Like most people, I have a lot of data that I don’t want to lose. I also need that data in a lot of different places that aren’t always on my normal daily computers. With today’s intarwebs, this is a fairly easy problem to solve. One just has to snag an online service for storing data. But which services do what jobs well? Nobody can give you a definitive answer because everyone has different aspects that will be important to them. However, I can offer my opinions on some free services that do several jobs really nicely…and free is good.
Email/Calendar – No surprises here. Gmail and Google Calendar are really nice. Gmail offers powerful search and tagging on emails and has a pretty good spam filter. But you already knew that, right? Google Calendar can do pretty much anything an Outlook calendar can do and it doesn’t require a really expensive and bloated program on your computer. To make things even better if you use Firefox to get to Gmail and Google Calendar, I suggest grabbing Lifehacker’s Better extensions (here and here). Lifehacker has Better extensions for a myriad of web services so you may want to look around and see if any of the others can help you out.
Files/Folders – There are several places you can do this. If you have a Live ID or Hotmail/MSN account, you have a Skydrive with 5GB of free storage. So far there aren’t any desktop clients out there so you’re stuck with the web client and you can only upload a few 5 files at a time. Not the greatest choice but it is free and functional. You’d be better off, for ease of use, with Dropbox. During the beta you get 2GB of free storage, choice of many clients that offer really nice automatic sync, and web based access to the folders. You can share folders or keep them private at your discretion. I use this on my iMac and it’s great. Just drop the files into the Dropbox folder and it autmatically syncs in the background. Now if I lose my system, I just have to reinstall the app and sync my important stuff back down.
Mobile Features – So you have a Windows Mobile phone like the AT&T Tilt and you don’t want to move away from that Exchange system because you need that calendar sync? No problem. You can just get an account with GooSync to keep your WM calendar and Google Calendar on the same page. The free version of the service only does calendar sync and is manual only. There is a premium account for Â£19.95/yr. This version gives you automatic sync, Google Contacts sync, multiple calendar support, and a lot more. Still, even the free service works really nicely and only takes a couple of button presses to do.
Note Taking – There are a lot of places out there like Remember the Milk to help you keep track of GTD lists. Personally I like Jott. Why? Because I’m always on the go and Jott lets me call a toll-free number, speak my note, and their service translates it to text and posts it to GCal, Twitter, my Jott list, whatever for me. Talk about convenient. Best of all…it’s free. As for taking notes that aren’t GTD related, I like Evernote. Their service is fairly unique in that you can put any type of media in a note and if it is an image, they use OCR to find any and all text in the image and make it searchable. They have desktop clients for Windows and Mac which can even take a snapshot of a section of the desktop (i.e. webclip) to add to a note. Yes, it’s free as well.
There really isn’t a single application out there that does everything. But then, if there was it would probably be terrible. A thoughtful combination of applications each designed to be very effective at a specific task usually works the best. It may take a little while to find the combination that works best for you, but when you do you will probably see a huge change in how quickly you can Get Things Done.