Getting Back In Bed With Google

Back in April I posted about Un-Googilizing my online presence. I felt I was using too many Google products to meet my needs, both as a school teacher and personally. At that time I believed that I needed to diversify my applications/tools to use more products than just those produced by Google.

As I have entered into semi-retirement and change how I use the Internet and my Laptop, I am finding it a lot simpler and cheaper to use many of Google’s products. For the most part they are uncomplicated, easy to use, accessible anywhere that there is Internet and there is an application for just about anything that you want or need to do.

While I still believe that it is not a really a good thing to put my all my eggs in one basket and that having multiple sources for your tools should be a better solution. However, I have noticed a significant increase in the amount of Google products that I am using again, especially since Re-Imaging My MacBook Pro back on June 25. When I re-imaged my Mac it got rid of a lot of software that was school specific and I haven’t needed or missed those other products since then.

Below are the major application/tool categories and which tools I am using:

Blogging

Back in April I thought a lot about switching over to WordPress.com as my primary blog host and came very close to doing it. However, after reading “The War of Art” and “Do The Work” – again, I decided to stay with Blogger. Yes Blogger has had its problems, but as I discussed in Blogger is Back and We Over-reacted.  However, Blogger does what I want.

I can play around just enough with the Themes (code) to personalize them to my tastes, use the widgets that I want in the sidebar, without spending a lot of money to do so – $10.00 per year for a custom domain that includes a custom Google Apps account is pretty good. Also it doesn’t hurt that I can make “accidental” money on Blogger that is not allowed WordPress.com.

The reports are that Blogger will receive a significant update this summer, makes me look forward impatiently to see what improvements it will get and how it will then compare to WordPress or other blog hosts. It also sounds as though it will be getting a name change as Google changes their social media related products over to Google +, we will see.

Browser

I tried switching from Google Chrome to Firefox (FireFox 4.0 – Initial Review) and used it for about a month, but it wasn’t as stable as I had hoped for (yes I have downloaded and installed Firefox 5.0, but have not done more than take it for a quick spin). I also tried to return to Safari, but the spinning wheel of doing nothing just irritated me too much, but I had to use it with Inifinite Campus’ Gradebook tool for school – not an issue since June 10th when grades closed.

It came down to Opera or Chrome as my default browser and Opera doesn’t support Evernote clipping, so Chrome became my default browser – again.

I love the speed, the extensibility and that it is the most stable of the browsers that I have been using or trying to use. Google Chrome is currently my web browser of choice.

Once in a while though, something happens and several programs (mainly Google programs) do not render correctly in Chrome and I have to use an alternative browser – usually Safari to access those webpages because I can clip Evernote – it is frustrating, but only lasts for a couple of hours or so.

Even with that problem of all the browsers that I have used, it is the one I like the best.

Start Page

Simple I use Symbaloo as my start page, I like the icon driven menu system – it works for me.

Notebook

Single word answer here – Evernote. I use it for just about everything, it is my electronic filing cabinet. I like it enough that I pay the $5.00 a month for the premium version, even though I don’t come anywhere close to my limit now that I am not teaching. Maybe this will change as I get further into the semi-retirement business and becoming more frugal, but for now the $5.00 per month cost is well worth it.

eMail

I have gone back to using my gMail.com account for all of my email. I could use my custom account, but that just seems redundant to me. gMail.com works and does everything I want it to except for having a desktop or offline availability. Even so, I took Apple Mail off the dock and just use gMail for everything now. It also helps that I don’t receive nearly as much mail as I did when school was in session and that I have gone ahead and gotten rid of 90% of the marketing emails that I used to receive.

Contacts are part of this tool and it meets all of my needs except for the offline availability and that is why I keep it synced with Apple’s Address Book to cover that.

Yes gMail.com works for me and I even like the new look – though I am not usually a gray type of person.

Calendar

I have done the unthinkable for a Mac user, I don’t have Apple’s iCal in my dock and haven’t used it since I re-imaged my Mac, I do have it setup to sync with Google Calendar in case I don’t have an Internet connection, but haven’t had a need as yet. Yes iCal’s interface is fantastic, but I do all of my many appointments (being sarcastic here) in Google Calendar now.

My schedule is not like it used to be, where I had to keep track of several meetings and schedule things, so Google Calendar meets my personal needs quite well, plus I can still check my schedule with my iPhone that is now an iTouch.

