Adobe Flash is a notorious resource and battery hog. I’m currently seeing if I can get by in Safari on my MacBook without it. I had been using an extension to selectively enable Flash in Safari, but I wanted to see if I could live without Flash in Safari entirely, and just jump over to Chrome (which comes packaged with Flash) when I absolutely needed to see a page that used Flash. All of the solutions that I found online involved Applescripts that were throwing errors for me, until I jumped into the Keyboard Maestro Yahoo Group and found a script that worked. I’ve paired that with Keyboard Maestro, and can now use a keystroke to open the currently active Safari tab in Chrome.
One of the nice features of Safari on Mac and iOS is how your bookmarks can stay in sync between your devices, with no plugin required. The one flaw in that setup was that there was no way to sync your Safari bookmarks to any other browser on Windows aside from Internet Explorer. If you wanted a universal bookmark experience, you had to use another browser with cross platform sync support, such as Chrome, on all of your devices. That has now changed. One piece of news almost lost amid the hoopla with iOS 7 and the new iPhones, is that Apple has added Chrome and Firefox to the list of browsers that support iCloud bookmark sync on Windows.
I love my Facebook friends. I really do. But the ones on the far left and far right don’t seem to get it. Their political posts are often filled with animosity or, worse yet, reliance on Fox News. They don’t sway anyone. Instead their posts foster annoyance, or even make them look like they’re a few cards short of a full deck. If you use Chrome as your web browser, you can escape all that.
If you hadn’t already heard, Google Chrome for iPhone and iPad was released this week — and it promptly became the #1 free app on the app store. This is something that we’ve been waiting for with baited breath, and something that I, personally, was never sure would happen properly due to the rivalry between Apple and Google.
Have no doubt, though, it’s here — and it takes the best of Google Chrome’s desktop browser and jams it neatly and prettily into your pocket.
One of the best features of Google Chrome for iOS is the integration of Chrome’s sync technology. If you have ever wanted the ability to open up any device — iPhone, iPad, Android, any computer that you’ve signed in to Google Chrome on — and pick up browsing from where you left off (again, on any of them), then you have reason enough to love Chrome for iOS app as the final piece in that puzzle.
It syncs your browsing history, open tabs, omnibar searches (yep, all that omnibar instant search power is in there, too), passwords, bookmarks, etc., etc., etc. Chrome was always great for being able to hop from computer to computer, but now you can hop from computer to computer to mobile and back again — and seamlessly, at that.
That’s just the tip of it, though. Google Chrome for iPhone and iPad is blazingly fast, has an intuitive interface, and comes with niceties like easy, swipe-based tab switching, tracking of recently closed and most-visited web pages, voice-based search capability (Google’s not Siri’s), search within web pages, and the ability to request a switch to desktop mode for entire sites at the touch of a button.
Google Chrome for iOS also includes Incognito Mode, and allows you to have as many open tabs in the browser as you damned well please. Chrome for iPhone is beautifully designed and extremely intuitive, and Chrome for iPad is the closest thing to a desktop browser that you will find on any tablet.
If you can get past the occasional (if persistent) few seconds of waiting, though, Google Chrome for iPhone and iPad could be your go-to web browser replacement for mobile Safari (it’s certainly more stable than Safari for iPad). The possibilities excite me to no end. I’m thinking some version of Chrome extensions would be a logical next step! Either way, Chrome for iOS gives me yet another reason to jailbreak my iPhone and iPad: to cull Safari out of default browser status, once and for all.
I like Google Chrome. Love it, in fact. I love the extensions, I love the OS-style feel of it, and I love the apps integration that makes that feel possible. It long ago took over Firefox for me, and, while I love the foxy Fox, I’ve never been able to go back to it full time.
The one thing I find with Google Chrome, however, is that — like my computer and my mobile devices — I have a tendency to collect apps that seem useful, and then rarely use them. I tell myself that they might come in handy one day (and therefore should be kept), but that’s probably just an excuse — an excuse that got me wondering: do you have the same problem?
I organize my apps into different pages, and I’ve listed them below, only detailing the Quick Apps page, which are the ones I like to keep available and (in theory) use the most. I’ve uncluttered recently, but I still find that I barely use many of the apps within.
