There are a lot of cool services and applications on the internet- no doubt about it. I use a lot of them, and they make my life easier, more organized and more fun. But they can be better. And I’m going to tell you how. Starting right now.
I’m going to improve the various services and applications I use, one or two at a time. Starting at the top, with Google.
I have capitulated to Google and have moved a lot of my information and data to the various Google apps. Most of them work very well, though it was a mistake to abandon Google Notes, since a full featured application suite needs a note taking app. So Google improvement number one is to bring back Google Notebook with a commitment, or better yet buy Evernote.
Google Calendar is very elegant, and the sync app works well. I have generally moved my personal calendar to Google Calendar. I wish there was a better, more flexible way to sync multiple calendars, so I could sync my Outlook calendar at home and at work with Google Calendar. Much of the business population that Google covets has this issue, and Google could make great inroads with that population by making it easier to sync multiple calendars, without the soul crushing multiple (upon multiple, in some cases) event problem that many of us have experienced.
While Google Calendar is elegant and works, Google Contacts is an absolute train wreck. It looks like something that was tossed in as an afterthought. But people need a central contacts application just as much as they need a calendar. Google needs to put 10 or 20 of its best people in a room for a week (or however long it takes) and tell them to completely rewrite Google Contacts, including a way to sync contacts along with calendars.
Some will point to Google’s exchange-based sync option, which works reasonably well. The fatal flaw in that approach is that the much-desired business population uses Exchange to access their work email and, as we all lament, you can only configure one Exchange sync. So Google needs to create a way to do the same thing via desktop applications. And while they’re at it, add the ability to sync email via the exchange-based sync. Currently, only contacts and calendar are supported.
The easiest and perhaps most needed improvement is to make the various Google apps more integrated. Google has made strides in this area, but too many of the apps still look and act like separate programs. They should look, feel and act integrated. One giant, easy step would be to give the user more control over the links at the top of the various Google app pages. Why can’t I add Contacts, Google Voice, Google Maps, Tasks and even custom links to other sites (like Flickr) to this list?
Google needs to give the user more control to create a personal control center, from which the user can easily access the things the user needs- not just the stuff Google thinks we might need.
I’m slowly learning to like, if not yet love, Gmail, and I’m not going to preach again about Gmail folders, though folders should be implemented, at least as an option. Another mandatory thing Gmail needs is a one click way to backup all of your Gmail on your hard drive or to the cloud location of your choice. With the backed up data to be searchable, perhaps via Google desktop search. Also, while the ability to use a third party mail server to avoid the annoying “on behalf of” confusion is wonderful, Google should not limit the ports you can use to do that. For various reasons, some people have to use another port to access their mail server. Google should accommodate this.
The port choices above are limited to 587, 465 and 25
I use Google Reader more than any other Google app. It works great, with one small annoyance that, like dripping water, can drive you mad over time. Google badly needs to figure out a way to speed up the process of marking a group of items as read. There is a small but aggravating delay between clicking the “Mark all as read” button and the moment the applicable items disappear. I don’t care how much of my computer resources it takes, I want that action to be instantaneous. I’m talking speed of light fast. That one little thing would vastly improve the quality of my online life.
Google Documents is very close to becoming a legitimate alternative to Microsoft Office. I have migrated my wife and kids to Google Documents, and I’d like to migrate there too. But for me- or any other corporate user- to have the option to use Google Documents full time, Google must implement a way to show document edits in a track changes compatible manner. If someone sends me a document, I simply must have the ability to edit the document and send it back with my changes apparent. Google Documents has a way to view versions and edits (Tools>Revision history), but the compare feature is not elegant and there’s no way to send a document with revisions marked that can then be accepted or rejected by the recipient. Sure, it would be nice- for Google- if everyone collaborated online via Google Documents, but that is never going to happen. If Google really wants business users, it is going to have to come up with a workable, emailable, track changes equivalent.
That’s enough to keep Google busy for a while.
Coming up next: Evernote