Google Docs, and Zoho

What was Writely is now Google Docs. Sigh. They’ve combined it with the spreadsheet package, so they are available from the same screen – the homepage being effectively a file manager when you log in.

One criticism of Google when they buy things is that they don’t bother to integrate them properly with everything else – think Blogger, and until recently, Picasa. But with Writely, sorry, Google Docs, they have got rid of the nice Writely green and orange look and the end result is just really dull. I suppose it means that Gmail, Calendar and the two productivity apps all now share the same interface.

In other news on the online productivity front, the Zoho suite of online productivity apps now only needs on sign-in per application. Before, if I used Writer, and then needed to go into Sheet, I would have to log in twice. No more. Good stuff.

Living Without Microsoft

LWM is a great site, one that offers a different angle on the MS debate. Rather than being rabidly pro-Mac or Linux, it instead aims to offer sensible alternatives for those people who would rather not use MS software. Solutions like switching to Linux or a Mac are discussed, of course, but LWM acknowledges that it isn’t always feasible!

After a brief hiatus, I’m pleased to say that posts are now regularly being added again, and even more pleased to say that some of them will be contributed by me! I have had the odd post published before, but now I have joined John and Quentin and become a more regular member of the team. We are currently having a review of what the site is about and what direction it might move in in the future, which is exciting, and hopefully we will help plenty more people live without Microsoft in the future!

My recent posts: The AJAX Office and Living Without Microsoft: A Guide for Windows Users.

The site runs on WordPress and if you would like to contribute, you can leave comments in the usual way, or register and write a post yourself (these will be moderated). Alternatively, if you have ideas or suggestions for the site, drop me an email.

[tags]Living Without Microsoft[/tags]

A load of B.O.L.L.O.C.K.S.

Lee Hopkins, antipodean blogger extraordinaire and contributor to Shel and Neville‘s For Immediate Release podcast, and I have been bantering on various posts about the lack of an offline blog editor that, well, does what we want it to. This led me to make an utterly idiotic suggestion.

There was a recent flurry among the blogging PR community recently about the International Association of Nobodies – an organisation created to provide a refuge for any blogger who has been bullied by another. My suggestion was that we take the IAN as an example and set up our own group: Blogger’s Off Line League Of Content Kreation Systems (the use of K in kreation, is not, as some have suggested, a pathetic attempt to create a childish acronym, but instead a calculated PR move that will certainly add to our appeal to the kidz).

Sadly, I had no idea that Lee was as juvenile as I am. He is certainly giving this project the serious attention it most definitely does not deserve. For God’s sake, he’s even asking for logo designs! Of course, I couldn’t possibly resist that challenge.

Small Bollocks

I felt that the real requirement here was to create a logo that represented the serious and professional nature of B.O.L.L.O.C.K.S. and this certainly does that. I mean, it would look great on a t-shirt, don’t you think?

So, how far can B.O.L.L.O.C.K.S. go, exactly? As far as we can stretch them, I say. As Lee wrote:

Whenever I next hear young men using the phrase, I shall instantly know that they are talking about offline blog editors.

My thinking exactly.

[tags]B.O.L.L.O.C.K.S., Blogger’s Off Line League Of Content Kreation Systems[/tags]

ajaxTunes

ajaxTunes is the latest in the line of web based desktop replacement services from Michael Robertson.

It claims to be:

…a web-based media player that lets you play, pause, forward and rewind high-quality streaming music straight from the Internet on any computer. Try ajaxTunes immediately, it has been preloaded with a demo account containing more than 25 songs encoded at 192kbps from different albums and a great mix of playlists from select artists. Or, create your own music locker and choose from over 40,000 songs to create your personal playlists. ajaxTunes is a fully interactive application that will allow you to connect to hours of music, FREE.

To be honest, I am still not sure how it works. It says later on you can use something called www.sideload.com to add your own music to your portable library. This seems to be a step on from the other ajaxLaunch stuff which didn’t offer the chance of hosting files – they had to be saved on your PC or USB key – albeit via a third party.

It doesn’t seem to offer the ability to play music saved locally, which is a shame.

[tags]ajaxtunes[/tags]

Offline editor features

So, having had a look at a few offline blog editors, what stuff is missing from them all that would be nice to have?

How about being able to moderate and manage comments offline too? It seems dumb being able to post from an editor, only to have to log into your blog’s Admin screen to check on comments. It could make the editor a one-stop-shop for the day-to-day management of a blog.

