The first day started with me hunting for a decent replacement for Gmail. I knew the task wouldn’t be easy. Gmail, after all, does offer a whole load of awesome features. After tons of digging through a gazillion search engines, directories and forums; I finally decided to settle for Zoho Mail. It’s snappy, “offers ample storage for your emails”, POP access, threading, labelling (folders also an option), a good anti-spam system, and even Offline access. IMAP is also supported, but not out of the box.
IMAP support is a private beta, but you can easily get in by dropping a request on the support forums. The devs generally approve IMAP requests very quickly. I made the switch, and although I get hit by Gmail nostalgia every now and then, I’m pretty happy with Zoho Mail.
Day two dawned, and I wanted an alternative for Google Calendar (I tend to be quite the lazy dog on most days). I was actually surprised with the number of options that I had. However, I didn’t want a plain-vanilla, zero-fun calendar, and finally decided to settle for.
Mixin does a really good job of making event scheduling a more social activity. You can post to Mixin using your calendar application, SMS, email, IM, and wait for it”¦ Twitter! Once you’ve uploaded your agenda, you can head over to the Twitter-esque interface and compare your agenda with those of your friends and colleagues, collaborate agendas and make plans to rock your day!
By day three, I wanted to ditch my time-tested and oh-so-reliable Google Search. I shed a tear as I went looking for a fresh search experience. I didn’t want to stick with the giants (Bing, Yahoo!, etc.), and after much mouse-bashing and keyboard-whacking, I came across Kartoo. It’s a metasearch engine with a new take on how results should be displayed. There’s the traditional row list of results and you can also switch to a columnar view.
But it was the third view which provided me with great value. You can actually look at the results as a map of websites. The websites themselves are linked by additional keywords. These keywords can be clicked to broaden/narrow your search. I was surprised at how relevant the results were.
Google Wave has lately taken the world by storm. And it was exactly for this reason that I was itching to find a worthy alternative for Google Wave. I stumbled upon Scribblar. It basically aims to be a real-time whiteboard. It includes most of what Wave lets you do, and does it, IMHO, more efficiently than Wave. I almost used up an entire day loving Scribblar.
Being a blogger, I admonished myself for not having found a good news reader yet. Hence, I spent the fifth day looking for a good replacement for Google Reader. Amongst the web-based readers, nothing really matched up to Google Reader (apart from, maybe, Netvibes Wasabi). But I did come across a very powerful desktop reader. It’s a free, cross-platform client called BlogBridge. It requires the Java Runtime Environment to run and supports OPML import/export, tagging and pinning individual news items, apart from the usual set of reader features.
I also needed a good Docs and Spreadsheet alternative and came across EyeOS Public Server, which is actually an entire browser-based OS and contains a decent document and spreadsheet editor.
For my location hunting needs, I fixed my crosshairs upon Map24, a service by Navteq. The whole interface was slightly too cluttered for my liking, but I totally liked the functionality it provided. At times I couldn’t pick between Google Maps and Map24. Points of Interests are called “Channels” and can be dynamically added to/removed from the maps. The only downside to Map24 is that it has a bit of a bias towards the detail in which UK, and Europe are covered.
To round up my search for alternatives, I wanted something with which to replace Google Image Search. I found a pretty neat service, PicFindr, which let me query close to ten websites for free stock images. However, I did get the feeling that the interface wasn’t very sleek and left a lot to be desired.
Then there was Free-Translator (to replace Google Translate), which did a pretty OK job of translating blocks of texts, as well as websites into the usual languages.
I also found a pretty cool replacement for Google Notebook (I’m an information-junkie and keep snipping things to share with the world). While Evernote works for me perfectly, I came across something that is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. Justpaste.It encourages you to do exactly what the name suggests. Once you have pasted your info, it hands you a URL which lets you share your snippets with the world.
By the end of the seventh day, I had settled down into my new online routine. One, where getting my work done didn’t involve going to a Google subdomain. I could happily email, search, collaborate and organise, not really missing the Google life that I’d clung to for many, many years. Sure, the occasional twinge of nostalgia hit me pretty hard, but I’d moved on from being a Googaholic!
What are your favourite alternatives to Google’s services? Could YOU live without Google?