Evernote Web – I never open this. Well, very rarely. I use the desktop app or my mobile apps instead. I keep it, though, on the off-chance that I’ll load up Chrome OS or install Linux and sync my profile. Or something.
Producteev – I use this one, too. Producteev has a desktop app, and that’s great, but it needs work. I also prefer to have my task manager in the browser, as I do most of my work while online, and the browser makes it quickly accessible.
Wunderlist – I love Wunderlist. It’s probably the sexiest task/list manager out there. I rarely use it, though, as my workflow is based around Producteev. Occasionally, I might use it to quickly make a pretty list that I want with me on my iPhone and iPad, but I have no real need for it. But it’s pretty!
Wunderkit – I know what you’re thinking… If I don’t use Wunderlist, what do I need the whole Wunderkit for? Short answer — I don’t, even though it’s awesome. But I keep thinking I might employ it as an alternative for Producteev or something. That will likely never happen, though — and shouldn’t I put it in my App testing folder, instead? Yeah, you’re probably right. And yet…
Mint – Now this, I use. I don’t use it enough or to its full potential, but I do use it. Mint is an awesome money managing app, and it has been working up in Canada for a while now. I’m not letting this one go.
Timer – This is a simple button that fires the Timer site/app (formerly TimerTab, which we covered here) — which allows you oddly enough, to time stuff. You can even set a YouTube video as an alarm. I chose Spill the Wine by Eric Burdon and War.
Gmail | Offline Google Mail – I live in Gmail, so this is a no brainer. I set it to open in its own window and roll out. I don’t usually use Offline Google Mail, and I think it may be totally useless now that Google is doing better offline mail within the regular Gmail app, but I haven’t tossed it yet. Just in case…
Google Calendar – There are a number of ways I can get at Google Calendar, but I use this when I want it to easily open in its own window. Which is a rare thing… but I do still use it.
TweetDeck | Hootsuite – I have no idea why I keep these here. I find that I manage multiple Twitter accounts more effectively on my phone, or by using LastPass to sign in to the account I choose. For work accounts, I have a whole other browser profile that I tend to use, so there is never any real conflict. If I consolidate, though, one of them could be useful, I suppose. Who needs to have so much social information thrown at you at one time, though? Keep it simple and lower your stress level, says I.
Box | Dropbox – I use both of these, but if the two, Box is the only one I ever open, because it is a web-only interface. I use my OS for Dropbox. I keep it there for the Google OS potential, though. I used to have SugarSync there, as well, but that app seems to have disappeared for the Chrome Web Store.
My other pages are separated by Design, Fun Stuff, and App Testing.
In Design I have several Aviary image editing and creation apps, Picnik, and Audiotool. Again, I think I keep these for when I’m on a computer that isn’t Adobe-friendly, as I never use them otherwise. Design also has Zootool (a visual bookmarking app I never use), jsFiddle (code-testing sandbox that I rarely use), Pinterest (more for my wife, than me – and why under design…?), Summify, and Revisu (helps with design iterations when using Google Drive).
Fun Stuff (which is woefully bare, unfortunately) has Kid Mode for Chrome, which is the Zoodles app for my daughter. Zoodles is awesome, but the app hasn’t worked properly in Chrome for a while, leading me to use Firefox for this particular function. This page also has YouTube (which I mostly get to via search), Full Screen Weather (which I usually check on my phone), Graphicly Comics (which I never use), and Planetarium (used rarely). Netflix used to be here, but it is nowhere to be found on the Web Store now.
App Testing tends to change, by its nature, but there are a few things in there that are persistent for some reason. I’ve left Jolicloud in there, as well as Memonic, and SlideRocket (which is cool, but I don’t generally use due to the pricing). I’ve also got HelloFax in there (it works with Google Drive and I use it sometimes, but had nowhere else to put it), Summify (it will stop working eventually, as it’s been bought by Twitter, but I keep it here in the meantime) and Thinkery (possible Evernote alternative I need to get around to testing more). This is also where I keep the Web Store link.
So there you have it. Even after going through every app in my Chrome set up, I still don’t know what ones to get rid of, but I only use about a third of what I have with any regularity. It’s a conundrum, I tell you!
