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Moving from Outlook to Google

My friend Rick is planning on starting up a small, side business repairing computers for his neighborhood. Of course he wants to start up a website to help advertise his services. I mentioned to him that I was interested in helping him create the site and between us we have a ton of ideas for the site. He knows what he wants and I can help him with the technicalities.

He recently asked me if there were a way to show his Outlook calendar on his new website. I believe he wants to do this so he can keep track of his schedule and appointments. This got me thinking. I recently moved from Outlook to Google to make this sort of thing possible and very easy to view and manage. So I decided to make this article to discuss the points about why you would want to do this. In a later article I may write up a how-to for people out there looking to do something like this.

There are a couple ways make the exodus.  In fact, I helped my wife Kathy make the move after my transition and she seems to like the move. You have all the same functionality but in a different way. Making this kind of move isn’t for everyone, but if you can make a complete move over, it becomes easier and more convenient to use. One major benefit of doing this is you can access your information from anywhere in the world using any computer. Sure with Outlook, if setup right you can access your email even if your computers offline, but how often do you read/send email when your offline. Also, how often do you not have access to the cloud? Anymore access issues are almost a moot point because everyone is connected 99% of the time.

Something you have to observe and kind of force yourself to do is use the features with any program.  A lot of people I know don’t use calendars on their computer to keep track of their info, simply because it’s not mobile (for the most part). Keeping a schedule in Outlook usually just stays in outlook unless you have a PDA, which I don’t know too many people that do anymore. Most people are now touting smartphones to help them keep track of their day to day activities.  For those that don’t have smartphones or an e-device those people usually keep paper calendars if they even keep one at all. If you have an internet based phone, you can access your calendar from anywhere. If you get a Google phone in the future, the availability and convenience becomes even greater. You simply plug in your details and you have your info instantly. What’s more, if you would like to be able to see your calendar of events on your website, this can be done and you can keep a separate calendar for your site versus your personal calendar for yourself.

Obviously if you can access Google you can access your email. So your not bound to using Outlook from a single computer. The search feature uses Google own search technology so you get your results almost immediately. Outlook still needs help with this, albeit they’ve come a long way from where there were a few years ago. You are still able to segment your emails, but with Google you use labels instead of folders. Labels work pretty much the same way as folders. Filtering emails works almost the same between the two products, however it’s done differently between the two, so you’ll have to learn how to setup filtering in Gmail. I’m able to keep my “harmsfam.net” email account because Google can use POP3 and POP to my harmsfam.net account to retrieve all my email. In addition to that it can also send email on behalf of my harmsfam.net account, so I always receive and send emails throught my harmsfam.net account but using Google as my client program.

I don’t know if you use Google Docs at all, but this is very handy to keep track of documents. Unfortuately I can’t use Docs at work, but regardless this is a great tool for storing documents you may need to access from anywhere. Besides actual documents, Google Docs also allows you to create spreadsheets and drawings. You can use docs for collaboration. If you are in school and have a group project you can setup a shared area on Google Docs so all of you can access the documentation from a central location. A lot of companies are using this for their collaboration teams.

Of course you know Google has chat, so if you have any other friends with a Google account you can chat with them via this. A lot of chat programs (Pidgin, Digsby, Trillian, Meebo, etc…) have the ability to connect to Google Chat so you can use a central chat program but still keep in touch with your Google friends.

The reasons why I moved:
-Instead of setting up Outlook on every new computer I get or any computer I want to use, I can access Gmail.com
-This kinda follows the above point, but I can access my email, calendar, contacts and more anywhere in the world
-I have a Google phone (Motorola Droid) that syncs with my Google accounts (Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Voice, etc…)
-I can easily integrate my Google info on my personal website (primarily calendar)
-Kathy made the move too because we got her a Google phone (LG Ally)

Some articles to read
Outlook vs. Gmail—The Definitive Comparison (This one’s slightly outdated – Gmail now has some of the abilities this article says it doesn’t)
Google Docs Features

So, what do you think ?

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