Google Alternatives part 2

by Peter Marus

I wrote fairly recently I am trying to get alternatives to Google services and products, partly to have a backup but also get more open, multi-platform options.  Google is multi-platform, but parts of it seem to be not optimized for non-Google people (Drive sharing comes to mind).  Also Google is trying to merge their system into their social media service, Google+, which bothered me a little.  I think it's a cool service, but like Apple, Google seems to be putting all their security/user identity into one basket a little too much.

I previously said I started another email account on my domain registrar for personal emails while keeping my Google one for "junk" .  It's worked out well so far.  Recently I decided to also find replacements for Google's web browser, cloud storage, and productivity suite.  I"m going to write about them now.

I'll start with cloud storage.  I used Google Drive for a while now, and for the most part it's great, but as I said it seems more geared to work with Google accounts rather than others when it comes to sharing.  I decided to start a Dropbox account, partly because it's the most popular, but also since it was on my phone already and there was a 0deal I can get 50 gigs for 2 years.  So far I like it a lot more than drive.  It's working great, as easy to sync stuff to/form my computer, and it's another place to store pics form my camera (I already back them up to Google Drive, but now with Dropbox as well).  I haven't played with the sharing features too much beyond some testing with my email addresses, but I like what I see so far.  This may stay as my main storage option, and Google drive as a backup.

Next is web browser.  Chrome is great for someone who is deep into the Google world.  It's integrated fantastically, and runs well on any computer.  But, it's only good if you have a Google account.  What if I don't want to live the Google life? I went back to Firefox.  Firefox is always been a great program, though used to be resource hungry.  Today It not different as far as how much it uses to be honest, but with modern PC specs being much more powerful, the performance doesn't suffer.  Playing around with it the past week, both on the PC and phone, it's really fast and responsive.  I forgot how many plugins there are for Firefox, and the bast part is they aren't "apps" like what the plugins on Chrome are.  Obviously Firefox has been around longer, so there are more plugins, but Firefox has a lot more diverse plugins.  Finally, Firefox performs better with a lot of sites, more than Chrome.  Chrome has parts of their code that seems to run bad, like some embedded media players and some formatting on sites.  Firefox seems to handle things better. 

Finally, productivity.  Google has their web-based office suite called Google Docs, which is seemelessly integrated with their Google drive.  for quick and dirty work, it's fine.  But in reality it's limited and frustratingly so.  First you need to be online to use it, and sometimes that's not possible.  Second outside of the word processor part, the other parts are garbage or limited to really basic functions.  Third, relying on your web browser is not the best situation.  My personal beefs are it's doesn't save to my computer until I download it from Google Drive, but then I"m limited to certain formats I can.  I like to have local copies of my stuff in case something happens to my online storage.  When I do download, say my resume, it's only available to be downloaded as a .PDF file or .DOCX file,  PDF is fine for most part, but if someone wants my document as a Word document, there can be a big problem.  A lot of places still use older versions of Word, and they won't read .DOCX files, which has XML crap in the file.  I can't tell you how many times I got answers back form people saying "file won't open, send as regular .doc file".  SO I went with my fave, Apache OpenOffice. 

OpenOffice is an open source office suite that works with everything, and can make things in any format you want.  It works fast, and I can do everything I can in MS Office as well, if not better.  It's free, and is updated and supported well.  I've been editing and opening files I downloaded from Google drive, and worked without any issue,  and saving them into formats I need to,  Finally, I can save LOCALLY without doing extra steps. 

So that's what I have been using.  I wanted to find open, multi-platform programs that are easy to use.  These are mostly free, but I really wish if you do use this stuff, throw a couple bucks to the developer when you can.  Think of it as a "thanks for working on this, and I support what you do."  It pisses me off when people have this attitude of "it's free, why should I donate to them if they are giving it away."  It's called value for value: give then as much as you get from the product.  Most of the developers who make these things are doing it as a hobby, or side project for no money.  Why not give them something for their amazing work?