2011 NOV 19 My iCloud Alternatives

I mess around with my computing environment. A lot. Probably to the point of it being unhealthy for my productivity. So recently I have been trying to simplify that environment significantly, and that has meant moving a fair amount of my operations to cloud services. Since I was already mostly Apple to begin with, the natural choice was to start working with iCloud. That has worked so far, but I’ve found places where iCloud is, to be quite honest, poorly implemented, and of course, the platform is Mac/iOS-only, except for the web interface (one of the areas that I have found poorly implemented). I’m not as Mac as I used to be; I like to use Linux from time to time, and I have a couple of Android devices that I use on occasion, so it was time to find alternatives to iCloud services that would work in my varied computing environment. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Tasks

I have found Wunderlist to be a pretty good alternative to the Reminders functionality in iCloud. I also tend to like having a separate todo app on all my devices, rather than working with my todos through the Calendar app on the web and iCal on the desktop in iCloud. The sync is not quite as automatic as with Reminders, but I haven’t found it to be too much of a pain. If I ever do, it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of other autosyncing todo apps with iOS, Android, Mac, and web functionality…

Notes

Simplenote has been my choice for simple text note syncing off and on for a while now. Its functionality is basically exactly the same as Notes under iCloud, and is supported on iOS, Android (through third party apps), Mac (also through third party apps), and the web. Yes, the web: you can actually create and edit a note through their webapp. That is an iCloud web oversight that I just can’t fathom, hence the reason why iCloud Notes lost.

Data

Depending on the type of data I’m syncing, I’m using two tools. Evernote is for knowledgebase-type material, so I’m using it for a lot of web clipping and other article storage. Dropbox is for my active project content, since despite the promise of a post-filesystem world, I’m still mostly dealing with files, and Dropbox is the best things to push them around right now. There are some iOS apps capable of making iCloud push around file content (like Goodreader), but it only works between mobile devices, and only on Apple devices (and Windows… for whatever that’s worth): two strikes against it.

Things I’m still using iCloud for

I’m still using iCloud for Contacts and Calendar, because I just haven’t seen the need to move them off yet. In reality, I care very little about having my contacts anywhere other than my phone (I could probably turn off iCloud contact sync, and not notice any difference), and my schedule has never been packed enough to give it that much thought. I imagine I’ll find solutions for those too (probably Google, if I had to project into the future), but right now it’s just not a priority.

Downsides

Of course, moving away from iCloud, I lose some benefits. If Siri takes off and becomes the beginning of something big, I miss out on it because I refused the most recent helping of Apple Kool-Aid. I find it hard to believe that Apple will have a sole lock on this technology, though, and even if so, there are already published workarounds for linking Siri to services that aren’t Siri-capable at the moment (i.e. pretty much anything not Apple-published). Besides, being able to use the same tools across multiple platforms is much more important to me than the companionship of a phone. :-p

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