Could Google Drive Be An Evernote Alternative?

Could Google Drive Be An Evernote Alternative? | 40Tech

So let’s talk. There’s been a lot of conversation around the web — and on this site — about possible alternatives for Evernote. Springpad was the goto app for many, though the most recent update has pulled them further away from that comparison, and drawn the ire of many users in the process. If you look at Springpad, though, as well as several other apps that offer services that are considered comparable to Evernote (Shelfster, Thinkery, OneNote and Catch, for example), you can define a general criteria for a note taking application that I think — no matter how odd it may sound — could also be met by Google’s latest cloud offering and the new face of Google Docs: Google Drive.

Stick with me. I’d love to have a conversation with you all about this.

 

First: What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is the latest cloud drive offering to hit the web jungle. It came out just this past week and has already been cited as a direct threat to Dropbox, Skydrive, Box, and all the rest. On the flip-side, it’s also received the standard Ahhhhh, Their Stealing My Private Information!!!!! treatment by the web media, as well — in this case, somewhat unfairly (more below).

Google Drive Features

Once you start using drive, you can say goodbye to the docs.google.com url. Your docs shall forever become a part of Google Drive. You’ll still be able to revert to the old Google Docs interface, for a limited time, but the default new dashboard is where you will start, and eventually end up.

Google Drive | New Google Docs Dashboard | 40Tech

 

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Here’s the feature-set, in a nutshell:

Storage is low cost and in abundance. And it can take crazy large files, and allows you to view files most other services don’t. Sync with your computers and mobile devices (iOS coming soon) in the same manner as Dropbox.

  • 5GB of free storage space — and Gmail goes up to 10GB
  • Additional space starting at $2.49/month for 25GB, $4.99 for 100GB — all the way up to 16TB (these also up your Gmail to 25GB)
  • Google Docs don’t count against your storage
  • 10GB filesize limit per file
  • Upload up to 30 types of files –this includes Photoshop, Illustrator, movies, photos and more, as well as viewing of those files (graphic designers, rejoice! — and yes, this means movie and music playback, too)
  • Add and manage files from your desktop environment
  • Google Docs files (.gdoc, .gsheet, etc.) are actually shortcuts to their respective web editors, so don’t take up additional hard drive space on your PC
  • Offline viewing (offline editing is in the works, too)

Sharing, sharing, sharing! Collaborate! Individual files, folders, or your entire Drive…

  • Add a person, go public, or share a link — you can even give people without Google accounts editing capability
  • Send Drive links in Gmail to make sure everyone always has the updated version — no attachment worries
  • Or send Drive files as attachments, or even in the body of the email (classic Google Docs features)
  • Share photos and videos right from Google+
  • Easily view and manage files and folder shared with you
  • Collaborate on any type of file — comment and chat on any of your files, in real time
  • 30 days of revision history

Google Drive Sharing Settings | 40Tech

Search — including including OCR and Google Goggles

  • Filter by keyword, file type, file owner, and more
  • Search text in scanned documents
  • Find a photo using the search bar — Goggles can recognise objects in your images

Third-party apps. There are already several available on the Chrome Web Store, many of them free or freemium services. These apps will plug right in to your Google Drive allowing you to do all kinds of fun things. Some examples:

  • HelloFax lets you send free faxes right from Google Drive — it also has signature signing capability, as do a couple of other Google Drive apps like DocuSign
  • Pixlr and Aviary for Google Drive let you edit uploaded photos
  • SlideRocket can be set up to be your default presentation app
  • Revisu lets you share designs for feedback and track version history
  • Lots more available and lots more coming via Google Drive > Settings > Manage apps > Get more apps

Third Party Google Drive Apps | 40Tech

Any of you starting to see why I couldn’t help but compare it to Evernote? More on that, below.

What About My Privacy?

Google Drive’s privacy policy and terms of use came under fire almost the moment it launched. I have this picture in my mind of writers hearing about the launch and rubbing their hands together with glee as they consider all the readers they will be able to draw in with negative Google headlines. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Google may be the sweet face of Evil, and many of the concerns were and are valid — they’re just out of context.

