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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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With Apple’s recent announcement of forthcoming new (MacBook) and updated (MacBook Pro and Airs) machines, I was prodded to examine how I wanted to migrate my data to one of these new machines.

I’ve been holding off on upgrading my old faithful late 2008 MacBook Pro 1, for a looong time now in anticipation of these new machines.

Along the way I’ve been pretty diligent about backing up 2. Nevertheless, a 7 year old machine will get some kruft happening, and I didn’t want to transport this to a new machine via restoring from a TimeMachine backup or using Migration Assistant, as it doesn’t offer enough flexibility in determining what to bring over to the new machine.

So, this leaves one with … what?

Amazingly, where it leaves someone – with a very minimal amount of set up – is in a place of not having to worry about it.

Let me explain:

You can, and should, download Microsoft’s OneDrive (nee SkyDrive) product. I know what you’re thinking: “Microsoft?! That dinosaur monopoly that hasn’t innovated since 1982?! C’mon, George.”

I understand this emotion, and I – for years/decades – would have agreed with you, but things have changed.

I’m going to write a longer, more academic piece on how Microsoft is – finally – resisting the Innovator’s Dilemma soon, but, concisely: With the (free) release of the mobile version of Word, Excel, PPT (which are GREAT), and when combined with OneDrive, you really do have a viable cloud-based system for ALL of your work-related files.

The logical question at this point is, why not just use Dropbox or Google Drive?

With respect to Dropbox, it’s fine for having access to files, but it’s not a document creation tool.

With respect to to Google Drive, it too is fine for having access to files (more on this below), but, while better than Dropbox in terms of document creation, Google’s productivity suite (Sheets, Docs, and Slides) really just don’t compete with Microsoft’s.3.

That said, I’m NOT suggesting you abandon Google Drive, but rather, create a system where your Google Drive is synchronized with your files on your desktop and on your OneDrive. Doing so is truly the best of all worlds.

Here’s how to make it work:

1. Download OneDrive

2. Move the OneDrive folder to some place prominent and not overly nested on your hard drive. I put mine right in my User Folder, and add to the Favorites side bar:

onedrive screen shot

3. Here’s the rub. It’s a little scary at first, but bear with me. Take ALL of your folders that you currently have in your Documents folder and drag them into the OneDrive (do not copy the files; just move them). This means you have NO files in your Documents folder. Essentially, you’ve made the OneDrive folder your Documents folder.

4. Synchronize your files that are in your OneDrive folder with OneDrive. To do this, open the OneDrive app, and, under preferences, select “Choose Folders” to synchronize, and de-select Music and Photos (unless you want those synched. I do not, as mine are all on external drives).

Depending on the size of the files in your OneDrive folder on your Mac, it may take a while to synch. It took me about 7 hours to synch about 38 gigs.4

5. At this point, you have a mirror image of the files in your OneDrive folder on your Mac with those on the OneDrive cloud service.

Importantly, you ALSO have access to all of these files on your iPhone/iPad. And, as above, using the fantastic MSFT apps, you can create/edit, etc., and everything will stay in synch. For instance, if you create a new doc on your iPad, and save it to your OneDrive folder, this doc will also be created (synchronized) on your OneDrive folder on your Mac.

6. As above, I’m not discarding Google Drive. I have too many collaborative projects on Google Drive, and while, OneDrive does allow for shared files, etc., it’s not going to displace Google for this any time soon (if ever). But, what I wanted was a unified approach. This is where CloudHQ comes in.

CouldHQ will – among other things – synchronize OneDrive with GoogleDrive. This is precisely what I did. I mirrored the file hierarchy on OneDrive with Google Drive (meaning I have exactly the same folders (“Work,” “Personal,” “Writing,” etc.)) in the folder on my Mac (in my OneDrive folder) as I do in my OneDrive folder in the Cloud, and on my Google Drive.

To get there, I first did a one-way push of the folders on my OneDrive (which were the same as those on my Mac) to Google Drive. There were of course lots of other files on my Google Drive, and I had to manually organize those into the file hierarchy created by the push from OneDrive.

Once this was done, however, I just turned on two-way synch on CloudHQ, and now all the files that had heretofore been only on my Google Drive are now synched with my OneDrive, and, thus, my Mac.

This now means that if I create a document on my Mac, my mobile devices, the web version of OneDrive, OR Google, they will be synchronized across all my devices.

This is something approaching magic for me, and completely changes the way you think of file storage generally. It’s unbelievably easy to locate files, access them, and create them from anywhere, and no where they all are.

Importantly, you now also have a redundant backup of every file on your mac (first on OneDrive and second on Google Drive).

The above process may seem a bit involved, but once you get through it, it takes zero effort to maintain and the benefits are huge.

Beyond the backup, it absolutely made getting set up on my new Mac painless. I downloaded the OneDrive app to my new mac, hit synch, and about five hours later had all of my files on my new mac. Of course, I was able to work with whatever I needed during this time either via OneDrive’s online apps or Google Drive.

Optional step: Evernote

I love Evernote. I use it constantly to capture articles, etc. that I find online. However, much like my Google Drive, it had become an unorganized disaster full of Notebooks (their version of folders) that I don’t use anymore etc. So, I deleted and consolidated all of my Evernote Notebooks so they mirrored the files I have on my Google Drive and OneDrive (mac and cloud). I now use tags to sort the articles into “subfolders” on Evernote.


I’m not entirely clear how I did it, but I have 1T of space on my OneDrive, and if I’m paying anything, it ain’t much (I think it may be an educator discount).

I do pay for extra space on Google (because I never want to delete emails, mainly), and for Evernote premium.

CloudHQ is ~$10/month, and I may be overpaying, as once everything is synched for the first time, there’s not too much data transfer on an ongoing basis.

In total, it’s likely under $15/month, which is pretty close to what you’d pay for a cloud backup from Backblaze or something, but without NEAR the functionality.




  1. I’ve added an SSD drive and RAM to this machine.

  2. TimeCapsule and external drive connected to an AirportExtreme and periodic Carbon Copy Clones

  3. I do a lot of redlining of docs, and create some fairly detailed spreadsheets; the Google version of Word and Excel, just don’t give me what I need.

  4. One MAJOR source of annoyance: OneDrive will not recognize or transfer files that have a slash “/” character – you must change all of these to an underscore or remove – this is a remnant of the old MSFT that needs to go. NOW.

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