I’m starting to use Google’s various services almost exclusively to meet all of my Internet needs. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m looking for integration: pulling together all (or at least, the ones I commonly use) into a single unified system so that I don’t have to be switching about all the time. My most used Google services are Gmail, Google Reader, Google Calendar and Google Docs and Spreadsheets (actually just the Docs part), in that order. Gmail was the first google service that I started to use and it also has a large user base (probably third after Search and Blogger). More importantly, it was the first service that made a very elegant and highly effective use of AJAX technology.
Gmail is currently my home-page, it’s the first thing I see when I start my browser. Google has already integrated Docs and Spreadsheets with Gmail: attachments with documents or spreadsheets can easily be opened online. So one step in my integration journey has already been done for me. The second step is bringing together Gmail and Google Reader. Personally, I feel that a feed reader and a mail client perform essentially the same function: help you find your way through discreet pieces of information. So, it would make sense to bring them together. Google Reader and Gmail are both very good products (I consider them best of breed), but Google doesn’t give you a way to bring them together. However if you happen to use Firefox (and you should), grab the Greasemonkey exxtension, which lets you run scripts that can fundamentally change your browsing experience by affecting the way a particular website looks and acts. Once you’ve installed that, get this Google Reader Integrator. It will package up your Reader right inside Gmail. It’s tucked into the sidebar by default and when you activate it, the Reader appears below and you can use it as you normally would. When you’re done, you can tuck it up again.
As of now Gmail offers about 2818 megabytes of storage. But for someone like who uses only about 85MB (3%) of my storage space, letting all the rest lie around seems like an awful waste. Once again, it’s Firefox to the rescue. The Gspace extension lets you save files to your Gmail space. They’re saved as email attachments, so you can access them anywhere. An added advantage is that it let’s you leverage Google Docs integration to edit documents online. If you put up MP3’s you can listen to them online as well. And the Gmail search also simplifies finding your files. But if use this a lot, your inbox could get very cluttered so you’ll probably want to sent up some filters. If you’re a Windows user and don’t use Firefox, you can get a lot of the same functionality using Gmail Drive. A word of warning: you could get locked out of your account if you upload/download a lot at a time.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to integrate Google Calendar with the rest. I would really like something like the Google Reader Integrator and if nobody makes something like, I might take a dig at it myself. Till then, I’m happy with my integrated Google workspace as it is.