August 22, 2007
Going Google: An Update
Posted by Gordon Smith

This past spring, I posted some rather tentative thoughts on "going Google," i.e., converting from Microsoft software to Google software. This morning, I reorganized my Personalized Homepage, so I thought the time was ripe for an update on my adventure.

Personalized Homepage. Love it. My efforts this morning were directed at simplifying my homepage. I had succumbed to widget exuberance, creating four tabs of widgets in different categories.  Now I have one tab, and it includes only widgets  that I actually use.  Four of those belong to Google (Calendar, Reader, Gmail, and Notebook), one is for the local weather, and one is a to-do list.

Gmail. The more I use it, the more I like it. I like the fact that it is online, so it is accessible to me from any connected computer. In most instances, finding old messages is easier via search than via folders, though I still use "tags" for important categories of email. The spam filter is great. The conversation threading is wonderful. It is, without doubt, the best email client I have ever used.

Calendar. Outstanding! My whole family is on board with this program. Each of us has a personal calendar and a family calendar. Stuff we all need to know goes on the family calendar, and I can view all of those items simultaneously, complete with color coding. This sure beats the old paper calendar on the refrigerator.

Reader. Incredibly easy to use, whether through the widget or on a dedicated Reader page. I am not sure this is better than Bloglines or other readers, but I like it more than other rss readers I have used. Learn the keyboard shortcuts here. And watch how Robert Scoble processes 622 feeds.

Notebook. This has been the big surprise to me. I didn't think I would use this program much, but I have found that it's a great place to store lists of all kinds: books I want to read, conferences I am planning to attend, potential guest bloggers, travel tips for an upcoming trip, etc. I don't use this as a to-do list, though you could do that. It also seems like it could be a useful research tool, though I haven't used it in this way, yet.

Desktop. I have been moving toward online storage gradually, but my hard drive still has a lot of documents and photos, and Desktop is far-and-away the best way to find these things.

Picasa. I recently moved a boatload of old photos from an old computer to a Picasa Web Album. I don't have much experience with online photo management, though I have accounts at Flickr and Photobucket. Anyway, Picasa seems fine for my needs.

Google Spreadsheets and Docs. Yuck. I still use Excel and Word or WordPerfect.

The bottom line question: is my life better now than it was six months ago because of the software that I use? Yes. Information that I need is easier to access, which leads to greater productivity and less frustration. All in all, I am a happier guy because of Google.

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