Google’s Terms of Service states:

“You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

This is a good thing. But here’s where the confusion comes in:

“…you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

At first glance, this is freaky — but the reality is that this is used so that Google can integrate Drive with its other services — for you, of course — and to provide the other functions of the service, such as OCR and image recognition. Of course, this also means they can use the content to better provide you with more accurate advertising, but this is something they do with their services already.

Bear in mind that they can also be compelled to give up your information to government bodies or law enforcement agencies if required to by law. This is a standard thing that applies to every online service that houses its servers in the United States.

All of these things can be found in similar fashion in the Dropbox terms of service — and even the Evernote terms of service, though some may find Google to be a bit more ambiguous. Personally, I find the Amazon Cloud Drive terms of service much more frightening.

What does this all mean? Only this: Google’s scary privacy points are, in this instance, not so different than any other online drive’s terms of service. Does this mean there aren’t potentially frightening possibilities; that it’s all really candy and roses? No. Not unless you consider that the candy and roses could be laced with Rohypnol, that is. But these privacy issues are simply the risk you take when you put your files and personal information online. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned, just that you need to make the same decision, no matter what cloud service you use.

 

Next: Google Docs vs Evernote

Evernote Google Drive
Sync between devices (including mobile) Yes
Offline viewing Yes
Offline editing Not Yet
Collaboration Yes
Sharing Yes
Keyboard shortcuts for quick launch With tweaks (custom shortcuts)
Rich text editing Yes
Easy organization by notebooks and tags Yes, but with folders (no more tags)
Powerful search Yes
OCR Yes
Add attachments Yes
Search within attachments Yes
Third party integrations Yes, with more on the way
Add content by email Not at the moment
Web clipping Only manual copy and paste works at the moment
Low cost Yes
Upgradeable storage Yes

 

NOTE: You can create desktop shortcuts to open new Google Docs files, and then add custom hotkeys to those shortcuts to easily open new “notes”. The same urls used for the shortcuts can be used to create a dropdown in your browser’s bookmarks bar, although one bookmark, loaded in the browser sidebar is a great option for Firefox. The URLs you need are in this Google Document: http://bit.ly/IIiHAo. I’ve also added the shortcuts I decided to use, while testing. If there’s interest, I’ll do a full how-to on this.

New Google Document Shortcut with Keyboard Shortcut | 40Tech

NOTE: You can also add Google Drive to the Windows Send To context menu by typing %APPDATA%/Microsoft/Windows/SendTo to a Windows Explorer window – press enter. Then open another Explorer window, create a shortcut of your Google Drive, then drag it to the Send To folder you just opened. Now, when you right click on a file, you will be able to send it right to your Google Drive (this is based on the Windows 7 OS and also works for Skydrive and Dropbox).

 

Where Google Drive Wins

Google Drive allows you access to a full office suite, from full document and spreadsheet creation to presentations. It will also allow you to handle files more easily, as well as have real-time, collaborative conversations within the files/notes themselves. For people who want to have a powerful suite that they can leverage in nearly the same way as Evernote, then Google Drive could be a very good option. The same goes for people who don’t like the new Springpad, but find that Evernote just isn’t enough for them.

 

Where Google Drive Lacks

The lack of speedy clipping is an issue for me. This can be overcome with some simple copy and paste, or with extensions like Send to Google Docs (turns a whole web page into a PDF and sends it to Google Docs), and will likely no longer be an issue once some enterprising person or business creates an app for just that, but for the moment it is a bit of an annoyance. Not a deal breaker, though.

Web Clip of 40Tech Article to Google Drive by Shortcut, Then Copy Paste | 40Tech

The other thing is that it is just not as straightforward as Evernote. The workarounds I put together make it easier to get going, but I find that the keyboard shortcuts I created sometimes fail until I remake them in the shortcut’s properties. And as I’ve mentioned in posts before, Evernote is really good at the simple things it does: taking and organizing notes. Once you add all the extra power and options of Google Drive, then you run into the potential of it becoming unwieldy, unless you manage it really well.

