14.4 Desktop Applications

14.4.1 How the Filr 2.0 Desktops Work

As shown in Figure 14-2, what desktop application users see in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder varies, depending on whether they are logged in to Filr and what they have marked to be Available Offline, in other words, available when Filr is offline.

Figure 14-2 Filr Desktops: Online Vs. Offline



The back-end Windows file server has files and folders in two parent folders: Development and Marketing.

The Filr administrator creates Net Folders for the Development and Marketing folders and synchronizes them with Filr.

Although not shown in the graphic, at this point none of the folders or files have the overlay icon that indicates downloaded files that are synchronized with the back-end file server.

(For more detail about Net Folder Synchronization, see Section 14.1, How Filr Makes Files and Folders Visible to Users and Section 13.2, Net Folder Synchronization Detail Overview)

In Windows Explorer, the desktop user marks the Secret Plan file as Available Offline.

The file is downloaded to the local disk and the overlay icon displays on it.

IMPORTANT:Because it is marked as Available Offline in Filr, the Secret Plan file is retained on the local disk and kept in sync with its counterpart on the back-end file server until it is marked Online Only.

Using an application on the workstation, the desktop user opens the Team Notes file.

The file is downloaded to the local disk and the overlay icon displays on it.

IMPORTANT:The Team Notes file is not marked in Filr as Available Offline. Rather it is classified as a Cached file. This matters because it is subject to Filr’s cache cleanup process, which removes inactive files from the local disk.

The desktop user marks the Marketing folder as Available Offline.

The three files in the Marketing folder are downloaded to the workstation’s hard drive and marked Available Offline.

Although not shown in the graphic, at this point all of the files under the Marketing folder have the overlay icon indicating that they are downloaded to the local disk and synchronized with the file server.

IMPORTANT:When a folder is marked as Available Offline or Online Only, the folder and all its children (all files, all subfolders, and all subfolder files) are marked the same way.

For example, A subfolder is marked Available Offline and all its files are downloaded.

Later, the subfolder’s parent folder is marked Online Only.

At that point, everything in the subfolder is marked Online Only and all of the files in the subfolder structure that were previously downloaded, are removed from the local disk.

The desktop user marks the Next Release and Strategy files as Online Only.

The files are immediately deleted from the local disk and the overlay icons are no longer displayed.

The user logs out of Filr.

The Online Only files are no longer displayed.

The folder structure remains in place.

While traveling and not logged in to Filr, the desktop user has an idea to share with the Marketing Team. Because the folder structure remains in place, the user creates a file named An Idea in the Marketing Net Folder.

An overlay icon indicates that the file is not yet synchronized. However, when the user logs back in to Filr, the An Idea file will be copied to the back-end file server, the file will be marked as Available Offline, and the overlay icon will reflect that the file is in sync with the file server.

14.4.2 Net Folder Synchronization Is Crucial

Although visibility no longer requires downloading files to the local drives, Net Folder synchronization remains a critical factor because desktop users can only see files and folders that have had their metadata synchronized.

  • Manual Synchronization (Synchronize Now): If allowed by an administrator for a given Net Folder, this options lets desktop users synchronize with back-end file servers on an as-needed basis.

  • Net Folder Synchronization Schedules: Regularly scheduled Net Folder synchronizations can keep files and folders in sync with Filr, especially if file server content is fairly static.

  • Just-in-Time Synchronization (JITS): Prior to Filr 2.0, JITS had very limited applicability to the desktop applications, but now it can be very valuable for browsing, especially when Net Folder content is constantly changing. See Desktop Browsing Triggers JITS.

14.4.3 Desktop Browsing Triggers JITS

Starting with Filr 2.0, if Just-in-Time Synchronization (JITS) is enabled for a Net Folder, then browsing in that Net Folder from a desktop, a mobile device, or a web browser always triggers JITS.

When a user browses to a folder, JITS is triggered, and the metadata for everything in the folder is synchronized with the back-end file server, stored in the SQL database, and processed by the Filr Search appliance.

For help with evaluating whether to enable JITS on a Net Folder, see Planning the Synchronization Method in the Filr 2.0: Administration Guide.

14.4.4 Files on Demand

The following points summarize what Files on Demand means:

  • Downloading for Visibility Is Not Required: Before Filr 2.0, files and folders had to be downloaded to the local hard drive to be visible.

    Filr 2.0 desktop applications are integrated with Windows Explorer and Mac Finder so that Filr users see an integrated view of downloaded files and file pointers derived from metadata synchronization (see Section 14.1, How Filr Makes Files and Folders Visible to Users).

  • Folder Structures Are Always Retained: Whether users are online with Filr or logged out, the folder structures in Net Folders, Home Folders, and Personal Storage are always retained.

    While users are logged in, folders are synchronized to local hard drives and kept in sync with back-end file servers and the Filr appliance.

    As users work offline, they see the same folder structure as when they are online. Therefore, they can therefore create new files, move files and folders, and make other changes that are automatically synchronized when they log back in to Filr.

  • My Files—Personal Storage Files Are Automatically and Immediately Visible: Because personal storage files and folders reside on the Filr appliance, they are automatically visible in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder in the My Files folder. Metadata synchronization is not required.

  • Net Folders (Including Home Folders) Are Visible After Metadata Synchronization: After files and folders are synchronized, and when Filr users are logged in to Filr, all Net Folder-based files and folders that a desktop user is authorized to view are automatically visible in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder under Net Folders.

  • File Pointers and Files Appear Together: The Filr 2.0 desktop applications provide a consolidated view that includes file pointers that are generated from file metadata synchronized to Filr and actual files in Filr folders on workstation hard drives.

  • Filr Minimizes Local Disk Space Usage: Initially, all files and folders are Online Only, meaning that the local disk contains only file pointers that link to the Filr appliance and in turn, to back-end file servers.

  • Full Browsing Is Supported: When users are logged in to Filr, they can browse through their assigned files and folders as though they were all physically present on local hard drives.

  • Users Control Which Files Are Downloaded: Files are downloaded only when a local copy is needed.

    This saves network bandwidth, streamlines file synchronization, and reduces workstation disk space requirements.

    Users can download files to their local hard drives in one of two ways:

    • They can open them in an application


    • They can mark them as Available Offline

14.4.5 A Good Replacement for Mapped Drives

For many traditional Novell desktop users, the files-on-demand features in Windows Explorer and Mac Finder provide an excellent alternative to traditional mapped drives.

  • Full Browsing Support: Users can browse network file systems just like with mapped drives.

  • Data Synchronization: Changes made by desktop users and by others on the back-end file server are kept in sync.

  • Conflict Resolution: If simultaneous changes by multiple users cause copies to get out of sync, Filr’s file-conflict-handling facilitates reconciling the differences.