Migration to the web or how I learned to give up my Microsoft habit (software)

I think I finally did it. But it wasn’t me. The web finally has matured enough so that I feel confident enough to allow my data and information to be stored somewhere else other than my laptop or computer at home. Since I can remember, I have used as millions have used Microsoft’s Office suite (Outlook, word, excel, power point, etc). I never had a choice. Especially with Outlook. Yes, Outlook. It has all of my contacts, phone numbers email addresses, special notes I’ve made about different friends or family remembers, my passwords and registrations for various sites and software +. I’ve always feared losing my Outlook or having the file become corrupted so over the years I’ve gotten to be somewhat of an expert or at least not a novice in understanding how to back-up and move around my Outlook file (called a “.pst” file extension). I had a computer at work so wherever I worked I needed my numbers addresses etc. So, I’ve had to keep current and up-to-date an outlook file for 2 places – home and the office. This has required that I copy EVERY night before I leave for another physical location (i.e., work) my Outlook file so any email messages or other data like new appointments I’ve entered that night get saved and travel with me to work the next day. Outlook .pst files are NOT small files. Mine is quite large. In order to do this, I’ve had to carry a small portable hard drive (now a flash USB drive because they are larger in capacity than they ever used to be) which I copied my .pst file every night or morning before leaving one place or the other. And there were times I forgot so I had to create workarounds. It was nothing short of a big PIA!

Last week I took the plunge and discarded Outlook – I’ve never been happier. In fact, I’ve discarded the entire MS Office suite. And I can still do everything that I want to do using other productivity tools for free on the web. So, here is what I have substituted for MS Office:

1. Outlook=Thunderbird + a Gmail IMAP account thunderbird logo

Thunderbird, Mozilla’s version of Outlook, looks and feels JUST like Outlook. Its easier to use, faster and backing it up is super fast and easy. Combine this with a free Gmail account (only using IMAP) and you can have your Outlook functionality, store your old email messages and folders and store your new messages as they come into your inbox whether you use a work email address (can be a POP account). Using Gmail’s new support for IMAP is one of the key’s. Think of IMAP as a place to store your email on a remote server/computer that’s always available (Google’s not going anywhere soon in my lifetime so I’m sure my account will be around forever). Think of POP as a local way to store your email information.

2. Calendar on Outlook=Lightning 0.7 lightning add-on for Thunderbird

Grab the free Mozilla add-on called Lightning. This will import your Outlook Calendar into Lightning. Looks and feels just like Outlook. Now, go to Google again and get a free Calendar. Now pay attention. Go get ‘Provider for Google’ another little add-on for Lightning and you’ll be able to save your calendar on the web in Google Calendar. You can add an event in your Thunderbird/Lightning calendar and presto, it shows up on your Google Calendar and vice-versa.

3. Google Docs= MS Word, MS Excel, MS Power Point +

Get a Google Docs account and you’ll be able to create Word or Excel type docs, store them on your computer/laptop AND store them on the web in Google Docs. They are always accessible as long as I have a browser if I didn’t save a local copy on my hard drive.

Backing up Thunderbird and Lightning is easy using Moz Backup. A few clicks of next and you’re done. There is even a way to sync all of this to your Windows Mobile Smartphone or Windows Mobile Phone using GMobileSync. So, even though there is a new vcersion of Office out now and new version due in 2008, I think I’m going this route. I’m no longer tethered to my computer. If I loose my laptop or it breaks – just fix it and re-download my apps. The data will still be there – as long as Google sticks around and they aren’t going anywhere as far as I can tell anytime soon.