 

So there it is, my curiosity and thought process laid out before you. Your turn now! I want to know what you think – feasibility, practicality of application, pure ridiculousness, et al. Let’s chat about it and see what we can come up with as a group!

Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You’re Looking For

Rizzoma May (Soon) Be the Wave Alternative You're Looking For | 40Tech

In our last post on Google Wave, we talked about the impending final shutdown of the service on April 30th, 2012 (it is currently in read-only mode), and the potential for Apache Wave and Walkaround to keep the real-time collaboration tool going. We’ve even done a bit of hunting on our own for a suitable Wave alternative, but the reality is that Wave was a bit ahead of its time. Fortunately, another possibility for resurrection has surfaced: Rizzoma.

Rizzoma is a free, open source version of Google Wave that boasts some improvements to the look, feel, and function of the service. Some of the features they talk about on their site are an easy to use mobile version that actually works, improves search, the ability to to assign and track tasks within Rizzoma, easy team management and content sharing, and a built in mindmap mode.

Screenshot 1Screenshot 2Screenshot 3Screenshot 4

Rizzoma also promises the ability to re-install your favourite open source gadgets from Google Wave, and the ability to import your old Waves to the new platform.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that Rizzoma’s current level of marketing far outstrips the actual state of the product. Their website looks very promising, with a big button that says log in with your Google account and a video that makes you believe that the service is ready to go. I don’t know if it was an oversight on their part that they don’t include a note that the service is in beta and most of the truly awesome features are still on their way, but the reality is that a newcomer to Rizzoma will likely find themselves confused and disappointed. At least for now. After a bit of hunting on their support forums, I found that the bulk of what’s promised should be available within a month.

Right now, @mentions work, basic document creation, editing, and collaboration is available, the mobile version is functional, and the improved look and feel is on point. Importing your old Waves is also working, via the WaveShortcuts Chrome extension created by Project Volna — who are also the people behind Rizzoma. Importing your Waves via the extension is fairly simple, and the final result is readable and usable, though huge Waves with a lot of nested upon nested replies could get a bit unwieldy.

If you have been on the hunt for a Google Wave alternative, or are just looking for a real time collaboration tool that works across platforms, Rizzoma looks promising, despite the potential marketing/first impression snafu. If they are true to their word about getting the big features up and running effectively within a month, then we may finally have a winner here — proivded they can get enough support. Rizzoma is definitely the most promising Google Wave alternative I’ve come across so far. If you are at all interested, you may want to check them out and start importing your Waves now, as the time window is closing fast.

Check out the video below to see where Rizzoma is taking Wave:

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Learn how to import your Waves to Rizzoma:

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Check out Rizzoma and tell us what you think!

Producteev Gets a Massive Upgrade: Android App, Windows Desktop App, and an All Around Makeover

Producteev Gets a Makeover | 40Tech

Producteev, one of our favourite  — and one of the best — to-do apps, has released a massive upgrade that includes some long-awaited features and platform updates. The web and iPhone apps have gotten a makeover, the much clamoured-for Android app has finally arrived, and there is now a Windows 7 desktop app to balance out the Mac version. Even the logo has been updated (bye bye Tasky the beaver)!

To top it all off, Producteev has added a few new features into the mix — and yes (drumroll), that does include sub-tasks…

Check out the video below for the overview of some of the new functionality in the multi-platform task manager.

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There have been usability and visual enhancements across all apps, improvements to some of the main Producteev feature-set (discussed in previous posts), and some brand new features such as integration with TaskRabbit (a service for crowdsourcing small tasks), the ability to print tasks and export them to CSV, as well as the aforementioned sub-tasks.

Now, I know many of you have been waiting patiently for sub-tasks, but don’t get too excited. At this time, sub-tasks are really nothing more than a checkable list added to the top of the main task’s detailed view. There is no way to interact with them outside of that view, or to add specific dates, labels, or anything else. Also, they don’t appear to work in the mobile apps yet, either. Hopefully, there will be improvements, and soon, especially in the case of the missing mobile integration.

