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In my last post on this topic, I discussed how you could create a redundant synchronized version of all the important files on your mac via Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive, and CloudHQ. In that post, I briefly mentioned that doing so not only increases your productivity, but it largely renders backups to things like Apple’s TimeMachine irrelevant.

In this post, I want to put a finer point on that statement, by discussing how I set up my new mac without restoring from a TimeMachine backup or using Migration Assistant.

This post is less an argument against backing up the traditional way, and more a point on how our relationship to OSs and software is changing.

As stated in my post on synchronizing your Document to OneDrive, I was up and running pretty much the moment I turned my new Mac on and downloaded the OneDrive app. Even before that, I had access to all my Document files via the web interface (which, of course, means I have access from any computer), and the MSFT online suite of apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) are beyond merely functional, and largely indistinguishable from their desktop counterpoints.1.

Once OneDrive was synchronized, I then had a local version of all my files. What was left was my other essential apps.

The below are the apps that I really can’t live without on my Laptop:


Rationale: I have so many abbreviations that speed up my typing that, if TE is not installed, my typing comes out looking like the ramblings of an insane person.

Installation Process: Download from their site. Enter my registration key, synchronize via Dropbox (see below).


Rationale: Every password and other pieces of log in info I have is kept here, and has been for many years. I can’t access much of anything without 1Password

Installation Process: Re-download from the App store, synchronize from iCloud (see below).

Notational Velocity

Rationale: Long my note-taking device of choice. Its interface is so dead simple, all you have to do is type. No saving, no creating new files, etc.

Installation Process: Download from their site. Synchronize via Simplenote; which is essentially an online version of NV (I use this on my iPad/iPhone/whenever I’m not on my own computer).

Office Beta For Mac

Rationale: As above, the distinction between Office’s desktop and online/app version of their products is nominal; however, the desktop/laptop versions have less latency (and a few more features). In a pinch, I could do without having these on my Mac, and get by fine. That day is certainly coming.

Installation Process: This is actually the one I was most worried about. Prior re-installs of Office led to all sorts of issues. No such problems this time. Downloaded the new versions, entered my user name and password, and was up and running.

Paprika Recipe Manager

Rationale: I love to cook, and this app – via its bookmarklet and really simple interface – makes it a joy to capture recipes from Sites, and then synchs with my iPad/iPhone (which I frequently use in the kitchen).

Installation Process: Download the app, enter my log in/password, and it automatically synched via its own Cloud Sync.


Rationale: My love affair of this Gmail organizer has sort of waned of late, because its search is just (still) horrid, and it seems to of late be having trouble synching as precisely as need be with Gmail (and if this doesn’t work, then why bother?). Still, as an efficient way to organize a mountain of email, it’s good.

Installation Process: Download from their site. It (sort of) synchs via Dropbox).


Rationale: Very much a network effect thing going on here. I use Dropbox because others use Dropbox. I’m not nearly as enamored of it as most, and really try to use it as little as possible (I still struggle with their transparent gambit of forcing me to upgrade by automatically sucking my photos in). That said, as above, many apps rely on Dropbox for synchronization, and unless and until they go some other route, I’m stuck with it.

Sonos Desktop Controller

Rationale: Because I like music, and no one makes listening to/controlling of music better than Sonos.

Installation Process: Download from their site, open. All of my streaming sources and my networked music are there.


That’s really it for installed apps. I use a handful of other Extensions for Chrome (not even worth mentioning, but, yes, I installed Chrome, and it synched my bookmarks, etc.), such as:

Evernote (I have the desktop version too; install by downloading/synch by entering your user name and password)

Instapaper for capturing articles (via its bookmarklet) that I want to read later on whatever device I’m on at any time.

That’s my set up.

It’s pretty free of kruft. I try to avoid hacking the menu bar, etc.

You’ll note that there’s no mention of a cloud based or TimeMachine backup set up. That’s because there’s no need for this. Music and photos are on external drives.

Photos get backed up periodically (and are now on their way to Apple’s “Cloud” – which I do not dig, and do not believe they will ever get right).

Music…beyond an increasingly few number of songs/albums that I can’t find on a streaming service, I just don’t care that much about the mess of files of music. I’ll keep the things I care about backed up, the rest…who cares?

Bottom Line

Essentially, the above argues for a Chrome/Web Book type of solution. That is, a computer with little to no hard drive or built in apps; just a web browser. We’re certainly heading that way. Microsoft, oddly, is leading us there (catching up to Google).

