I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the new(ish) Microsoft “To the Cloud” commercials but I have found myself thinking about the cloud more and more these days.
It all started two months ago when I joined the team at Collective Idea. For years prior, I’d been working from home on my trusty iMac but all of the sudden I was plunged into the world of showering, getting dressed (in something other than my pajamas) and actually commuting to work… MacBook Pro in tow.
Splitting my Digital Life™ between two computers introduced a few new challenges but with the help of the gentlemen of Collective Idea, I’ve found some handy solutions that are worth sharing…
First up: Google Chrome. I’ve been a die-hard Safari use ever since it replaced IE on my Mac. That’s right. I know that Chrome has a lot of bells and whistles but what sold it for me was automatic syncing of preferences, bookmarks, etc. across any number of computers, using the Gmail account I already have, use and love.
Next stop: Dropbox. I use a few applications on my home computer that save off to a single file. For example, I use a budgeting application called MoneyWell that helps track and categorize all my debit card transactions. Think: desktop Mint. Anyway, in a perfect world I could access my budget from either computer without repeating all the work of categorizing each transaction.
Enter: Dropbox. Dropbox gives you a folder where you can drop any file and it’s automatically sunced to your other computers. Now when I change my budget at home and I go to work, those changes come along with me.
Last, but not least: IMAP. Maybe not as sexy as the previous two but every bit as useful. I’d always used POP to access my various Google Apps email accounts from the Apple Mail application and I configured POP access to automatically archive the email. And it worked great for a single computer.
When I got my iPhone, it started to fall apart. When I would go on vacation, I’d make sure to quit my home computer Mail application so I could use my phone to read my email without having to dig through the archive to find it. It just wasn’t quite right.
And now that I’m using multiple computers and my iPhone, I finally took the plunge into IMAP. The idea is that IMAP keeps your email in sync between the server and your email client. So not only can Gmail put emails into my Apple Mail inbox now, it can also take them out, move them around, etc.
So now when I head to the office with three emails in my inbox and I take care of them during the day, I come home to inbox zero!
I followed these instructions for setting up IMAP on both of my computers and my iPhone. Pay special attention to the [Gmail] IMAP Path Prefix tip near the bottom.
Honorable mention: Rdio. I’m not actually signed up, but it seems all the other Collective Idea guys are. It looks like a decent solution to my inability to bring my home iTunes library to work with me. But I’d love some feedback on Rdio. Worth it? Better solution out there?
I’m still getting used to taking my computing on the road, but these three tips have gotten me a long way. Now I’m just waiting on free iPhone tethering and iTunes in the cloud.