Not all technology eliminates frustration and irritation from my life, but for the most part these two applications do. Although I use Google Docs almost daily, I should be a Dropbox salesperson. For now, I’ll keep my day job, because I’m afraid that I couldn’t live for very long on my commission checks since both of these products are free.
I often work on large projects with several collaborators, and the way I write, the projects usually need lots of edits. Before Dropbox I used to email myself work to do at home. I was thrilled that I could do that! I would write or edit, then email it back to work, where my secretary/editor would edit. We had so many copies in our computers that we got lost in the stacks of virtual files. We created new names, and new files to keep them all straight. One time the server at the office went down, and when it came back up again there was a new P Drive. What no one knew was that for some reason I was still accessing the old P Drive, and my secretary was editing on the new P Drive. Oddly we didn’t catch on to that fact for days. Hopefully this doesn’t even sound vaguely familiar to you because I guarantee it was frustrating.
Dropbox and Google both store documents on the web and have different benefits, but personally I prefer Dropbox for most uses because of the following reasons.
1) Dropbox uses whatever software you are using. I use Microsoft products, and Dropbox stores all my documents as Word docx. Google has good products, but they do not have all of the flexibility that I have spent years learning in Microsoft.
2) Most people say they receive and can open up a document that I send them from Dropbox. I have had people complain that they couldn’t open a Google Doc. That may not be the problem with Google Doc, but with me the techy-less wonder, or even possibly the techy-less friend to whom I am sending a link.
3) I can open up Dropbox without even being on the Internet, do my work, and as soon as I turn on the internet, the work syncs to the cyber cloud. You have to log in to use Google Docs, and on my pokey computer, that can take more time that I want to spend. I’m not in the twitch generation, but I have become accustomed to instant.
4) This makes me happy. Everyone with whom I have shared a Dropbox folder gets a little message every time I make a change on a document. People say, “I got lots of notifications that documents have been changed. You must work REALLY hard.” Did you hear that boss? Actually I’m never satisfied with what I write, but they might also be seeing all my secretary’s or one of my collaborator’s hard work instead. I just smile, the project is active!
5) Using Dropbox you don’t create multiple versions of documents that get in your way all the time. All of the revisions are saved, but you have to click on a tab to locate them, so they are not in your face all the time. With Google I seem to end up with revisions with the same name as the original documents. It doesn’t take much to confuse me.
6) Another problem I have with Google and other cloud-only applications I blame on my internet provider. Rural America where I live is internet-challenged, and the monopoly service I use puts the brakes on the internet speed when I have loaded too many megabytes of information during a 24 hour period. When I am using Google Docs and that happens, I type a few words, and wait for Google to catch up with me. Sometimes Google completely has left out part of what I typed. That was so irritating that I quit composing in Google, and did my work offline, and then uploaded it to Google later. I have not had that happen since I learned to manage my download bytes, but trust comes back slowly so I still do most of my writing on Dropbox offline for that reason.
7) Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a size limit on the document that can be uploaded to Dropbox, but I have exceeded my megabyte limit on Google when uploading a document containing several pictures.
However, in spite of my love for Dropbox, there are some things that Google does better.
1) For example, if you are collaborating in real-time, you can see the edits instantly, and you can chat as you write. So it’s like you are thinking out loud as you write. You can have several people online all doing the editing and chatting at the same time. Confusing, but doable. With Dropbox the changes are not visible until you save and sync your document. Even then, your collaborator is still seeing the old document, until they close, and reopen it. This is not convenient when you are working in real-time together, even when you are all in the same room.
2) I had an another experience in which several of us were taking notes on an agenda created in a joint Dropbox folder. My notes wrote over someone else’s notes, and his were gone, and all Dropbox had to say about it was “Marsha’s corrupted copy” Both of us were red in the face that time. Mine was embarrassed.
3) I have nearly run out of space with Dropbox. If you get your friends to use Dropbox you earn more space. I like that. If you want to open up another Dropbox account with a different email account, you get more space, but you don’t have the same convenience as you do with your primary account that is downloaded to all your computers. You have to go online to Dropbox.com and log in with a different email account, and that is a hassle. I think it is better to have all your files in one account and bite the bullet to buy more space than to have all your files spread over different accounts. Saving space by using multiple accounts is bad when you forget in which account you stored the minutes to the meeting, and the meeting just started, and it’s time to read the minutes. I have never run out of space with Google Docs.
When I was a middle school student, my mother learned to drive just so she could bring me the homework I forgot to take to school. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Moms of the”igeneration” will never understand that chore. Homework is accessible from everywhere and even the dog can’t eat it. Thank you technological cyber-geniuses. That’s one less problem for moms in the 2012 world.