Collaborating with Google Docs

One of the very useful features of Google Docs is the ability to effortlessly share files and collaborate in real-time.  In my tests,  I feel that Google Docs offers the best functionality for sharing.   Microsoft Skydrive has only limited sharing abilities and Zoho Office only has the ability to share with other Zoho users.  Google Docs offers sharing and collaboration with both registered and unregistered users which is a plus.  With Google Docs you have three sharing options available 1) Public, 2) Anyone with Link, and 3) Private.

The “Anyone with Link” option is provides the user with a the link that can be sent out to all other collaborators regardless of whether or not they are registered or not.  Under this configuration, each  user has a different color scheme is labeled with a name like “anonymous9001”.  To setup the “Anyone with link” option, a file must be created and then the  “File>Share” menu option must be chosen. Under the “Who has Access” box, the top line allows you to change the classification.  After you have changed the status, a URL link appears at the top. This link is what you will send to everyone that you wish to collaborate with.

The “Private” option requires a google account and then lists the people’s names that are editing.  The only difference between the “Private” and the “Anyone With Link” option is the naming convention for the collaboration colors.  Instead of showing up as “anonymous_xxx”, the user will show up as their Google account name.  The “Public” Option allows anyone to view the document, but does not allow anyone to edit it.

Overall, I feel that Google offers a great collaboration product.   Its sharing features offer superior flexibility for those wishing to collaborate.

-TW

Advertisements

Low Cost Communication with Google Voice and Video Chat

I have never really used Google Voice and Video Chat before, but I recently played around with it when I noticed that it was embedded within Gmail.  Google Voice and Video chat is VoiP service offered by Google that is similar to services like Skype.

There are several cool things about Google Voice and Video Chat, including:

  • Ability to make PC to PC calls within Gmail, or iGoogle
  • Your own phone number selected from a pool of numbers in your area code
  • Support for voicemail, conference calls, and call forwarding
  • Supported on both PCs and mobile devices
  • Video calling support (similar to Skype)
The item I like best about Google Voice and Video Chat is the ability to make free outbound calls to domestic landlines and mobile phones.   For some of the other big players, like Skype, domestic calls to landlines and mobile phones still have fees attached to them (still low though).

Using Google Voice within Gmail is very easy.   On the left hand side, under the ‘Mail’ group is the ‘Chat’ group.   Under the ‘Chat’ Group, there is an option called ‘Call phone’ (as shown on the left).

When you click on the ‘Call phone’ option, a another window will pop up with a ten buttons resembling a phone. (shown below)  This is the access point to making your free phone calls.  You must make sure that you have downloaded the Google Voice and Video Chat plug-in.

To make a phone call, simply dial in the number you wish and start talking once somebody answers.   Calls are free for national calls originating in the United States.  For calls destined to international locations, minutes can be purchased from the Google Voice website by clicking on the dollar amount button.

For more information, Wikipedia’s Google Voice entry has more information.   I have not tried using Google Voice on mobile devices, like smartphones or web-enabled digital devices (like the iPod Touch), but I do believe functionality exists for mobile devices.

Google Voice and Video Chat is another great option to add to your toolbox to keep communication costs low.   Please comment if you have more information.

-TW


Favorite Resources for Technology News

A big part of maintaining a blog is keeping up with technology news as much as possible.  Since I only work on this blog part-time, I have to be efficient with my intake of technology related news.   As a result, I try to follow blogs, Twitter feeds, and RSS feeds of only a select few resources that I feel give me the best news without overwhelming me with information.

Below is a list of my favorite news related technology blogs that I follow through my RSS feeds (via Google Reader)

GigaOM – Great blog for general tech news.  Covers all the basics with emphasis on Cloud Computing, Mobile, and Social Media, as well as other things like Cleantech and other technology related infrastructure.

Mashable – One of the most popular technology blogs on the web.  Its content is very extensive and covers a very wide range of topics, including Business, Techs and Gadget, Social Media, and Mobile.   If I have any complaint about Mashable, it is that the material and number of posts are so extensive that it is difficult to keep up with all of the news.

ReadWriteWeb – This is probably my favorite of the three.  I personally think that it covers a slightly narrower range of technical news, which I like.  It does cover some of the business aspects of technical startups, but mainly focuses on general technology news around cloud computing, enterprise computing, and mobile computing.

In addition to the above blogs, I also follow several other tech news feeds via Twitter, including; GizmodoeWeekengadgetTechcrunchAllTouchTablet, and Wired.  All of these are good, but I find that once you start following several of these, you start to see a lot of redundancy.

Another great source for staying up to date with the latest technology news is through the software company blogs. You do have to be careful with company blogs because they are obviously biased towards their own products.  With that said, I have been impressed with the way that many companies have used social media to inform existing and future customers.

I like to stay on top of several company’s news through their blogs and YouTube channels.  Some of the company blogs and YouTube channels I follow include; Box.netSugarSyncGoogle,Salesforce.comZohoMicrosoft, and Apple.

For this post, I have mainly focused on the large technology news resources. For every large blog, there are several small blogs (such as this one) that provide a wealth of great information.   I would encourage everyone to keep an eye out for these also.  Oftentimes they focus on a niche subject (e.g. Java programming or VBA scripting) and can be very valuable.

Please comment or email if you have other good sources for technology related news and training.

-TW

Organizing Your Online Life with the Zoho Dashboard

As many readers know, I’ve talked about the Zoho Office Suite several times here at Techjotter and am a big fan of their service.   In this post, I want to discuss the Zoho Mail Dashboard and how it integrates with the rest of the Zoho Office suite (or other office suites for that matter.)

