I suppose is fine if you only use it for a dozen files or so, but clearly Apple wants people to upload their entire lives into it, so I’m not sure how that is meant to work in practice. [size=80][1][/size]

There are three other issues I found that would have had me looking elsewhere if I were seriously evaluating it:

  1. Conflict resolution is punishing: it is binary (I think?) and lacks evaluation. If you accidentally edit something in two places, you are only offered a choice between the two most recent, and the choice is presented to you in a one-off dialogue box that grants no information as to the consequences of your choice, on a timescale that is not up to you, but whenever the server notices it. You are asked which copy to use, A or B. No “keep both”, no “let me look at them and decide” no “later please I’m in the middle of something!”, just right then and there figure it out and hope you got it right (who knows what happens to the other copy—I assume it is just destroyed on the spot, I could find no evidence of it on the disk anyway). For conflicts I much prefer the approach everyone else takes where you get duplicated files that you can open up, examine, and you yourself choose how to resolve them (or indeed not even resolve them).
  2. Syncing seems to be very laggy: I would edit a project on one system, close out the project and watch it upload in Finder—then nothing. The other Mac sitting right next to it would not download the updates until a good amount of time had passed. I could have copied the file back and forth a dozen times with simple file sharing (but that would be too much bother wouldn’t it :wink:). Sometimes this worked as you would expect, like Dropbox works where a few seconds later the changes are spread throughout the ecosystem—other times I had to wait upwards half an hour for the second system to even recognise it was out of date and initiate a server download.
  3. A thousand steps where one would do: as with much of Apple stuff these days: the engineering is way, way more complicated than it needs to be and somehow despite that complexity ending up offering us less as users. Where Dropbox’s front end is a basic folder system, Apple has this complex abstraction of a filesystem that mirrors back to a labyrinth of clumsily named hidden folders that have mysterious Finder hacks obscuring their actual names from you. What do we gain from all of this added complexity? It is not clear to me, and someone like myself that generally prefers the shell to Finder, folders buried in visually noisy names that are difficult to type in is not my idea of a user-friendly system.

The short version: the lack of predictable sync responsiveness coupled with a lack of feedback on status both together make for a risk prone system in terms of generating conflicts, which is in turn noted as not adequately handling the breadth of reasons for why files conflict and how we as humans best resolve them.

My disclaimer: as noted above I do not use iCloud, I don’t have any devices logged into it on a regular basis and only test it in blank Mac accounts using throw-away email addresses. I’ve only tested it now and then for the sake of support, but I can’t say I’ve ever encountered anything about it that would compel me to log into it with any actual accounts and risk real data with it, but that could just be my lack of know-how.

Second disclaimer: I’m not much of a fan of corporate synchronisation server technology in general. If I really need automatic network based syncing I’ll roll my own with ownCloud or Resilio Sync, but I’m honestly fine with file servers and peer-to-peer. I’m also obviously not Apple’s target audience. :laughing:


  1. Come to think of it, they might have a “spinner” in Finder’s sidebar feature. I always turn off that sidebar though so I could have missed it. Even so that’s an inferior solution as it requires Finder be in the foreground and a “suitably configured” window be open.


I use iCloud drive, but mostly with Apple’s software: Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

For other things I use Box and Mega as a complement to Dropbox.

Thanks Ioa for the very full response and to you too lunk.

You pretty much sum up my feelings. iCloud Drive looks fine so long as it works, but to it seemed far too easy to end up in a serious mess with partially synced and potentially corrupted files. I have had problems with calendar sync in the past and that caused a whole load of grief. DropBox and Box do at least give you some indication of what they’re doing so you can work accordingly, although the latter is often slow.

I’ve not looked at Resilio Sync or ownCloud, but since I was thinking of setting up my own home NAS using either Synology or QNAP, this might be the way to go. The other is to bite the bullet and pay for DropBox; if they had lower or mid tiers - say 100/200Gig - at a reasonable price, there wouldn’t be any doubt. I can see they might want people to put everything into DropBox but it’s not going to happen since I only use it for stuff I’m working on or need regularly.