The Android app is great. I can now use Producteev with my wife’s phone just as easily as my own, and with an interface that’s nearly identical to the iPhone’s. As Producteev mentions in this post, however, Android users should be aware that the new app is in beta. Don’t expect an error-free experience, just yet.

As always, Producteev is free to use for workspaces that have one or two people. If you want to collaborate with larger teams, unlimited people and storage space can be had for $20 USD per month (it gets cheaper the more workspaces you buy).

Update: Google Calendar integration has been temporarily disabled due to stability issues. It should be back up and running within the week — and it will be better than before. Two way task-sync with Gcal, folks!

Google’s Cloud Connect Syncs MS Office with Google Docs

Google’s Cloud Connect Syncs MS Office with Google Docs | 40Tech

There are several ways to sync Microsoft Office documents to the cloud (we covered three here), but until now, not one of them was made by Google. Whether that statement sparks feelings of warm and fuzzy quality in you, or makes you shudder in fear as Google officially digs its fingers into your Office docs, Google Cloud Connect has taken off the training wheels and been released to the world at large. Besides, if you are of the latter persuasion, chances are you haven’t bothered with the Google account that the service requires.

Cloud Connect adds a toolbar to the Microsoft Office interface that effectively accomplishes two things:

  1. Giving MS Office the online capabilities of Google Docs — and this is a good thing, as Microsoft’s cut-down web offering of Office can be somewhat unwieldy by comparison.
  2. Finally gives Google Docs the offline capability it has always needed to make it truly relevant in today’s workplace, which is still a few years away from going fully to the cloud.

Google Cloud Connect works on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and is available for Office 2003, 2007, and 2010. Check out the video below for more information on its capabilities.

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New Ways to Experience Better Collaboration with Google Apps [Google Blog]

AirDropper: An Easy Way to Request Files — and Have Them Sent Straight to Your Dropbox

AirDropper: An Easy Way to Request Files -- and Have Them Sent Straight to Your Dropbox | 40Tech

Recently, we talked a bit about Ge.tt, an extraordinarily easy way to send files to people without having to talk them through how to receive them. But what if you are the one who needs a file sent to you, and you want to make it as easy as possible to get that request taken care of? You could explain Ge.tt to people (it really is easy), or you could be a bit more direct and use the tool that one of our readers brought to our attention: AirDropper. After all, when you need something from someone, the best way to get it is to require the fewest steps possible — and to sweeten the deal, AirDropper uses your Dropbox folder, so you will be able to access the file(s) from anywhere.

Getting set up with AirDropper is pretty straightforward. You head to www.airdropper.com and click START. You will then be redirected to Dropbox to authenticate the AirDropper service, which will add an AirDropper folder in your Dropbox folder. Once that’s done, you will head back to AirDropper, and will be presented with a form that allows you to send an email (from your email address of choice) to multiple recipients to request files. The email contains your message, and a large, friendly button that says Upload and brings the user to an even friendlier ADD FILES interface. The file or files — AirDropper has supported multiple file sends since about September of 2010 — will then be sent directly to your Dropbox with no fuss, no muss, and not a worry except for your storage limit.

Note: If you are sending sensitive files, be sure to have a look over the AirDropper terms of service first.

AirDropper is free while in beta, but will likely charge for some of their service in the future, which will likely include tiered pricing for things like the size of the transfer(s), etc. Either way, it is definitely a useful tool!

Thanks to Martin for bringing it to our attention!

Ge.tt: File Sharing for the Technology-Challenged

Ge.tt: File Sharing for the Technology-Challenged | 40Tech

How many of you have had that moment in time when you need to share a file (big or small) with someone who just shuts down when introduced to new technology? Tools like Dropbox, while they make obvious sense to anyone who traffics in such things, will, in many cases, be responsible for blank stares, open derision, and comments like “can’t you just mail me a CD?” Alas, not everyone has made it to our little techie corner of the world.

Ge.tt is going to solve that little problem for us all.

