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Last week I wrote an apparently controversial article on how I do my work completely online and why the operating system I use is no longer relevant: Firefox OS: Why My Hard Drive and Software are Obsolete.

In the many comments that followed, I was accused of being a Google fanboy, because I use so many Google apps: Gmail, Gcal, Google Reader, Picasa, Google Homepage and more. The truth is, I use those apps because in my experience they are the best online apps in each of their respective categories.

But it’s true that it’s never good to be under the thumbs of one company, and so by popular demand, here are the best alternatives to those Google apps. While it’s too late to save myself, perhaps you guys can get free from the Google stranglehold!

Top 10 Alternatives to Google’s apps

1. Thunderbird. As I noted in the previous article, I’m a fan of Firefox … and Mozilla’s open-source Thunderbird is right behind it in terms of usefulness, functionality, speed and extensibility. Thunderbird, although not an online app, is a great alternative to Gmail. If you add Mozilla’s Lightning or Sunbird, you can replace Gcal too.

2. 30 Boxes. Although the simple and fast Gcal meets my needs perfectly, 30 boxes is just as fast and easy, and is loved by many. If Gcal didn’t integrate with Gmail, I would probably be using 30 Boxes.

3. Netvibes. Although I love the speed of Google Reader, Netvibes can not only hold all of your feeds in an organized way, it can replace both Reader and Google Personalized Homepage. A great way to organize all your favorite services in a personalized way, Netvibes was my homepage of choice until I discovered Reader.

4. Zoho Office Suite. Perhaps the best online alternative to the Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Zoho has just about everything you’d ever need: a spreadsheet, word processor, presentation program, project manager, notebook, wiki, web conferencing, mail, chat, database and CRM. This might actually be my choice of the future.

5. Peepel. This new offering takes my online OS model almost literally — it offers a desktop environment from within your browser. This service contains office apps, accessible anywhere online, including a word processor, spreadsheet and more. I haven’t actually given this a spin yet, but I intend to. It’s limited in its current beta release, but it has potential and plans to expand in the future. Replaces Google Docs and Spreadsheets

6. Bloglines. If Netvibes or Google Reader isn’t for you, Bloglines is another popular and excellent choice.

7. Zimbra Collaboration Suite. Yet another online office suite, Zimbra started out with email/calendar functionality and has since launched spreadsheet and word processing apps. I haven’t tried this, but have heard excellent things about it, and I love that it’s open-source with an API that could have many uses. Another alternative to Google Docs and Spreadsheets

8. ThinkFree Online. Billed as the “best online office on earth,” ThinkFree aims to ween people from Microsoft Office to is web office suite. It has spreadsheet, word processing and presentation apps, online storage, document sharing and more. Unfortunately, only some of that functionality is free, but it’s still an interesting suite. Replaces Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

9. OpenOffice.org. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention everybody’s favorite open-source office suite, OpenOffice. It’s not an online app, but it offers everything Microsoft Office can give you, but for free, and without all the bloat. This is definitely worth a try, especially if you’re not only trying to get free from Google but Microsoft as well. Replaces Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

10. Flickr. An obvious choice as a replacement for Google’s Picasa web photo service, Yahoo’s Flickr is actually much more popular. My free Flickr account wasn’t good enough for me, but it’s a great service loved by many.

Can you get free from Google’s grip? Yes, I believe you can. As I said before, I’m more than willing to try out the alternatives, but Google’s apps are the best I’ve found so far. For those of you who aren’t fans of Google, there’s a lot more out there.

Leo Babauta blogs regularly about achieving goals through daily habits on Zen Habits, and covers such topics as productivity, GTD, simplifying, frugality, parenting, happiness, motivation, exercise, eating healthy and more. Read his articles on keeping your inbox empty, clearing your desk, becoming an early riser, and the Top 20 Motivation Hacks.

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