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By Thomas Baekdal - January 2011

I Love the Cloud

For the past month my Mac has been wonky. It slowed down to a crawl, failed to update the screen, and crashed a lot. So last night I finally decided to start fresh by formatting and reinstalling everything. That, however, turned out to be a breeze because of the cloud.

I am moving more and more of my life into the cloud. It is just many times easier. No setup, no hazzle, no CPU intensive apps, and you can access it from anywhere - using multiple devices. It is just 100% work with no IT.

The cloud is going to be a critical element for companies who want to stay competitive. The differences in flexibility and price are just staggering.

Let me illustrate this by explaining what it took to set up my computer from scratch.

First I obviously had to install Mac OS X Snow Leopard. There isn't really any way around that. That took about 40 minutes. During the install process, Apple asks what Wi-Fi network you want to connect to. I selected my own, and that was it. Then I had to update it, for which Apple provided a combined update containing every update for the past couple of years. That was a nice feature, and took another hour.

So, one hour and 40 minutes later I had a fully working computer with no apps on it.

First step: Go into Safari and download Chrome. Then setup Chrome synching and watch the magic happen!

Chrome simply syncs everything in your browser to exactly how it was the last time you used it. Within seconds all my bookmarks, web apps, extension, and even my previously opened tabs is just how I left it.

With this, I now have access to my email (Gmail), Evernote (in which I am currently writing this article), Feedly for news,TweetDeck for social, AOL Radio for music, DropBox for files, and Instapaper for organizing all the things I need to check later.

The cloud pretty much covers 90% of what I need to run my business.

I write all my articles in Evernote, simple because it allows me to write wherever I am. I can write articles on my Macbook, on a friend's computer, at a client, on my iPhone, and with my iPad. And all of them are automatically synched.

Why use a big complicated office suite when all you do is writing text with basic formatting? Why all the hazzle of having to install and keep it updated.

It is the same with email. I simply do not understand why any company would ever buy they own email server any more. Gmail works great, and with IMAP it can be used on any device you might have. You are never in a situation where you cannot work.

Even while I was waiting for my computer to reinstall Mac OS, I just continued working on my iPad.

I have been skeptical about Google Chrome OS's cloud strategy in the past, but we are getting close to a point where it really makes sense.

What about the remaining 10%?

While I love how easy the cloud is, there are still a number of things you simply cannot do efficiently on the web. The first problem is with images and graphics. While there are several web based image editors, they are just not even close to Photoshop. The most pressing problem is that they completely lack of any decent support for the native clipboard - vital for when you work with screenshots.

I use the really cheap Photoshop Elements ($79), in which you can do amazing things. I have been using the full version of Photoshop since version 2.5, so I was shocked to learn that Elements solves all my needs.

In the past, I used Illustrator for more complex things, but when Apple launched iWork I found that I could do most of my work in Apple Keynote. Yes, I know what you are thinking. How can Apple's Keynote - a Mac replacement for Powerpoint - even come close to replacing Illustrator? That's is just insane.

But I haven't used illustrator for more than two years now.

One example: 14 months ago I was asked by a client to design a more social focused website, and this was the concept I came up with. It was designed in Apple Keynote!

Note: You still need the full Adobe Creative Suite if you are a full time graphic designer. But the rest of us really do not need all that *power*.

I also use Apple Numbers. I know that there is a pretty sophisticated spreadsheet program in Google Docs (which is cloud based), but I need a visual output that I can use for illustrations in my articles. Google Docs is simply too technical in its appearance.

Another area where the cloud isn't up to speed is for web development (and app development). This should be something the cloud was really good at, but I have yet to find any system that even comes close. Instead I use Coda from Panic, which an excellent web editor.

I also use Transmit from Panic to handle FTP uploads (vital for publishing content). The great thing about it, is that you can create FTP droplets that allows you upload files just by dragging it to an icon in your dock. Again, this is something you cannot do with the cloud.

Note: my publishing system is based on a command line interaction. I can insert images into articles simply by writing "img:filename". It is kind of geeky to type, but it is much faster than any visual CMS system + it is platform agnostic.

Finally, I use a dedicated grammar checker. I wish that cloud based apps (like Evernote) would incorporate this directly. For people like me, where English is not my native language, a good grammar checker is vital. I have yet to find a really good one, but the one I have is better than nothing.

That is pretty much it. The above apps are all I need. The cloud takes care of 90% of my workflow (price $45/year), and the rest is just six applications totaling $360.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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