Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Organizing Around Google Products

I don't really do the whole New Years Resolution thing, mostly because I'm not any good at it. I did commit to a bit of resolution for this coming year, though. My goal was to simplify my digital and paper life. I wanted to streamline my work and organize what I was doing so I could be more efficient and effective. As many of you may know, this very blog didn't appear until this year. Prior to this I was blogging on the Wordpress platform. I was using Evernote for clippings, notes, and digital files, along with Drop Box. I used Apple Pages at home for documents and Microsoft Word at work. I had a Blackberry phone and kept most of my calendar there, but also used 37 Signals Backpack calendar and a little bit of iCal. I managed projects and tasks in Basecamp, and of course had my mess of paper documents and notes.

After a lot of research and soul searching, I decided to organize around Google products as much as possible. I waited to make my decision until Apple launched their "cloud" service, but that was an incredible dissapointment (just like their recent launch of a new iPad and Apple TV). I strongly considered Evernote, but they didn't offer everything I needed. If cloud would have offered more effective file storage than I may have stuck exclusively with Apple. That was my original preference. Google offered me documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendar, blogging, images, file storage, e-mail, web browser, and a powerful and integrated cloud service. Here are the Goolge products I am currently using on a regular basis:

Google Documents (I use this for writing, spread sheets, presentations, video, and genreal cloud storage)
Google Mail (Obviously for e-mail, both personal and for my business. Also for tasks.)
Google Contacts (All contact information)
Google Calendar (All calendar needs and reminder needs)
Scratchpad (For quick notes and clips. Takes the place of Evernote at some level.)
Google Chrome (Web browsing)
Blogger (Blogging and Reading)
Google Search (Is there anything else?)
Google Chrome to Phone (To send info instantly from desktop to phone.)

I've been at it for a few months now and I thought I would share a few of things I have learned, both positive and negative.

1. Google Docs: Google's documents service has bennefited from recent major upgrades. Specifically the ability to share, track changes, chat, and leave comments. The interface is clean and I have come to really enjoy using it for word processing.

2. Business Account: I have a business account with Google for my company, Thrive Development. Their contact management has been a cool addition.

3. Cloud: Google docs allows you to store all kinds of files including PDF and even videos which can then be played and commented on right in Google docs. Not more massive attachments OR downloading. Just share it, play it or read it, and comment on it right in Google.

4. Export: Docs can be exported in multiple formats to be sure you are always compatible with "the rest of the world". There is always a Google Sync apple that you can run to help with this.

5. Organize Email: Recent organization tools on e-mail are a great improvement. I also enjoy the ability to create a Google task or a Google calendar event right for an e-mail.

6. Blogger: The new blogger interface is a massive improvement for Google and was the thing the pushed me over the edge when I was researching options. I was concerned about leaving my beloved Wordpress for a clunky Blogger platform, but Blogger has bennefited from massive upgrades.

7. Chrome: Google Chrome browser integrates very well with Google calendar and docs. It provides great additional features as well in the available apps including offline modes for docs, calendar, and e-mail.

8. Android: I moved to an Android powered smart phone (HTC EVO) and have enjoyed the calendar and contact integration. It's very clean and simple. Also, Chrome to phone is really sweet allowing me to instantly send links, phone numbers, and maps right from my desktop browser to my phone. For instance search on your computer for a Pizza place, zap the number from your browser to your phone and it just pops up and is ready to dial!

1. Docs: There are still times I need to use Apple Pages for documents, specifically for my business applications. While docs has become very powerful, it still lacks in its graphics and layout ability.

2. Blogger: While blogger has been massively overhauled, it's still not Wordpress at all. Blogger lacks the themes and open source type flexibility you get with Wordpress. The stats seem to be a little funky yet as well. Editing on my iPad in blogger is clunky and glitchy at times. It's ironically glitchy on my Android device as well.

3. Integration: On a personal level, Christ Community (where I work) doesn't use any Google products. So it's still hard to integrate sometimes with my Google world. It's very doable, but it's not as slick and clean like it could be if everyone else used Gmail, docs, and calendar.

4. Integration: There still are some holes across Goolge products integration. For example, I wish I could pull docs or Picassa images into my blog posts without having to download and reload. I see this coming soon, but it's not here yet. You can do this with email right now, but not docs.

5. Social: Goole+... ugh, no one is using it. Great platform but no one is there. Google would do better to launch a Hootsuite type application I think.

6. Cloud: Obviously Google has mastered the cloud, but you need Internet service to take full advantage. There is still a lot of growing room for their offline services.

7. Operating System: Google launched Chrome OS earlier last year as their effort to get into the desktop computing world... kind of. Until Google can truly offer a native operating system, you'll have to interface with someone else like Apple, Microsoft, or Linux. I use Apple (Mac Book, iMac, iPad) at home and work and it's OK. It takes away from the clean and integrated workflow a bit.

Well, there are some thoughts on my journey so far. I'll have more to come soon. The services I'm looking to check out soon are Picassa, Google Sites, Google Voice, and Google Wallet.

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