My Week With Google

After writing an unexpectedly positive post on Google last week, I decided to take a week using Google's services to see how much they've changed in the years since I last relied on them.

First up, Gmail:

I originally registered the domain with Google Apps years ago, and as such was grandfathered in when they dropped their free domain tier. Even though I've changed email registrars several times all it takes is a simple MX records change to switch back. I had a Gmail account since literally the first day they were available in 2004. 10 years later I still can't get the hang of their web interface. I love the option of tags vs. folders and the spam filtering and server side rules can't be beat. It's the look and layout that just doesn't lend itself to the way I deal with email. After a couple of days I switched to IMAP using the built in Apple Mail. It was a nightmare. The way Gmail deals with the Archive (All Mail) folder created thousands of duplicate messages. Any mail with multiple tags was copied over and over into IMAP folders. What would normally be maybe 2 GB of mail resulted in a 6 GB+ database, effectively slowing Apple Mail to a crawl. I couldn't wait to get back to traditional IMAP.

Google Contacts:

This was a pain from the beginning. After uploading my 300+ contacts Google immediately began making weird contact groups based on import date and other metadata. It also changed the resolution of all contact photos to a pixelated mess. Contact groups (the ones I actually wanted) also don't sync to Apple Contacts on either Mac OS X or iOS.

Google Calendar:

The one Google app I had no issues with. Rock solid. Easy to use both as a web app and syncing with the Mac OS X and iOS Calendars. My only complaint is the inability to add anything more than a title and date in the web interface without opening the individual entry.

Google Docs:

Not nearly as powerful as Microsoft Office or even Apple iWork, but more than sufficient for basic documents and spreadsheets. The collaboration is second to none though, and other productivity suites have a lot of catching up to do in that regard.

Google Chrome:

Snappy, fast and least the first 10 minutes it's open. After that it becomes a major resource hog. Activity Monitor showed it consistently using up to a GB of RAM and 50% CPU usage, and that was only with 4 or 5 tabs open. It became almost unusable with more than that. My fan was also on overdrive constantly.

7 days may not have been enough time to truly give Google a fair chance, but the issues I had I can't imagine getting used to or accepting if I'd tried for 7 years. My main gripe is the lack of built in interoperability with my hardware of choice. As a dyed in the wool Apple user, iCloud and traditional IMAP services "just work". If I owned a ChromeBook and an Android phone/tablet I'd guess a lot of the syncing complaints wouldn't exist. I do understand the appeal though. For people who are used to managing everything on the web as opposed to native applications, Google is far and away the best option. It's just not for me, and the older I get the more I realize that's ok. I don't have to evangelize anyone who feels differently.