To cloud or not to cloud? That is the question that preoccupies the modern human.
I choose to cloud (and practice safe cloud). While I don’t think Apple products are always perfect (I jailbreak my iPod Touch, and skip most of the built-in apps in OSX), I’m still a sucker for it. So when I upgraded to Lion, part of that excitement was about iWork in the iCloud with my iDevices and my
iMacBook MacBook. My hopes were quickly thrown out the window by the realization that not only would I have to buy iWork (or at least Pages) for Mac and for iPod Touch, but that the sync is only magical on an iOS device. I have to manually upload and download iWork documents on my MacBook. L-A-M-E, you ain’t got no alibee, bologna!
So I stick with DropBox and Google. DropBox actually keeps my docs in sync, or at least lets me view them, on my iDevice. Pages on the iPod Touch would be nice, but it lacks landscape orientation mode, which would make it difficult for me to fulfill my promise as the next Arthur C. Clarke. For pure editing and portability, though, there is nothing like Google Docs (save for maybe Zoho). Documents (the word processor) has gotten so much better over the last few years, to the point where I’m considering switching to it full-time from NeoOffice (OpenOffice) and Pages (I go back and forth depending on how open source I feel). Plus, they’re both free.
In Google Docs, it’s possible to see the paginated view, add page numbers, build a table of contents – to do most things you’d expect from a word processor. You can import and export all the major file types. There are a range of built-in styles you can apply. It still has some quirks, and it’s not nearly as
omnipotent bloated fully-featured as Word or OpenOffice are, but it gets the job done for most users. And I suppose, with Google Docs offline in beta status for now (I’m so glad they’re bringing it back – I miss Gears), I can at least look at my documents. Google says you can’t make edits in offline mode. You can, but they aren’t saved until you’re back online. A risky strategy.
The upside is that if I’m forced to work away from my MacBook, I can access, edit, and update the most recent versions of my files.
Currently, I write in my computer based word processor of choice (currently is Pages). Every so often, I export an RTF version of the document to dropbox. And even less often, I upload that into Google Docs.
In a perfect world, where everyone and every nook and
kindle cranny is permeated by WiFi, the cloud makes a lot of sense. For me, I like convenience, portability (that is, non-proprietary file formats – ironically, I do use Pages), and then power. Word offers power and portability, since every document editor ever has to open Word docs. Pages offers convenience (integrating with the wonderful three-finger double tap on OSX Lion and other gems) and beauty.
But when push comes to shove, Google Docs wins for me. It’s clean and simple (a plus), has enough features to get me started, available anywhere the interwebz is, and it lets me share docs instantly with my
wife editor for her to comment on, comments which I can then see and act on.
I’m still formulating my workflow (gee, ya think, Martin?), but I believe that the aforementioned StoryMill or Scrivener plus Google Docs will become my go-to for novel writing (and for writing novels). I’m currently in the process of moving most of my material into Google Docs, and then downloading versions into my Dropbox folder for a local backup.