So, Did I Switch to MobileMe?

Well, dear readers, I promised to get back to you and let you know if I ever made the switch from Google Gmail and Google Calendar to the MobileMe suite, and now that it’s been a year, I figure I better let you know what happened.

Well, this is pretty simple folks. MobileMe has done absolutely nothing to convince me to transition from the Google application suite. MobileMe kind of reminds me of plain vanilla ice cream. Not the kind made with natural vanilla but the kind that has a yellowish tint made from imitation vanilla. It seems that at some point, my expectations for web applications has gone well beyond the customer that Apple is aiming to please.

It seems that Google is on the other end of the spectrum. It constantly works to improve its applications and produces impressive web applications using the latest technologies. That’s not to say that Apple isn’t doing the same with MobileMe, but the functionality that Apple produces is so simplified that it seems like something that was introduced five years ago. I’m sure there is a market for that type of thing, but it’s not a market I fit in anymore.

So, why am I sticking with Google? Well, it’s all about innovation and it’s all about standards. As I said before, Google seems to constantly improve its mail, contacts, and calendar programs. It is a leader in providing communications solutions like Google Talk and Google Voice. It is constantly on the cutting edge.

What’s even more interesting is that Google supports industry standards so thoroughly. Want to use any modern email program to access your Gmail account? No problem, Google has you covered with POP and IMAP. Want to use a modern calendar application to access your Google Calendar? No problem, Google has you covered with CalDAV.

Needless to say, I am still in the Google camp, and I am deeply entrenched at this point. Gmail (including chat), Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Docs, YouTube, etc. It is going to take something so magical and so game changing to claw me away from Google that only one company on the planet has the ability to pull it off.

Come on Apple, MobileMe is not nearly good enough. Impress me! Convince me that you have the creativity and ability to produce something so game changing yet so right that everyone will want to use your web applications. You’ve clearly done it with the iPhone. Now do it one the web.

Will MobileMe Make Me Leave Google’s Gmail and Calendar?

Since Steve Jobs’ keynote at the WWDC in June, I have been waiting patiently (well, quite impatiently) for the new and improved .Mac which has been rebranded as MobileMe. Based on the keynote and guided tour, MobileMe finally looks like the mail, address book, and calendar applications I expected from Apple when they launch iTools and .Mac so many years ago. As a user of many devices and computers on a daily basis, I have always struggled with keeping everything synchronized. Perhaps MobileMe will finally provide the solution for which I have been looking.

My big question now is, will MobileMe provide enough functionality to convince me to move all of my email, contacts, and calendars from Gmail and Google Calendar to the MobileMe platform? This will be no small feat considering how long I have been using both of those Google applications. The one big plus for me will be the ability to use desktop applications on my Mac and Windows machines. Right now, I can use Gmail on the desktop using IMAP, but having to move messages from one label to another can become annoying and cumbersome. Google also has sync applications for Google Calendar that can sync with Outlook, but I have found the functionality to be buggy at best. To me, neither of these solutions is good enough, and they tend to take away from my productivity and enjoyment of the applications.

If MobileMe can truly deliver on its promise of providing a consistent user experience on my Mac using its built in Mail, Address Book, and iCal applications, my Windows machine using Outlook, and the Internet, I will be a very happy camper. My guess is a lot of other people will feel the exact same way. We’ll know any day now if MobileMe is really Exchange for the rest of us.

Using Gmail to Backup Files Online

Google GmailFor those of you who are not familiar with Gmail, you soon will be. Gmail is Google’s free email service, and it is one of many excellent services that Google provides. Most of the people I know already use Gmail as their main email service, and I suspect that many more will soon join the ranks of devoted Gmail users.

Google has always offered a tremendous amount of free storage space with each Gmail account, and with competition from Yahoo and Microsoft, they continue to add space to each account for free. Right now, I have 6,290 MB of space. That’s over 6 GB of storage space for free!

