From Cloudy to Overcast

We have all had that excitement when we find a new program or app to make our lives easier.  Especially when they are cloud based and we can access them from our mobile devices.  Truth be told is that this can be very overwhelming, and where you one found yourself happy with the cloud, you now find your head spinning in an overcast sky with no sign of sun shine.  Cloud based apps and programs are truly awesome, but there are so many of them out there right now that find the one for you is like finding a need in the haystack.  I have done this as well, downloaded so many apps, signed up for so many sites, it is daunting.  So how do we break the cycle?

The first step is to look at what you want, what exactly are you looking for?  Are you looking for a social media app?  Picture sharing?  Productivity?  There are so many options out there that you need to look within first.  Technology is just a tool, so first figure out how you want to use it.

Next is to ask friends, take a look over there shoulders at some of the apps that they use and how they use them.  I know I have done this with my co-workers a lot.  It saves you the time of having to sign up for a program that you may ditch in a few minutes anyways.  See how they are using it, and think of how you might use it.  Even the same program can be used in significantly different ways between people.

Do some online research, check out the app and reviews from people you don’t know.  You may find some show stoppers up front that will keep you from throwing your time, money, and privacy away.  Screen shots are also very useful.  I am a very visual person so a lot of times I will do a Google images search of the app or program so I can see it, which helps me visualize how I will use it.

Always try the free version first.  This gives you a great way to see if this app or program is going to work for you.  If they do not have a free version, make sure to focus on some comments and do some Google searches on the app first.  If the app does what you want it to do, ask yourself if you are OK with the limitations of the free version, or if it is worth paying the extra money for the premium version.

Once you have checked out and possibly signed up for a few different cloud based programs, don’t be afraid to clean house.  If there are apps out there you know you are never going to use again, go delete your ID and remove you data.  Do not leave them behind to be forgotten or possibly hacked by someone else.  We talk so much about leaving a carbon footprint on the world, but we are also leaving a digital footprint too.  So do not be afraid to turn around and delete your ID and uninstall that app.  I know about once a month I go through my iPhone and do an app purge just to keep the performance of my device running smooth.

After much trials and tribulations, here is a list of my favorite cloud based apps and how I use them.

  • Office Documents – I use Google Docs for this as it allows for easy sharing, and provides a decent, light weight web interface.  However working on documents on mobile devices is a little lacking.
  • Notes – This one has to go to Evernote, as it provides a great, simple interface that syncs easily across all of your devices.  It also gives you a basic web interface if you are not in front of your computer or device.  It is also one of the better text editors I have found for the iOS.
  • To Do Lists – If you had asked me this a couple of weeks ago I would have said Wunderlist hands down.  It does a great job of syncing your to do lists across all devices.  But recently I have moved to Evernote for this as well.  The reason being I can customize it a lot more, and instead of having multiple cloud apps running on my computer, I can have one less.
  • Project Management – This one was the trickiest, I have used Wunderlist for this, Wunderkit, Evernote, and the one I found the best is Trello.  I use Trello to manage my work projects, and use Evernote for my personal to do lists.  I prefer Trello because unlike the others, I can see all my stuff on one screen at once.
  • Storage – I pick Dropbox for this section, it is widely popular and for good reason.  It allows me to share folders with other Dropbox user, as well as give me a public folder to share with non-Dropbox users.  There are a lot of other programs that do this out there, but I still prefer Dropbox.

So as you go forth and see all those shiny apps and cloud based tools out there, try to pull yourself back and ask, how is this going to work for me?  Is this something I am going to use?  Also keep in mind as you install local clients for these apps, that you don’t bog your system down with too many apps syncing in the background.  And remember that technology is just a tool, figure out how you want to use it before you download it.