First, I want to provide a little bit of background about how I manage all of my online services.   I don’t think that I am unlike a lot of people who like to use several services at the same time.   Currently, I have at least 2 email accounts (personal & Techjotter), 2 online file storage systems, an online calendar system, an RSS reader, and several other websites I check on a periodic basis.

A lot of my online life revolves around Google products (Reader, Finance), but I also use several other company’s products, such as Yahoo, Twitter, WordPress, and Zoho.   The big question is how to get all of these services grouped into one area that doesn’t involve a lot of clicking and shifting between browser windows.  What has been working well for me is the Zoho Mail dashboard.

Zoho Mail

Some of the benefits that I believe put Zoho Mail above Google for example include the following:

– A clean and easy to use interface

– Access to the full Zoho Office Suite from the Zoho Mail interface with one click

– Access to multiple email accounts within one browser window

– Ability to customize and hide (if desired) the apps bar

– Ability to add non-Zoho products to the apps bar and have them open within the main Zoho Mail interface

The last item I think is the item that sold me on using Zoho over Google.   Google also has a very nice and clean user interface, but I found that it only works well if you only use Google products.   If you wish to use anything outside of Google (such as Yahoo or Twitter), then you basically have to go to different apps or open new browser windows.

A good example of this is how I can access and use my Box.net within the Zoho Dashboard, as shown in the picture below.   I can even edit files using Google Docs within the Zoho Dashboard.

Zoho Mail and Box.net

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a big fan of Google and I still use their products extensively.   But if you are looking for an online program that can serve as an easy gateway to several different programs, I would consider looking into Zoho.

-TW

Explosive Growth in Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce Conference

Need evidence that the world of technology is moving to the cloud?  Look no further than the explosive growth that has occurred for Salesforce.com‘s annual conference, called Dreamforce. Salesforce.com is one of the pioneer’s of the cloud computing industry. They have been hosting the Dreamforce conference, which brings together leaders in the industry, since 2003 and it has become the premier cloud computing conference in the world.

The amazing growth of the conference is displayed beautifully in the infographic below developed by the creative companys Jess3 and Eloqua.   I was really surprised to see that in just 9 years the number of attendees has increased nearly 20 fold – from 1,100 in 2003 to over 23,000 in 2010!  I think that the growth of the Dreamforce conference just reinforces how explosive the cloud computing industry is and will continue to be.

Thanks to Jess3 and Eloqua for allowing the great infographic below to be reprinted.

Want to Learn More About the Cloud? Visit Cloud U by SugarSync

The cloud storage company SugarSync has recently launched a great site for learning the basics about personal cloud computing, called Cloud U.  Cloud U is a great place to start for people just starting to learn about cloud computing and personal clouds.    They offer both videos and documents to help customers learn more and become engaged in the industry.

Topics covered at Cloud U include; An Overview of the Cloud, the Personal Cloud, Cloud applications for business and consumers, and videos on how to use SugarSync software.  These provide a nice introduction, and along with SugarSync’s blog, provide a great resource for cloud computing.

As expected, Cloud U is geared towards the SugarSync platform, but also gives information on some of the other larger players like Google, Amazon, and Apple.   Not surprisingly I don’t see any mention of Dropbox, Box.net, or ZumoDrive which I consider to be more direct competitors of SugarSync.

I would encourage everyone to check out Cloud U – its a nice resource.

-TW

Google Chrome Web Store – Is it Worth the time?

The Google Chrome Web Store has been active for several months (it launched in December, 2010) so I thought it would be worth discussing a little about it for the readers.    For anyone that is not familiar with it, the Chrome Web Store is basically and online portal for downloading free and paid applications that run native applications on the Google Chrome web browser.

First Impressions:

My first impressions of the Chrome Web Store are mixed.  It obviously  is trying to capitalize on the explosion of mobile app stores like the Android Market and Apple’s App Store.  The problem is that, unlike the mobile app stores, the Chrome Web Store distributes apps for a web browser which is a much different experience than a mobile device.   For many of the Chrome Apps, the “app” is really nothing more than a shortcut to the standard html website – it’s really just being masked as an “app”.  I’m not really sure if it is worth all of the effort to develop an app which offers no real benefit over just creating my own browser bookmarks or shortcuts.

With that said, I still think there are several nice aspects of the Chrome Web Store that make it a worthwhile effort.   Some of those reasons include:

Several apps are designed specifically for the Chrome browser and the Chrome Operating System (OS).  In many ways it appears that Google developed the Chrome store specifically for Chrome OS.   Three of my favorite native Chrome apps are the New York Times app, the Angry Birds app, and the TweetDeck app.

The Chrome Web Store also is a great medium to search for some of the very cool apps and web tools that are in the market (often times for free) today.   There are literally thousands of apps in the web store that are grouped by common categories such as productivity, games, utilities, news, and entertainment.  It would be very difficult to find all of these apps on your own

I also think it also offers developers another medium to get their products to the market.  With the nice way that Google has integrated the Chrome Web Store into the browser, it makes for a nice experience.    This is yet another way that the Chrome Browser is leaving Internet Explorer and Firefox in the dust in my opinion.

In Conclusion:

I think Google has done a nice job with their Chrome Web Store.  It offers users a chance to explore thousands of new apps with ease and speed and integrates with the Chrome Browser nicely.   I guess only time will tell if the “Browser App”  catches on with users or if something else will come along.

-TW