What this means is that the days of backing up Gigs of data and apps and music are sort of behind us. It also means that moving fairly seamlessly from computer to computer is a reality. It took me under 15 minutes to download, install, and synch all of the above.

This is a very different reality from restoring from a TimeMachine backup/Migration Assistant, and it’s really a nice change.



  1. There are some definite important exceptions to this statement. For instance, among other things, it does not appear possible to create a Table of Content from Styles in the online version of Word

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about productivity tools. With all of the (continued) seismic changes in technology, it seems like a good time to update the list.

As always, my desire for tech is that it as transparent as possible so that productivity is accelerated.

To this end, here’s what I’m using:

1. I cannot stress enough that if you have a pre-Flash based MacBook, you should immediately, swap out your old Solid State hard disk for a Flash drive. It sounds hard, but it’s not, and this hack alone will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds. I detail the process here: Weekend Project: New Mac for ~$200 — Upgrade from HDD to SSD

2. Alfred. I still do miss my beloved Quicksilver, but it’s really gone unsupported in any meaningful way for so long now that (for me at least), it’s just not stable. Alfred fills the void nicely (if not freely when you add the sort-of-necessary Power Pack), and allows you to customize its functionality fairly well (the new Workflows in the Beta version show a lot of promise). Even if you don’t ever customize it to any degree, having an app launcher, calculator, iTunes controller, etc. all at your fingertips does save time.

3. 1Password. We’re bogged down with passwords. Wired recently ran a story about how we need to kill the password, and I couldn’t agree more. Until we get there, however, we’re stuck with the boogers. Therefore, having a great app that not only stores your passwords (across your devices), but also generates random passwords when you have to create new ones, comes in super handy. I use 1Password every day, and it saves me time and stress.

4. Google Drive. Sort of crazy to me that I have to even mention this, but I run into enough people who still aren’t familiar with how great and efficient this tool is that it merits inclusion. Google’s play at dethroning MSFT is at its most articulated in their apps. As companies move from an Outlook-based email solution to a Gmail solution, it stands to reason that the bloated, unreliable MSFT apps are next to fall, and the Google apps are ready to fill the void nicely. Combine the web-based Google apps with the Google drive on your phone/tablet, and you’re pretty well set in terms of content creation/sharing.

5. Speaking of content creation, as we move to more tablet-based content creation, having the right case/input method is crucial. As for me and my iPad, we’ll stick with the Touchtype iPad case (which I reviewed in detail for Paste) and an Apple bluetooth keyboard. Increasingly, I leave the laptop at home.

6. Cobook. With respect to software, Apple seems to be going the way of Microsoft. Apple’s Mail app sucks (replace it, of course, with gmail both on your desktop/laptop and your mobile devices), and so too does their Contacts/Address Book. Unusable, unreliable. Nightmare. Cobook is the first innovation in contacts since…ever. It pulls your social contacts in as well as your contacts from Google, Apple’s iCloud, etc. Their iPhone app is great, too.

7. Tweetbot. One of the biggest issues we face in a world of many screens is synchronization. Viewing Twitter on your home device, and then having to scroll through a bunch of tweets you’ve already seen when you check on your mobile device is a waste. Tweetbot, in addition to its many other great features, keeps your Twitter feed in synch irrespective of whatever screen you happen to be on at any given time.

8. Evernote. Everyone knows and loves Evernote, but it just gets better and better. You MUST install the Chrome Extension in order to really enjoy its full power. Clipping images, web articles, etc., pretty much eliminates the need for bookmarking. Of course, its mobile apps are killer too. Its Skitch integration was a bit rough at first, but the two now seem to play nicely, which makes grabbing and notating screen grabs (with Skitch) as easy as archiving them (with Evernote).

9. Reeder. I still enjoy RSS feeds, though, admittedly, my usage has gone down. In terms of best of breed, there’s no single choice for both laptop/desktop and mobile. While people love Flipbook, it’s never done it for me. On my iPad I use Mr. Reader, on my MacBook I use Reeder, and on my phone, I use the Google RSS reader. I’m hopeful that a more unified solution will emerge (Reeder does have mobile apps, but I haven’t felt compelled to switch). In the mean time, this solution works in so far as that – like Tweetbot – each does synchronize with your Google Reader streams, and therefore marks items as read universally.

10. Notational Velocity and Simplenote. Notational Velocity is, hands down, the simplest, fastest way to take quick notes, and keep them easily organized on the desktop/laptop. It synchs (relatively) seemlessly with the Simplenote app for mobile. I use them both multiple times a day.

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