As I switch between different operating systems I have always tried to use applications that work across these different environments, for example I use Firefox as my browser because it works flawlessly across Windows, OS X, and any Linux distro.
However, using Firefox as an example again, it doesn’t work so well on iOS and Android, especially on iOS compared to Safari.
Similarly, in a bid to try and break out of the so called walled garden I switched to Outlook.com instead of me.com and started using the Outlook.com iOS app instead of the native Mail, Contacts, and Calendar iOS apps that Apple provides.
I then went one step further and completely stopped using my iCloud account altogether, restored my iPhone back to factory defaults, then setup my iPhone from scratch under a brand new Apple ID.
Again, this was all in a bid to cut off any ties from one vendor and try to keep everything neutral. However, what I have learned from doing this is two things:
- My iPhone is my primary computing device (welcome to the post-PC era!).
- Native apps provide the best experience.
Yes, it really is true. Even though I am typing this blog post from my Windows 10 PC (my iPhone is currently restoring from my iCloud backup), my iPhone really is my primary computing device. As I switch between different desktop OS’s the one constant in my digital life is my phone. As I use it so heavily I started to realize the importance of native apps.
Without using my primary iCloud account on my iPhone I noticed how much I depend on it, which was one of the points I raised in an earlier blog post. I think iCloud is the sole reason iOS is so freakin’ awesome!
The Outlook.com app is great in a sense that a single app allows you to work with your mail, contacts, and calendars in one place, but I noticed that this severely impacted my GTD work flow. The app is completely decoupled from Notes and Reminders, which I rely on heavily. Also, the built-in Messages app would not work properly because it is not capable of pulling the contacts from the Outlook.com app. This meant that iMessage and FaceTime could not work on my iPhone, which is another must have because I use it to communicate with friends and family overseas.
Switching back to my primary iCloud account has enabled me to revive all of the integrations that I took for granted with the native apps on iOS. So, that’s iOS sorted, but what about OS X, Windows, and Linux?
- Linux: Let’s start with the easy one. I am very confident that I will not be using Linux as a primary desktop OS again for a long long time, so I do not need to worry about that. I have been using Ubuntu & Fedora as virtual machines within OS X and Windows, but I do not need to worry about syncing my data to the VM’s, as everything is on the host.
- OS X: The second easiest one is OS X, because I will set this up just like iOS.
- Windows: So here is where things get interesting and I know I have touched on this point before. I love using Microsoft Office and having signed up for Office365 with my Outlook.com account I can still use that to sync documents and continue using OneNote. However, I can use the iCloud Control Panel application in Windows to sync with Outlook for mail, contacts, calendars, and reminders as well as Internet Explorer (and now Firefox!) for my bookmarks.
This gives me the best of both worlds, as I can now fully utilize the native apps across iOS, OS X, and Windows that are designed to work extremely well within their own environment all the while utilizing iCloud as the glue (or SaaS if you feel so inclined) that holds all of the information together between each environment.
I feel as though this is still very platform agnostic, because if I continue to use Windows I can! With the added benefit that I don’t have to switch cloud providers, which for some strange reason I always feel is necessary!
What about Android? Exactly! What about it?! I very rarely use it for personal use like browsing/shopping/checking emails etc, so I was actually thinking of using it primarily for work. Seeing as the company I work for is a Google Business Apps shop and Android is drenched in Googleism why not use it for meetings instead of obnoxiously pounding away on a physical keyboard when taking notes? Anyway, that can be it’s very own post.
Going back to the context and title of this post the reason I am calling this a plagtech revamp is that this experience has changed the way I look at being a platform agnostic technologist. In order to be plagtech one does not have to abandon the native apps that work so well on each respective platform. I can still enjoy the power of native apps and the seamless integrations they provide, so long as the cloud service providing the behind-the-scenes mojo works well across multiple platforms. In this case, so far, iCloud seems to do a bloody good job across iOS, OS X, and Windows.