BOOT CAMP 379 (31/05/05)
Synchronising Files, part 2
week we looked at the Windows ‘Briefcase’, which is a special folder that can
be physically transported between two or more computers, to ensure that the
files contained in the Briefcase -- documents, Address Book, Calendar and so on
-- remain synchronised. Briefcase has its flaws but it is undoubtedly the
simplest option for home and small office users with just a couple of PCs to
keep in ‘sync’. This week we turn our attention to another more specialist
synchronisation utility in Windows XP Pro, designed specifically for network
It’s called ‘Offline Files’ and the idea is that you or a
number of users can access and work on a shared network file stored on a
‘Server’ PC, even if the ‘Client’ PCs are not permanently linked to the
network. This has a number of uses, particularly for notebook and laptop users,
who may have a limited amount of storage space on their machines and are only
intermittently connected to the network. However, it’s primary function is to
eliminate the problem of having several different versions of a document,
spreadsheet or pesentation in circulation since the original file on the Server
should always be up to date, however many people are working on it.
Offline Files is included in XP Pro (and Windows 2000), client PCs using other
versions of Windows (98/SE/ME/NT4 & XP Home) can also make use of it. It is
also worth pointing out that it only works on Windows-based networks and you
need full Administrator privileges in order to set it up.
a slightly tricky concept to explain on paper but it quickly makes sense once
you start using it. There are essentially only two steps to using Offline
Files. First the facility has to be enabled and second, ‘Shared’ folders on the
Server need to be designated for offline use. There are a number of
sophisticated configuration options but these are mostly of interest to
Administrators of large networks.
Offline Files can be used it is necessary to make a small change to Windows
user logon settings so start by opening Control Panel on the XP Pro Server
computer then double-click the User Account icon. Select ‘Change the way users
log on or off’ and uncheck ‘Fast user Switching’, click Apply Options. close
the window and exit Control Panel.
open Windows Explorer or My Computer and go to Tools > Folder Options and
select the Offline Files tab, click ‘Enable Offline Files’ then OK. Most of the
settings you can safely leave on their defaults but I recommend that you check
the item ‘Synchronise all offline files when logging on’, as this will ensure
that you always have access to the most recent version of a file, which may be
important if more than one person is working on it.
Windows Explorer or My Computer still open right-click the folder containing
the files that you want to make available to other network users and select
‘Share this folder’, then OK. It’s important to note that you can only mark
folders or whole drives as shared, not individual files, so make sure that
whatever is in the folder (or drive) is suitable or appropriate for sharing
with other users. If this is likely to be a problem then create a new Shared
folder specifically for Offline Files.
final step is to right-click the chosen file or folder and select ‘Make
available offline’ from the drop-down menu. This starts a ‘Wizard’ and you will
be asked to enable a number of features, including ‘Automatic synchronisation’
when logging on and off (this should be ticked), enable ‘Reminders’ and ‘Create
a desktop icon’. When you have finished you will see that the offline file or
folder is tagged with a small twin arrow symbol. Essentially that’s all there
is to it and it is now ready to use.
that everything has gone smoothly you will now be able to access the shared
file on the Server computer from your Client PC. Connect to the Server using
Network Neighbourhood or My Network Places and navigate your way to the shared
Offline folder and open the file that you want to work on. There are no special
procedures involved, just treat the file as though it were stored locally on
the client PC. For example, if it’s a Word document double-click the file, Word
will open on your PC and it will be displayed.
When you have finished working on the file you have the usual option to
save a copy of it on the client PC’s hard drive but when you close the file or
log off from the network the changes you have made will be automatically saved
and synchronised with the original file on the server PC.
Files is a fairly specialised facility and I suspect a lot of home PC users, if
they have got this far, have begun to glaze over. I won’t go into the many and
varied configuration options but if you would like to learn more start by
reading Microsoft Knowledgebase article 307653 (type the number into Google’s
Search box) and for more information about the encryption facility see KB
Article 312221. There’s also an easy to follow tutorial with plenty of
illustrations showing the various steps at: www.learnthat.com/courses/computer/offlinefiles/.
Next Week -- Downloading video on the Internet
FAST USER SWITCHING
Facility that allows multiple user accounts to simultaneously
log on to a computer
A PC or program used to access files on another PC on a network
Computers used to communicate with and share data between other
computers connected to a network
Most of us take our ability to hear for granted and as we
get older changes occur quite naturally and generally they go unnoticed.
Needless to say if you become aware of any significant changes in your hearing
you should consult your doctor immediately but you can carry out a rough and
ready check on your ability to perceive sounds of different pitches by going to
This site features a simple hearing test that you can carry
out on your PC, using a pair of headphones. There is also a questionnaire,
compiled by German medical experts (in English, of course) that will analyse
the results and indicate whether or not you may have an impairment.