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Applications Useful stuff

The new Dropbox is a compelling alternative to both Evernote and Google Drive

Why thoughts about switching

All of what I’ve explored below is premised on me wanting to migrate away from Evernote and Google Drive. I don’t have a particularly strong desire to move away from either service, although there are reasons for me to have a Plan B in mind if it becomes necessary to make the moves:

  • Evernote seems to be struggling to maintain momentum, and although recent Behind the Scenes videos show some encouraging directions, I have invested a lot in Evernote and want to make sure I have another option for my data if the company runs into major trouble;
  • Google is, well, Google. I’m mostly comfortable entrusting Google with my data, and practically everything I do in some form or another, but who knows what lies ahead in the future.
  • Lastly, and totally superficially, I like cool new things. The new Dropbox looks pretty interesting, and I’ve been using it (albeit passively) for quite some time. Moving to Dropbox would simplify some workflows for me.

How I’ve been using Dropbox and Google Drive

I haven’t actively used Dropbox for managing my files for many years. At the same time, I have a number of background processes, mostly using IFTTT, that capture things like tweets, app data, and so on into my Dropbox folders.

For the most part, I’ve been using Google Drive as my shared file system. I keep various documents there that I share with my wife, and access using various devices. I recently upgraded my personal Drive account to the Google One account where I have just over 200GB of storage space for about $3.50 a month. Before that, I was paying for a 100GB upgrade.

The idea was to make this space available to my family to use, too, but they’re using G Suite addresses on two domains I own, so they can’t join my Google One profile. 😳

Still an Evernote user

I also still use Evernote to capture stuff. “Stuff” is a pretty broad category. I’ve been capturing information that I may want to reference into Evernote for about 11 years, and I have almost 28,500 notes. Most of those notes are containers for documents, photos of interesting things, and other documents.

I don’t really use Evernote for plain text notes. For that I create, well, plain text notes with Markdown syntax, and my personal directory for those notes is a synced folder on Dropbox. I then sync that with another folder on my laptop that I push to GitHub to a private repo. I’m all about the multiple, redundant backups.

I’m using the Evernote Premium plan that costs me $69.90 a year (about $5.84 a month).

The new Dropbox

I saw an announcement that Dropbox has been updated with some interesting collaboration features. Here’s the announcement video:

It was interesting, but more of a curiosity for me until I watched the video from the launch event, here:

The event is pretty similar to any other launch event these days (“I’m excited to announce the new <insert name>. It’s the best <insert name> we’ve ever made …”), but it’s worth watching the demos in the second half of the event.

What makes the new Dropbox pretty compelling for me is how I can still use Drive documents, add in integrations with Zoom and Slack, and add shortcuts to other links that may be helpful. It looks like new Dropbox is using a white labelled version of Google Drive to enable users to create Docs, Sheets, and Slides that use the Google Drive apps, but save on Dropbox.

Microsoft Office users will also be able to use the Google Drive apps to view and edit their docs on Dropbox too. In this sense, the experience is probably pretty similar to just using Google Drive natively.

One of the areas in which Evernote has an edge, at least for me, is that I can use Evernote notes to add a combination of text, media, and documents to a single note. This enables me to maintain a coherent context for my information that relates to that particular topic.

You can create a Google Doc, but the format isn’t that easy to use, and there isn’t a convenient Web Clipper like you have with Evernote to capture stuff on the Web into a Google Doc. I poked around in Dropbox Paper, and it’s the closest I’ve seen to what Evernote can do, and surpasses Evernote in some respects. Here’s a demo where I added a couple items to a Dropbox Paper document:

What I didn’t demonstrate here is that you can also add a YouTube preview to your note that plays inline. I was a little disappointed that this isn’t possible with Evernote, and then realised that Evernote needs to take into account offline and mobile screens too. That said, if I view a Dropbox Paper document with embedded videos on my Android phone, the embed is available there.

What I don’t see just yet is something like the Evernote Web Clipper for Dropbox, so capturing stuff from the Web isn’t as easy with Dropbox.

Switching costs

Leaving aside the Evernote Web Clipper, I can see the new Dropbox being a pretty effective replacement for both Google Drive and Evernote (well, you’d still potentially be using the Google Drive apps to access many of your documents, just not on Google Drive itself). The Dropbox Plus plan is $11.99 a month (if you pay monthly), and you receive 2TB of storage space. The equivalent Google One plan costs about $11 (converting from my local currency).

If I compare the costs of a Dropbox Plus plan ($11.99 if I pay monthly) with the combined costs of my Google One and Evernote Premium plans (about $9.34, although this is a blend of annual pricing for Evernote, and monthly for Google One), it’s not far off.

If I paid for an annual Dropbox Plus plan, the monthly breakdown is around $9.99.

Worth switching to Dropbox?

At a fairly high level, it may be worthwhile switching to the new Dropbox from Evernote and Google One. That said, there are a couple challenges to resolve:

  • Can I coherently migrate my Evernote notes to Dropbox? Sure, I can export all of my content, but how accessible will it all be when exported into HTML documents with attachments in folders?
  • Can I migrate my Google Drive documents across to Dropbox? More specifically, if I move them across to Dropbox, will they open on Drive, or in Dropbox? I suppose this may not matter as Google Drive documents aren’t factored into Drive storage, as far as I remember. Also, it looks like this type of migration is possible.
  • Moving away from Evernote means giving up the Web Clipper. Is there an alternative for Dropbox? I’m not sure about that.
  • Another disadvantage of moving away from Evernote is that you lose OCR for your documents. That option is only available with the Dropbox Professional plan that costs $16.58 a month, if you opt for annual billing (so you’re paying about $198 upfront). Google Drive and Evernote both provide OCR for your documents, in varying degrees.
unsplash-logoFeatured image by chuttersnap
Categories
Useful stuff

Mystified by all the interested in Feedspot

I started noticing a number of emails from people inviting me to use Feedspot. I was curious and took a look at the site. It turns out, this is what Feedspot offers:

Receive daily updates from all your favorite websites in your email inbox
Multiple Newsletters clutter your email inbox. Feedspot combines all in just one digest email.

