This makes so much sense, I can’t believe nobody thought of it sooner:
Project Infinite will enable users to seamlessly and securely access all their Dropbox files from the desktop, regardless of how much space they have available on their hard drives. Everything in the company’s Dropbox that you’re given access to, whether it’s stored locally or in the cloud, will show up in Dropbox on your desktop. If it’s synced locally, you’ll see the familiar green checkmark, while everything else will have a new cloud icon.
In hindsight, it is inconvenient to have to hop over to the web interface to get the full power of Dropbox. This is a step in fixing that. All your Dropbox files show up in Finder or Windows Explorer, even if they’re not really on your device. When you want a file, you just double click on it, and it will download and open.
This showed up on the Dropbox Business Bog, and the discussion focused on company usage, so I’m guess it will roll out business plans first. I’m good with that, as I have a business plan, but I’d love it if it made its way to personal accounts as well.
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.
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
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
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’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.
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
Sync between devices (including mobile)
Keyboard shortcuts for quick launch
With tweaks (custom shortcuts)
Rich text editing
Easy organization by notebooks and tags
Yes, but with folders (no more tags)
Search within attachments
Third party integrations
Yes, with more on the way
Add content by email
Not at the moment
Only manual copy and paste works at the moment
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.
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.
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!
We give cloud storage a lot of love here. And why not? Having access to, and the ability to share, your files wherever you are is peachy keen — and convenient too. It’s a competitive world, though, and the main contenders — Dropbox, Box.net, and SugarSync — have been battling it out via pricing, free storage offerings, and promotions to ensure they get a solid chunk of the target market that is you. The latest play has come from Box.net — and it’s a doozie: 50GB of free storage just for logging in to their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch app.
Before you ask, there’s no catch. You don’t have to sell the idea to your friends, you don’t have to buy anything after so many days of use, and you don’t have to give them your first-born child. All you have to do is log in and the 50GB is yours! The promotion started October 12th, 2011 and runs until December 2nd, 2011 (50 days). Just make sure you have the most recent version of the iOS app, and away you go.
For those who take advantage of the promotion, Box.net has also increased the maximum file-size upload to 100MB — it’s usually 25MB for free accounts. That doesn’t beat out Dropbox, for me, but there’s a lot you can do with 50GB of 100MB files, and Box has cool collaboration features that most of the competitor services don’t match. The only other thing to watch for is the 10GB bandwidth limit.
If you’re already paying for an account with Box.net, don’t fret. You can get the 50GB, too, if you downgrade to a free account. You lose out on the more advanced security and collaboration features and the like, as well as your 1GB+ upload limit, but you will still be able to share your files quickly and easily.
If you’re on Android, you might be feeling a bit of “What the hell! Can I haz…???” For Android users in general, at the moment it appears you’re out of luck. However, if you have a Sony Tablet S — which uses Android — there’s a similar promotion running. BlackBerry Playbook and HP TouchPad users are on as well. But don’t get too upset, Android Army (or those with other devices), according to the Box.net blog, they have some more promotions up their sleeves just for you guys.
Dropbox has been upsetting some of its users, recently, with changes to its terms of service that caused concern and outrage regarding privacy of files uploaded to the service. Sure, outrage is easy to come by on the internet, especially with changes to heavily used cloud services, but there were some valid arguments to be made — and people didn’t hesitate to make them. First, there was that whole thing about decrytpting users’ encrypted files and handing them over to authorities when asked. Questions of users’ legal and moral behaviours notwithstanding, the simple fact that Dropbox claimed the right to decrypt what was encrypted was enough to shake up many people.
Most recently, however, Dropbox did something that should have been considered a good thing: they updated their terms to plain language that made them easier to understand. Unfortunately that blew up in their face, as some of the wording gave Dropbox the right to use your files pretty much however they want, intellectual property notwithstanding. The latest update to the Dropbox terms of service is aimed at quelling those fears.
Last week’s Dropbox update in terms stated the following:
you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service.
This was followed by:
This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services.
That last sentence was meant to apply the new Dropbox usage rights to your files to the smooth running of the service, but the phrasing was too vague to make users feel secure that Dropbox wouldn’t and couldn’t abuse their intellectual property rights. For those that think it should be obvious, bear in mind that loopholes have a tendency to turn the legal system on its ear, and that there have been other services — mostly for photos — making news recently because they were specifically saying that they did own your content if you used their service.
In any case, in yesterday’s update, Dropbox has posted a revision to that contested clause that was accompanied by a blog post stating that they have “always believed your stuff is yours and yours alone,” and that they intend to quell users’ fears that Dropbox will own rights to their content. Here’s the new phrasing:
…By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.
We may need your permission to do things you ask us to do with your stuff, for example, hosting your files, or sharing them at your direction. This includes product features visible to you, for example, image thumbnails or document previews. It also includes design choices we make to technically administer our Services, for example, how we redundantly backup data to keep it safe. You give us the permissions we need to do those things solely to provide the Services. This permission also extends to trusted third parties we work with to provide the Services, for example Amazon, which provides our storage space (again, only to provide the Services).
This is definitely an improvement, as it clears up the intellectual property concerns. Of course, the original outrage over how Dropbox can monitor, decrypt, and share your files is still out there, but judging by the terms of service of Amazon’s Cloud Drive and others, including Facebook, Google, Apple, Skype, and Twitter, this sort of thing is fast becoming the norm for cloud services, especially those that offer storage – in the end, we users may have no choice but to assume the position, take it, and like it if we want to use these types of services.
Now might not be the time to tout the benefits of Amazon S3, given the recent Amazon cloud storage outage. Still, it is hard to beat Amazon S3 prices. Amazon offers storage at 14 cents per gigabyte for the first terrabyte of storage, and additional charges for transfer in and out. You can get easy access to that storage using a modern FTP client, such as Transmit on the Mac, and even make your S3 storage space show up as a drive on your computer. Here’s how.