On April 1st, I received an email with an invitation to try a new product: Colligo Briefcase for Mac. This must be an april fool’s joke, I thought. I hovered my mouse cursor over the email to see the link preview. It wasn’t a fake ad selling me snake oil - it was real. Now at 11pm at night, I’m excited. I downloaded Colligo Briefcase for Mac to check it out. I thought I’d write up a quick review of the product.
Most Mac users today have to use Microsoft’s tool “Document Connection” to work with files in SharePoint if they’re not interacting with the browser. Before SharePoint 2013 this was the solution because the web interface of SharePoint did not support Safari well at all. It’s different now, fortunately. Newer products in the collaborative space are considering all platforms. It’s no longer just a Windows world.
I’m not going to lie. I stopped using Document Connection for Mac about a year ago because of numerous problems with the application. If you’re using O365 with your Mac it can be especially frustrating if the sites have long URLs.
The app is quite simple. Download the DMG file and double click on it, then drag the icon over to the Applications folder. You’ll be asked for an administrative password.
The application starts off by asking you for a document library to sync. Here’s one painful part of it. You have to find the URL of the site you wish to sync. Visit your SharePoint site and copy the URL into the dialog box. You’ll be asked which lists you want to sync. I’m primarily interested in document libraries.
The application will kick off an initial sync and place an icon on your desktop. This is one negative aspect here. I like to keep my desktop completely devoid of mounted devices like this. My desktop is used for files that I’m working on during the day. When my day is over, I triage files into respective folders.
This had me wondering… this looks like a mounted folder… where in the world is it storing the data? Why is it mounting it as a disk? If you look in Disk Utility, you’ll be even more mystified as the object doesn’t show there as a mounted disk at all. As it turns out, the data is stored in your home folder: ~/Library/Application Support/Colligo/Colligo Briefcase. Below that are numbered folders. The sites you are syncing are copied into those numbered folders.
Why would Colligo mount this as a drive and icon on the desktop? If you do a Get-Info on the icon, you’ll discover that the file system type is OSXFUSE.
Even stranger, if you type “mount” in terminal, it says that it’s mounted in /Volumes/Briefcase. This directory hooks straight up the Library folder I mentioned earlier. It’s a little weird, but it works. The benefit to all of this is that the Briefcase is integrated directly into the Finder.
This allows Colligo to continue to sync up the data even if you dismount the drive. The default sync interval is 15 minutes, so the Colligo Briefcase helper will continue to pick up changes in the background.
Release notes say administrator support is required to use the application. Won't show the mount in Disk Utility, which may through some people off. Shows up if it's given the "mount" command in terminal.
The application is great on resource usage. There is very, very little impact on CPU and RAM while the program is resident. There’s also very low impact on the battery, according to Activity Monitor. The application does not support App Nap, but that’s probably okay. You may not want your data slinging around SharePoint while the laptop sleeps.
I tested the application against Office 365 and I’m happy to report that it works just fine. Colligo Briefcase support on-premise installations of SharePoint as well. SharePoint 2007, 2010 and 2013 on-premises deployments are supported. Colligo supports four authentication methods: NTLM, Office 365, Claims-Based or Mixed-Mode.
Another interesting advantage of Colligo Briefcase over Document Connection is the ability to edit metadata for the file. Colligo Briefcase can be set to prompt for metadata when a file is uploaded or changed. This is set in the preferences screen.
Working with the file in the Briefcase folder in the Finder presents you with several options. Colligo conveniently picks up the SharePoint URL of the file and provides it as a quick shortcut so it can be emailed to your coworkers. You can also check out the file from this menu or edit the metadata.
The “Edit Metadata” window is clean and simple. You can change the content type and modify fields that are relevant to your document. As mentioned before, you can set the preferences to require that this be done when a file is added or updated.
Overall, Colligo Briefcase for Mac is a simple approach to synchronizing your SharePoint files to the Mac’s local file store. I did not encounter any issues with the application in my testing. It’s downright simple and easy to use. It does one job and does it well. If you’re looking for a simple, no-frills approach to synchronize files this application may be the one for you. It’s not exactly as seamless and instant as Dropbox, but it gets the job done.
There is one consideration for administrators that are considering this application for deployment. If your Mac users are doing Time Machine backups of Mac drives to local external drives or a server, there’s a good chance your SharePoint data will end up there. The default setting for Time Machine is to back up everything, which means the Library folder that contains your SharePoint data will be backed up as well. Please take this into account for any highly secure data you may be using.
If you’re interested in checking out Colligo Briefcase for Mac, they’re offering a 30-day trial download. Check out the release notes here and be well informed. Then hit the Colligo website and pick it up. It just might solve a problem for you and your other Mac users on SharePoint.