capsule review

Tri-BACKUP 4.0.4

Tri-BACKUP 4.0.4, from TRI-EDRE, offers a respectable range of backup options in a somewhat quirky package. Like most other backup tools, it distinguishes between immediate actions and programmed (that is, scheduled) actions; it also offers prepackaged backup settings for several common actions.

Although all backup programs differ somewhat in their use of terminology, Tri-BACKUP differs more. If you want to make a bootable duplicate, the mode you choose is Direct Copy—not to be confused with Mirror Backup, which copies all files into a new folder on the destination volume. For incremental archives in which old copies of files are preserved, you choose the Evolutive Mirror Backup. Although files are always copied incrementally when possible, what Tri-BACKUP refers to as an Incremental Backup means storing new or changed files from each session in a separate, time-stamped folder. Its Archiving mode deletes originals from the source after copying them. Tri-BACKUP also offers a Synchronize mode, which attempts to make the contents of two folders or volumes identical. Although the default action in the Synchronize mode is to overwrite older versions with newer ones, you can change this for individual files or folders.

Once you’ve decided on a mode, you make the usual choices of source and destination for your backup; options (such as whether to compress or password-protect files during backup, and whether to synchronize deletions); schedule (which can include automatic execution when a backup volume mounts, or at start up or shut down); filters for files to include or exclude; and additional actions to perform before or after the backup (such as displaying an alert, playing a sound, or opening a file). The details you can specify with regards to your backup are numerous and jargon-heavy: users may find themselves scrambling for the manual to figure out, for example, whether they should check the boxes for excluding .DS_Store files, aliases, invisible files, and evolutive data. Speaking of the manual: it’s a separate, optional download. Including the manual by default would have been a better choice.

Like most backup applications, Tri-BACKUP has limited support for backing up to optical discs. You can’t burn discs from within the program, but you can, for example, back up data to a blank CD via the Finder’s Burn Disc command, repeating the process if necessary to store additional data.

Tri-BACKUP is full of interface oddities that, while not entirely inscrutable, make the program appear to be harder to use than it really is. There are checkboxes galore, often with confusing labels; nonstandard icons and menu commands whose functions are not readily apparent; and the aforementioned peculiar terminology. The program also assumes you have several pieces of knowledge you can obtain only by reading the manual—such as whether or why to activate the Administrator Mode (which enables files anywhere on your drive to be copied with correct ownership and permissions), and why you might use Groups (which separate programmed backup actions into user-defined categories). The manual, while not bad, does not illuminate all the program’s features with sufficient detail to make less-sophisticated users confident in their choices, and in any case, a simpler and more intuitive interface would be better than an improved manual. That said, in most cases, if you simply accept the default selections, Tri-BACKUP does the right thing.

Macworld’s buying advice

I found Tri-BACKUP made many activities that should have been simple unduly confusing. Unfortunate choices of interface and wording make this otherwise versatile program less attractive than others.

[ Joe Kissell is senior editor of TidBITS and author of Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups (Peachpit, 2007). ]

Configuring a new programmed action in Tri-BACKUP requires working your way through several screens, many of which contain confusing options.
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