What?! There’s a new version of YNAB coming? Yes. It’s YNAB 4, and it’s awesome. If you missed the announcement, you can catch it here. We talk about pricing, availability, etc.
This is, without a doubt, the single largest feature we’ve ever added to YNAB. From the user perspective, it “just works”, but from the development side of things it was quite a beast!
Cloud Sync basically lets YNAB on your iPhone or Android talk with YNAB on your desktop at work, or laptop at home, or netbook on the road. We send tiny changes across the wire, minimizing your data usage, and decreasing the time required to sync.
It’s kind of like magic. At least it’s still appearing that way to me after several months of testing.
Having your budget always up to date has been a huge boon for me and my household. Now Julie can see exactly where we stand with the budget (for her, “budget” means Clothes and Groceries). I can punch in a new transaction while I’m out and it will sync with every other device in a matter of seconds.
The sync actually happens so fast you don’t really notice it.
For our first iteration of Cloud Sync, we chose to use the almost-ubiquitous Dropbox service. Their service is free for 2GB of storage, and if you’re just using it for YNAB, you won’t need anywhere near that. Dropbox uses the same encryption your bank uses for sending things securely over the wire.
We may use other data storage services in the future, but honestly, we’re most intrigued with hosting the data ourselves, opening up possibilities I don’t yet want to delve into (a more seamless user experience is one obvious advantage, and not relying on a 3rd party is another, but there are more than that.) Taylor, YNAB’s lead developer, wrote a very thorough forum post re: the support for Google Drive, iCloud, SugarSync, YourFavoriteDataInTheCloudProvider, Local Networks, etc. I’d encourage you to check that out if you have questions about why we went with dropbox, or where the other services stand.
Um, set up is really easy. Once you’ve installed Dropbox, you’ll fire up YNAB 4 and go through a set up wizard, which is code for “click two buttons.”
We then make sure Dropbox is installed (on my machine, it is) and then present you with a final button to push:
Once that’s done…you’re done. You’ll be able to open your budget and it will be sitting in your computer’s Dropbox/YNAB folder.
You can then fire up a YNAB mobile app and walk through a lightning fast setup there.
Just a few thoughts regarding my own personal experience as I’ve used the Cloud Sync functionality. It’s a game-changer. I regret underestimating the impact it would positively have on my budgeting workflow. (Just like I underestimated the impact having it on my phone would have on my finances overall.)
I know there are some of you that don’t want any financial data in the cloud, at all. That’s totally fine. Everyone has varying levels of comfort when it comes to technology and their data. You don’t have to use Cloud Sync. You can still sync locally on your wireless networks with your mobile app, and should be just fine. You can even pick and choose which budgets are cloud synced, and which are not.
If you ever want to turn off Cloud Sync, you go to preferences, and click that big, sad, red button:
At any rate, enjoy Cloud Sync. Thanks for your patience as we worked tirelessly on this feature. It was a lot of work and will now be in your hands very shortly :)
Frequently Asked Questions Re: Cloud Sync
Will I have to use Cloud Sync?
Nope. It’s optional.
I’m already using dropbox to sync my YNAB 3 data, how is this any different?
- It works seamlessly with the mobile apps.
- You can have your YNAB file open on all devices simultaneously (no more worrying about conflicted copies in Dropbox).
- It works without an internet connection. Meaning, if you’re offline, you can add/edit transactions to your heart’s content, and when do come back online, everything will “catch back up.”
From Taylor, our lead developer (he says it better than I can, including words like “stomping”):
YNAB 3 doesn’t allow multiple people to edit the same file at the same time. If you and your spouse open the same Dropbox file at the same time, and you both make edits, and both shut down YNAB, only one set of your changes will “win”. The others will be lost. Dropbox will tell you that the files are in conflict and you’ll have to choose to keep one file or the other. The same is true if you open the file at home, and then open it at work. Both computers are editing the file and might potentially be stomping on the changes the other computer has made.
In YNAB 4, multiple people can edit the file at the same time from multiple desktops and mobile devices, and the changes, as you make them, show up immediately on the other device. No more wondering, “Did I leave YNAB open at work/home?” No more hoping that your spouse isn’t currently working in the file. It’s been re-architected from the ground up to support sharing like this.
Will I have to purchase a new mobile app that works with Cloud Sync?
Nope. The mobile apps will be free updates (they’ve received a few other niceties beyond just Cloud Sync, but Cloud Sync is 90% of the changes you’ll see). Our iPhone app still is waiting for Apple’s review, even though we submitted it now about a week ago. We’re hoping they’ll give us the thumbs up by Tuesday. (We’ve asked for an expedited review twice, and have been denied twice.) The Android app isn’t subject to review :)
Does the desktop app need to be running in order for my Phone to work?
Nope. The data sits in the cloud independent of any device. If you work with an Android and your spouse works with an iPhone, they’ll both stay in sync with each other in real time.
Will the data stored in the Cloud be encrypted?
As the data is sent back and forth from device to device, it will be encrypted using industry-standard SSL technology (same tech your bank uses for your online banking). The data will not be stored encrypted. You can read more about Dropbox security here.
What data is stored in my YNAB file?
Obviously, YNAB stores what you put in it, so if you type the location of the buried treasure in a memo or note field, that goes in there. However, we aren’t storing bank account numbers and the like without encryption. If you import from your bank, YNAB does need to remember some bank account info so it can remember which account you imported your bank file to, but when it does that, it encrypts the number before storing it. (For you knowledgeable types, it’s hashing it with a unique salt). It will obviously be a personal decision on whether or not to use the cloud. We just didn’t want you to get the impression that your YNAB data was a sea of bank account numbers.
Everyone has different comfort levels as it comes to data be stored in the cloud, which is why we’ve made it optional.
I don’t have Dropbox, so how do I do this?
We walk you through it in the software. It’s really easy.
I want to use [insert favorite cloud sync data service] because [insert reason].
First, the reasons we chose Dropbox:
- Lots of people already use it.
- Free (at least for the amount of data YNAB needs to store).
- Easy to work with as programmers from both the desktop and mobile side of things.
- Easy to work with for YNAB users.
You can still use your favorite cloud service if you want to simply have a shared folder for two different desktop machines. You’ll get everything we offer with Cloud Sync currently (conflict resolution, working on both machines simultaneously, etc.) except the phones need the API, so they’ll only work with Dropbox.