Missing Sync still looking for a few features

BlackBerry devices occupy a special place in the pantheon of so-called smart phones. They’ve been enormously popular in corporate circles for years and have helped expand the smart phone market. With a recent push by the manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM), to add more multimedia-friendly features, these devices are also developing a consumer following. Now, with The Missing Sync for BlackBerry 1.0.1, good software finally exists to synchronize the data on your BlackBerry with your Mac.

The old adage you get what you pay for seems particularly appropriate with regard to the software provided by RIM: BlackBerry users get free Mac syncing software, PocketMac for BlackBerry, which they can download from the RIM Web site. But it isn’t very good: It has trouble with basic synchronization functions and is awkward to use

The Missing Sync for BlackBerry is produced by Mark/Space, and will be familiar to anyone who’s used the company’s other syncing software. It features a clean interface that presents a list of plug-ins, which offer seven basic synchronization functions: calendar, contacts, folder sync, music, notes, photos, and tasks. Music and photo sync works only with multimedia-capable BlackBerries like the Pearl and 8800, and folder sync is limited to those devices that support memory expansion cards.

The Missing Sync lets you create profiles, which allow you to activate only certain plug-ins for a particular sync. This feature would be more useful to me if there were a way to automate switching between different profiles. For example, I’d like to set up a routine that syncs calendar and contact information seven days per week, but only updates tasks or syncs folders once per week

The software will automatically sync your BlackBerry as soon as it’s connected to your Mac by USB (that preference can be turned off if you want to exercise manual control). There’s no Bluetooth support yet, but Mark/Space says it is working on it.

The Missing Sync can also warn you that it’s been a while since you’ve synced data — a slider lets you adjust your reminders from every day to every other week. Other preferences enable you to synchronize the device’s clock with your Mac’s, turn on syncing for multiple computers, and specify a location to download files on your Mac.

The notes sync feature works in conjunction with an application called Mark/Space Notes, which is included with The Missing Sync software. It’s a Mac application that lets you create text notes and peg them to the categories you’ve created in iCal and Address Book. There’s no option to not use it or install it, unfortunately.

I do have a complaint about The Missing Sync for BlackBerry that I’ve voiced for other Missing Sync products as well: I think the error messages are too obscure. Outside of a dialog box popping up that tells you to check the log, there’s no obvious sign that you might have a conflict or other problem with the data you’re trying to sync. I wish that the software were a bit more forceful about reporting such issues.

One feature available in the free PocketMac software that’s notably missing from The Missing Sync is e-mail synchronization. That means in particular that there’s no good way to track e-mails you’ve sent using your BlackBerry, which can make e-mail communication a bit tricky, at least if you depend on regular POP and IMAP e-mail services instead of RIM’s business-oriented Enterprise Server. I hope Mark/Space adds some sort of reconciliation feature in the future.

The Missing Sync for BlackBerry does, however, support Apple’s Sync Services. This is a framework that Apple set up to simplify the exchange of data between different applications and devices. The list of calendaring applications, personal information managers, and other software that supports Sync Services seems to be growing daily — among them Chronos’ SOHO Organizer, Microsoft’s Entourage 2004, and MarketCircle’s Daylite software.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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