The last time I faced this issue was a month or so ago, and in looking for a solution, I happened across a post by our friend from Digitzd, David Pierce. David outlined several other file sharing services he’d tried, like YouSendIt, FileDropper, Dropbox, and Box.net. His findings with these other options were much the same as my own; which is to say that they were either too complex for the tech-challenged (or uninterested), or were unreliable. He thought pretty highly of Ge.tt, though, so I gave it a try.

Ge.tt, as David said, is “stupid simple.” The website is a white-space filled, single-big-button experience that allows you to quickly and easily find a file, upload it, and then share the link via email, Twitter, or Facebook. Any file type you want is just fine, drag and drop is supported in modern browsers, and you can even add multiple files at a time. No logins are required, but you can set up an account if you want a few additional features, like live download stats, or adding/removing files at a later date.

The Best Way to Share Files | Ge.tt

Download files while uploading with Ge.tt | 40Tech

The best thing about Ge.tt, however, is the near real-time download capability. The person or persons you are sharing the files with don’t have to wait until the upload is completed to start downloading — they can actually start as soon as you do, receiving every byte you upload as it goes up on the Ge.tt servers. Sharing large files no longer has to be an all day event — and I can’t express to you how much I dig that! To top it off, the download process is as easy as the upload. Users click the link you give them, find the file they want and download away with just a click. If the recipient has difficulty with that — which is still possible, if unlikely — then the process will still be extremely simple to talk him or her through.

Easily download shared files with Ge.tt | 40Tech

Things to watch for:

  • The obvious — don’t upload anything you don’t own the rights to, or may otherwise be construed as illegal or relating to an illegal act. Big Brother is watching, boys and girls.
  • Shares only last for 30 days from upload, or 30 days from the last download. You can increase this to three months by signing up for a free account. Don’t use this service as a backup tool…
  • There is a 2 GB upload limit, at least according to the terms of service. David was able to upload a 4 GB file with no problems, but the terms may have been updated since then.
  • There is an ad on the receiver’s page, and at least one of the advertisers has an ad with a big download button on it. You may want to warn the people you send the link to to avoid any confusion.
  • Depending on your browser, images may open in a new window, and may require right-click to save actions.
  • Ge.tt is in beta. It seems stable, and I haven’t heard of any problems, but beta is their insurance. Also, their terms of service indicate that they will very likely be implementing paid services at some point, which may add to their current free services, or may reduce their free offerings. Get it while its hot.

What services do you use to share files simply (especially large ones)?

Ge.tt: The Best Way to Share Big Files (or Small Ones) [Digitizd]

Collaborate on the Fly with Google Shared Spaces

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If you were a fan of Google Wave’s integrated gadgets, or just need a place to set up some easy real-time collaboration, then check out Google Labs’ new Shared Spaces. Shared Spaces uses Wave’s technology to provide private collaboration spaces that you can invite others to via a provided short link. There are about 50 gadgets already available, such as the Map Gadget, Draw Board, WaveTube, yourBrainStormer, Napkin Gadget, and a few games. Once you choose the gadget that suits your needs, you simply click Create a Space and your window will open, complete with a chat area, link, and buttons to invite others via Email, Buzz, or Twitter. Once you’re finished, spaces can be deleted simply by selecting the Delete this Space button.

Each gadget on the list has a short description, and can be opened in its own page, where users can leave comments via Disqus, which will help others decide if the gadget will work well or not. This will be especially good if Shared Spaces catches on with the JavaScript programming community, and a ton of new gadgets start appearing.

You need to be logged in to your Google Account to use Shared Spaces, and authorize it for access. It should also be noted that, as of yet, it doesn’t appear to be working in Internet Explorer.

EDIT: According to the Google Blog, you can also log in via Twitter and Yahoo accounts.

What are your thoughts on Google’s Shared Spaces?

Use Yogile to Easily Create Group Photo Albums

Use Yogile to Easily Create Group Photo Albums | 40Tech

These days, the go-to site for photo sharing for the average person is probably Facebook. For those a little more involved in their pictures, Flickr or Picasa might be more to their taste. These sites are great — if sometimes a bit complicated — when everyone has an account on the service and/or there is only one person contributing the photos. What they are not so good for is handling photo-sharing when there are multiple people taking pictures of the same event.

