Software I Currently Use…

May 21, 2006

Lifehacker interviewed several people recently, asking them what software and online services they used. This subject is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Mainly, I notice myself constantly checking out new online services and sites, testing, using, then discarding. It’s an interesting distraction and sometimes useful, but it’s only useful if you discover a special product and continue to use that product.

I use Outlook at home, but use Gmail as my POP mail service. Gmail allows me to access my mail via any internet connected computer, including the wireless connection on my Dell Pocket PC, an Axim X50v. Gmail also allows me multiple send addresses from my own domain, unlike the Exchange service I had which allowed only 1 email address via the web interface. Likewise, anything I send in Gmail downloads into Outlook, and that’s useful in that I use the combination of Outlook, Pocket PC, and Airset (as my online calendar system) to synchronize my calendar, tasks, and notes. I also use Phatware’s PhatNotes and PhatPad for my PPC notes and which synchronize with my laptop.

I also use Yahoo Plus for newsletters, product updates, software or online registrations, and any product orders or customer support issues I may have to contact someone about. That way I don’t have to use my personal email accounts or domain for exchanges with those who may very well use my email addresses for advertising or sale to others. Also, as a POP account, Yahoo allows Outlook to retrieve my mail while I’m home.

As I said, I use Airset as my online calendar. The Airset calendar is elegantly simple to use and pleasing to the eye. Airset also provides a suite of other functions — lists, contacts, a send function for one email address, and has a simple if clunky blog element I really wish they’d improve and allow email to blog functions for. Right now, I use the blog function for occasional notes, the list function for oddball lists I don’t have elsewhere, but mainly I use Airset for the calendar. I’ve tried 30 Boxes and Google’s calendar, and while both are pretty, especially Google Calendar, I didn’t see what the big deal is. Neither product synchronizes with Outlook. Yes, you can import Outlook into Google Calendar, but if you make a change at Google you need to also do it in Outlook, which is a pain. When I tried to import my Outlook calendar into Google Calendar, it worked fine, but at the time I was only allowed to import 3 months of appointments via iCal from Outlook, and of course, not back again. Being that many of my appointments are made online, synchronization back to Outlook and my Pocket PC is a necessity. I have tried an Exchange service to try to have one main suite or interface, but the cost put me off, and as I mentioned above, the inability to use multiple email addresses within the webmail access was annoying. Airset will mail you reminders, but Google Calendar will pop up reminders on your screen, which is a useful function for a calendar program.

Backpack – very important “to do” lists, with separate pages for individual projects, interests, or needs. I can upload images, files, and it connects to another 37 Signals service called Writeboard. I’m waiting for Backpack’s promised calendar function, but I’m getting very tired of waiting. I frequently think of going fully back to Airset for all my task functions. If Backpack doesn’t hurry with a synchronizing calendar function, I may end up doing that.

Protopage and Pageflakes are two services which are very promising, using modules or sticky notes which you can manipulate via Ajax. Protopage is my choice at the moment, and I have several personal pictures on my site along with notes to myself.

At home, I use WordPerfect for most of my word processing, although I admit being enamored of the free AbiWord and have currently use MS Word at work and have used it at home for years until recently. I recently went back to WordPerfect for a change of pace and have stayed with it. I’m sentimental about that blue v. 5.1 screen.

I use ZohoWriter as an online processor. I like it better than Google’s Writely for several reasons, one of them being that opens documents in tabs within the site rather than individual browser windows like Writely. The functions which I use frequently are also easier to find Zoho than in Writely. Zoho also offers a beta spreadsheet and an office suite similar which could be as useful as ThinkOffice currently is.

Most notes go into my Axim, or into Backpack. I’ve used Yahoo Notebook in the past, especially for my quotes collection, but I’m very interested in Google Notebook. It reminds me a of EverNote, which I also use at home, and has a very nice extension for Firefox/IE. Likewise, a new interest is Clipmarks, a web-based clip service which allows you to save and share (or not) clips of interest. It can work as an extension in IE or Firefox.

Since I am a news junkie, it took me a while to find the best RSS reader for me. I’ve tried NewsGator and Bloglines as an online reader but frankly, they’re all rather clunky. Currently I use Onfolio at work for my RSS and website collection needs. I prefer Onfolio and am disappointed that Onfolio was acquired by Microsoft and now their program is limited to the Live toolbar and not available via Firefox or Maxthon, but the old version of Onfolio is still supported and is a very nice RSS and collection tool. But I still use Feed Demon at home due to licensing. Feed Demon was acquired by NewsGator, and synchronizes nicely with it — but not behind my office firewall for some reason. Onfolio is more elegant, and I like the send to mail function in Onfolio, which preserves formatting, to Feed Demon’s reduction to text function.

Oh, and I use Gaim for the rare times I chat, although I’m supposed to be using MSN Messenger at work. I hate the MS clunkiness. Apparently the new beta of Messenger is even worse! Ugh.

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