Here’s How I’m Replacing Google Reader – For Now

Google Reader alternativesAs you probably know, Google Reader says its final farewell on July 1. Earlier today, we finally received a news update from the developer of Reeder, the popular iOS app that many people used to follow their favorite RSS feeds. Reeder for iPhone already supports a few different services, but Reeder for Mac and iPad only supports Google Reader. Support for additonal services is supposedly on the way, but I decided I can’t wait any longer, and I’ve cobbled together a few apps to get RSS reader functionality on Mac, the iPad, and iPhone.

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Roll Your Own RSS Service With Fever

Fever rss reader iconIf the announcement of the impending shuttering of Google Reader sent a chill down your spine, you’re not alone. My first reaction to the news, after swearing to myself, was “well, that’s the risk of relying on a free service.” My next though was, “hmm, time to see what else is out there.” My first stop was to check out Fever.

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2 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Trying Google’s Evernote and Springpad Competitor

google keep on the wayCould Google be launching a competitor to Evernote and Springpad? Google scrapped its Notebooks app quite some time ago, but according to a story on the Verge yesterday, it looks like the company might be ready to get back into the note taking app business. Would you give it a try?

I’m sure that Google will insert many hooks into its other services, that will make the app very tempting. Still, there are a couple of reasons that I probably won’t be leaving Evernote anytime soon. READ MORE

How to Find Out When Google Updates Maps Imagery In Your Area

The recent brouhaha over the iOS 6 maps app called attention to the strengths of Google Maps. One strong point of Google Maps is its satellite and aerial imagery. That imagery isn’t great everywhere, though. Some geographic areas have images that are less current than others, or that were taken at fairly low resolutions. If you want to be notified when images in a particular area are updated, there’s a website that will do just that. READ MORE

Google Chrome Explodes On To iOS, Puts Desktop Experience In Your Pocket

Google Chrome Explodes On To iOS, Puts Desktop Experience In Your Pocket | 40Tech

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.

Google Chrome for iPhone | 40TechGoogle Chrome for iPad | 40Tech

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.

Chrome for iOS | Request Desktop Site | 40TechChrome for iOS | Bookmark Sync | 40TechGoogle Chrome for iOS | Sync Across All DevicesGoogle Chrome iPad App | 40Tech

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.

Chrome iPhone App | Omnibox Search | 40TechChrome iPhone App | Drag To Open, Close Tabs | 40TechChrome iOS App | Swipe to Change Tabs | 40TechChrome iOS App | Sign in to Sync | 40TechGoogle Chrome for iPhone, Google Chrome for iPad | Incognito Mode | 40TechChrome iPhone App | Collapse, Expand, Swipe Tabs | 40TechGoogle Chrome iOS App Settings | 40TechGoogle Chrome iPad App | Drag Tabs, Scroll Tabs | 40Tech

As with anything, though, Chrome for iOS is not perfect. There is no read later functionality, which you may miss if you love it in Safari, and heartbreakingly, there is a fairly consistent lag issue. Don’t get me wrong… when it works, it’s stupidly fast — but there are times, especially on pages with Javascript, that you will be typing or touching a button and nothing will happen for a few seconds. This can be an extreme pain in the ass, and may even be a deal-breaker for some. There may not even be much Google can do about it, because it could be related to Apple not giving other browsers on iOS access to their Nitro Javascript engine.

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.

Get Google Chrome for iOS (iOS 4.3+)

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

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

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!

My Conversion from iCal to Google Calendar

My conversion from iCal to Google Calendar | 40Tech

40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Michael Carper.

When I began college, I was determined to keep track of all my homework, papers, tests, and scheduled activities. A staple of college scheduling is the syllabus, which lays out the due dates and assigned readings and homework for each class. However, syllabuses are just pieces of paper. I realized that it would be a huge pain to look up daily, from four or five different sources, what the assignments were for that day. I wanted to look at a single source and grasp all the work I had to do for that day, and for that week. More importantly, I wanted to keep in mind upcoming tests and papers several weeks ahead of time, in order to prepare time to work on them.

With this predilection for planning, I looked to my built-in OS calendar, iCal. There were many advantages to using it. I didn’t have to boot up Chrome or worry about web browsing. I could organize by color, assigning one to events, one to assignments, and another to work. I actually put my entire class schedule, as well as ordinary things like “lunch,” into iCal. I put not only due dates, but little reminders when certain benchmarks should be met in prep for those due dates. It was my lifeline.