(Source: Feedspot – A fast, free, modern Rss Reader)

I don’t understand the appeal. I already receive way too much email. The prospect of adding another huge digest email with updates from websites I follow to my crowded inbox makes me feel queasy.

Source: feedly press kit
Source: feedly press kit

I’d rather just use a good RSS reader (I use feedly to subscribe to feeds and catch up either using Reeder or feedly’s reader). Why would you want digest emails with website updates when you can just open an RSS reader and catch up with everything there?


Images sourced from Feedspot’s and feedly’s press kits.

 

Categories
Blogs and blogging Useful stuff Web/Tech

Google Reader is closing down and taking more of the open Web with it

2013-03-14_Google_Reader_landing_page

Google Reader, visually, is awful but its value is not its interface but what it does. Google Reader is the feed synchronisation engine that powers many popular feed readers and enables users like me to follow a variety of terrific blogs. It isn’t the only way to keep up to date on what is happening in the world but it is still a really good way to curate your streams and focus on the stuff you want to see more often.

So why is Google doing this?

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

I share Om Malik’s thoughts about these reasons Google gave –

I take issue with Urs’ comments about usage declining. It declined because the company put no resources into the product and took away social features that made it useful for many. It was a project that was orphaned because it didn’t fit into Google’s vision of a machine-driven reading experience. Despite minimal resources devoted to it, Google Reader was one of the better apps built by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

It is probably my second-most used Google service — after GMail — and I have always been befuddled by Google’s lack of desire to make Google Reader into a bigger reading platform. It could and it still can evolve into a Flipboard type service, but that would mean that Google would have to put resources and some real creative thought into Reader.

2013-03-14_Feedly_view

I’ve been using Feedly and Flipboard as my interface for Google Reader and they are far better than the native Google Reader interface. That doesn’t mean that Google Reader isn’t important to me and to how I keep up to speed on what is going on in the spaces I have an interest in. As Scoble pointed out, this is a real blow to the open Web and, to me, indicates that Google is just as interested in expanding its corner of the Web more than it is about encouraging a truly open Web. It may be that Google has just decided that fighting Twitter’s and Facebook’s inclination to develop more closed communities and infrastructures isn’t worth it and it may also be Google’s decision that there is simply more money to be made channeling users into the broader Google+ ecosystem. Either way, users are not the winners here, regardless of how you may feel about venerable RSS.

My Google Reader view in Flipboard

Thankfully, Feedly is working on an alternative and is positioning itself to fill Google Reader’s vacuum. It doesn’t address Dave Winer’s concerns about a company holding the keys to our consumption kingdoms but it does offer a smooth transition option. In the meantime, also take a look at the Data Liberation Front’s page with guidance for exporting your Google Reader data.

I pulled together a few links and stories which you may find useful in a Storify, below:

Google Reader is closing down

Google announced it is shutting Google Reader down. It caught many people by surprise and it points to a worrying trend on the Web.

Storified by Paul Jacobson· Wed, Mar 13 2013 23:41:43

The announcement from Google.
Official Google Reader Blog: Powering Down Google ReaderPosted by Alan Green, Software Engineer We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the ac…
Opportunity
Transitioning from Google Reader to feedlyGoogle announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader. This is something we have been expecting from some time: We have be…
Casualty
Nick Bradbury: The End of FeedDemonThis is a hard post for me to write. I’ve used FeedDemon every day since I created it back in 2003 – it’s part of my daily workflow, the first thing I turn to after pouring myself a cup of coffee in the morning.
Commentary
If you are lamenting the loss of Google Reader, do take a minute to thank @cw @mihai @shellen & the many others who brought it to us.Anil Dash
Sad to see Google Reader go. I know many apps added @Readability APIs (see http://2.dashes.com/X8d3fd ) expecting this, but still a shame.Anil Dash
Google puts a stake through the heart of RSS. That is so wrong, Google. It is a technology of openness. Protest! http://support.google.com/reader/answer/3028851Jeff Jarvis
Google To Close Google Reader On July 1Google Reader user? Say goodbye. Google has announced the service is closing: We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.
Google kills Google Reader, will go offline on July 1, 2013Google is doing second round of spring cleaning – euphemism for small projects it finds unworthy of its time and efforts – and is killing…
Wow. Google is closing Google Reader. Truth is I don’t use RSS anymore but I know lots who do. What killed this? Flipboard and Facebook for me. Prismatic too. The trend line was there: we are moving our reading behavior onto the social web. Normal people didn’t take to subscribing to RSS feeds. Heck, it’s hard enough to get them to subscribe to tweet feeds. <br> But this is sad. Particularly shows the open web continues to be under attack. We have to come into the walled gardens of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to read and share. Here’s a problem: a few of my friends have deleted their Facebook accounts. Dave Winer and Ryan Block, to name two famous examples.<br> <br> So they will never see my words here. The open web is going away and this is another example of how.
Thread: Goodbye Google ReaderAnd besides, I didn’t think the mailbox approach to news was right. Who cares how many unread items there are. I like the river of news a…