How is Google Phasing Out Local Alternatives?

For a long time, I’ve been a faithful Evolution user. Before that I was an OpenOffice user. Liferea was similarly popular with me.

These days, both only exist on my laptop because I didn’t want to eliminate the ubuntu-desktop metapackage (it’s not a great idea to do this unless using a stable release).

Their replacements? Not even installed locally.

Earlier, I mentioned several of my experiences with Writely* (more commonly known as Google Docs and Spreadsheets). The wonderful experiences have led me to use other Google products.

Evolution is a behemoth of an application. I’ll be honest: I don’t want a groupware. I want a mail client. However, Evolution is the simply the best of a collection of rather pitiful applications. I hate to say this, but Outlook is significantly better by great margins. While some might recommend programs like Sylpheed-Claws or its knock-off, Claws-Mail, I would prefer to use a HIG-compliant application or none at all. Similarly, the UI of Sylpheed-Claws was generally lacking overall, most likely attributable to its flagrant disregard for the GNOME HIG.

Gmail, which I had been using via POP3 in Evolution, however, despite its AJAX-rich set of features, is amazingly fast and responsive. Having set my secondary email account to forward to my primary one, I’ve found myself quite content. I’ve also found that when I reply to mail that comes via the secondary account, that Gmail replies with the correct email address: a very valuable feature.

In turn, though, I lost a Beagle index of my email. I decided it was worth the loss because, in the end, Google’s search for mail isn’t shabby in the least.

Having been thoroughly blown away by two applications, I went for gold and decided to use the rather new Google Feed Reader.

H-o-l-y C-o-w! The GFR offers some great functionality: smart folders and tagging of feeds for one. Thanks to the prevalence of many blogs using Feedburner in addition, adding a feed to GFR is as easy as clicking a button.

All of these are also supported by intuitive little widgets for one’s personal Google Homepage.

If Google continues this trend of producing light, but feature-rich applications for the web, I might find myself conducting just about everything besides my music listening via Epiphany. 😉

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13 Responses to “How is Google Phasing Out Local Alternatives?”


  1. 1 Lossy March 26, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I seem to remember a discussion about local and remote desktops and their ilk. If I’m not wrong you were very against said products. (Including remote software)

    Just curious what was the proverbial straw.

  2. 2 Will Farrington March 27, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I oppose an Internet-based Operating System.

    I think the concept is silly and reeks of simply doing it “because one can” and not because it is optimal.

    I use Google Docs on and off, but when it came down to it, adding an extra layer of complication to getting my email, feeds, and such, it wasted a lot of time. So after a reinstallation of Feisty Beta today, I’m back with my old standards.

  3. 3 lossy March 27, 2007 at 2:33 am

    I don’t see how it would add complication to getting your email. If anything it would add a layer of conveinance. You already stated you used gmail with pop3 access. You would prefer to login to check it?

    I’m on your side as far as client side OS’s go. However I think that too much is packaged in distro. A 30 mb OS download, with google apps, or its bretheren could be the future.

  4. 4 Will Farrington March 27, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Having to open a web browser for every simple task is not intuitive. Instead of having clear divisions between applications, you have a bunch of the same window open but doing entirely different tasks.

    This is not only confusing but difficult to navigate.

    It’s the difference between me opening Evolution and me opening Epiphany and then navigating to Gmail.

    Seems small at first, but over time it wears on you.

  5. 5 Paul March 29, 2007 at 4:46 am

    You say, “Similarly, the UI of Sylpheed-Claws was generally lacking overall, most likely attributable to its flagrant disregard for the GNOME HIG.”
    Flagrant disregard? These are strong words, and there’s not an inch of truth in them. We do attempt to follow the GNOME HIG, (although Claws is a GTK+ app, but not a gnome app), but clearly not as closely as some people would like. But it is only a matter of time. At some point maybe someone who says things such as you have said will take the time to give more than a vague criticism, will give some detailed information or some patches, even.

    BTW, Claws Mail is not Sylpheed-Claws’ ‘knock-off’ – whatever you mean by that – but the new name for Sylpheed-Claws.

  6. 6 Colin March 29, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    “Similarly, the UI of Sylpheed-Claws was generally lacking overall, most likely attributable to its flagrant disregard for the GNOME HIG.”

