Not too long ago my husband Zack and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary and we decided to splurge on a shared gift – a new iPad 2. It’s been a great tool for both of us – the iPad is incredibly portable, which comes in handy when I have a meeting with a client, and Zack has been using the iPad nearly non-stop during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Initially, we had no efficient way to keep everything on the iPad synched with our desktop computer (at home) and my desktop computer at ACET. But I was recently introduced to two great – and free – tools that can help anyone with multiple computers keep their files synched and available anywhere. They are Dropbox and Evernote.
Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com/) provides an online storage point that can be accessed anywhere. And you can link that storage point to multiple computers for easy access to files. Once you install the program on your computer, any file you store in Dropbox becomes available on other computers linked to your account. So I can put a file in to Dropbox at work and see the file later at home, without using a flash drive. I can also go to a client’s office, log in to my Dropbox account, and show my client any relevant files. Dropbox also has an easy-to-manage file sharing system. I can set up a folder in my Dropbox and share the contents of that folder with colleagues in another part of the country or the world. File sharing through Dropbox is quite secure – when I invite someone to share a folder in Dropbox my colleague can only see the shared folder and does not see the other files I have stored in Dropbox. Dropbox is also very secure and uses HIPAA-level encryption to ensure your files are safe. And Dropbox is available in multiple platforms: Windows, Macs (including iPhones and iPads), Linux, Android, and Blackberry. So I can use my Windows computer at ACET and share files with my Mac at home! Although Dropbox does have a limit on the amount of information you can store on their servers (2GB for free), you can upgrade for a fee.
While Dropbox is a great resource for storing and sharing files, you don’t actually create any file in Dropbox. That’s where Evernote (http://www.evernote.com/) comes in. Like Dropbox, Evernote works across multiple platforms including Windows, Mac, several smart phones, and several mobile tablets. And, like Dropbox, the Evernote software provides online storage for a wide range of file types – like documents, PDFs, images, MP3s/MP4s, videos – that can be accessed from computers or mobile devices when you log in. But unlike Dropbox, Evernote’s forte is that you can create documents in Evernote, especially notes. Evernote users can construct to-do lists, typed and handwritten (using a mouse, stylus, or fingers) notes, and audio or webcam recordings. You can even grab part or all of a web page and store in on Evernote. Evernote also has an incredibly powerful search feature – it will search titles and contents of documents, search through file tags, and will even search handwritten notes to find the word or phrase you are looking for. You can share the contents of Evernote with others, but that function is less transparent and requires more time to manage than does Dropbox. Last, Evernote has basic services for free (60MB of storage space), but you can upgrade for a fee.
Do you use any software that helps your productivity? If so, please share!