How about you? Do you have any Chrome apps that you keep around, but never use? What are the apps that you do use, and couldn’t live without?
If you want to squeeze every last ounce of speed out of your browsing experience, then check out the latest browser speed tests at Tom’s Hardware. The site takes a look at several browsers on both the PC and on a Mac, and offers results in several different categories. The site then crowned a winner on each platform, as well as overall.
Lately, I’ve been seeing how well I can survive without Flash on my MacBook Air. I find my browsing experience to be faster without it, but every now and then I need Flash to use a site. We previously talked about how to watch many YouTube videos without having Flash installed on your system, but what about other sites that use Flash? My setup involves using Firefox as my main browser on my MacBook Air (I use Chrome on my iMac), and switching over to Chrome when I need Flash. Chrome has Flash built in. My setup lets me automatically open my Firefox tab in Chrome, which supports Flash by default, by using a keystroke. Here’s how.
With all of the information, files and, well… stuff we have stored online, it can be a bit complicated to sift through it all when you need to go back and find something. Greplin makes that sort of search a whole lot easier. It indexes several of your online accounts, not the least of which are Facebook, Dropbox, and Gmail, and works like your own personal Google.
Greplin has been around since the latter part of 2010, and entered public beta in February of this year. Since then, they have been adding more and more services, and have even developed a Chrome extension that plugs them right into your Gmail — for a search experience that is arguably better than Google’s built in functionality.
Greplin is free to use for the most part, indexing up to 10GB worth of data from services like Twitter, Gmail, and other personal Google services like Gcal, Docs and Contacts, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Dropbox. If you want to index accounts like Evernote, Google Apps, and business-related services like Basecamp and Salesforce, however, you will need a premium subscription — which is only $4.99 per month ($49.99/year). There are also a few services that are unlockable via recommendations to friends, such as Tumblr, Google Reader, and Del.icio.us.
If you have a need to search through your online files and life in general, it doesn’t get better than Greplin. The interface is fantastic, the instant search feature saves time, and it actually performs better and faster than Google even in the search giant’s own services. The Chrome extension is a nice touch, as well, as it also plugs into the Omnibar, allowing you to search your data by simply typing the letter g, followed by a space and your search term.
Check it out here.
Want to help me unlock the unlockables? Get Greplin via this link.
What do you think of Greplin?
I was up rather late last night, and I saw something on television that I had never seen before: a Google commercial. It was a little strange, really, with a theme that appeared to be all about a dad who is tracking the life of his daughter via various Google services with the intent to share them with her later. It was all very touching, but I couldn’t help feeling a little weird watching it. Since when does Google do commercials? Isn’t that Bing’s territory? Is the Microsoft marketing machine starting to get to the Mountainview folks?
Either way, the commercial did its job, because it got me to thinking: how many Google services do I actually use on a regular basis? Especially considering that I am still not convinced they aren’t the Devil.
Chrome & ChromeOS
I live in Google Chrome. Firefox (yes, even Firefox 4) is a resource hog, doesn’t have a built in web app creator, or any of the OS-like aspects of Chrome that parallel ChromeOS. I love the extensions, I love the new start page, and I love (and sometimes hate) the Chrome Web Store. I’ve noticed that all of the new features have slowed things down in Chrome a bit, especially on initial opening of the browser, but even with all of the extensions, apps, and tabs that I use regularly, Chrome still outperforms Firefox on my system. Internet Explorer 9 opens faster for me than both browsers — but I still can’t get into it. Microsoft’s browsers have annoyed me once too often as the years have gone by, I think.
ChromeOS — or Chromium OS, if you like — has been something I’ve played with off and on for over a year. I enjoy it. I like the whole “browser as your OS” concept. I don’t know if it will ever fully replace native apps for me, but my curiosity is definitely piqued. Web apps are fast approaching the power and flexibility of installed software, offline capabilities are getting better, and the integrations with cloud storage services like Dropbox are getting more and more intricate. The world is heading back toward the days of the mainframe and dumb terminal — except the mainframe is now worldwide (see: Skynet). ChromeOS is a very large step in that direction, and Google is all about it. Just think of all the ads they can serve and information they can collect if everyone does all of their computing in the cloud. Makes your eyes pop a little bit, doesn’t it?
