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Getting Free of Google’s Grip: The 10 Top Alternatives

Getting Free of Google’s Grip: The 10 Top Alternatives
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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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