App of the Week: Dropbox (plus a bonus)

 When you install a new app for the first time, your first thoughts are usually judging whether or not it’s worth keeping and using, especially for the inevitable day you get a new device.  It is not everyday, though, that an app makes it to your personal "top 10 apps" list, especially in the first 5 minutes.  But this week’s app, Dropbox, did just that.

 Dropbox is a file synchronization tool, that can also acts as a backup tool, and a file sharing utility, all in one program.  After making a free account on Dropbox’s website, you download the apps, and install it.  The app logs your computer into your Dropbox account, and makes a folder on your computer.  From there, any files you put in there are copied and uploaded onto Dropbox’s very secure servers.  You still have the file on your hard drive for anytime use, but also one online that you can access anywhere, anytime by logging into your Dropbox account through a Web browser.  Even better, it works for Mac, Windows, and the major versions of Linux.  They also have an iOS, Android, and Blackberry app (other systems on the way), that work a little differently, but we’ll discuss that in a bit.

 You can also make folders within your Dropbox folder to organize your stuff.  There is also a pre-made "Photos" and "Public" folder that allow you to share files with other people.  The Public folder is especially useful; once the file has been uploaded to the Internet, you can copy a link from Dropbox, and share it with anyone by email, social networking, anywhere you can put a link.  Once they click on the link, the file will start downloading to their computer. 

 Since it is cross platform, you can install Dropbox on multiple computers in your own house or across the world that will sync to your web account, so you have the same files everywhere.  You can tell Dropbox, though, to only sync certain folders to certain computers, which is nice if you don’t want to mix home and work files, but still want to keep them backup and access anywhere.  If Dropbox sees that your multiple devices are on the same network, it will sync over the local network first before the web syncing (which is many times faster).  I wouldn’t suggest syncing applications though, only files like documents, pictures, etc., as they won’t necessarily install across devices (not to mention the legal issues). 

The mobile apps work a little differently compared to the desktop apps: mobile apps only show you a link to the files in your Dropbox, but don’t download them to your device unless you manually tell Dropbox too.  A bit of a hassle, but makes sense given the small hard drive space of a mobile device compared to a full computer. 

What’s the catch you might ask?  Dropbox is free, but it only gives you 2 gigabytes of online storage, or the storage size of a small flash-drive.  For things like school papers, documents, etc., this is still a lot of space, but people with large photo or music collections  this certainly won’t solve their problems.  You can pay Dropbox for 50, or 100 gigs of online space.  However, Dropbox gives you several ways to get more space for free including:

        Following thier tutorial after the first installation,

        Connecting it to your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts

        Having a .edu email address (college students and professors).

        Sharing Dropbox with your friends

        And many more

 That’s where my apology comes in:  Last week, I went to Charleston to go help rebuild some houses for those in need (I highly suggest everyone does that many times in their lives, though don’t everyone fly to Charleston).  Because of my leaving though, and the purposeful leaving behind of my Macbook, I did not get a chance to upload an "App of the Week" post like I usually do.  For that I am sorry.  To make up for it, I have a special Dropbox link for you all.  If you don not yet have a Dropbox, and you want one, hit the link below.  Once your register, Dropbox will give you 250 megabytes of free space (about 1/8 the size of Dropbox by itself).  It’s not much, but it’s free space.  Can’t argue with that can you?  I didn’t think so.

Here’s the link: http://db.tt/AMoy7pj

And for those of you who don’t like the free space: www.dropbox.com

If you have an app that you would like me to look at, feel free to shoot me an email at easyosx@live.com, or leave a comment.  And don’t forget to check me out on Youtube by hitting the Youtube button at the top.  Thanks for reading.

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OpenOffice vs. NeoOffice vs. LibreOffice

Last Updated: February 16th, 2012

Looking at my blog’s stats recently, I’ve noticed that among the searches that lead people here is people asking for comparisons between OpenOffice, NeoOffice, and/or LibreOffice. I’ve decided to take the time to look at these 3 suites and write about what is good and bad about each. I’m going to keep it simple with what most people will notice, and not get too technical about data, code, etc.

NOTE: This comparison is between OpenOffice 3.3, NeoOffice 3.2.1, and LibreOffice 3.5

OpenOffice Startcenter

Let’s start with OpenOffice. OpenOffice is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. With version 3, it became a native app on Mac, and has for a long time been one of the primary default office suites on many version of Linux. With version 3.3, its icons have less color, going for a more minimalist look. Personally, I prefer a little color in the suite, but this is a minor change, but it does mean that it looks better in Windows, and especially better in Linux, than it does on Mac. It comes with read and write support for Microsoft’s .doc, .ppt, and .xls files, but can only read the latest versions of Microsoft’s .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx found in Microsoft Office 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Open Office is still a great free suite of tools to work with, but it still takes up a lot of RAM and energy. It no longer comes with many language dictionaries by default, which is nice for installation speed and hard drive size, but not so much if you have to download a lot of other languages. It has a lot of add-ons though, which you can download along with those dictionaries.

