iCloud oddities

Various people have written on these forums about trouble with synchronisation, so I thought I would add to the list, perhaps as a kind of “watch out for this”.

Apple seems to have done something to iCloud (apparently in the run-up to releasing Catalina) which has made it much less reliable, in my experience. I’ve just noticed a particularly striking instance of this. Three days ago, while working at my iMac,I added about a dozen small markdown files to a folder inside my Documents folder (I’m using The Archive – https://zettelkasten.de/the-archive/ – for my notes at the moment). I have just noticed that these files have not shown up on my MacBook yet – THREE DAYS LATER.

These files are in the order of 300kb each, if I remember correctly. Hardly taxing to upload, or download. I’m presently investigating using Cirrus (https://eclecticlight.co/cirrus-bailiff/) to see if I can work out what is going on.

Those people who are crying out for iCloud sync for Scrivener might be interested to know that it might not be the golden solution they think it would be. I will be considering moving as much as I can from iCloud until they fix it. Fortunately, it was not critical for me to have those files on my laptop – but what if it had been, and I had not noticed until it was too late?

That has always been my experience of iCloud, that sync’ing can be very slow and often doesn’t even start until I open the iCloud folder on the second machine and click on the internal folder containing the document(s) I want. Then I have to wait for the download to happen. For that reason, the back-ups of my active Scrivener projects go to Box Drive, the projects themselves are on Sync or Dropbox.



Yeah I’ve never really found iCloud to be terribly responsive, and although I’ve never seen a delay that bad, I’ve seen some truly awful things like taking hours to sync a single line change in a Scapple file. The hype surrounding it is genuinely confusing to me.

But on top of that, I think 10.15 did some bad things to it, I heard there were some critical bugs in it that popped up toward the end of the beta cycle, and didn’t get fixed before Apple’s abrupt decision to change the label to “stable” and launch it.

By the way I’ve been using a combination of Resilio Sync (from one device to another direct, no intermediary server) and Tresorit. The latter works better as a repository for me, it’s end-to-end encrypted, zero-knowledge, and EU hosted (under even stricter Swiss privacy laws at that). You can sync with it, and in my experience it works well for that, but I like having one source where the information flows in one direction as a backup.

Even Apple’s own Reminders app encountered some iCloud weirdness for me after the Catalina update. That seems to have been a transient problem, but iCloud is definitely not a magic solution.


At the moment, iCloud is looking as magical as five o’clock on a winter’s morning in Harlow. (Apologies to those who don’t know Essex – and apologies to those who live in Harlow, but well, you know …)

For the past hour and more, iCloud has been telling me that it is uploading 1Kb of 7Kb. Reminders (which I don’t normally use, but have been testing) has a badge icon for one item, when there are none for it to flag.

I’m moving everything I can to other cloud storage, and am thinking of wiping my computers just to clear out any junk that may be lurking in unusual crannies. I have a Tresorit account that I haven’t used much other than for archival storage, but will begin testing more seriously, and I will probably begin to use OneDrive more than I expected to, or wanted to – it gives you a lot of space for the money. In fact, I think I will have to do more serious tests of various solutions, like Mega and Sync. I haven’t been paying enough attention. The irritating thing is that a service that seems perfectly good for one application and what it wants to do, sometimes doesn’t work with another application that you would like to share the material with. Add the problem of iOS behaving differently, and you edge towards insanity.

Computers save so much time and effort …