Toucan, a portable file sync tool

Toucan, a portable file sync tool


  1. Toucan, a portable file sync tool
    1. Contents
    2. Context
    3. Mandatory Gibberish
    4. The Nitty Gritty
      1. Get the Platform
      2. Get Toucan
      3. Using Toucan
        1. Open it
        2. Options
        3. Mirroring
        4. Equalizing
        5. Jobs


OS: Windows Platform 10.0.1
Toucan 3.0.4

Mandatory Gibberish

Recently, one of my internet buddies brought up the subject of file synchronization. She expressed the usual concern over accidentally overwriting a newer copy of a file with an older version of it and "what if I update some of the files on one computer and some of the files on another computer?". This almost sounds like a job for Subversion but, only hardcore nerds use subversion (I <3 Subversion). She just wants to write stories and poems on one computer or the other and be able to incrementally update her collected works with the newest versions of each file. As always, I try to suggest software that can be downloaded and used for free without cracks hacks and felonies. So, I suggested she use Toucan. Mostly I made the suggestion because I use Toucan on a daily basis and it does what I want without fail. While there is "some" tech mumbo jumbo to learn, Toucan keeps it minimal and has an excellent user manual. Anyway, what follows is information on downloading, installing, and using Toucan on the Portable Apps platform. The information on using Toucan will be explicitly for her usage scenario. Since her case is such a common one, I thought I'd share my babbling with everyone instead of just writing her an email.

The Nitty Gritty

Get the Platform

First thing is first: download the Platform and install it onto your flash drive. It can go in any folder on your flash drive or on the root if you want. I usually put it in a folder called portableApps just to keep the root clean and tidy. The download link:

After you've installed the Platform onto your flash drive, launch it by clicking the "Start.exe" in whatever folder you've installed the platform in. After a moment you should see the PortableApps menu appear and a fancy icon in your taskbar. Clicking the fancy icon will open the PortableApps menu. Clicking something in the PortableApps menu will make the menu disappear and whatever you've clicked will do it's thing. Very simple.

Get Toucan

Now, with the PortableApps menu open, find the button marked "Apps" and click it. In the submenu that pops up click on "Get more apps". You have to be connected to the internet to download applications... after a moment the list of available pre-packaged applications will appear (Portable Apps Directory). You can add apps to the platform that aren't on the list, it's pretty easy to do but beyond the scope of things here. Anyway, in the Portable Apps Directory find Toucan and check the box to the left of it's name. Toucan is listed under the Utilities subheading. If there are any other applications you want to install, go ahead and put a check in the box beside them as well. Remember not to try installing more apps than will fit on your drive... After you've checked all the apps you want, click next. The applications will download and as soon as they're finished downloading you can begin using them, no restarts or fiddling around required.

Using Toucan

Open it

To open Toucan, click the PortableApps icon in your taskbar and click on the link to Toucan in the PortableApps menu. Bang! Toucan opens and you're looking at a tabbed menu. The sync tab is the one you're interested in if you want to sync files straight away and don't want to mess around with the fancy options and advanced features available on the other tabs. Important note: Toucan's user documentation can be found by clicking on the settings tab and clicking the Help button in that menu. The documentation is excellent, it tells you everything you need to know to use any of the features of Toucan.


First thing is first: get onto the sync tab in Toucan and add a new job by clicking the green plus sign in the "job name" panel. Enter a name for your new synchronization job. In the "file checks" panel put a check in the box beside all the options except for "full comparison" [ file size, modified time, short comparison ]. In the "other" panel put a check in the box beside all the options except for "Use Recycle Bin" [ Retain Timestamps, Retain Attributes, Ignore Read-Only, Preview Only Changes ]. In the "Source" panel, either type in the path to the folder where your source (original) files and folders reside or, click the "..." button and select the folder with the file browser. In the "Destination" panel, either type in the path to where your destination (archive) files and folders reside or, click the "..." button and select the folder with the file browser. The source folder will be located on one of your computers and the archive folder will be located on your flash drive. Now, in the destination panel replace the drive letter and colon in the path with "@drive@", without the quotes. Doing this will ensure that Toucan will find your archive folder no matter what drive letter is assigned to your flash drive as it may be drive F on one computer and drive G on another. 

An example here will probably make things clearer. Given that your archive folder resides on your flash drive at \portableApps\Documents\myArchives\ and the drive letter assigned to the flash drive is G, the destination file path would be G:\portableApps\Documents\myArchive\ Say that on your other computer the flash drive is assigned the drive letter K, the destination file path would be F:\portableApps\Documents\myArchive\ Now, you could just switch the drive letter depending on what computer you're connected to but that's a pain. Instead, you change the destination path to @drive@\portableApps\Documents\myArchive\ and no matter which computer you're connected to Toucan will know where to find your archive without any messing around.

Now, we come back to the "function" panel. For a full explanation of the different functions see the user documentation. I'll give the short explanation of two of them: mirror and equalize. 


Choosing "mirror" will make the destination exactly the same as the source. Mirror is just like copying the source into a new folder except that if any files in the "new folder" are the same file as in the source, they won't be copied over. If only one file has changed then only one file will be copied over. It's a lot faster than just copying the entire source to the flash drive through drag and drop. Also, ifa file exists in the destination folder that doesn't exist in the source folder, then the file in the destination will be deleted. The end result is that the destination folder ends up being an exact copy of the source. The first time you mirror will take longer than just copy pasting to the flash drive but, after you've got a copy on the flash drive it's faster to mirror because the computer won't be moving and copying files it doesn't have to.


Equalizing the source and destination means that you want Toucan to look in both places, merge all the files together and keep only the newest copies of the files. If one location has a file that the other doesn't then that file will be copied over to the location that doesn't have it. This means that if your source and destination are exact copies of eachother then you could delete a file from your source and recover it by equalizing the source and destination.


OK, so now that you've got everything but the function filled in, select the mirror option. Click the floppy disk icon to save the job. Now you can preview what would happen if you ran the job or you can run the job. It's a good idea to preview things before you run them.

You'll want to create a different job to mirror your second computer to your flash drive.

You'll want to create two other jobs that mirror your flash drive to each of your computers.

What you'd do is mirror your computer to your flash drive when you're finished writing in order to archive your current work. When you want to work on your other computer you'd mirror your flash drive to that computer in order to update that computer's copy of the files. Then you'd do your work and when you were finished you'd mirror the computer to your flash drive. This way, your flash drive should always contain a copy of the latest work and it won't take forever for you to update the files on whichever computer you're working on at the moment.

Of course there are many other ways to use Toucan, especially if you map network drives and use it to mirror or equalize the two computers directly. I won't get into all that here, the previous instructions are long enough and easy to follow. I'll leave it up to you to find creative uses for Toucan.


  1. Matthew... this is wonderful! I haven't had a chance to go through it all step by step but I have read all of the instructions. Thank you for taking all the time to publish them!

    1. XD I'm glad you like it. If it helps you do fancy things then I'm happy. XD


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