The catalyst for this post is my wife’s less than a year old Dell laptop. Sadly, the hard drive in that machine is beginning to show the telltale signs of failure. You know the ones – the terrible scratching sounds, the no drive detected errors, etc. Needless to say, we have been scrambling to find good ways to make sure her important business files are safe and sound. The first thing we did was save the files off to a USB flash drive. This is a good short term solution, but flash drives are easily lost. We have also started to use Google Docs more so local storage is becoming less of an issue.

Then something came to me. Why not use the 6+ GB of storage I have with Gmail to store my important files on Google’s servers? Using Labels in Gmail makes organizing all of your files insanely easy, and of course, Gmail comes with the power of Google’s search if you ever need to find a specific file. Follow these easy steps to save your important files in your Gmail account.

1. From your Gmail Inbox, click the More Actions drop down box and select New Label.
2. Enter a name for your new label like “Documents” or “Files.” This will help you find your files later.
1. Compose a new message and enter your Gmail address in the To field.
2. For the message Subject, use the name of the file you are sending to Gmail.
3. In the message Body, enter keywords or phrases that will help you find the file in the future.
4. Attach the file to the message.
5. Send the message.
6. The new message will appear in your Inbox.
7. Select the message by clicking the checkbox next to the message.
8. Click the More Actions drop down box and select the Label you chose for your documents.
9. Click the Archive button to remove the message from your Inbox.

Your file is now saved on Google’s servers. In order to access your files in the future, simply select the Label you chose for your documents. Labels are usually displayed under the Chat window on the left side of the page. Clicking on a Label will show all of the messages with that label so you will be able to see all of the messages you have saved with your important files. You can also use the search feature in Gmail to find a specific file. This is why using descriptive file names and adding good keywords is very important.

I hope this helps you get more out of your Gmail account and avoid the problems of a hard drive failure.

Some New (Old) Posts

Some time ago, I wrote three blog posts as part of an application to join the blogging crew over at TUAW. Having not heard from them since I sent the application, I figure that it is time to make those posts public on Probstisms. All of the posts have been back dated to when they were written.

The first post is about the iPod halo effect.

The second post is about the Apple/Starbucks partnership.

The third post is a review of Google Docs from a Mac user’s perspective.

I felt pretty good about the posts at the time, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Still No IMAP Love!

Google GmailLast Wednesday, Google announced the long awaited availability of IMAP for Gmail. Gmail has had POP access for quite some time, but POP just doesn’t cut it when you want to access your email from more than one device.

Now, I know some of you are thinking I should just access Gmail over the web, and you would have a pretty good point, but what happens when I’m 35,000 feet in the air or some other place where there is no Wi-Fi or cellular system? I want to use Apple’s Mail application with Gmail. I want to use Outlook with Gmail. I want to use my BlackBerry’s message application with Gmail. Basically, I want IMAP for my Gmail account. It’s been five days since the announcement, and I’m still waiting. Come on Google, hook me up.

Microsoft Announces Office 2008 for Mac Versions and Pricing

Microsoft Office 2008Earlier this week, Microsoft announced versions and pricing for Office 2008 for Mac. According to TUAW, there will be three different versions to chose from: Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac for $399.95, Microsoft Office for the Mac Home and Student Edition for $149.95, and Microsoft Office for Mac Special Media Edition for $499.95. Other than the Home and Student Edition, consumers will get a break on the price if they are upgrading from a previous version.

Professionals will most likely need to go with the standard or Special Media Edition in order to get Exchange support, but home users will be well served by the Home and Student Edition. This edition will compete directly with Apple’s iWork and free services from Google including Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. Home and student users will need to really take some time to determine if they can live with only being able to work with these products online. If they can, they may be able to save $150 and use Google’s services instead. If they need to be able to work offline, Apple’s iWork may be an option. The suite is maturing, and it now has all of the same applications that are included in Office other than Entourage, and Entourage can easily be replaced by the Mail, Address Book, and iCal applications included on every Macintosh.

With Apple’s and Google’s applications available to home and student users, Microsoft will have a very difficult time convincing these users that they need to upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Office. I, for one, will not be running out and buying Office this time around. It just doesn’t make sense for me to spend money on a productivity suite from Microsoft when there are cheaper or free alternatives.

