Conflicts when using iCloud

dclawyer's Avatar


28 May, 2018 10:43 AM

I am a new user of the Pro version and really like it. I started using iCloud and keep getting a message that I have a conflict between two versions which I then must examine and decide what to do. Are others experiencing this? Would I be better off using Dropbox or something other than iCloud?

  1. Support Staff 1 Posted by Fletcher on 28 May, 2018 03:14 PM

    Fletcher's Avatar

    First -- thanks for getting the Pro upgrade, and glad you like it!!

    I have not heard from other users about issues with iCloud, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

    Some background on the way iCloud works, in case you're unaware (most people aren't aware of the details). iCloud synchronization is handled by macOS/iOS, and happens "at its leisure." There is no way to control how quickly the synchronization occurs, or to know whether you are working on the most recent version of the document. One hopes that the synchronization occurs in a reasonable period of time, but there is no guarantee or even a definition as to what a reasonable time period is (at least that I'm aware of).

    On a Mac (iPhone is slightly different, but mostly the same), Composer doesn't really have to do anything special when dealing with iCloud files. It reads/writes to a special folder and macOS handles synchronization. So there's not much I can do, even if I wanted to.

    Dropbox, again on a Mac, is similar in that Composer reads/writes to a special folder. But the Dropbox sync process ensures that the sync occurs in a fairly quick period of time. Additionally, Dropbox provides a serial number for each version of each file, allowing one to be sure as to whether you currently have the most recent version or not.

    My personal experience is that Dropbox is more reliable for files I work on "simultaneously" on multiple machines. iCloud is easier for files that belong to a specific application where I may or may not want to access those same files on a different device (including iOS), but I predominantly edit those files on a single device.

    iCloud is much better than it used to be, but it is still not perfect.

    Composer for iOS is currently in beta, and it supports both iCloud and Dropbox. Dropbox sync is definitely faster, because I control exactly when sync occurs and can ensure that the local file is up to date. I can't do the same with iCloud, though generally things have been kept in sync relatively quickly in my testing (on the order of 5-15 seconds???) That said, it took me a while to work out the bugs in my code that manages the Dropbox sync, but that seems to be working really well now.

    One thing you can try is under the Advanced preferences -- check the box to update the file when changed by another program. This uses a separate routine to merge your current open file (even if you have unsaved changes) with any changes that occur to the file on disk. It may or may not help with iCloud conflicts that you describe, but can help ensure that your edits and external changes are merged to keep the file up to date. I've used this when editing a file on iPhone and Mac at the same time with good success. (Of course, editing the exact same point in the document on two devices at the same time will give an error, but you can work on separate lines rather easily.)

    Hope this helps explain the situation, even if there isn't much I can do to change it.


    PS> I am referring to the "older" form of iCloud sync where it only manages documents inside the iCloud folder. I have not tested the newer form that apparently manages your entire home directory (or maybe just the documents directory?) in iCloud, and will never enable that feature personally. It's way too risky for a sync process that is so opaque.

  2. Fletcher closed this discussion on 28 May, 2018 03:14 PM.

  3. dclawyer re-opened this discussion on 28 May, 2018 04:10 PM

  4. 2 Posted by dclawyer on 28 May, 2018 04:10 PM

    dclawyer's Avatar

    Hi Fletcher

    Thank you for your exceptionally helpful reply. I have a lot of Markdown
    editors. I’m having iCloud sync problems with Ulysses, iA Writer and MMD.
    Strangely never with Bear.

    I actually don’t do any serious writing on iOS but like a nice experience
    on my MacBook. After reading your email I will use Dropbox.

    I had hoped iCloud had its problems behind it. I use Apple Notes a lot and
    have never had an issue.

    I love Apple but I’m disappointed. I use Google Docs and Google Sheets and
    have never had a conflict. I might be happy using it for everything but I
    write for my WordPress blog and Google Docs is not a good solution.

    Thanks again for explaining the situation in a way I could understand and
    for the great app.


  5. Support Staff 3 Posted by Fletcher on 28 May, 2018 04:39 PM

    Fletcher's Avatar

    I use Apple Notes as well, and it has worked great recently -- but early
    on I ended up with a lot of duplicate notes.

    I think Apple struggles with sync because of their "it just works"
    philosophy being applied to a situation where it is impossible to know
    with 100% certainty that all nodes have *succesfully* synchronized all
    of their changes with a central server, or with all other nodes (because
    of networking issues, one or more nodes being offline, etc.)

    Throw in simultaneous conflicting edits on two or more nodes, and that
    brings in more difficulties.

    Dropbox' solution is effective but ugly -- if a collision occurs, fork
    the file and let the user fix it at their convenience. (Although I
    rarely see the Dropbox conflicted file issue any more, except when I was
    developing my own sync code or if I do it on purpose).

    iCloud went the route of flagging a conflict immediately, and requiring
    the user to resolve the conflict immediately. This is not always
    convenient, but avoids having multiple copies of the same file...

    I've spent a ***lot*** of time over the years thinking about sync and
    writing code to provide sync services for various situations. Composer
    for iOS has Dropbox support built on some of this work (but Dropbox
    makes the problem a bit easier with their versioning.) I've also got a
    test project that provides real-time sync between multiple editors of
    the same document (I started before Google docs but never got around to
    polishing it for public use). I'm looking at adding something like this
    to Composer for occasions where multiple people need to collaborate, but
    it may be easier for some people to just fall back to Google docs in
    that scenario.... We'll see.

    Good luck, and definitely let me know if there is something specific you
    think is broken in Composer.


    PS> Certainly if there are ways I can improve Composer's interface with
    iCloud I want to do that. But on the Mac I honestly don't think there
    is anything I can do. iOS does require a couple of steps to tell the
    system that I have made a change, but beyond ensuring those couple of
    lines of code are done, there's not a lot I can do there either....

  6. Fletcher closed this discussion on 03 Sep, 2018 08:00 PM.

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