NeoOffice icon

Next is NeoOffice. NeoOffice is specifically Mac only, with its original purpose to be run natively on Mac (OpenOffice did not run natively on Macs until version 3). It uses on Mac’s Aqua interface style, which blends in well with the native Mac feel. However, since they have not updated to Mac’s latest interface style (dubbed Cocoa) it doesn’t feel as natural in Snow Leopard or in Lion (OS 10.6 and 10.7 respectively). The native icons actually take up more room on the toolbars than they do in Open or Libre, and the dock icon is kind of ugly. You can download some really nice looking icon packs for it though.
That being said, Neo really makes up for its style in features. It can also read and write Microsoft Office formats (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), including the .docx, .pptx, and .xlsx formats (which Open can only read); this ability is slightly limited though. Neo also has built in integration with iPhoto and other Apple applications, which is a major plus for those who deeply integrate themselves in Apple programs, fonts, etc. Neo is also easier to configure than Open, and generally takes better advantage of Mac’s processing power. Text highlighting is also Mac native, and can utilize Mac’s built in basic grammar checker, though I’ve found it a bit spotty at times.  Neo does use more RAM than OpenOffice though, and is reliant on Open for its code, meaning that Neo users have to wait a little longer than Open users for major version updates. Neo does send out more patches, fixing bugs and holes in the software, sooner than Open however. I’ve also found that it it slower to startup, sometimes taking a few minutes before the dock icon even shows up. Neo also does not have that nice Startcenter option like Libre or Open does, allowing me to choose what new document type I want to work in quicker. Neo generally opens documents faster than Open, but it is slower in printing and print previewing (very noticeable).  But NeoOffice does have it’s own mobile application for iOS, so you can sync, read, and edit document on your iDevice.  However, free users only get 10 Megabytes of storage and the documents are removed from online after 7 days, though not for donater accounts.  Since the update to Lion, NeoOffice has added Lion’s ability to Resume, go Full Screen, and to save as Versions.  While very nice features, NeoOffice is now donation only, so if you want to use the software now, you have to donate $10 (U.S.A.), which makes it seem less like a donation.

Finally we have LibreOffice. LibreOffice split off from OpenOffice for political reasons, mainly being that some developers did not like the way it was being run by its new managers at Oracle. Otherwise, it isn’t too different from either Neo or Office, but has few noticeable differences. Like Open, it runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux, but looks best in Linux, followed by Windows, then Mac. It has some of its own, more colorful icons that I happen to like. It has support for Microsoft Office documents, including better support for the .***x formats that were mentioned earlier. It also has SVG image support, better support for Lotus, Microsoft Work, and WordPerfect files, and 3D transitions in Linux. It also supports Open’s extensions, but has a few bundled in nicely including a Presenter view for Impress (PowerPoint), a PDF importer, as well a grammar checker. This grammar checker certainly doesn’t have the power of Microsoft Office, but it is a very nice addition and has been improved in the 3.5 update.  Called LightProof, it seems to work for English, Russian, and Hungarian.  Libre is constantly working to have a smaller footprint, and use Java as a base code less. It includes the multiple language dictionaries that by default were removed from Open. This does mean the install time is a little bit slower, but Libre makes up for it in being pretty quick to load up once installed, and being fairly light compared to the other two suites. Libre has had a lot of superflous and unused code taken ut of it, especially with the 3.5 update.  One last note is that it is somewhat separate from OpenOffice development, meaning that, unlike Neo, Libre can update before or after Open updates, however it sees fit. Compared to Open, it does tend to update on a quicker basis.  Before 3.5, Libre lacked the ability to auto-update, but version 3.5 has finally given Libre the ability to auto-update as new releases are published.  This is probably the most welcome feature for me.

So what’s the final verdict?  NeoOffice seems to be falling away from the spirit of open-source, though I don’t blame them for it.  The additional features for Lion are also certainly welcome, but the interface could really use an update.  LibreOffice, however, takes the cake in my opinion with the most features, a quick update and patch cycle, and being the best in terms of speed and resource footprints.  You can use the other, because in the end it is really up to the individual, but LibreOffice is the best of the three, and what I recommend to people who ask me.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at easyosx@live.com  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  You can also check out my Google Plus Page.  Thanks!

Welcome y’all!

This little blog is for those who like their computers, but aren’t so technically inclined.  This blog is going to be mostly about Macs, but I won’t limit it to that.  I’ll included Windows, maybe some Linux if I feel like it, some news, and tutorials on other things.  But Mac will still be the main thing here.

If you like what you see, have a comment, a question, or whatever feel free to leave a comment or email and I’ll see what I can do.  Probably will be uploading a video later.