What Are Conflicted Copies in Dropbox?

If you use Dropbox, the very popular file sharing service, you might have noticed that some of your files have the words Conflicted Copy appended to their file name. There are two circumstances which can cause conflicted copies. They most commonly occur when two people edit the same file at the same time. They can also occur when a file is left-open on a computer in an application which uses auto-save.

I use and recommend Dropbox. In fact I’ve talked about it in several previous tech tips. This one gives a good overview of Dropbox. Many of my clients use Dropbox, and the only complaint that I hear is about how Dropbox handles files edited by two people at the same time. Since Dropbox stores a copy of each file on each person’s computer, it’s easy for two people to edit the same file at the same time. In fact, Dropbox has no way to prevent this. By creating conflicted copies, Dropbox preserves the work done by both people. This is a good safety measure. The challenge is that reconciling the two copies or merging the two copies is left in your hands. While I haven’t tested the following applications, DeltaWalker and Merge for Mac  are file comparison and merging applications which could help you reconcile conflicted copies.

We can hope that someday Dropbox might be able to implement some sort of notification system to let you know when another user is editing the same file at the same time. However, this is only practical when users are connected to the Internet. Since Dropbox stores files locally on your Mac, it’s possible to edit files even when you’re not connected to the Internet. In this case a conflicted copy could still occur.
Dropbox has their own short article which talks about Conflicted Copies.


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