iCloud Drive vs Syncing Desktop and Documents

I don’t currently have the iCloud Desktop & Documents Folders feature turned on. The main reason is that when that feature appeared, I didn’t bother looking into the benefits and didn’t want to muck up anything.

I do however create folders on my iCloud Drive where I store things that I want to have access whether I’m on my laptop or mobile devices.

But as I now prepare for a new computer, I’m wondering how I’m going to set things up and this Desktop & Documents synching has me wondering if I should consider it.

Is there any difference between:

a) Turning on Desktop & Documents syncing (and moving all my files to those folders)
b) Just keeping things in separate iCloud folders

Possibly related - if I am editing audio files frequently, should I not store those on iCloud Drive? Are iCloud files stored on iCloud and when they are accessed, they are then downloaded to my computer? Or are the files in both iCloud and locally on my laptop and when I save the edits to the local file, it then just syncs up a copy to iCloud?

That’s my big problem with syncing desktop and documents. There’s no control. I want to exclude .git folders and other stuff. To my knowledge there’s no way to that.

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I never found the Documents and Desktop Folder Sync appealing.

My desktop is always empty (It’s used as a buffer for some hazel rules - or me manually - moving files around, but that’s a matter of minutes and the file is gone) and don’t have perfectly mirrored Documents folder between my two macs, some stuff is on both and some only on one, so syncing this it’s of no use to me.

I prefer an inbox / action folder and other folders in iCloud drive (or dropbox or whatever) for things that I need synced in a non encrypted way.

And of course this solution gives you much more control.

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To my knowledge there is no difference. Desktop and Documents appears as regular folders and behave as such. Since you can change the default Desktop and Documents folders to whatever you want anyway, I really think that Apple’s way of treating them as being special is just a courtesy/simplification for users (that some people don’t want).

Personally, I use them as intended for simplicity (though my desktop is empty). I experimented once with not using them, but found no benefit and switched back.

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If you have space, they are stored locally and sync. The only time I’ve experienced any issues was when working with 100s off small images in an Xcode project and macOS warning about something… that was ages ago and I’ve forgotten. Nothing serious, but I do sometimes move working projects into a LocalDocuments folder I created. (Less frequently, I experienced similar things with Dropbox. Both of these only with hundreds of little files being quickly changed).

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Thanks for all the answers here. Much appreciated. I will keep my same structure as I have now. That makes me comfortable and I know it works.

One reason for not having all your files on the desktop is that it might become to much data. I know its a debate whether or not having large amounts of data on the desktop causes trouble for the Mac. Its my experience that it does effect the user experience. I often move these files to either the document folder to a new folder in iCloud Drive.
Since people want to have the convenience of accessing their files from the desktop I create Alias links to the desktop.

That’s exactly what I do. I have a folder on iCloud Drive and make an alias to it that sits on my desktop. I have Hazel look for any file that is 1 day old on the desktop and stick it in that folder. It helps keep my desktop clean and I tend to this folder frequently.

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I have found syncing both to be incredibly useful. I can get to all my files from my iMac, MBP, iPad, or iPhone.

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I love this feature, I regularly switch between macs (work and home) and now always have the files I need right there. No more remote login to copy a file.

As for app data (and I consider Git data just that) that goes into a specific folder outside my documents folder.