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Window for sync conflicts


pbowers

Idea

It doesn't happen often, but periodically I will edit the same note on my phone or tablet and on my PC without giving time for automatic syncs to catch up and without doing a manual sync and I (understandably) end up with a note in conflict.

 

The difficulty is that sometimes it is several months or even a year before I notice that the conflict occurred! I don't naturally think to go searching in the "Conflicting Changes" folder - I have a bunch of folders and there's nothing there to catch my eye so I just ignore it. I just now found a conflicted change from more than a year ago that actually caused some problems in a project because I was missing some key information (I knew I had entered the info but then when I went to look the information wasn't there and so I tried to cobble something together without my primary sources [which I had tossed after copying] and now I had this mess of inaccuracies in my primary note - now I find the actual information I was supposed to have in there in a note in my "Conflicting Changes" folder.)

 

Tools for diff/patch (tools to merge changes from 2 different branches off the same root as long as the changes occur in different areas of the document) are absolutely ubiquitous in this day and age. And the vast proportion of conflicting changes are going to be in separate areas of the note (I add a line at the beginning on one platform and re-word a sentence in the middle and delete a line at the end of the note) which should be child's play to merge.

 

For those changes which do occur close to one another, don't silently create a copy of the offending conflict! That's worse than nothing!

 

Instead, *inside the same copy of the note that I am viewing - the copy that remains in my primary folder* put some textual indicator of what was in one copy and what was in the other with lots of colorful exclamation points or otherwise to attract attention. Then, to be complete, place *both* original copies in the "Conflicting Changes" folder, referenced from the textual clues in the main note so the user knows that there was a problem and knows where to look to see what was in each copy.

 

===(snip)===

this is a change that was added in branch #1 and copied in - no conflict

 

these are

some intervening lines

 

this is a change that was made in branch #2 and merged in - conflict resolved

 

these are

some more

intervening

lines

 

!!!!!!!========CHANGES WERE MADE ON SEPARATE COPIES OF THIS NOTE AND EVERNOTE IS UNABLE TO RESOLVE THE CHANGES=========!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!===PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS===!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!===ORIGINAL TEXT===!!!!!!

some context

This was my line in the original before any changes were made

some more context

!!!!!!!===TEXT AFTER CHANGES ON PC "xyz"===!!!!!!

some context

This is my line that I changed on my PC

some more context

!!!!!!!===TEXT AFTER CHANGES ON ANDROID DEVICE "abc"===!!!!!!

some context

This is my line that I changed on my android

some more context

!!!!!!===END OF CHANGES===!!!!!!!

!!!!!!===COPIES OF THE ORIGINAL NOTE AND BOTH CHANGED COPIES HAVE BEEN PLACED IN THE FOLDER "Conflicting Changes" with these titles:===!!!!!!

!!!!!!===Hello World - original before changes made - last updated 2015-10-02 13:52:32 ===!!!!!!!

!!!!!!===Hello World - with changes made on 2015-10-08 1:08:32pm from PC "xyz"===!!!!!!!

!!!!!!===Hello World - with changes made on 2015-10-08 1:12:32pm from ANDROID DEVICE "abc"===!!!!!!!

!!!!!!===After you have resolved the conflicting changes these additional copies of the note in "Conflicted Changes" should be deleted===!!!!!!!

 

more lines

just to fill up space

===(snip)===

 

When I see that it is abundantly clear exactly what I am supposed to do and there's no possibility that I can lose information as long as I am paying even a small amount of attention to what is going on in my note. It's the moral equivalent of what the linux utility "patch" does, but spelled out in color and with lots of words to help non-technical people understand what's going on.

 

Or, alternately (and perhaps more intuitively) pull up a dialog box each time the user opens EN or accesses the conflicted note which alerts the user to the fact that a conflict occurred and gives the opportunity to go through a wizard interface to choose how the final copy should look.

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13 replies to this idea

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  • Level 5*

Got (and thank you for) that - just explaining that you're asking for a lot more than you might have realised,  and I'm not sure that Evernote will want to move in that direction anyway;  comparisons between confllcting changes might be something they'll prefer to leave to an add-on app.  SInce you were -apparently- suffering from the issue somewhat I threw in the sync before and after mantra in case it was helpful.

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Hello I always have  problems with sync conflicts. I often discover too late that my note hadn't been updated from another device because we need to scroll down to get the warning message or check somewhere far. And even when I know, it's very long and complicated to choose the right version and clear the mess in the note.  I'm a very long time user of evernote so it's not a problem of knowing how to deal with the problem, but rather to make it way more simple:

When a conflict of notes is detected, why not simply pop a window asking which version we would like to keep, like in Mac's "Pages", as you can see on the screenshot below? 

 

 

Capture d’écran 2016-09-18 à 10.30.46.png

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Perhaps the most helpful feature you could add to Evernote in the next year is this: help us understand the differences our conflicting notes.  When you have a note and it gets off-sync and you end up with two conflicting, it's almost impossible to figure out the differences currently unless it is a really short note (which for most people I bet, like me, that's not the case).

It would be immensely helpful to have a popup screen that puts the two notes side by side, and highlights the areas where they are different.  Even MORE helpful, the ability to select from those differences which ones you want and have Evernote create one good note again with all the parts in it you want.

Please, please!!  Can we add this feature in?!  This might even be a nice "premium" feature, if you wanted, to attract people to sign up each year.

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Hi Jefito thanks for your answer. When the window pops you would only have to choose between the most recent version -last saved- or the one before that. No mergings possible, it complicates everything. In the context of work we don't have time to deal with more than "this one or this one, sire?".

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I think the basic problem is that there is no warning that syncing has not occurred when you close a note. I would like to have an option to either 1) sync automatically upon closing the program, or 2) warn me it has not sync'd upon close of the application. I use EN between PC, iPad and Android phone and I frequently get the conflicts. Very annoying.

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  • Level 5*

Conflicts aren't always easy to resolve; a simple this one or that one isn't always going to correctly solve the problem. Merging isn't trivial for binary data (which Evernote can contain), but for text it's pretty well understood. Side-by-side viewing/editing could be an alternative. Those kinds of tools would be helpful.

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  • Level 5*

AFAIK Evernote isn't comparing the contents of notes and has no ambition (as yet) to identify differences.  All the system does is to look at two dates and times - what's currently on the server (which is where all notes are collated and shared with all connected devices) and what's being offered in the latest sync.  If one device is syncing material with changes dated older than the current server copy,  but still different from it,  that's a conflict.  The note is synced as 'new material',  but the date says it's older.  The server isn't (yet) smart enough to recognise additions,  changes or subtractions - and in any event isn't (and will never be) qualified to tell which is the 'correct' version. 

 

I make lots of changes in typed copy,  but the final version will generally be shorter (and spelt better) than the final one - although in process of completion my note might get saved several times with partial copies.

 

The only way to ensure that you avoid conflicts (as far as possible) is to sync manually beforeafter - and frequently,  during - changes.  If you sync every time you move from one device to another at least,  that should cut down on problems - if you remember to sync any new device before you start to use it.

 

I'm sure Evernote will improve the way conflicts are handled,  but there will always be a need for vigilance and care using the sync system.

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Yes, I recognize that right now the server isn't sophisticated enough to merge the changes or do something smarter with it.

 

That's ... erm ... the reason I wrote the suggestion to them.

 

Perhaps I wasn't clear that it was a feature suggestion?

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