Two years ago I wrote a post about the various complicated ways I kept my home and office computer synchronized. Because my office computer recently blew up (really!) I have to think about how to get back up and running as quickly as possible, so I thought it would be a good time to update this list. A lot has changed in the past two years…
I still use Luxsci for all my mission-critical e-mail. All my professional contacts, co-workers, students, family and friends send e-mail to an address handled on Luxsci. Luxsci is simply the most reliable IMAP service I know of. IMAP lets me sync all my folders across computers — and even on my iPhone.
For everything else, I now use Gmail. That includes website registrations, online forums, e-mail lists, etc. I get hundreds of e-mails from various sources and Gmails filters let me easily sort out what is important and (more importantly) to ignore the rest.
Calendar and Address Book
I’ve heard bad things about Apple’s MobileMe, so I’m testing out a third-party solution called SpanningSync which has the added advantage of syncing everything to Google as well. I used to use Plaxo, but when you use Plaxo you have to adjust to how it handles your various data (it never synced all the fields in the AddressBook), while SpanningSync respects the integrity of the Apple AddressBook — even on Google. (BusySync is another alternative.)
One option I looked into is using Google’s built-in support for the CalDAV format (also used by iCal). Unfortunately, CalDAV calendars don’t (currently) sync with the iPhone, so I had to reject that. iTunes does have an option to sync your iPhone phonebook with Google’s contacts list, but I haven’t tried that yet. Since I’m using SpanningSync right now I don’t need it.
The biggest change since the post I wrote two years ago is the emergence of “cloud computing” solutions for the rest of us. I used to use some complicated geek tools to sync computers, but that’s no longer necessary. My favorite is DropBox, which has very tight integration into your computer’s desktop (Windows, Mac, and Linux are all supported). You can also sync up to 2GB of data for free! SugarSync has some options DropBox doesn’t (yet) have, such as the ability to sync any folder, as well as graduated payment options. Since the free version of DropBox is working just fine right now I don’t feel the need to switch, but both are great products. (Being able to share folders with other users is a particularly nice feature of DropBox for anyone who does collaborative work.)
I’ve also become a big fan of Evernote which allows you to keep your notes “in the cloud” and sync to every computer. Its truly fantastic. And for collaborative work I find myself using Google Documents more and more, which can sync with your desktop computer if you install the Google Gears extension.
My old solution, Google Browser Sync, is no more. However, I really like Foxmarks which syncs bookmarks between browsers for free. I also use the new Delicious Firefox Add-On which now offers much tighter integration with the browser. And since I’m always tweaking Firefox with new add-ons, its also nice to have FEBE which can backup your extensions to DropBox.
Since I switched to Google Reader, I no longer need to sync…
I switched to 1Password which has its own built-in web sync solution. I’ve been quite happy with 1Password, although I’ve also been looking at VeriSign’s Personal Identity Portal (PIP) as another option.