Good Morning. How is everyone? Ready for a story? Good. Once upon a time there was a librarian who found herself lost in the woods. Normally, being lost isn’t a problem for her – she’s got a computer. But in these woods, computers were scarce. She knew she had a lot to accomplish each day, but moving from one computer to the next with a jump drive wasn’t ideal. Sometimes she would forget to remove the drive, or she’d be in such a hurry to get to the next thing, she didn’t have time to eject it properly. She searched for a better way to mobilize her work life.
She knew the solution had to be in the power of the Internet – the ability to always be connected; to work from anywhere; and to use any browser or operating system.
What she discovered was that three, web-based applications could handle everything she needed: Dropbox, Delicious, and a Google Account. Well, you’ve probably already guessed – the librarian is me! And these apps are the foundation for a mobile office that has allowed me the freedom to stay productive and organized from any computer.
The first, and most important to me, is Dropbox. Dropbox is online document storage, file sharing and syncing. A basic, free account provides 2 GB of storage – about the size of a cheap thumb drive. Online document storage means that my files are accessible from any browser with an internet connection.Dropbox provides automatic backups of my files on their server – which means that my information is securely stored in a remote facility. The advantage of this is safety. Organizations spend thousands of dollars on off-site data storage to protect critical information from disaster – fire, flood, theft – and Dropbox provides this for free to every user. (For the record, I still back my files up to an external hard drive at home.)Dropbox also allows free users to restore deleted files for 30 days. My files can also be synced on multiple computers and shared between multiple users. More on these two features in a minute.The Dropbox desktop application is available for all operating systems – Windows, Mac and Linux. Finally, the Dropbox app for the iPhone and iPod Touch allows you to have access to everything in your Dropbox in the palm of your hand – even without a connection.
The best place to install Dropbox is on your home computer. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and is a tiny program, so if your primary machine is a laptop or netbook with very little memory, Dropbox itself won’t take up a lot of space. Remember, you have 2 GB of free storage on Dropbox – not a bad deal for free. When you’re at your home computer, open items from the Dropbox folder to be sure that any changes you make to files or folders are synced to the site. This is automatic – anything in your Dropbox folder will be synced to your account.If you’re working on a computer that does not have Dropbox installed, you can upload one file or multiple files when you are done working. Those files will then be synced to any computers that you have Dropbox installed on.
File sharing is quick and easy on Dropbox. I can choose to share one file, or an entire folder, without the need to attach large files to an email.You can share items from the web site using the dropdown menu on each file or folder, or from the desktop application on your computer. Changes made by multiple users can be a little tricky – but Dropbox will not overwrite an updated file – potentially conflicting changes are saved to a separate copy, appended with the words “conflicting copy” and the date.
If you have aniPhone or an iPod Touch, you can download the free Dropbox application and have access to your files from the palm of your hand. You can mark files as a favorite and they will be viewable if you don’t have an internet connection – a great feature for iPod Touch users. For example, I keep the emergency contacts list as a pdf favorite in my Dropbox – I don’t need to enter all of these numbers into my cell phone to be able to look them up, and when the list is updated, I just replace the file. An optimized version of the web site is available for users of other mobile, internet-capable devices.
The next site I can’t live without isDelicious - the granddaddy of all social bookmarking sites. I still think of it as “del-icio-us”, but they thankfully were able to acquire the delicious.com domain, so you no longer have to remember where those dots go! Delicious is also a free service – you sign up for an account, or you can use a Yahoo ID if you already have one. Pages that you bookmark on Delicious are shared by default, but you can mark items “keep private” and they won’t be visible to anyone but you. One of the advantages of sharing is that you can also “take” from others. If you find someone has been bookmarking a lot of sites that you’re interested in, you can import their bookmarks into your account.
I’m only going to talk briefly about Google Accounts, since they could be a seminar unto themselves. Yes, Google does everything – slices, dices, etc. - but I happen to like the efficiency of integration.Beginning with Gmail, which allows you to check mail from other accounts and send replies as though you were logged in to that account.For example, I can forward my work email to my Gmail account. Then in Gmail’s settings, I can add my work account under the heading “Send Mail As”. Now, any work mail I reply to from my Gmail account will have my work address as the sender. Google Reader is the main way that I read news. It‘s an RSS feed reader that allows you to receive aggregated content from all over the web in one place. It’s also social – which means you share things you like with others, either through email or through your public Google Accounts page.Reader can also be used to save information from feeds – you can “star” items and they’re kept under a separate heading, or choose “Send to” for quick integration with your Delicous account. Google Documents make a nice supplement to a storage/syncing service like Dropbox. Files on Google Docs can be shared or kept private, and they can be edited right in the browser – no need to open another program. However, layout and design issues can be tricky, since, however nice it is, Google Docs is still not a mobile version of Microsoft Office.
What are some alternatives to the sites I’ve shown you today? Dropbox’s biggest competitor is SugarSync, which also provides 2 GB free and allows you to specify if a file or folder will be synced to all computers, or just one or two. SugarSync also supports more mobile platforms – Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile, in addition to the iPhone.Microsoft is trying for a share of the market with Windows Live Mesh, though it’s not yet available for Mac or Linux. They are offering 5 GB of storage for free though, so I’ve been haunting the site waiting for the Mac application to be ready. Syncplicity allows only one user to have 2 GB of free storage – not bad if you don’t want to share anything with colleagues or friends. Delicious remains the most used social bookmarking site, though there are other ways to tag, save and share sites. Sites such as Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon have made the internet into a popularity contest. Readitlater allows you to save any page to an account you can access from the Internet, or a handheld. The advantage of this is offline reading, particularly on the iPod Touch.Bloglines is Google reader’s biggest competitor, and I still miss some of the features, but you can’t beat the integration of Gmail contacts when forwarding articles to friends and colleagues.
So we made it through the woods. Our heroine has a small arsenal at her disposal, helping make each day more productive and organized. How did she do it? She went exploring. Which is what you all are invited to do.Check out the sites – Dropbox, Delicious, and if you’ve been living under a rock, there’s thing called Google.And if you’re interested in some inspirational reading, take a look at one or two of these sites: Lifehacker and Gizmodo, which are part of the Gawker Media suite of sites and feature multiple authors, Zen Habits, which is the work of Leo Babautaand Dumb Little Man, started by Jay White. These are the ones I read everyday, and they’re all about ways to work smarter, not harder. Remember – you can google “productivity”, but only if you’re looking to procrastinate!
The mobile workspace:Organization & productivity in the digital age By: Rosemarie Lewis
What it Means to be Mobile Always connected Work from anywhere Adapts to any browser or operating system
Web Apps that Work Dropbox Delicious Google Accounts
What is Dropbox? Online document storage Automatic backups Undelete files and folders File sharing between users File syncing between computers Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile Web, iPhoneand iPod Touch
It’s All in Sync Available for Windows, Mac and Linux Automatic syncing from desktop to Dropboxonline Drag and Drop transfers Multiple File Upload
File Sharing Made Easy Share one file or an entire folder No need for large email attachments Changes made by users are saved without merging
Dropbox in Your Pocket Free iPhone and iPod Touch application “Favorite” files are viewable offline, without a connection Optimized web site available for other mobile devices
Delicious.com – Even Easier Online bookmarks – accessible anywhere Share or keep private
Finding and Keeping Bookmarklets, addons and more Search all of Delicious or just your bookmarks Organize using tags and bundles