A good example of this was my own wedding. There were a lot of people taking pictures that day, some of them from different parts of two countries. My wife and I are both on Facebook, as are several of our family members and friends — but not all of them, and not all of her Facebook friends are my Facebook friends. So when people started posting images of the happy day via their own accounts, she was able to see some, and I was able to see some. We were even able to share some of the images our respective friends took, but privacy settings all too often got in the way. And let’s not forget the folks who weren’t on Facebook at all, but had digital cameras and took many, many pictures… In short, creating a master album of our own wedding (that would then have to be duplicated — one for her account, one for mine) was a pain in the ever-loving arse.

Yogile offers a dead-simple solution to this kind of problem. All you need is the one account, and to pass around an album’s email address to everyone involved. Photos can then be sent in to that album as email attachments. It’s that easy — and you can also upload photos via the website, if need be. Send a link to the photo album to whomever you want to view the files, add a password if you want, or set the entire thing as public and go to. Twitter, Facebook and email sharing of an album’s link are also possible.

Yogile Easy Photo Sharing for Groups | 40Tech

Yogile isn’t complicated by an extensive feature-set, and doesn’t require everyone to register (unless they want to comment). It costs nothing up to 100 MB/month, and can go unlimited for $24.95/year. You can even download an entire album in a handy zip file.

Like I said… easy.

What do you use to corral and share event photos?

Easily Create and Share Photo Albums with Yogile [Digitizd]

The Hunt for a Google Wave Replacement Part III – Socialwok

Socialwok -- A Possible Google Wave Replacement | 40Tech

This is the third in a series of articles evaluating potential alternatives to Google Wave, which Google is discontinuing.  Check out Part I (Shareflow) and Part II (Google Services).

UPDATE: As of June 26, 2011, Socialwok announced that they would no longer be accepting new user sign up and are discontinuing the service. This comes due to a lack of funding and developer availability. Socialwok will allow users to continue to access the service for the purposes of downloading their data until July 12th, 2011. — Thanks to Ron for the update.

In an effort to discover a reasonable replacement for the collaborative powers of Google Wave, 40Tech has gone forth and tested several free or mostly free services and methods. So far, we’ve reviewed Zenbe’s Shareflow, as well as a conglomeration of other Google services (which, reportedly, will be absorbing some of Wave’s features). As our next candidate, we tested Socialwok, a free, very Facebook-like service that allows you to not only create your own focused social network(s), but was designed to integrate tightly into Google Apps.

READ MORE

The Hunt for a Google Wave Replacement, Part II – More Google Services!

Google services as a Google Wave replacement

This is the second in a series of articles evaluating potential alternatives to Google Wave, which Google is discontinuing.  Check out Part I (Shareflow) and Part III (Socialwok).

For those of you who have never used Google Wave, sorry, you’ve missed your chance.  As you may have heard, Google announced recently that it won't be developing Wave any further as a standalone product, although Google will keep it open at least through the end of the year.  This is pretty unfortunate, because Wave filled a unique niche by providing a great platform for real-time team collaboration and discussion.

So, here at 40Tech we’ve begun a search for a replacement for Wave.  Last week we reviewed Zenbe Shareflow as a possible replacement for those of you who used and came to love Google Wave.  Today we offer a second suggestion.  This suggestion isn’t a collaboration site so much as a system to replace Wave.

The system to replace Wave is based on using the full-range of Google’s other products.  One of the main advantages that Wave shares with the other products in our "Wave Replacement" series, is that it brings all communications and documents into one platform.  While using several web products is undeniably a bit more complicated and messy than a single website, it also offers some advantages as well.  For example, it provides you with several layers of flexibility, and new features to allow you to adapt the system to how you and your group prefer to work.

The idea of using Google’s full suite of products to replace Wave started with the realization that we likely will see new features rolled out to Google products, based on features that got their start in Wave (real-time email communications perhaps?).  Google said as much in their blog post announcing the end of Wave.  We then realized that many of the best aspects of Wave are already available across Google’s other offerings, if you use those applications to their full potential.