I really like Opus Domini, but it is tied directly to iCal and I am attempting to simplify the number of tools that I am using and Opus Domini is not available to me if I am on my wife’s Dell or other computer. When the developers at Opus Domini bring those upgrades to their product, I will have a difficult choice to make.

Productivity

Since school got out and I re-imaged the Mac, I haven’t used or needed any other productivity suite other than Google Docs. It has done everything that I want, Word Processor, Spreadsheet and Slide Show, plus the other tools that are included there. Again there is the issue of availability of documents when there is no Internet, but I don’t travel all that much and if cable is out at the house, I just will use Text Edit and then upload to gDocs.

Yes I looked very closely at moving most of these tools to Zoho and came very close to doing so. Zoho is geared towards small businesses and does a great job with their products. Zoho has top notch, in my opinion the best customer service out there (where is Google’s?).

However, in the end I just felt more comfortable using Google than Zoho for my productivity suite – I have used it more. Who knows in a year, I might feel differently and if I do it will be directly related to the customer service or lack of it.

Website

Right now I am using my Blogger blog “One Foot In Reality” as my website with the new theme I installed this week. I was using Google Sites as my classroom website, but at this time I really don’t have a real need for a website other than my primary blog.

Feed Reader

Google Reader – nothing much else to say gReader is the best and meets my needs. I tried a variety of offline readers like Gruml, but in the end I decided to keep it simple and just use gReader.

Photo Management

I have done the unthinkable here – I do not even have iPhoto on my Mac, when I re-imaged, I didn’t reinstall it. Picasa is my photo management tool of choice. I paid the extra $4.00 a year for 20GB (in addition to the 7GB in gMail.com account) and I have barely made a dent in it. I like the way it is simple to use, that you can easily do some pretty good editing with Picnik program that is now part of Picasa. The ability to quickly and did I say easily upload my photos to online storage was the clinching factor.

I was surprised that the URL link didn’t work to add images to my Blogger theme and that I had to use PhotoBucket to accomplish this (Flikr didn’t work either), but other than that Picasa has done everything that I want in a photo management tool. There are “leaks” that Google is going to change the name to Google Photos and Picasa will be integrated into Google +, that will be an interesting change.

Books

I stopped using Google Books to keep track of my owned/read book inventory or wanted to read/buy. I didn’t like the interface, it was just lacking something for me. I instead use Shelfari and although it has its own quirks, it has worked quite well for me.

Social Media

I am still waiting for an invite for Google + to see if it is everything that all the people who got tester invites seem to think. I wonder if the hype that we are hearing is reality or just hype.  Guess I will find out when I finally get the invite.

Twitter is my primary social media tool and I keep the “all friends” column running as a sidebar when I am online, while I have several other hashtag columns that I check on throughout the day.

Facebook – I don’t like it because of the attitude that they have towards privacy and how they limit your ability to export your data in useable forms – to lock you into their application. See my Changing How I Use Facebook post. I am really looking for a reason to delete my account there, yet still keep in contact with many of my Facebook friends.

Those are the primary Google Tools that I have used since I have gone into semi-retirement. How I use my laptop has changed a great deal and Google’s products have met my needs so far.

The issues that I do have with Google tools:

  • no offline capability when the Internet is not available.
  • that they often make sudden changes, that while they think may be for the better, but it is disconcerting to have a product look completely different than the last time you used it. See my Google Calendar’s New Look post.

Offline capability supposedly is coming this summer according to several blogs, so that will solve one of my primary concerns about using Google’s applications and the other is something that is how Google has operated for a long time. They usually give you the option to go back to the “previous” edition, which at times is nice to have that option, but it doesn’t mean that I like the way they do this.

The Reality is
I am getting back in bed with Google with all its warts and history – yes. I think that I have less to fear from them, then I do from some other services. At the same time is it wise to rely upon a single provider for almost all of your online needs? What happens when a corporation suddenly changes direction, management personnel or management philosophies. This may or may not happen at Google, but then again who knows, Google is a large corporation and their loyalty is to their shareholders and the bottom-line, not to the people who use their products.

This does concern me, but I have to hope that Google’s public company motto of “do no evil”, holds true for a long time. Enough of me believes it will – otherwise I wouldn’t put most of my eggs in the Google basket.

Yes I have gone back to Google, because their products work for me, especially since I am no longer a teacher and have to use certain tools in order to do my job. I am extremely interested in Google + as a viable alternative to Facebook – I am very hopeful that it becomes that, because I am looking for an alternative to that service.

FCC disclaimer – I did not receive form of reimbursement or service as a result of writing this post, they are simply my thoughts.