However, little problems grew to be big annoyances. The most striking was the way iCal handled longer titles. I copied entire reading assignments into iCal. For some single class periods, this could include multiple texts or several page selections. Shorter entries would be completely displayed in the month-long calendar view, which I always used. I didn’t need to see my days broken down in the traditional week-long format, but I did want to see the tests and papers on the horizons. However, in this view, longer entries were simply abridged. There was no indication that an entry was actually much longer than it appeared, since they always stuck to a single line. On several instances, this lack of informative UI actually led to ignored homework assignments, since the entry was actually much longer than appeared and contained more readings than it appeared to. Ironically, in those instances, my calendar made me less prepared.

image

Fall of my freshman year

There were other little things, as well. Entry of events was very manual; you had to put all details in only their specific field. Once made, you could not edit an event after clicking on it, but instead had to go to its “edit” page. The tethering of iCal to my Mac turned out to be a disadvantage, since I often ended up with hours to spare, homework to do, and no personal computer at my fingertips. I couldn’t sync it in any way with my iPod Touch, either.

So beginning of my junior, I finally took a look at Google Calendar. Since I had been a loyal Gmail user for many years, it only seemed natural. Immediately I noticed where GCal improved over iCal. The most prominent was the ease of creating events. I no longer had to cycle through different boxes to mark the date and time. Instead, I could simply jot down, “meeting 12-1” as an entry name for a certain day, and there it appeared, from the 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM slot. And if I felt like changing it, I could edit the entry title from the pop-up that appeared when I clicked it the first time, unlike iCal.

It wasn’t just the cleaner, more pleasing UI that won me over. Accessing my calendar outside my room was as simple as accessing my email–just log in to Google. I could access it on my iPod as well, albeit not with an official Google app. School events were always announced via email. I could either copy and paste the location and time details from one tab to another, or I could even click “More” in Gmail and create an event based on the email. If viewing an online calendar, such as the one published by my college, I could even import all the events into mine.

image

December of my junior year

Six months later, I still haven’t taken advantage of everything Google Calendar has to offer, like sharing my calendar with others or inviting them to scheduled meetings. Those two functionalities are so amazingly useful, it’s a pity I’ve only encountered them at places I’ve interned. The rest of my fellow students, unfortunately, are still stuck in the Stone Age, with their paper syllabuses and calendar. Some of them may have progressed to iCal, marking their progress into the Bronze Age. They, and everyone else, should wise up and join those of us with our Google Calendars in the Golden Age.

I will add that I’ve tried the Fantastical Calendar app. Fantastical syncs with iCal or Outlook, but not Google Calendar, so I had to export from Google Calendar to iCal and then sync Fantastical with iCal. It’s UI is very nice. The recognition of event details is more intuitive than Google Calendar’s, expanding its recognition to location details and invitees whose address you have in your Contacts as well. You can read more about it in Evan’s review. My judgment is that although it has the best user interface, the ability of Google Calendar to sync with other Google apps, especially through email, is invaluable. Since I always have a web browser opened anyway, leaving a tab for Google Calendar is hardly cumbersome. $20 is a lot for calendar software, but, in my opinion, is something that would be used everyday. So if I spent less time on Google, Fantastical would be my go-to calendar.

Michael is a student at Wabash College and writer for the Reading Glasses Shopper blog. He realizes that actually the Iron Age, not the Golden Age, followed the Bronze Age.

Google Demotes Itself (Chrome) in Search Rankings

Chrome demoted

Do a Google search for “browser,” and Google Chrome no longer appears on the first page of results. In fact, as of the time of this writing, I’m seeing a hit for Chrome appear on the seventh page of results. Has Chrome suddenly become less relevant? Nope. Instead, Google has penalized Google Chrome for a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines involving paid links. Google requires all paid links to use the nofollow attribute, so that the link doesn’t pass “Google juice” via Google’s search ranking algorithm. A sponsored post for Chrome appeared on a blog, and did not use the nofollow attribute. The demotion followed.

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Google Wave’s Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It

Google Wave's Swan Song Has a Few More Notes In It | 40Tech

Yeah, yeah, I know. Google Wave is dead and gone, right? Not quite. We already talked about the potential of Apache Wave, and mentioned that the Google original is still available to those who care to squeeze every ounce they can from the innovative flop. Today, though, Google circulated an email to Wavers containing the end dates and Wave’s last gasp.

Wave was originally supposed to only be maintained to the end of 2010. For reasons of their own, however (likely to court potential future developers like Apache), Google let that date blow by with the waves still… waving. The final shutdown date is now, officially, January 31, 2012.

As of that date, Google Wave will become read only. Exporting waves (individually) to PDF will still be possible up until April 30, 2012. After that, the service goes down for good.

If you love your Wave and want to keep using it for your projects, you can keep going with the open source forks, most notably Apache Wave and Walkaround. Walkaround has an experimental feature that allows — or at least attempts — to import all of your waves from Google Wave. This will stop working on April 30, as well, so if you want to take advantage of it, do it before then.

Personally, I want to see more of Wave’s features integrated into Google+ and Google Docs, especially the potential for third-party addons. I don’t see Google opening that up anytime soon, as it could take Plus down paths they aren’t ready for, but who knows? Maybe down the line, eh?

What do you think?