First, a little preparation. I’ve exported my Outlook calendar to an online-friendly CSV format, and I’ve got my POP3 settings ready to type in. I decide to kick off with Google, using Gmail for email, Google Calendar as my PIM and Google Docs & Spreadsheets instead of my workhorse applications, Word and Excel.
I’ve actually been using Gmail for a while, but mainly as a backup bucket where I can forward all my mail and search through it when necessary. Integrating my regular POP3 email is surprisingly easy, and as I can respond from my regular work address nobody on the outside will notice the difference. Sadly, I do. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the look and feel – it’s functional, but ugly, and I prefer the standard Outlook view to Google’s message-thread approach. Still, it’s speedy and it works.
Google Calendar seems a more enticing proposition. It sucks in my CSV and my appointments are right where I expect them. Sadly, it won’t handle my Outlook task list, so I’ve added deadlines as appointments by hand.
The big shock is Google Docs & Spreadsheets. I played a little with Writely nearly two years ago, but the Google Docs & Spreadsheets word processor still seems frighteningly spartan. For now, I’m making notes, so the limited fonts and formatting capabilities aren’t an issue, but I’m troubled that I can’t locate a word count option. I eventually find it lurking in the File menu, and I’m surprised to discover that it not only gives me all the usual counts, but also a standard readability score. My other necessities – a spellcheck and Find and Replace – are easy to track down. Google Docs might not be feature-rich, but it does what I need.
After a day of web-based research and note-taking, I feel a little claustrophobic in my Google universe. I’ve maximised my browser, and I’m navigating between Gmail, Calendar and Docs & Spreadsheets using the links at the top of the page. It’s functional, but also a bit white, text-heavy, colourless and boring. Would a little upbeat design hurt?