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10 must-have tools for cloud power users

JR Raphael | Dec. 8, 2011
All it takes is a few simple browser add-ons and other tools to unlock the full potential of the Web's most popular services.

Syncdocs can actually sync any type of file, office-oriented or not; you just tell it which folder to watch (only one, but you can nest folders to include as many files and subfolders as you want), and anything that's added or changed there will automatically be updated in the cloud. The only limitation is the amount of storage space available in your Google Docs account; by default, personal Google accounts come with 1GB of storage for files that aren't in Google Docs format, with additional space available for purchase. (Files that are in Google Docs format don't count toward the storage limit.)

Syncdocs will keep up to 250 files synced for free. For the full, unlimited experience, it'll run you $20 a year.


Don't let its strange-looking name scare you: -- short for "If This, Then That" -- is a robust tool that can add layers of powerful automation to your cloud-hopping adventures. As a browser- and OS-agnostic Web service, it connects directly to other Web-based services and interacts with them on your behalf.

IFTTT lets you define any number of "if this happens, then do that"-style rules, using a combination of triggers and actions. You could, for example, tell the service to watch your Facebook page and automatically upload to Dropbox every photo in which you're tagged. You could set it to automatically save any stories you star in Google Reader to Instapaper or Evernote. You could even instruct the service to grab any photo you upload to Facebook and automatically send it to Picasa too.

IFTTT currently supports about a dozen different services, including Dropbox, Facebook, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Talk, Instagram, Instapaper and Twitter. It also offers support for phone and SMS-based interactions -- allowing you to, say, receive a text message anytime your boss sends you an IM, or get a phone call anytime a new item pops up in your company's RSS feed.

The possibilities with this tool are practically endless -- and best of all, it's completely free.

Gmail Offline

Keeping your life in the cloud is great -- except, you know, when the cloud isn't there. Enter, Google's recently revamped method for accessing your inbox while offline.

Gmail Offline is a simple extension of the Chrome browser. Once installed, you run the utility once to initialize it, and that's it: You can then read messages, manage your inbox and compose new mail without an active Internet connection. The free extension will automatically sync your changes the next time you're online.

Google now offers offline capabilities for Google Docs and Calendar as well; those services, however, have to be activated separately. Just click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the screen on each service and look for the link to set up offline access.


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