Pros: Powerful, reliable file synchronization software with several advantages over common utilities such as e-mail, bookmarks, and desktop wallpaper, leaves little trace on host computer, simple interface, extensive manual.
Cons: E-mail features incompatible with Outlook Express & third party e-mail clients, bookmark feature incompatible with third party browsers, expensive.
Though we haven’t reviewed a lot of iPod software in the past, that’s about to change: from now on, we’re going to feature occasional reviews of especially useful iPod software. (If you’re a software developer with a significant iPod tool, please contact us and let us know we can consider it for review.) We’re renewing our software review section with a bang: Migo Personal for iPod is certainly among the most complex, most professional, and most expensive – but don’t stop reading! – iPod-specific software packages created yet.
Migo Personal for iPod is an iPod-specific version of PowerHouse Technologies Group’s file synchronization software. The Windows-only software allows the user to – as its product page claims – “Make any computer your own.”
The concept is simple: use Migo to synchronize your iPod with your home computer’s desktop files, desktop image, Outlook email settings, Internet Explorer favorites, and any other files you specify explicitly. Connect your iPod to another computer, load the Migo program from the iPod’s drive directly, and your documents, settings, email, and desktop wallpaper show up on the host computer as if it were your own. When you’re finished, simply log out and walk away, leaving the host computer unchanged. If you made any changes, additions, or deletions, they are mirrored on your home computer the next time you synchronize. A video demo of the Migo feature set is available here.
Apple fanatics will recognize that this seems quite similar to the OS X 10.3 Panther feature “Home on iPod,” which disappeared at the last minute without explanation. Mac users interested in somewhat of a Migo / Home-on-iPod solution should look to YouPod.
Sure, the concept sounds great, but how well does it work? In our testing, exactly as advertised. In short, Migo Personal for iPod fulfilled our expectations as a powerful, easy-to-use synchronization solution.
Product Usage Walkthrough
After you install Migo, the program launches a synchronization window. Here, one can easily select several basic items to synchronize via basic commands (the first three checkmarks).
For more control, you can enter an advanced options screen, selecting individual file folders and Outlook eMail folders to synchronize. (Our test “home” computer uses Outlook 2003.) Despite the plethora of options scattered across the three tabs of this “advanced” synchronize setup window, the user interface was very intuitive – we had no trouble in doing what we wanted to.
In each of these screens, a hard drive capacity meter was constantly updated with the total size required for the selected items, which we found to be a nice touch.
When all our desired items were selected, we began the initial synchronization. Using a USB 2.0 connection on our 4G 40GB test iPod, our 350MB of file data took approximately 4 or 5 minutes for this initial synchronization. Subsequent “update-syncs” obviously take much less time.
When the synchronization completed, we logged into our test “host” computer, logged in, plugged in the iPod, and launched Migo.exe off the iPod’s hard drive. It should be noted that Migo does not allow you to gain access to a computer that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to – you do need to be logged into a Windows account to launch the program. Migo appeared in the Windows taskbar, and a small tab appeared at the top of the existing desktop:
This tab, when clicked, expanded to a mini view of our “home” computer’s desktop:
Upon launching our “home” computer, the existing desktop image changed to our own, our desktop files appeared as shortcuts on the desktop, and shortcuts to our synchronized Documents folder replaced the existing user’s “My Documents.”
Our Outlook 2003 e-mail, contacts, and calendar entries were properly imported into the host’s Outlook 2000, and our Internet favorites were perfectly in place, as expected. To stress the file synchronization features of Migo, we added files to the iPod’s Documents folder, deleted some that were already there, and made changes to others. We even changed a source file on the home computer simultaneously with its iPod version to see how Migo would behave with a “file collision.”
We then logged out (which returned the “host” computer perfectly to its initial state), and returned to our “home” computer.
When we returned to re-synchronize, we were prompted with a window alerting us of changes that Migo had detected. Each time we tested this procedure, Migo was able to correctly determine the changes made to the iPod’s copy of our documents, and synchronize them with our “home” machine. In the case of our induced “file collision,” Migo created two copies of the file both on the computer and the iPod, leaving the synchronization for the user to manually conduct (as it should).
There are two potentially major drawbacks to Migo that may significantly limit its appeal to a large portion of its prospective users: third-party software support and price. We’ll discuss each in a bit more detail.
Two of the major features that distinguish Migo from standard file synchronization software – its e-mail and browser features, specifically – are not terribly forgiving when it comes to the user’s choice of software. The e-mail/contacts/calendar features, for example, require that all computers used have Outlook 2000, 2002, or 2003 installed. Outlook Express, which is likely far more pervasive on potential “host” computers, does not qualify. Similarly, the web browser used for bookmark synchronization must be Internet Explorer 4.01 or greater. While this browser requirement is much less restricting (as nearly all supported Windows computers qualify), Migo does not appear to accommodate the bookmarks of certain users who prefer, as an example, to use Firefox on their main computer. YouPod for MacOS X has the capability to synchronize bookmarks and convert them between formats for several of the main MacOS browsers, so it is technically possible that a future version of Migo could incorporate such a feature.
The second of Migo’s flaws is its price. Despite Migo’s quality and broad feature set, there is no denying that its $100 price tag is steep. Professionals may be able to justify the expense, but the price may limit its penetration among a significant segment of Migo’s theoretical market: students transporting items to and from campus computers. (Perhaps a “Lite” version is in order?) However, Migo’s cost is currently offset by a $30 mail in rebate available until Monday, January 31st.
These drawbacks aside, we definitely recommend Migo Personal for iPod to any individual who has a strong need for seamless portability of his or her workspace. Its ability to effectively and easily transform virtually any computer into one’s own is a major productivity gain for any person who is willing to pay the premium price.
As one final note, we strongly encourage anyone remotely interested in Migo’s functionality to take advantage of the 15-day trial available at http://www.migoforipod.com/trial/ . We think you’ll be impressed.
Jerrod H. is a Contributing Editor to iLounge.
Company and Price
Company: PowerHouse Technologies Group
Model: Migo Personal
Compatible: iPod 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, iPod mini, iPod photo