Google Search, Maps, Images & Translate
Microsoft has done some compelling things with Bing, and their ads do raise awareness of the search engine and its other aspects like Maps, social and photo results, etc. Still, I tend to gravitate toward Google search when I am researching something. I’ve developed a high level of trust and loyalty to their search results and minimalist approach. I know there are weirdnesses and censored results for some topics, but Google search gets the job done for me, especially with the addition of Instant and Google-made Chrome extensions that allow me to block certain sites and jump directly to where my search phrase appears on the page.
Google Translate, especially when plugged directly into Google Chrome, is also incredibly useful, either as a way to translate a phrase to or from another language, or to translate entire web pages so that they can be read in your own. It’s never perfect, of course, but it’s good enough to get the job done and long ago replaced Babelfish for me despite the cool Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference.
Google’s social aspects of search are ok, but can be annoying as well. I’m not always that social, and don’t necessarily care what people in my network are searching for or whatever related value they give to my search. From a business perspective, where I have to consider search engine optimization and testing, these added layers can skew my research, as well, so I often need to log out of all of my Google services and social networks — or open up another browser — to make sure my search results are as vanilla as possible. I do like the real time results that pull up Twitter conversations, however.
I use Google Maps on my iPhone, my iPad, and on my computer, and I have Google Earth. I’ve never had much (regular) use for Google Earth, however. I also use Image Search regularly, as well, and I have enjoyed some of the recent interface updates that give it a slicker feel, but I really only use it because it is directly attached to the main search engine. Surprisingly, I have had very little use for Blog Search, overall.
If I live in Chrome, then Gmail is my kitchen. This is where I do a large amount of my work and communications, and it is a large part of my current GTD task management system (in Producteev). I have several email accounts with different services, as well as domain-level accounts, and the recent upgrades to Hotmail and Yahoo Mail have brought about some very nice features, but Gmail is where it’s at for me. In fact, I use the One Inbox to Rule Them All method to bring all of my different accounts into my main Gmail account, and it works exceedingly well!
Gmail combines all of the power and flexibility I could want with an easy to use interface. It is the Mac of online email applications, especially when you add a theme, a few Labs features, tools like Rapportive (pulls in social data for people you are conversing with), and/or an extension or two to make it look a little less bare.
I use Gcal regularly, in my task and project management. The lack of any Gcal integration with Evernote was once of the main reasons I started looking for alternatives for my own GTD setup in Evernote (you can always forward notes to Gmail from Evernote and use those to schedule calendar appointments, but I wanted something that integrated directly with Gcal, like Springpad or Producteev). I am not a Google Calendar power user by any means, but it gets the job done for me. I like its uncluttered interface, features, and Labs additions.
Google Reader & Google Buzz
I can’t stand to look at Google Reader. It’s ugly, its busy, and it stresses me out. However, I do use it as my main RSS feed collection and organization tool — but I do it through other apps like Feedly, Flipboard, and MobileRSS. If it wasn’t for those apps providing a look and feel that doesn’t make me want to hurl my computer or mobile device across the room, then I would never touch Google Reader.
You might be wondering why Google Buzz would be attached to the Google Reader section, especially considering that the average person has abandoned buzz to the crickets, but it has to be included because of its integration with Google Reader. Honestly, I don’t care about Buzz either, but every time I share something on Google Reader it gets shared on Buzz as well. That’s about the extent of my usage, and for some reason, people keep following me on Buzz as a result. Rather than deny those people whatever value they get from my stream (and deny myself whatever personal branding boosts I may get as a result), I leave my connection to Buzz open. Its kind of insidious the way it worms its way back into your online life…
I used to ignore Google Docs, but as my professional world as an online marketer and freelance writer moved more and more into the cloud for collaborations and easily sharing my work with clients, I moved more and more into Docs and the rest of Google’s online office suite. I’ve even adopted some of Josh’s ideas for using Docs as a Google Wave replacement. In fact, though I am one of those Microsoft Office power user types, I have moved away from Office almost entirely, only using it if I absolutely have to. There are some Office features you can’t get from Google Docs (or any other online office software), after all.
