Online Applications

Michael Eaton did a recent blog post on making the switch to online applications.  I enjoyed reading the post and it inspired me to try some things out.  The first new online app I tried out was Google Docs and my initial experience has been great.  It worked well for creating a simple document of notes for a client I'm working with.  And since I've started developing in virtual machines (I'll post more about this later), it worked great since I didn't want to install Office in my development virtual machines.  If I use Google docs, I can easily access the documents from my virtual machines and anywhere else I happen to be.  And it export documents in various formats including Word and PDF, that is if I don't want to share them directly on the web.

I'm not too thrilled with the .pst file format from Outlook, but I use Outlook every day.  My laptop hard drive is slowly dying, which I think contributed heavily to my recent loss of a .pst file I can no longer access (and that Scanpst chokes on...)  Having all of my mail in a .pst file makes me nervous.  So, based on a conversation I had with Dan Hounshell, I decided to try out consolidating all of my email in Gmail.   Dan informed me that Gmail has the ability to use POP3 to get mail from other accounts.  It was pretty quick work to set this up in Gmail and get all of my mail in one inbox.   One nice feature of using POP3 to retrieve mail from other accounts is that you can automatically apply a label to incoming messages, which is quite handy in organizing all of my email, including various business and personal accounts.  I'm still using Outlook, but now I just get mail from my Gmail account.  And I've configured Gmail to leave the original on the server when I access it via POP3.  So I get to use Outlook, but I have a backup of all of my messages in the cloud.  And if my new .pst file becomes inaccessible, I can pick up my correspondence on the web without delay.

And it's not only Google applications that I'm using.  I've been using Highrise for a few months now to keep track of business contacts.  I'm pretty happy with it so far.  At Tellus, we also used Basecamp extensively for project management and it worked quite well for us.

And another one I might try soon (based on Twitter traffic) is unfuddle.  It's an online software project management application that includes Subversion hosting.  You can get a free account to manage one project.

And I agree with Michael when it comes to backups, I think I'm better off having my data online.  For my email, I automatically have a "backup" in my local .pst file.  For Google documents, I can easily send myself a document as a Word document if I'm concerned about its loss.  Highrise will export all of my contacts as vCards or Excel.  Many online applications have APIs where I could likely automate a backup process if I wanted to.  In the end, I think that Google or 37Signals will likely to protect my data just as well or better than I will myself.

Are there any online applications you can't live without?  Leave a comment and I'll take a look.

7 comments: (+add yours?)

TheElder said...

I would say to move away from POP3 Joe and look at using IMAP with Gmail. IMAP offers some nice features that POP3 doesn't. Check out the article I wrote on it here and see what you think.

http://keithelder.net/blog/archive/2008/01/19/I-Migrated-To-Google-Apps.aspx

-Keith

Joe Wirtley said...

Thanks. I actually tried IMAP first and it wasn't working for me (probably either user error or the fact that my machine is dying), so I went to tried and true POP3. I'll take another look at IMAP.

kalidas said...

I wouldn't say these online apps are worthless they ve been helpful for me for more than a year now...
It lets me COLLABORATE seamlessly and effortlessly on several docs. It s bye bye to the friggin NIGHTMARE of mail attachments and endless versioning chaos and disorder. And it really is a pleasure to collaborate in real-time on the same doc which online office suites like eDeskOnline,Thinkfree. If you don t believe me, please, try it out. You ll be amazed!

Justin Kohnen said...

Nice article Joe. As Keith previously commented, I would recommend IMAP over POP3. That way, how you organize your email locally is organized in "The Cloud." And since you're using outlook you can configure when and how IMAP downloads emails, so you don't have to wait.
You didn't mention anything about Calendar, that's another thing I recommend putting in the cloud.Gcal is my tool, but there are others.

Joe Wirtley said...

At the time I did this blog post, I wasn't using Google Calendar, but I've started using it since. One of the next hurdles is to sync my Outlook and Google calendars...

theelder said...

Try Remember The Milk Joe if you haven't bumped into it.

http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

Cynthia L said...

But i would worry about information leaking so i barely use backups online. but backing up on my own laptop seems useless sometimes. what do you think of backups online? Do you really not bother with the p[ossible data leaking?

Cynthia
PDR