Top 5 Online tools – Life on the cloud!

Last month, I wrote of my Top 5 utilities that I can’t live with. Guess the computer gods were watching and about five days ago my laptop gave up its ghost (of course tossing it on my bed and watching it slip down to the floor may have had something to do with it!). The loss was all the more untimely, as the first half of an overdue article was on the HDD! Frantic calls for sysadmin help, safe mode log on as admin and scraping the ascii text on to Zoho writer resulted in my getting the article out an hour after my Friday 6PM deadline! You can read it (“Selling Every Moment“) at Hindu Business Line here .

The good news is that even a couple of weeks before this tragic moment, I had made a beginning to go completely on-line, as in render my laptop a mere client and operate solely on the net — yep, store my data on the net and use apps on the net. So here’s my report from life on the cloud!

GMail & Google Apps pretty much the bulk of my time is spent with GMail and more frequently with Google Apps, as we try to get our new business (still in stealth) on-line. When I first began using GMail (from being a Yahoo! mail user and Eudora client) it seemed outright strange not being able to do folders. My current use pattern leads me to pray each day that Google actually means its “Do no evil” pledge. Pretty much sticking to mail and chat in Google Apps and only kicking tires with their Docs and Sites utilities.

Skype – and now with video. Skype is the only utility that gives gmail a run for the first place in my working life. Between chats, international calls, peer2peer file transfers and now video chat it gets a great deal of use. For several years we ran most of our internal business on AIM and Skype has pretty much replaced this for both intracompany as well as across company (and country boundaries). Now with utilities with the ability to record (not a feature I have used yet) it promises only to get more important.

Zoho (http://www.zoho.com/) pretty much replaces the MS Office suite and my experience is that ZohoWriter particularly kicks butt. Am using Zoho Project and as a power user of Microsoft Excel I am amazed at Zoho Sheet (though miss the work offline feature). Not having used Office Office, I found both Zoho and Google presentation tools not as productive as good old PowerPoint on the local HDD. Got my neighbor using Zoho CRM (free for up to 3 users). Personally found the CRM feature, even for a motivated user like me, a bit heavy! Likely switch to

BaseCamp – was using this as my primary project management, planning, newsgroup tool for the last six months with other conspirators as we prepare for our next startup. Simplicity thy name is BaseCamp! I must admit though I have, since writing this first, switched to Zoho projects, as I needed to be able to track a whole slew of tasks, milestones that are overwhelming BaseCamp’s simple(r) lists.

Blogger, Twitter and WordPress
For a while there, I had to physically abandon my computer, so that I could get over my growing addiction with trolling blogs. Now even without a self-help group, am doing better though Blogger probably gets more use than it should; planning to move this and other blogs over to wordpress eventually and so spending time there in installation and learning about it. Twitter, though my own contributions are bite sized, a fair amount of time is spent reading/tracking others posts & leads. The jury is still out on it utility beyond serendipity.

GMail Drive – in addition to using of course Google mail and their news alerts, I just learnt how to use GMail as a virtual Hard Disk Drive on which I can store my files. Of course this requires installing a Win Shell extension. But 2GB of storage on a virtual drive is not bad! There is a Firefox plug-in gSpace that does the same thing as well. As many of you pointed out this is not a lot of space – but I got my mom (yep, mom) to use it, so simplicity trumps all else (again!). In my case I also have a 500Gb Seagate drive on my desk, so I don’t pretend 2Gb is all I’ll ever need. But its pretty good to start with.

I realized that there are a whole lot more tools I use including RememberTheMilk and LibraryThing, but the first three above hog 80% of my time and effort. If like me you are poor at backing up, it might not be a bad idea to check these out.

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