First, we'll look at why you should consider using Google’s other services to coordinate efforts and communications in real-time with a group.  Second, we’ll look at what specific services you should use, and the aspects of the communications for which they're best used.  And finally we’ll look at how you can manage all of those services.

 

Why use Google’s suite of products to replace Google Wave?

Anyone who has used the internet to do anything (i.e., everyone) has probably at some point become concerned about the amount of information that Google possesses about them.  Add to this concern Google’s recent stance on net neutrality, and there is a valid question as to why someone would rely on Google even more.  Put simply, tens of millions of people continue using Google’s products every day because they are just so good.

When I see a website with that light blue and white color scheme that is simple and powerful, I know that I’m using a Google product.  Almost every product that Google offers is available across all platforms, with many of those products available offline.  Almost all of them have very simple ways to archive, import and export your information, and they are so widely used that there are tons of add-ons, plug-ins, gadgets and tie-ins to complement what are already great products.

Google has had problems with some server availability, but my experience has been that those problems are exceedingly rare and are very quickly fixed.  Many of Google's products have automatic save functions to eliminate the dread of losing something you just spent hours working on, like what I experience every time Microsoft Word crashes on my work computer.  There are tons of keystroke shortcuts to speed up your work, and of course the search functions within Google's products can’t be beat.  Google offers HTTPS access to many of its services for secure access, and all of its products are available free of charge.

There are of course other services that offer a full-range of products that are similar to Google’s products; Yahoo, Zoho and Microsoft come to mind, but all in all I have found that Google gives you the most powerful and flexible set of tools to coordinate your full range of communications.  Perhaps most importantly, I already use at least one Google product every day.  As a result, the learning curve is much shallower for me to get up to speed on a Google product’s capabilities.

For this post, I’ll assume that you have a Google account, and a working knowledge of the Google tools.  If you don’t have an account, then you may want to sign up.  It only takes a second, and if you need more background knowledge you can go to the main page of each service (links are provided below).  To pull all of these services together I’ll be using iGoogle and One Number, an extension developed for Chrome by Dan Bugglin.  However, if you would like a desktop-based application that is a much richer experience, then check out Google Desktop and add gadgets for the services I’ll discuss.  Desktop has enough capabilities that at some point I’ll probably write a post just on it.

 

On to the system!

If you click through Google’s main page to its full listing of services, it can be overwhelming.  Google offers 24 different services under search alone!  However, you don’t need every service.  You can more than compensate for the loss of Wave through the use of Gmail and Chat for communications,  Docs for editing emails and real-time collaboration, GCal for calendaring functions, Tasks for the obvious tracking of tasks, and iGoogle or One Number to pull it all together and display the other services in one place.  I’ll give a brief description of the high points of each, but if you’d like to hear more about how I’ve used these services to replace Wave feel, free to contact me or ask your questions in the comments, below.

 

Communications: Gmail and Google Chat

Gmail as a Wave replacement One of the most important aspects of coordinating any team is coordinating communications.  Because of Gmail’s use of collapsible email chains (tied to the subject of the email), it is easily the best way to communicate with a group.  It provides a permanent record of communications that is easy to follow and get out of the way when you have finished reading it.

For more real-time communications right inside of Gmail you have the option of using Chat.  If your account is set-up for it, Google will even archive your chats and make them searchable from within Gmail, again to maintain a record of communications.  Using a combination of Gmail and Chat will usually suffice for discussion purposes, but it offers some additional advantages over Wave, including ease of use (even my grandmom knows how to use email), a permanent record of conversations that can’t be altered, and the ability to turn an email into an event or or task by exporting them to Calendar and Tasks (both of which I’ll discuss below).

Wave has a major advantage over email and chat in that it provides a platform for a group to develop ideas because, as you surely know, you can’t go back and edit an email to develop an idea further.  However, Google has provided this ability through a combination of email and Docs

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Real-time Group Writing: Docs

Gmail as a Wave replacement Docs is probably one of Google’s least used offerings, besides the obvious exception of Wave, which is presumably why they are shutting Wave down.  Docs allows for real-time collaboration on documents, presentations, spreadsheets,  and even drawings.  It has hundreds of searchable templates and the ability to create your own templates for later use if you choose to do so.

