Hi Authors of syncthing!
I installed it on my Android phone + desktop PC (Debian) two weeks ago and thought it is great.
Now I wanted to document and re-install (changing the sync folder on the PC) and found that the user interface needs improvement.
The problem is that the technology and functioning of it is clear when reading the doc, but not clear when “just using” it occasionally.
So I’m now going in “stupid mode”, repeating that installation as an unknowing user, purposely not watching any videos or reading any pages, and writing down what I find. I hope it is helpful.
A) The manpage
Suggestion: The manpage should mention as the second paragraph that syncthing (on Debian) runs as a daemon (background app) started by the session and is contacted via a Web-User-Interface. Just so that commandline users know where to look.
B) Adding the Phone
I’m repeating my “dumb user” actions here to show the point. I clicked on “Add remote device” and immediately selected the Device ID shown (not many hackers on my network). It was not implicitely clear to me that the device is not only added but also authenticated by this step. Obviously I did not read the two lines of text
I gave it a name (“Nokia 8”).
Suggestion 1: I note that I would have expected some button to show my own QR-Code to the other device on that page!
Suggestion 2: Even better, it should have been possible to show a more sophisticated QR-Code on that page that can be scanned on the phone and that does add the PC on the phone PLUS giving the phone some authentication to add back the connection on the PC. Well, that might be too much and too confusing.
C) Not seeing the context-sensitive menu
Good that I have added the device. I expect it must show up on the other end, too - right? I check and I don’t see anything. I go under “Devices” and it’s still empty. Hm. Obviously I do not consider the + sign because it is ABOVE the tabbed lists. I expect a general menu to be there but not actions specific to a tabbed selection done below. The typical user guide goes top-down; what I select on the top affects the content below.
Suggestion 3: Please please put the action below the tabs even though it takes another line of space. What User-Interfaces would typically do is show a list of devices and another entry with a Plus sign “Add new device”.
Suggestion 4: Please add the elementary functions “Add a device” or “Add a folder” to the menu, both of them, always to be seen. That might even go directly to the QR-code-scanner.
D) The QR-code
OK, found the + button on the phone.
Hitting on + gives me a menu. It is not immediately obvious that I can enter the device ID immediately there - who would want to enter a long device ID? But it’s good.
I want to connect via QR-code. I expect that since I’ve read it in reviews. However it is not so great that on the desktop app I have to search before I find where to show the QR-Code.
So I click the symbol and the scanner starts. Great.
On the desktop, I click the Nokia 8 device that says unconnected. I expect to find a QR-Code or some info to connect. Does not work. I click on Edit. Yes - here it is: Show QR. Now I finally can connect!
Obviously I expected that selecting the long ID was just for an initial connection that was not authenticated and showing the QR-Code would then authenticate. I expected some kind of handshake then going on.
Instead, I was mistaken: I could have shown a QR-Code that is hidden under “Actions” to connect, but when I chose the long ID, the Nokia 8 was already authenticated, and the “Show QR” is intended to Show the QR-Code OF THE OTHER SIDE TO A THIRD PARTY. That “Show QR” means “Show to third party” is not very intuitive at that place.
Suggestion 5: The “Show QR” button must be renamed. It could be “Show to third party” or “Show QR of Nokia 8” or “Pass QR to friend” or some such thing. But not “Show QR”.
Suggestion 6: In the QR-Code that is shown on the “Show to third party” button, please also print the name of the device that I have given it. Nobody wants to remember or find out which device that strange long device ID actually belongs to. The device should be identified (for me) by the name I have given it, and the long Device ID should only be the technical thing that is shown with the QR-Code in case one needs to type it.
Suggestion 7: If the remote device has never been connected (perhaps you know that state since the Phone does not know the PC yet), show the ID and the QR-code both in the extended entry under the “remote devices” field under a heading of “Show my ID to connect” or so. In other words, the connection should be handled in the list under that device.
Suggestion 8: The QR-Code scanner gives a nice message to scan but it should also give a message where to find the other device’s ID: In the Actions menu under Show ID.
E) Creating the folder on the phone
Before scanning the right QR-code, I noticed that there was a notification on my phone, so I added my PC in that way.
Now I want to share the camera folder from the phone. I want to share it unidirectionally, i.e. just send the photos to the PC.
I go to folders. Again I expect a button “Add local folder” at the end of the list.
Suggestion 9: I am very scared that I might destroy something. The “Folder type” item should go on top, and it should have a big heading “Send” or “Receive” or “Send & Receive”. Not “Folder Type” - that heading should be very small.
Suggestion 10: The “folder type” MUST be settable even before the folder has been selected. I understand that some folders can only be sent due to operating system restrictions but that should be handed by a popup.
Suggestion 11: Or alternatively there could be a small text that explains things; I want to make sure I understand about send and receive BEFORE I pick a directory - it might be cleared or shared automatically, who knows?
Suggestion 12: Selecting the directory might go to the top. When connecting a device, the process is first - select the device - second - give it a name for local use. The order for the folders should be the same.
Suggestion 13: When selecting the directory, the menu on top becomes context sensitive but that is hard to grasp. (Top down, remember?) One easily gets stuck in a bad mode and does not know how to get out. Unfortunately, that sticks - Once I have switched to “Recent” in the menu above, it will always open the “Recent” mode.
Suggestion 14: If you must have the folder type below the folder selector, then at least do this: While no folder has been selected, show a heading “Neither Send Nor Receive” with an appropriate text (Please select a folder, then decide whether you want to send or receive.)
Suggestion 15: Somewhere right in there is the name of my desktop PC with a switch. I suppose that means: Share this folder with this device. Since that is a list, please put a list heading “Share with:” and indent the device names. Please put the list more to the bottom.
Suggestion 16: “Pause Folder” might also be labelled “Pause sharing” since we are in a folder specific page.
Or is the whole setting from Folder Type downwards specific to the partner device? In that case, PLEASE indicate that by some indentation or by putting the whole group in a separate box or so.
OK, I’m creating the folder for the photos
- “Add folder”: Share typically means two-way in regular language. When I see something called “Add folder”, I want to know before: a) Is this a folder that will be sent to other devices, or a folder that will receive data from other devices, or potentially both (but to be configured)? I want to know that BEFORE I create the folder. I want to make absolutely sure that my photos that I just made will not get destroyed or some such thing. Perhaps: Add folder (to share both ways) I understand that the button may have to be short and snappy, but the dialog that comes to add the folder MUST explain that on the top! b) I want to have a PROCESS for sharing. I want to be guided.
F) Creating the folder on the PC
Initially I did not understand the process, that after the phone was set to share, the PC would show that sharing offer and would let me create the folder properly.
Here, I do not have a very specific suggestion but the process should be made more transparent.
The whole process is driven by the problem that I do not want to share a folder before I know by usage that I can set the folder not to be changed.
That is somewhat unclear during the process.
OK, I understand that some of these suggestions might seem unreasonable once one has used the program for some time. I also understand that some people just like to try out. And I understand that at the crucial point, where the folder is picked, one can adjust “Send-only”. But there might be other users having similar reservations before using the product.
So if you want to pick some of those suggestions, feel free.