A few days ago I purchased a new Macbook. I love my new toy, you can read my review of it here, but it did create some complications for me. One of the most important is how was I going to sync my Windows Mobile Device with it? The
Missing Sync 2.5 for Windows Mobile is one possible solution for cross platform users like myself. This third party software made by Mark/Space allows you to sync almost any Windows Mobile device with your Mac. Mark/Space has only recently added support for Windows Mobile 5 devices, as many of you know Windows Mobile 5 and ActiveSync 4 introduced significant changes in how Windows Mobile devices communicate with computers. To their credit Mark/Space was the first to market with an updated version that supports Windows Mobile 5, let's see how it performs.
I demand a lot from my Smartphone (the Cingular 2125 for those who are curious), and as a result I appreciated ActiveSync's extensive synchronization support. It allowed me to keep my email, contacts, calendar, tasks, and favorites synced. I also used 2 third party programs to synchronize my notes and files. The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile does not provide all of the functionality of ActiveSync, and also fails to provide the additional functionality I received from my third party programs. However, I expected to take a step back moving to OS X, my main concerns was that the program do what it does well and easily.
The Missing Sync installs easily into OS X. Simply unload the .dmg and then run the installer. It does require you to do a restart, which is less common on the OS X side of things, but according to Mark/Space is required to install a network kernel extension and ensure all components are properly connected. Once installed you can connect your device to your Mac via USB or Bluetooth. The Missing Sync also supports synchronization via Wi-Fi, but unfortunately Windows Mobile 5 devices do not. The first time you connect The Missing Sync will install a small program onto your device that enables communication with your Mac.
The Missing Sync support synchronization of your contacts, calendar, and tasks, this means that compared to the basic ActiveSync support it misses out on favorites and email. There is also no support for notes and file synchronization. Creating a partnership with The Missing Sync was a straightforward process, simply connect your device, The Missing Sync will install its file and then connect.
By default The Missing Sync waits for you to manually initiate a sync with the device. You have the option of syncing with OS X's built in PIM programs (Address Book and iCal) or with Entourages, the Outlook equivalent in Office 2004 for the Mac. Since I do not use Office 2004 I chose to sync with the built in apps. I also chose the option to sync my time with the Mac, this simply makes sure that the time on your Mac and on your device stays the same. My first sync went fairly seamlessly, and I was happy with the results. Most of the information was synced, including notes in my contacts, calendars and tasks. The only information I noticed was missing was that photos associated with contacts did not transfer over.
Unfortunately all was not well when I tried to sync my device the next morning. After connecting the device, The Missing Sync detected it and began the process, however the program hung and I was forced to shut it down manually. After a reinstall I was again able to sync my device, however once again the 2nd time I attempted it the program hung. Frustrated I went online to look for some support and found a posting from the beta of the software that indicated you should put your device into "flight mode" to ensure that it syncs. Sure enough, when I turned off the cellular radio, synchronization went smoothly every time I connected the device. Synchronization via Bluetooth was also fairly simple. After an initial failed attempt I, ahem, read the directions and was able to easily connect. According to Mark/Space it is necessary to turn off your radio when syncing via Bluetooth because ActiveSync will send the data via that connection otherwise. In my experience it was also necessary to turn off my cellular radio when syncing via USB.
With my PIM data syncing effectively, I went on to test out some of the devices other capabilities. Chief amongst these is transferring files back and forth between my computer and my Windows Mobile device. The Missing Sync offers 2 options to transfer items to and from your device. The first allows you to mount your phone on your Mac's desktop. This allows you to access it as a drive, dragging and dropping files to and from it. Unfortunately there is a serious limitation, in that you are unable to move items more than 10mb in size either to or from the device. This means that moving video and large podcasts is impossible using this method. Moving songs for music, pictures and small work files is easily done.
Moving large files onto my device can be accomplished by using the 2nd method. Within The Missing Sync there is an install function. I believe this function was initially developed to easily move cab files onto your device for installation, but it is also the only way I have found to move large files onto my device. You can add files for installation either by dragging and dropping them when The Missing Sync is not connected, or by adding them to the list using the + button while the device is connected. The file transfer begins immediately, and I was able to easily transfer several television shows and a large podcast to my device. The install function allows you to automatically set up target folders on your device based on the file extension. You will have to manually target either your built in memory or your storage card each time.
Moving files from my device to my Mac however is not supported by the install function, which brings us back to ?mounting? the device onto my desktop. I've already mentioned the 10mb file limit, but unfortunately even moving files smaller than 10mb can be a problem. In my attempts to move small files from my device to my Mac I occasionally saw an error message that said "There is a problem with this file and it cannot be copied". I was also unable to view the files listed in my music folder, even ones that I added there from the Mac.
That being said, I was able to move most of my critical files, namely the excel spreadsheet I use as a checkbook. In a message I received from Mark/Space I was informed that the problems with mounting are known and will be addressed in a future release.
The Missing Sync also includes plugins for iTunes and iPhoto. Both function similarly, in that when the device is mounted it is listed as a drive in those programs. You can then drag and drop files onto the drive. Unfortunately this will only copy the file into your My Documents folder on the device's internal storage, helpful perhaps for pictures, but not helpful at all for music which you almost always want installed on your storage card. I recommend manual drag and drop or using the install feature to move your music onto your device. To move pictures taken with your device's camera into iPhoto, simply use the import command and navigate to the appropriate folder on your mounted device.
Overall I have found The Missing Sync to be a solid option for those who want to use their Windows Mobile Device with their Mac. It is generally well integrated into OS X, and does your basic tasks fairly well. I understand the difficulties that come with developing software that links two entirely different platform, however I do hope that future versions of The Missing Sync supports synchronization of email and files while improving support for mounting and does not force users to turn off their cellular radio to connect successfully.