My home setup is on a decent fibre link so speed shouldn’t be a problem. Here at the University the only problem might be if sync software used obscure ports; anything other than 80 or 443 is blocked if I’m using my laptop on the Uni network.

I use both iCloud and Dropbox (9GB of acquired space).

Might I suggest a little shuffling around. Since iCloud is much cheaper than Dropbox, why move stuff to iCloud and slim down Dropbox for use with Scrivener and other apps that don’t yet play with iCloud.

For example…

I pay for 50GB ($1.50 AUD) of iCloud storage and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s performing and improving. I use it for most documents, all my photos and Scrivener backups.

Only thing I have left in dropbox is scrivener files, markdown files for use with Editorial and a few shared directories for use with other people.

That was the general idea; DropBox would become Scriv only whilst everything else would be put on iCloud. The latter still need reliable sync capabilities though in case I update some of the older stuff.

My concerns are that iCloud doesn’t really let you know what it’s doing, added to which I get the impression it’s a bit laggy. I use it with no problem for contacts and calendars and have noticed this lag from time to time. Not generally a problem when updating calendars etc, but it could lead to major problems of conflict and corruption if it failed to properly sync a working file.

I’m looking at setting up a NAS using Synology or QNAP as I could also use it for backing up other stuff. Unless I only sync from home, the problems of incomplete sync when done via the Uni WiFil network might also remain, depending on the sync software these systems use. Makes you appreciate just how good DropBox is and why Keith opted to use it for the iPad version of Scriv.

iCloud drive is working better now than it did initially. It doesn’t have the detailed information about what files it it syncing, like the Dropbox app has, but it works.

I use a combination of a home NAS (self built running Linux) for media storage and Amazon S3 for offsite backup. It’s great for this but it’s not very iOS friendly. I believe Synology and QNAP have iOS apps that might make things better on iDevices.

Although I use iCloud and Dropbox for my iDevices, I still believe in a multi-system approach with a good dose of local, open source servers I can fully control :slight_smile:

I agree about DropBox, I hate it and the company but it’s rock solid and it’s the best choice for Scrivener’s bundle format.

Didn’t think of that :smiley: It’s quite a while since I built my own PC. Currently there appear to be quite a few Mac Mini knockoffs, one of which might make a useful home NAS. After all that’s pretty much what Synology and QNAP are, mini PCs running some variant of Linux. Long time since I played with the penguin, but since I’ve got a Unix background it shouldn’t be too difficult. The problems might come in syncing with IOS devices.

Can’t have too many backups :slight_smile:

Can’t say I hate it and it’s certainly reliable, but the company does blow a lot of smoke when it comes to privacy. Still trust your stuff to a third party and I guess that’s what happens unless you roll your own encryption.

That’s the kicker. Linux does a great job serving content using NFS, Samba, DLNA or even DAAP. However most iOS apps worth using only ever use iCloud or Dropbox APIs (or occasionally Webdav).

That’s because iOS is consumer-oriented and wants a simple solution that meets all technical needs. Standing up your own file server and making it securely available to devices not on the local WiFi is, while a solvable problem, not a problem that most of Apple’s target audience wants to solve.

True. Doesn’t mean we have to like it though, especially as Apple’s approach to ‘simple’ is quite frankly asinine.

I’m off to Perth in a few weeks for work and since I’m travelling with my work laptop I’ll take my iPad mini instead of my Macbook Air for Scrivener and watching TV shows. Problem is I’m down to 7GB on my iPad so to overcome this, I’ve created a portable NAS based on a Raspberry Pi, wifi dongle and two ultra compact USB drives. It works really well when coupled with iOS apps that can browse a Samba share :mrgreen:

Just to add to this thread, I found a small utility that resides in the menu bar and shows what iCloud is doing.


2.99 USD Regular users of iCloud may find it useful.