You can create shareable folders which will automatically modify the permissions of any document that is placed into that folder to match those of the folder.  As an example of why this is useful, I created a folder that gives Evan and Bobby full permissions. As a result, I can dump any document regarding 40Tech into that folder, and Evan and Booby will be able to review, edit and comment on it.  At the same time, they won’t be able to access the folder that I have set-up for my wife and I to coordinate  our vacation plans.

Another useful feature of Docs is the ability to import Gmail messages into Docs.  Once a Gmail message is imported into Docs, the text can be edited or added to for additional collaboration.

Also, for any document that has been made public, you can subscribe to the document's RSS feed to track changes as they occur.  As far as I can tell, this option is currently only available for public documents.  This is unfortunate, because it would be very convenient to be able to subscribe to those documents that I’ve set as private but am working on with others.

Another disappointing shortcoming of Docs is that although it bolds a document title if someone has worked on it since your last log-in, it does not identify what changes have been made.  Wave did a great job of this, and even had a function to scroll through time to replay changes as they happened.  I am hoping these features will be brought to Docs shortly.  What Wave lacked, though, was any kind of ability to schedule meetings or create and track tasks, which Google thankfully offers in GCal and Tasks.

 

Scheduling conference calls and meetings: GCal

Google Calendar as a Wave replacement In much the same way that Gmail is the gold standard of email offerings, GCal is the gold standard in calendaring choices.  GCal’s main selling point is simplicity.  In Gcal you can quickly create an event, add notes and attachments, create a reminder, and add guests.  There are probably thousands of public calendars, so I don’t even need to do the work to add the U.S. holidays to my calendar, for example (or, more importantly, the Penn State football schedule).  It has a clean display that makes keeping track of your schedule a breeze.  Critical for group collaboration, though, it is just as easy to share your calendar with others and add their calendars to yours.  In doing so, GCal even converts events to your time zone.  One of my favorite aspects of GCal, though, is the ability to display tasks that are coming due on your calendar.

 

Task Tracking: Tasks

Google Tasks as Wave replacement As mentioned above, using several services to replace Wave offers the advantage of being able to personalize the system to your liking.  Using Tasks is such a tweak that I have made for my personal system.  Tasks is a very Spartan tasks tracking system, especially when compared to Remember the Milk and others of that level, but it gets the job done.  You can create tasks and subtasks quickly, either in Tasks or by moving an email to it.  You can have the task displayed in your calendar, set due dates, and even get reminders when you want them.  What more do you want?  If there is anything else that you may want, then Tasks probably isn’t for you because there really isn’t much more than that.

 

Pulling All of This Together: iGoogle and One Number

image To pull all of this together and be able to view everything on one page, Google offers iGoogle.  You can add gadgets for each service mentioned here and look at them all side by side.  You can of course add tons of other gadgets (Dilbert anyone?), but I have one tab set aside just for these services as kind of my command center.

If your browser of choice is Google’s Chrome, one of the best extensions available is One Number.  The extension checks your Google services at intervals that you designate, and notifies you of updates through a non-invasive tool bar icon.  It is currently limited to Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and Wave, but in speaking with the developer he has said that the next release will have more services, including Docs.  At this point it is a nice convenience to be notified of new communications, but as it adds new services it could completely replace iGoogle for me in this system, thus eliminating the need for me to leave the page open and further streamlining my group communications.

I know this sounds like a lot of work to replace one service, especially since our series looks at other single services to replace Wave.  Once it’s set up, though, I really have found it to be a comprehensive and, just as importantly, simple way to maintain open lines of communication with members of a group.  Further, it allows me to schedule appointments and keep track of the tasks that result from those communications and appointments in services that I already use.  To top it all off, it’s all pulled together in one simple interface through iGoogle.  I think if you give it a try you will find that it is worth the effort.

 

What do you think?  If you use Wave, are you going to use other Google services as a replacement?