There are things that make our lives easier and so … in the spirit of the new year… I’m including a few of them that you can find on the web.
Skydrive… with free Microsoft Office…
Storage space in the cloud is good. Storage space that allows you to create and share MS Office documents is better. Don’t know why more people don’t know about this but I keep running into people who don’t.
Any parent who’s ever had their child call them from school and say, “Hey I forgot my flashdrive with my homework can you bring it to school?” needs this. Anyone who’s ever forgotten a business letter, spreadsheet, anything like that while on a business trip, needs this. Anyone who’s ever been forced to use another computer because a laptop died … needs this.
Why? Because all your files … are right there nice and safe and warm and in the cloud, and you can choose to share them with others or not. I’ve used Skydrive since 2007, yes… lo those many many years ago. It’s arguably the oldest cloud type file storage systems out there, security has always been great for me and it’s about as easy to use as it gets.
Recently, Microsoft added to it, the ability to create Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote notes – or edit them, directly, even if you don’t have any of those programs on your computer. So if you’re stuck in an Airport in Atlanta or Boston, with a busted laptop and you absolutely need a document out – just grab a pay-terminal-system, hit your Skydrive and away you go. (No, this has never happened to me.) it also works if your son/daughter was supposed to have something written for a class, forgot, and the school library computers don’t have word processors (yes, this also happens).
Anyway, point is – it’s pretty useful. And it’s free. Yup. Free. It also syncs with Windows Phones, iPhones and others and … let’s face it that’s pretty dang nice.
Next on the Free Cool Storage Toys… is Mesh.
What’s a Mesh? Well, Mesh is like Skydrive, only on steroids because it actually lets you connect your files with another computer – like – your home computer, and share them. This is particularly useful if you, like me, don’t always drag a laptop around – or find it a pain in the arse to have to copy files to the laptop to your home computer, or a flash drive (because flash drives never get lost, crushed or left in the computer at work… right??).
With Mesh, you assign a directory (or two… or whatever) as “Mesh"ed and then you do the same with the home (or other computer). Whatever you do in that drive, is sync’d to all the other computers in your mesh. Any changes made in one location are updated. So the files are accessible by any computer with Mesh installed. You can make them private, public, only to a select few people you want to share it with… which is pretty awesomely simple for collaboration.
Have something on that home computer but you… like an idiot… didn’t put in in the Mesh drive? Not a problem. You can actually connect to any other meshed computer remotely (provided your firewall allows it) and then use it as if you were sitting right there. Full remote desktop capability.
Now, here’s the coolest part… what if you don’t have a laptop (see above for instances of disaster in the Boston airport with laptops)… you can also access your meshed files and computers, and devices – via the web.
Between the Skydrive, and Mesh – you’re looking at very accessible, very nearly unlimited free storage you never have to worry about. And… for those of you who like your Macs… it yes… does work with a Mac.
Mesh, is part of the Windows Live Essentials Package. Which also has the very criticaly acclaimed Windows Live Writer. Which, if you Blog – you GOTTA have. Seriously. I’ve tried Adobe, I’ve tried a ton of Blogger software, and Live Writer is the easiest, has a boat load of plugins and works with everything from WordPress to bizare obscure blog software (even SharePoint).
It also has Movie Maker – which – is a very very useful little tool for editing simple videos and posting them in cool places like, blogs, Youtube, FaceBook… very nice, and also … very free.
Which brings me to… Adobe Photoshop… for free.
Yup you read that right. Photoshop. Not some 2nd rate photo editor, but Adobe’s own Photoshop, online, and free. Now, there is a Microsoft tool which is also free – called the Microsoft Live Photo Gallery that you can get with Live Essentials. It’s also really good but I didn’t want to just hype Microsoft, and frankly there’s things you can do with Adobe Photoshop you can’t do anywhere else. So, definitely download Photo Gallery as it’s very useful (and free)… but have a look at this as well. To get it — go to www.photoshop.com and you’ll need an Adobe Account so sign up for it if you haven’t. Once you have it you can then access the Online tools… and you’ll find PhotoShop Express. It’s not full blown Photoshop but it’s pretty damn good, especially – if once again – you don’t have a computer/laptop that’s yours, the School computers don’t have it, your boss won’t buy you a copy… etc… you get the picture.
So… once you’re in you can upload a photo, get one from your Adobe online gallery and start in fixing those photos that need to be on a web site by tonight – getting that graphic for the school play done right… the usual. All from the web, and yes… it’s as free as a bird.
You can even add cartoons, word balloons, sticky notes… all kinds of stuff… then save it and share it with the world.
Just think of the possibilities that come from something free – all the ways you can now annoy others and embarrass yourself online.
There are – literally hundreds of other free toys out there and I’ll try in the new year to post the ones I use the most here for you, but this is a good start for a new year.
Happy New Year everyone…