Google Alerts, Trends, Insights, Keyword Tools
I use both of these services to help inform me of interest levels in my own brands and the brands of my clients and their competitors. Alerts is useful for recent updates regarding what people are saying across the web on subjects of my choice. Trends, Insights, and Keyword Tools (for Adsense and Adwords) are fantastic ways to conduct keyword and phrase research for search engine optimization. The Wonder Wheel in Google search is another useful tool here.
Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
I use Analytics and Webmaster Tools for my own sites and for all of my clients’ sites when I do SEO for them. Both tools are powerful, easy to use, and as free as air. I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t use them — barring the Devil theory and the potential privacy murkiness of Google, that is.
YouTube, Google Talk, Picasa
All three of these are fantastic tools that I should probably use more. YouTube is great for marketing, and is the platform of choice for video blogging (which I’ve been considering for some time now — I would love your thoughts on the subject). It is also arguably the second largest search engine on the web. I use it all the time as a viewer, and recommend it to clients as a marketing vehicle, but my own account is nearly empty, with only a video of my kid tap dancing like a maniac. It was too cute not to share!
I use Google Talk only periodically, due to my hatred of instant messaging as a whole. Instant messaging is a productivity killer. I much prefer the email/Facebook message/forum approach to conversation as it leaves me the choice of when to be involved, which makes for less distractions in my day. The recent call phones feature (currently free to the US and Canada) has made Gtalk a viable alternative to paying for Skype — but Skype is still better, overall, and has some nice features and add-ons that make it much easier to work with. If you are a Google Voice user, that’s another story — but Google Voice is still not perfect, and not fully available in Canada. *shakes fist*
Picasa is something I used, then abandoned, and have recently started using again only because I needed some additional free cloud storage for my photos, and it is extremely easy to get a lot of photos into the service all at once. I don’t know that I would ever use it for more than that, but it is definitely a powerful photo sharing service in its own right.
Google Goggles & Google Mobile
I also use the Google Mobile App for my iPhone and iPad, and the integrated Google Goggles has proven to be very handy while on the go. I can search for things using my camera, and can even cheat on Sudoku. It doesn’t get much better than that!
I do find the mobile app lacking, though. I like the voice search, but the fact that the other services in the app are really nothing more than links – and they require me to log in again in the browser – makes it less useful than it ought to be. Android users have a bit of a leg up here, as most of their Google apps and services have pretty deep integration into the OS.
I don’t really use my Google Profile for anything other than personal branding. Profiles give a snapshot of you, and are searchable, especially on Google, so it only makes sense to have one. You get one by default if you use Buzz, as well. I don’t think it would hurt me in any way to not have one, but when you are pushing yourself as a brand to get new clients, a job, or even readers on your blog, it makes sense to have one.
Abandoned Google Services
I’ve abandoned several Google services over the years, and a few of them have abandoned me (like Google Wave *shakes fist*). The ones that stand out to me, though, are as follows:
- Google Wave (damnit!)
- Orkut (Does anyone use this? Has anyone used this?)
- Google Video (see: YouTube — Google Video was rendered relatively pointless)
- Sidewiki (a nice idea, but sloppy, and web annotation services have a hard time in general)
- Google Latitude (occasionally useful, but nobody needs to know where I am all the time)
- Google Buzz (mostly)
- Google Toolbar (resource hog with privacy issues)
- Google Desktop (resource hog with privacy issues)
- Google Tasks (just too ugly for me to find it useful)
Here’s That Commercial
You’ve been great! Thanks for reading along – this ended up being a mini-novel instead of the short post I was planning on. As a reward for your awesomeness, I now present you with The Google Commercial In Question. Enjoy!
All said and done, I use way more Google services than I’ve stopped using, and will likely continue to, despite privacy concerns and fears of Google taking over the world. I barely even touched on Android and the way it integrates with Google’s best tools (and its rapidly growing user base). I’m an iOS user, but have hacked Android and Android facsimiles into more than one phone for testing, and those integrations certainly don’t hurt Google. Fancy new commercials aren’t going to hurt them, either. I admit it: I want a Chromebook. I don’t know how useful they will be in the long or short term, but they are pretty sweet, says my techie bone. The price isn’t terrible, either (about $400 on average).
