Work Smart: 3 Apps for Syncing Home and Office

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You're at home and want to edit a file that's on your work computer. You're on the family PC and want to see a photo you saved on your laptop. Most of us use several different computers on a day-to-day basis, but our files aren't always where we are. Three products make sharing and syncing information across all the computers you use each day easy and free.

Google Docs is an online office suite—kind of like having Microsoft Office in your Web browser. You can create word processor documents, spreadsheets,and PowerPoint-like presentations in Docs just by logging in with your Google account from whatever computer you're on. You can also export those documents to files you can work on in your regular office software, or email them as an attachment. Google Docs also lets you upload any kind of file you want—like photos, MP3s, or video files—up to 250MB per file, and up to 1GB of those files for free. So instead of carrying around a 1GB thumb drive, you can store files at Google Docs and get to them wherever you need them.

Google Docs is great for creating new documents, but if you've already got a bunch of files you want to sync between computers, check out Dropbox. You download Dropbox for free for your Mac or PC and create an account, and it creates a special folder called a dropbox on your computer. When you save files to that folder, they automatically get synced to all your other computers that also have Dropbox installed. Your Dropbox files are also available on the dropbox web site, and there's a Dropbox app for the iPhone, too.

Finally, if you're the type of person who wants to easily capture ideas and things you see while you're online or out and about and access them from any computer, check out Evernote. Evernote's different from Google Docs or Dropbox in that it's a note-taking application, but everything you capture in Evernote you can access from anywhere, including files. So, here's how Evernote works: You install it on your computer or on your smartphone, and then as you work, you can save anything you want to Evernote, like Web pages, files,even photos you take with your phone. Evernote does some smart stuff, too: If you're walking down the street and you see a flyer for a garage sale on Saturday, you can snap a picture of the flyer with your cameraphone, save that image to Evernote, and Evernote recognizes the text on the document. Back at your computer, if you search for the words "garage sale" Evernote will show you that flyer. You can snap photos of whiteboards or business cards and search for the text that appears on them in Evernote, and you can leave yourself voice memos, too.

So, depending on the kinds of information you want to sync or capture and access between computers, check out Google Docs, Dropbox, or Evernote.

Gina Trapani is the author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of Lifehacker.com. Work Smart appears every week on FastCompany.com.

Last week: Work Smart: A Single Trick for Remembering Countless Passwords

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7 Comments

  • Alain Saffel

    I recently started using DropBox and I have to say, I'm a fan. It's not a huge amount of storage, but for my work files, it's fine. I think I'm around 2.75 gigabytes of storage for free.

    I avoided going with Google Docs just because I rely on them too much already with email and work related stuff.

    I've tried Evernote and it seems alright but hasn't really convinced me it's a killer app I need to use every day.

  • Ed Abel

    My world changed when I discovered Google Docs. I'd be lost without it. Another great tool, though not necessary for syncing, is Jott.com. It captures your voice notes, converts them to text and sends them to your inbox. A lot easier then writing notes on a cocktail napkin.

    --
    Ed Abel - Founder ABEL Business Institute
    http://abelbusinessinstitute.c...

  • Colin McCarthy

    "You download Dropbox for free for your Mac or PC and create an account"

    Mac and PC???? Computing is no longer just a two horse race...have you not heard of Linux, possibly even Ubuntu? Dropbox is available for LINUX!!!!!

  • James Grant

    SugarSync should be included.

    www.sugarsync.com

    It is a fantastic tool. I use it to sync files between home and work. It handles mobile devices too but I'm a luddite so I don't make use of all that. Files are backed up on their server. You can publish files by sending a link to them (here's my smiling face):

    https://www.sugarsync.com/pf/D...

    You can give people a unique email address so they can send you files (and you can revoke that address later). 2GB storage free.

  • Pankaj Taneja

    HyperOffice has a nice approach with "Web folders" (http://www.hyperoffice.com/web.... A web folder lies and works on your desktop like any other folder, but is really a window to your online folders and files. Keep a web folder on your home PC and office PC, and you always find mirrored content.