Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Year's Resolutions: Evaluate

Resolution #4 (see them all) is to think about what I do and what I use. Does it all still make sense? This one is complicated for me, because I'm always testing out new (or new to me) services and software. Here's an example: I've got a few documents in the Thinkfree Office Suite, a few in Zoho, a bunch in Google Docs, and I think some others that I've forgotten about at this point. Plus, of course, the ones that are plain old Word files on my computer. So what do I do about all this?

What I'm going to do is to organize things by purpose. I find myself using Google Docs and Zoho Writer most often. Thinkfree runs slower on my computer (though I'm not sure why), but I still like their slide show (PowerPoint) better than anyone else's. I just don't use slides very much. Anyway, the contest for my attention with word processing and spreadsheets is currently between Google and Zoho, and both of them have good and bad points.

One of Zoho's main attractions is that they have a Word and Excel plugin that allows me to have synced versions in Zoho and on my computer at the same time. (Though I did have some problems with images and syncing. I think I need to add pictures in the online version rather than offline.) This is a big plus for me, so I think I'll be using Zoho for most of my work related files. Zoho also has a browser plugin (Firefox and IE) so that .doc and .xls files on the web can be opened in Zoho.

Google's big attraction for me is the collaborative aspect. More people have Google accounts already, so it's easy to collaborate, and files sent to my GMail account can be opened in Docs very easily. (Zoho has very similar collaboration features.) I like the display of Docs' history/versioning better. I'm not even sure exactly what about it I like better, but I do. Finally, the group I'm most likely to be collaborating with already has a Google Group, so it's an obvious connection. My one big problem with Docs is that whenever I export a document to Word the formatting gets messed up. So, while it's great for....hmmm....unstructured work online, from anywhere, it's less useful for producing strictly formatted things for print. Writing vs. publishing, I guess.

So, based on my needs and habits, and the features available, it makes the most sense to use Google Docs for online collaborative projects and Zoho Writer and Sheet for work related documents that I'll be wanting offline copies of, and for things I'll be printing, like handouts. I may stick to Thinkfree for slides, but I use slides so rarely that I haven't really tested the others.

I need to make a similar analysis for my RSS readers, since I have both Bloglines and Google Reader accounts (both piling up ridiculous numbers of unread articles because I'm not reading much of anything right now.) I may also add Thunderbird and Firefox Live Bookmarks into the mix, since each has features that are good for certain types of feeds. I like Live Bookmarks for current news, for instance, since I want to see what's happening now and I don't want old news articles piling up if I don't read the headlines today. I'll probably split most of my feeds into work (Bloglines) and personal (Google), with a few really important work related ones in Thunderbird, since I've got that open all the time anyway.

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