How about you? What Google services do you use or plan to use? What ones have you abandoned? Are there any you simply don’t trust? Let’s chat about it in the comments!
One of Google Chrome’s best features is the Apps Dashboard. With the current push toward cloud computing, it sometimes seems that a new web app surfaces almost daily. When used in conjunction with the Chrome Web Store, it’s easy to sort through the multitudes of services out there, get a quick review, and have your favourites at your fingertips. Sometimes the buttons are nothing more than spiffy bookmarks, and others integrate with the browser, adding context menu functionality and other things that make your life easier. The ability to sync your apps between machines is an added bonus, bringing us one step closer to Google’s dream of us all living in the almighty Browser [see ChromeOS].
Unfortunately, if you are a Firefox user, even with the recent leaps forward in Firefox 4, there is no native service that offers what the Apps Dashboard does in Chrome. You could use specialized start page plugins or services and put together your favourite quick-links, but you would still be missing out on the best feature: discoverability. Unless you use Jolicloud, that is.
Jolicloud started as a specialized Linux OS for netbooks, attempting to give those small screens an easy and visual user experience. Because netbooks are small and built mostly for web browsing, it made sense for Jolicloud to focus on web apps, and while they did offer native software installs, they were much more cloud-based (hence the name). They added a social component to their OS, allowing you to connect with and share your favourite web app recommendations with other users, and you could log in on any Jolicloud machine and sync your apps over to it, too! This might sound a lot like Google ChromeOS, but Jolicloud was doing all of this actively before ChromeOS was even out of the gate.
These days, Jolicloud still exists as an OS, but has changed its name to JoliOS. What Jolicloud is now is a very pretty web app itself that functions as a dashboard that can be opened in any Firefox 4 or Safari 5 browser. It can also be opened in Google Chrome — and is actually an app in the Google Web Store. Jolicloud has built up a decent list of web apps in its directory, and though it doesn’t have the ability to integrate its apps into your browser, it does a few things that the Google Chrome App Dashboard can’t do. Like look pretty — or be multi-page.
Jolicloud has many different wallpapers that can be applied to it, and has several pages for you to organize your apps. The pages function very much like iOS in that you can drag the app icons around and move them from page to page by pushing them against the right or left edge of the screen. Combined with the fact that the apps are always in the same position you left them in, no matter what computer you open them on — as opposed to Google Chrome missing some in syncs, or occasionally reordering them on you — and you end up with a very good experience.
Another thing that actually gives Jolicloud a leg up over Chrome’s App Dashboard is the ability to add whatever site you like by URL, using the Add New App button on the bottom of the web apps category list, which you get to by pressing the big green plus button. Essentially, you could use Jolicloud as your web app library and as your speed-dial to your favourite sites — very handy! If that’s not enough for you to give it a shot, then click on the folder tab in the top left — you can actually connect Dropbox and Google Docs right into the app, with available space reports, and in-app previews and editing, which makes for all kinds of convenience.
I’ve found only two annoying things about Jolicloud:
- That the site has experienced the occasional weird 400 error, and made it seem that my apps were wiped out. That can usually be fixed by restarting the browser, sometimes with a clean cache, and logging in again.
- That the sync with the actual OS will bring over apps — or offer apps in the list — that are actually for installed software. Generally, these are just greyed out if you are using them in JoliOS, but there are times they can be made to work. I got Skype to launch from Jolicloud, for example.
If you want to use Jolicloud with your Firefox 4 or Safari 5 install (Opera is not supported, and IE only works — sometimes — with Chrome Frame), just head to Jolicloud.com and create an account, then click on My Jolicloud. The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have your apps in place, either set Jolicloud as a pinned tab, or have it open as your start page. The are reports of the devs working to create a Firefox extension for Jolicloud to make it an even better experience for FF users. They are also apparently working on Android compatibility, and already have experimental iPad support.
If you like Jolicloud a bunch, you might want to go the whole way and install JoliOS — it can be installed and removed in Windows and configures your system for dual boot. You could also buy the cute little Jolibook computer, if you have some spare cash and are in the UK.
Have you tried Jolicloud? What did you think?