    Paul already replied to that, but I have to ask. Did you try out the old GTK1 version, or something?

  7. 7 Will Farrington April 1, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Colin – I was using the gtk2 version.

    Paul – It’s the little things that get me. Preferences et al should be in the ‘Edit’ Menu, not far off to the right in some other menu. There are many more examples of just these tiny things that make all the difference for me when I’m using an application.

  8. 8 Colin April 2, 2007 at 6:25 am

    Will: Reading the HIG again, it seems having Preferences in the Edit menu is often a good thing because “most applications’ preferences windows are accessed via a single menu item, and single-item menus offer poor usability”. (http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/hig/2.0/menus-standard.html)

    Claws Mail does have a Configuration menu, which is not a menu with a single item. So I fail to see how this particular examples breaks the HIG. (and btw, the G in HIG means “Guidelines”)

  9. 9 Will Farrington April 2, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Will: Reading the HIG again, it seems having Preferences in the Edit menu is often a good thing because “most applications’ preferences windows are accessed via a single menu item, and single-item menus offer poor usability”. (http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/hig/2.0/menus-standard.html)

    I understand this. However, even in such cases where multiple settings dialogs are used, many other applications prefer to still put them in preferences (using a divider to set them apart). (Such examples can be seen in Epiphany and Evolution and Banshee and Rhythmbox)

    Claws Mail does have a Configuration menu, which is not a menu with a single item. So I fail to see how this particular examples breaks the HIG. (and btw, the G in HIG means “Guidelines”)

    It’s a technicality that most other applications don’t seem to like to use. It’s Claws Mail’s prerogative if they so choose to use it. However, the Guidelines are still there for a reason.

    Also, there’s no need to be rude. You have your views on the matter and I have mine.

  10. 10 iwkse April 3, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    I understand this. However, even in such cases where multiple settings dialogs are used, many other applications prefer to still put them in preferences (using a divider to set them apart). (Such examples can be seen in Epiphany and Evolution and Banshee and Rhythmbox)

    Sorry but actually i don’t see the same configuration complexity in all such softwares you’re talking about and it’s worth to avoid a separated menu.
    Using preferences… for claws-mail would mean have only big mess till claws mail has a much more complex way to be configurable.
    It’s a technicality that most other applications don’t seem to like to use.
    I believe they will start to use that when will have the same functional and graphical complexity similar to claws-mail.

    It’s Claws Mail’s prerogative if they so choose to use it. However, the Guidelines are still there for a reason.
    Sorry again, but as Colin said “Guidelines” are just “Guidelines” and shouldn’t be taken as the laws of god. HCI could explain that much better..

    Also, there’s no need to be rude. You have your views on the matter and I have mine.
    Right, but don’t expect to say untrue things without to have a right reply;)
    Have a nice time

  11. 11 iwkse April 3, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    I understand this. However, even in such cases where multiple settings dialogs are used, many other applications prefer to still put them in preferences (using a divider to set them apart). (Such examples can be seen in Epiphany and Evolution and Banshee and Rhythmbox)

    Sorry but actually i don’t see the same configuration complexity in all such softwares you’re talking about and it’s worth to avoid a separated menu.
    Using preferences… for claws-mail would mean have only big mess till claws mail has a much more complex way to be configurable.

    It’s a technicality that most other applications don’t seem to like to use.

    I believe they will start to use that when will have the same functional and graphical complexity similar to claws-mail.

    It’s Claws Mail’s prerogative if they so choose to use it. However, the Guidelines are still there for a reason.

    Sorry again, but as Colin said “Guidelines” are just “Guidelines” and shouldn’t be taken as the laws of god. HCI could explain that much better..

    Also, there’s no need to be rude. You have your views on the matter and I have mine.

    Right, but don’t expect to say untrue things without to have a right reply;)
    Have a nice time

  12. 12 Colin April 4, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Hi,

    Also, there’s no need to be rude.

    Hmm, sorry about that, although I don’t see where I’ve been rude 🙂 – “flagrant disregard” OTOH… 😛

  13. 13 Will Farrington April 5, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I think to save ourselves many unnecessary posts “arguing” (aka flaming each other to death), we ought to just nip this in the bud with a simple agreement to disagree. Claws-Mail is good for some, and not good for others. Open Source is about choice anyway. 🙂


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