[tags]offline editors[/tags]

How I Blog

The discussion about offline blog editors only covers a certain amount of the different ways one can blog. For example, one could:

  • Use a blog’s inbuilt editor
  • Use an offline editor
  • Use a browser extension
  • Sending posts in via email
  • Post link lists automatically from del.icio.us
  • Post photos and text from Flickr
  • Post news and stories from Digg

I use all of the above, except for the emailing option, which I have never got working with WordPress, though I did when I used Blogger for a short while. I can actually see the use of it, for example, it would allow to blog when mobile by sending an email with my mobile phone.

Most of the uses of these blogging methods are pretty obvious. Posting from Flickr is the easiest way to get a photo onto a blog, and it offers the chance to edit the text. From Digg is a nice way of quickly getting an item from there onto your blog. The pain with these things is the need to edit the post afterwards to add a category or tidy up some formatting.

I tend to use Performancing for Firefox for many of my posts – especially those quick thoughts on something I have read or a change I have just made to my blog. It’s a quick and easy way of getting a post written without letting the momentum slide. I use an offline editor to write longer posts, or ones that just take longer to write. Like this one – I started it last night, and have revisited it several times today before finally posting.

But the WordPress editor still comes in handy, especially when I am blogging from away from home – like in the office, as well as for tarting up and correcting previous entries.

Of course, this isn’t to mention all the other software I use to blog, like The GIMP for photo editing, Writely for taking quick notes or recording thoughts to be expanded on later, Meebo to discuss ideas with other people, and talk things through.

[tags]blogging, wordpress, flickr, digg, blogjet, performancing[/tags]

Zoundry

Following all the recent discussion about offline blog editors, I thought I would give Zoundry a pop, following a recommendation that appeared in my comments from Dan Masters. It’s another free one, and I’m using version 1.0.18 to write this post.

I may as well get it out of the way now: I don’t like it. I genuinely believe that one’s initial reaction to a piece of software is the most important, and from the off I just didn’t get Zoundry. Part of the problem is the cluttered interface:

zoundry.png

And the image handling is a bit of a nightmare too. I selected the option to use my blog’s file upload feature rather than Zoundry’s own FTP system, and to be honest, writing this now, I haven’t a clue what it is going to do. The screenshot file I inserted above was automatically reduced down to a thumbnail, but I don’t think it is linked to the original, so I am guessing I will have to sort that out manually later. Update: to be fair to Zoundry, it inserted thumbnails and added links to the full size originals. Using the WordPress filesystem is also an improvement on what BlogJet does – as it keeps all uploads in the same place. Shame the UI doesn’t make it clear just how good a feature this is!

Another user interface problem is in the link box. I select the word I want to link from, hit the (tiny) link button, type in the URL, and the link title, and hit return. Nothing happens. I sigh, and move the mouse to click on ok.

The joy of BlogJet, my #1 offline editor, is it’s simplicity. It has some pretty good features, but the interface is clear and clean and much more pleasant to use:

blogjet.png

But Zoundry does have some nice features: being able to tag posts with a number of services, rather than just the standard Technorati, Qumana-style automatic insertion of links from the clipboard, downloading your blog’s entire history to a local backup (it would be interesting to know if this could be used to run two blogs, say one at your normal location, and a ‘backup’ blog at a hosted service, like WordPress.com, say).

But it is the interface that does it for me. Too cluttered, too ugly and the text formatting buttons are way too small. So for me, BlogJet is still my favourite, with Qumana a useful backup option.

Technorati :

PHP-Fusion

I have been playing around with various content management systems recently, and found most of them to be pretty unsatisfactory. I basically wanted a solution that could combine a blog type of news site with an integrated forum. I was so frustrated with systems like Drupal and Mambo, which were just so damn hard to configure (for a nitwit like me, I’ll admit) that I was looking up ways for WordPress and phpBB to share a user database – something that is probably even harder to do.

Anyway, how I didn’t come across this before I do not know, but PHP-Fusion is the answer to my needs. It’s lightweight, easy to install and configure, and comes with various nice themes installed already, so it really does work straight out of the box. Brilliant stuff and highly recommended.

[tags]PHP-Fusion[/tags]

Remember The Milk

The Museum of Modern Betas has issued a list of the ‘biggest’ beta services out there, as measured by the number of times they have been bookmarked in del.icio.us. One of the ones it points out, that I hadn’t come across before, was Remember the Milk, an online to-do list manager.

It really good! You can have to-dos in Personal, Study or Work categories, and then tag them individually too. You can send tasks to other people, or share them all. Creating tasks is dead easy – just typing the title into a box – and then you can customise it, like setting reminders, priorities and adding notes, as much as you want to afterwards.

I had previously been using Backpack to manage my to-dos, but I will definitely be giving Remember the Milk a tryout for the next few weeks.

As usual with these services, they have a blog and a forum. The other cog in the machine of Web2.0 support, the documentation wiki, isn’t evident though!

[tags]Remember the Milk[/tags]