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Using RSYNC to synchronize local and remote directories

A few days ago I posted a quick update on maxprog site HTML5 upgrade, Updating an old HTML site to HTML5 and CSS3 about how I managed to perform the task quite successfully during the last months. After reading it again today I forgot an important part of the process, file synchronization.

Indeed, each time you touch a file you have to upload it to your web server in order to publish it. Usually, if I modify single files, I will very likely cycle thru uploading, rendering and fixing as many times as needed until I am happy with what I see so I can move on to the next page. This is usually what I do when the pages are mostly finished and at there final 'polishing' stage. For uploading I use a FTP client software. It happens that I am a software developer, specialized in internet protocols, including the FTP protocol and I wrote an FTP Client called FTP Disk. So I use my own software, I can even copy URLs from it and preview them in a browser quite easily. But what if you batch-modify hundreds of files a once? My software has no synchronization feature (yet) and going thru folders and uploading stuff manually is tedious and error-prone. The solution here is RSYNC.

RSYNC is a unix console tool that you use with the macOS terminal. It is a blazing fast and fully reliable file synchronization tool you will really enjoy. So how do you synchronize a directory? Simple, just launch the terminal and write this:

rsync -rtvz --exclude '.DS_Store' /path/to/local/folder/ user@server:path/to/remote/folder/

Here you have to:

- Replace /path/to/local/folder/ with the local directory you want to synchronize.
- Replace 'user' with your server account ID (same as ssh id).
- Replace 'server' with your server address, the one you would use for ssh.
- Replace path/to/remote/folder/ with the remote directory to synchronize

Guess what the --exclude '.DS_Store' parameter does?... Note that you can add more exclude parameters one after the other or even use wildcards.

About the parameters:

- r: Recursive, recurse into directories
- t: Times, preserve times
- v: Verbose, increase verbosity
- z: Compress, compress file data during the transfer

So RSYNC will compare local and remote files in the selected directory recursively, will create a compressed archive of modified files, transfer it to your server and uncompress it to the right location preserving the time info. All in a breeze!
You will even get the list of transferred files on screen.

I recommend you to read the wikipedia rsync page and the man page.

As a developer I have been considering writing a RSYNC front-end to make thing much more simple. What do you think, should I?

Stan Busk - Software Engineer
at www.maxprog.com

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