Presentations Now in Google Docs

Google DocsI read earlier this week on TechCrunch that Google had officially added presentations to Google Docs. This addition has been rumored for some time, and it’s finally here. Presentations is a web-based tool to create electronic presentations in a way that users of Microsoft PowerPoint will be very familiar. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that PowerPoint has, but I have never been a big fan of all of that worthless eye (and ear) candy anyway.

Google now has a very impressive suite of products that can handle all of the communications and productivity needs of both home and business users. I will write a more in depth review of Google’s products in a later post. Let’s just say that I won’t be buying the next version of Microsoft Office any time soon. Stay tuned!

Probstisms Review: Google Docs

With Microsoft once again delaying the release of Office 2008 for Mac, you may be rethinking your reliance on the folks up in Redmond for your word processing needs. Apple recently released iWork ’08 which helps fill the gap, but there are other options available that provide powerful, easy to use word processing at a very reasonable price (Free!).

Google Docs is Google’s entry into the word processing space. Docs provides an impressive list of features, and considering that the application is web based and free, the features are even more amazing.

Editing

If you are familiar with Microsoft Word or any other word processing application on the market, you will feel very comfortable with Google Docs. Docs provides all of the features you would expect to see like undo, redo, copy, paste, bullets, alignment, etc. You also have a number of fonts and colors to choose from although I would like to see more font families added in the future.

Docs also provides the ability to insert images, hyper links (including links to other Google Docs), comments, tables, bookmarks, and separators (including page breaks). For each type of object, the interface provides enough options to control exactly how the objects appear in the document. For example, when you add an image to a document, Google Docs can resize the image based on the setting you choose, and you can also set the alignment and text wrapping. This is all done with a few clicks on the mouse.

One feature that users will find to be very helpful is the Revisions feature. Docs automatically saves your document as you type, and it provides a very easy way to go back and see and revert to each revision if the need arises. Docs also provides the ability to compare different revisions (think Track Changes in Word). This is a very powerful feature and one that I expect will be used very often.

Collaboration

The most impressive feature of Google Docs is its ability to share documents with other Google Docs users. When you share a document, you can make other users collaborators on the document. Those users can make changes to the document while you are making changes. This is extremely useful when working remotely with other people around the world. This also makes the Revisions feature even more important in case one of the collaborators accidentally deletes or changes a section of the document that shouldn’t have been changed.

In addition to adding collaborators to a document, you also add viewers. As the name implies, these users can only view the document and cannot make any changes. This makes it possible to share documents with others while maintaining full control over the content.

With more and more people working remotely, the sharing features in Google Docs makes it very easy to work with other team members with real time collaboration.

Publishing

With Google Docs, it is very easy to publish your work so the world can see it in all of its glory. Users can choose to publish the document using Google’s servers. The document will receive its own web address (URL) that you can send to anyone that needs to see the document. Users can also choose to publish their documents to their own personal blog. Google Docs supports most of the major blogging services as well as several APIs for self hosted blogs.

Working Offline

As with other web-based applications, the one negative for Google Docs is that it cannot provide a seamless offline experience. Google has been working on a product called Google Gears which may be something that could make it possible for users to work in Google Docs while offline. If you would like to experiment with Google Gears, you can work with it while using Google Reader.

Without an offline mode, users must export their documents in order to work with them offline. Here, Google Docs provides many format options including HTML, RTF, Word, OpenOffice, PDF, and Text. Once you are back online, you can import the document back into Google Docs and continue to work with it through the web interface. Obviously this is not the smoothest user experience.

Conclusions

Google Docs is a very powerful word processing tool that has all of the features most users would need in a very easy to use web based interface. With its collaboration functionality, it is way ahead of most of its higher priced competitors. As long as you maintain a connection to the Internet, Google Docs provides a more than adequate replacement to Microsoft Word for Mac. If you’ve had enough of Microsoft’s word processing behemoth, I recommend that you give Google Docs a try.