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Why I Switched From Git to Microsoft OneDrive

I made the unexpected move with a string of recent projects to drop Git to sync between my different computers in favor of OneDrive, the file sync offering from Microsoft. Its like Dropbox, but "enterprise."

Feeling a little ashamed at what I previously would have scoffed at should I hear of it from another developer, I felt a little write up of the why and the experience could be a good idea. Now, I should emphasize that I'm not dropping Git for all my projects, just specific kinds of projects. I've been making this change in habit for projects that are just for me, not shared with anyone else. It has been especially helpful in projects I work on sporadically. More on why a little later.

So, what drove me away from Git, exactly?

On the smallest projects, like game jam hacks, I just wanted to code. I didn't want to think about revisions and commit messages. I didn't need branching or merges. I didn't even need to rollback to another version, ever. I just needed to write code. The only reason I needed anything at all is that I have my desktop machine, my work laptop, and my Windows tablet. It is especially because these projects are ones I tinker on in the little time between other things that its best to have them available any time and any where.

I had bad luck with Git in the past on those kinds of projects. If you only have a few moments to tinker, you likely don't have time to wrap up whatever change you were in the middle of. You don't have time to craft and push a commit, either.

I was already using OneDrive for the art assets of games. This worked well because I liked to draw on my tablet and it was a very fast and handle way to share assets between that and my main machine by just throwing it in a project folder on my OneDrive account, which auto-syncs between the machines. Once I already had a habit of creating those folders to manage art resources, when I was starting the next small game project it just became natural to start writing code in there too.

And, it has worked out surprisingly well. There's been a lot of benefits over Git. I don't have to explicitly commit and push, or pull on the other end, so changes I'm only halfway into are available on the other machine when I sit down and I can finish stuff back and forth. Its a really natural process. It is also kind of handy that I have everything available on my phone, if I want to pull up some game art to post somewhere during some downtime.

Of course, there are trade offs. The synchronizing being a background process can mean some delay and lack of predictability in when it runs, so there are times when I move directly from my tablet to computer, or the other way around, and have to wait a moment to get the files. But, that's the case when I have to do it manually, anyway, I suppose. It is just more obvious when you just wait, and can't actively do something about it.

Though I haven't used it yet, OneDrive did just add Version support in July. This is file-level, so I can't rollback a whole folder or project at once, but if I need an old version of a module or some sprites, I can trust I can get that now. This makes up for what was previously a major downside that I had only avoiding because I was doing this for small, throw-away projects.

So, maybe in the future, I'll ditch real version control for even larger projects.


amo said…
Why this OR that and not have both?
I have been using git (and some other versioning systems) on Dropbox for years now with no problems. Dropbox does pretty much the same thing as OneDrive - sync across machines with file-level versioning. It's awesome, so, why use git? Because for any larger (>1 file) project involving coupled components I would run into problems when (not if) I need to check for a previous version of the project as a whole if I only had file-level versioning. With file-level versioning, I can't simply check for the tests I had a month ago and see the exact code I had tied in with those tests.
The ability to do just that is something I hadn't really appreciated either, until I ran into exactly those problems.

It's also easy to run both levels of versioning in parallel with no additional cost than what you need to pay either way (issueing git commands etc.) to get the full benefit.
While, yes, this setup might seem overkill at first, however it's dead simple to run and doesn't just provide another layer of protection against data loss/corruption (not just depending on the availability of one service) like a backup but gives additional functionality that you wouldn't have with either tool.

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