It's hard to imagine that cloud based file management is such a relatively new process when we consider its popularity in managing files seamless between a variety of devices from school, home, in the car or wherever. As part of my daily routine, it makes movement between the iOS, Mac and Windows technology a breeze and facilitates 'anywhere/anytime' access to resources. Let’s look at just five cloud based tools that have changed my daily work practice.
Google Docs (free) - One of the most accessible and easy ways to access and manage word processing, spreadsheets and forms in particular. Compatible with MS Office format, the ability to upload existing documents provides easy access for personal files or for sharing. The collaborative nature of Google Docs in that one copy of the document that can be shared with and simultaneously accessed by any number of people, overcomes lost or corrupt USBs and version confusion. As a bonus, it saves automatically. The functionality of applications that make up Google Apps for Education are influencing its rapid uptake by schools and universities, displacing traditional Microsoft software.
Dropbox (free) - the portable storage box for every type of document. Yes, you can store your documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Google Docs. The value of Dropbox, however, is that it’s a file storage ‘box’ that stores a broad range of file types and sits in the file storage system of any computer I wish to install it onto. It’s ‘device agnostic’ in that the type of device does not matter. I have it at home on my Mac, at school on my Windows laptop, on my iPhone and iPad.
If you don’t wish to install the app, you can access your Dropbox account directly via ‘the cloud’ by simply logging in via the Internet. Dropbox is not an editor, it is a ‘box’ where I store files for easy access. The ability to share folders facilitates the distribution of private documents online, even family photographs, and is a easy way to consolidate files contributed by a group of people into the one place. I recommend Dropbox for managing and handling documents on the move. Why carry that laptop home from school every evening if there is another computer available to access and continue working on a document?
PDF Expert (iPad, iPhone $10.49) - expensive you say! Yes, however, worth every cent as an invaluable productivity tool. This app enables me to read .pdf documents on the iPad, to annotate, draw and save changes. I can open a .pdf file, add a personal signature, then return the form to the sender without moving from the iPad. No need to print off, scan or fax. My latest use of this versitile tool was to sign a holiday rental agreement and an official nomination form that were sent to me via email. They were signed and returned immediately on the iPad without leaving the device. So easy.
Evernote - (free) One of the best cloud based notetaking, web clipping, audio recording tools available, particularly in supporting research activities. My principle uses of Evernote are as a web clipping service where I can quickly clip a note from the screen and store it in a topic folder, and on the iPad, as an audio recording device with corresponding notes. As with all cloud-based services, I can record data into Evernote and immediately access it from any number of other devices through a simple login.
Feedly - (free) is an RSS feed reader. Google Reader is my preferred RSS aggregator. It is the ‘home base’ where I subscribe to RSS feeds (that feature that brings all my news to me instead of me hopping site to site gathering it). Google Reader is the work-horse which integrates with magazine type tools such as Feedly (PC) and Reeder (iPad). These apps make catching up on the news and sharing it with my personal learning network (PLN), saving it to social bookmarks (Diigo/Delicious) or storing as personal research, a simple process. Integrated with Flipboard on the iPad makes reading the news from my personal magazine a real pleasure.
These are just a few of the cloud based tools that make an impact on my life.