Making Your Digital Life Portable

I am a Mac and iOS guy. Recently I started consulting in-house at a facility which is based on Windows. Managing all my information digitally, I suddenly became disconnected. On top of that, being away from my home office, I discovered that my iPhone battery runs out pretty quickly, and I must find a way to work with my Android Nexus 5.

I figured this is a common enough situation for professionals that my solution to the situation could serve others as well.

Having to work away from my Mac with its iCloud bookmarks, and reading list, the iCloud calendar, iCloud Reminders, iCloud Notes, required finding either a cross platform solution or an alternative. Some of the apps that I use are Mac only, like Things for task management, or iOS only like ClockedIn2 for tracking time. As I use the same apps on my iPhone as on my Mac Book Pro laptop, I enjoyed up to now seamless continuity that I had to recover.

Not all was lost, I use Kindle for reading books, Evernote for keeping notes, and mSecure for password management, all of which have a Windows version.

At first, my approach was to try to install on the Windows version of any application that I use on my Mac, such as Kindle and Evernote. But I soon discovered that some of them have no Windows parallel, such as Things for todo/task manangement. Some of them were blocked by the enterprise firewall such as mSecure. And some like iCloud for Windows did install, but did not really work - no bookmarks were synced.

So it was obvious that moving to a cross platform strategy that would span Mac, iOS, Windows and Android required a radically different approach.

The two-pronged strategy that I found useful was to:
1. Use cross-platform apps that sync across platforms through their servers, instead of iCloud
2. Use Chrome apps as an easy way to bring most apps into any desktop, without a separate installation

So here is my portfolio of cross-platform apps which is the first prong of my strategy:

  • LastPass - password management. Replacing mSecure which would not sync in an enterprise.
  • Evernote - notes management. Replacing iOS/Mac Notes.
  • Wunderlist - todo list, task management, reminders. Replacing iOS/Mac Things, and replacing iOS/Mac reminders.
  • Pocket - reading list and bookmarking. Replacing iCloud bookmarks, and reading list.
  • Toggl - time tracking. Replacing iOS ClockedIn2.
  • Chrome - browser.

All these by themselves are fine if my Windows desktop is not within an enterprise. So here comes the second prong of my strategy. Use Chrome apps for all of these.

With this cross-platform strategy, my digital life are now portable across whatever platform I use.

Now one thing I like about my new stack of apps is the seamless continuity of work. All these apps sync automatically to their servers not being dependent on a platform-bound syncing. Thus, you can start to track time on your Mac Book Pro latop and stop the tracking on your Google Nexus. With the central role of browsing and search in my professional life, I like Chrome history mechanism so that I can seamlessly continue my research anywhere. Similarly, as Pocket stores your reading archive, you have a cross platform archive of articles that goes with you wherever you go.