Replacing Dropbox With iCloud Drive

I’ve been using Dropbox for several years, and I can’t remember ever having a serious problem with it. It’s just where my files go. Lately, however, I’ve started wondering if it’s something I need to keep paying for or have installed on my Mac. The main reason is that I’m already paying for another cloud file syncing thing — iCloud Drive. It may not have all the features of Dropbox, but I feel as though my use of those features has gone down a lot in the last couple of years.

What’s Changed

There’s three things that would have kept me on Dropbox before recently:

  • Apps that rely on it.
  • Collaboration and sharing.
  • An uneasy feeling trusting iCloud Drive with all my documents.

At least two of these things have changed a lot. I’ll go through all of them.

Apps

I used to use text editors like Elements or nvALT on iOS and Mac for notes, but I’ve been using Apple’s Notes app for a while now, and it’s just fine. Other apps like Byword and 1Password include iCloud syncing as an option. I’ve been using iCloud for those apps for a long time now and I can’t remember the last time I had an issue. It seems like either everything I use has added iCloud as an option or I’ve moved to something else.

Collaboration and Sharing

Dropbox definitely has better sharing options. Where iCloud has these features, I have no complaints. I’ve used the collaboration feature in Notes and it worked great, but that’s about the extent of my use. Mostly I’m just not collaborating in this way as much as I used to. At work I’m using Trello or Google Docs, and in the rest of my life this just hasn’t really come up.

I’ll miss the ability to right click and generate a link for any of my documents, but Droplr seems like an okay replacement.

If I was still using shared folders as much as I was a couple years ago, I’d definitely be more tied to Dropbox, but I’m just not, so this has become a bit of a non-issue for me.

That Uneasy Feeling

I’ve had no problem syncing the things I have through iCloud in the last couple of years, but I just don’t trust it the way I do Dropbox to keep my stuff. I have no evidence or strong reason to think that — just a general feeling of unease.

Apple’s strategy has been to present everything as though nothing will ever go wrong with any of their software or services, and so the user doesn’t need a lot of tools to help recover when something does. Because it won’t. Ever.

All of Apple’s services just feel opaque. iCloud drive isn’t great as far as letting me know the status of my documents. If it did break in some horrible way, I have no trust that I would have a good way to get my stuff back.

Unfortunately I don’t see this changing.

My solution is to make sure I’m backed up and hope for the best. I don’t really know what else I can do to move forward other than to keep paying for multiple cloud syncing services forever. Hopefully it all works out.

Moving Forward

Currently iCloud is in the middle of uploading a couple hundred gigabytes of data that was previously stored in Dropbox. When that’s finished, I’ll move my Dropbox account to the free tier and uninstall the app from my Mac.

There’s going to be things that annoy me about iCloud Drive forever. I hate the way it gives each app that uses it a top level directory, and I really don’t like that it’s not just a folder in my home directory but instead has my files stuffed away somewhere non-obvious.

The strange feeling I have is that I’m not moving because iCloud Drive has gotten better than Dropbox, or even that it’s gotten as good. I’m moving because maybe it’s become sufficient for my needs. I’m purposefully not using what’s clearly the best thing on the market, because I think I’m willing to live without some of it’s features. Hopefully it’ll be good enough.

Spreadsheets Are Cool

I’m not accountant, I don’t financially analyzing anything besides my personal budget, and I have almost no occasion in my work to ever use one, but I get excited about pretty much any time I can think of a use for a spreadsheet. There’s a lot of times where a spreadsheet can replace an app made to do the same thing. A lot of the time the spreadsheet will be even better, because it’ll be customized to just the fields you need. Plus Numbers/Google/Office all sync now — which isn’t at all a given with apps. And if something I’m tracking becomes cumbersome with a spreadsheet, it could turn into a great proof of concept for my next app.

Let me give some examples.

Sleep Journal

As I wrote about in my last post, I’m currently in the process of trying to fix my sleep schedule and become more of a morning person. The way I’m tracking that is with a Fitbit Flex I wear to bed and a spreadsheet that I keep in Numbers. Fitbit tracks most the data I need, but not everything (what time I put on my blue blocking glasses and misc notes). Also, leaving that data locked into Fitbit doesn’t help me if I want to analyze my habits overtime with charts, or if I want to share that data (in a future blog post, for example).

Commute Journal

To get from my apartment in the Sunset District (also known as Mars) to downtown San Francisco and back, there’s a few routes I can take, and I’d like to know which one is the best. What I’ve started doing is tracking my trips by using the iOS clock app and marking laps at points I want to track (when I get on/off public transit). This way I can track the average time each route took, how much time I spent walking versus public transit, and maybe if there’s a way to combine those segments differently to cut a few minutes off my travel time.

Car MPG & Maintenance

I don’t currently have a car, but I do have an RV. I track what kind of mileage I’m getting, and also when there’s maintenance done. When you’re driving around in a 27 year old vehicle, it’s best to stay on top of these things. If I see my gas mileage tank, I start to think there might be something up, and I take it in to get looked at before anything gets too bad. I used to use the app Gas Cubby for the same thing, but since it stopped being updated, Numbers has done the job just as well.

Auto-Incrementing Build Number Script

I got this from somewhere I can’t remember. I’ve been using it a while and it works very well. I have it setup so that it will happen whenever I archive a new build for beta or release. You’ll want to change those configuration names to whatever your configuration names are in your project.

Add a “run script” phase to your targets build phases with this script and put it just below “Link Binary With Libraries”.

Acorn 5

It’s a couple of days back now, but Flying Meat has released a new version of their fantastic image editor: Acorn. I’ve used Acorn for my work and personal projects since version 1.0 in 2008, and it’s incredible to see how far it’s come while still keeping the simplicity that made it so appealing in that first version.

Gus is a friend — so don’t tell him I said this — but to me he’s always been the epitome of the one person indie who’s both a world class developer and also a fantastic designer. Check it out.

How the CEO of Evernote Organizes

I never feel like I have a great answer on how to organize anything, so this response on Quora by Phil Libin is really interesting to me.

The main points are that he:

  • Changes it up pretty often.
  • Has about forty-five total notebooks.
  • Has one primary notebook that most things go into.
  • Most of his other (at least thirty) notebooks are shared.
  • Doesn’t use very many tags.
  • Uses one notebook for each “major” conference he goes to.

I’ve also found most of my stuff going into one notebook (I call it “Filing Cabinet”). The most effective way for me to find anything is to search, so it would probably be useful for me to pare down some of the other notebooks I have and use a few strategic tags in their place.

The Kindle Is Flawed But Worth It

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. I like it a lot. The backlight isn’t so intense I can’t read in bed without keeping myself up all night, it doesn’t get uncomfortable to hold, and it doesn’t give me the option to get distracted and open Twitter.

The typography does indeed suck. None of the typefaces look all great at the size I want to read them at. I keep flipping between Baskerville and Caecilia. I’m gravitating more towards Caecilia because it looks decent at smaller sizes on the lower resolution screen (probably Amazon chose it originally). Anyway, it’s not that bad — I can live with it.

GoodReads integration is cool, although I have no idea why it’s so manual. The Kindle shows me what percentage of the book I’ve read on every page, but for some reason, even after adding the book to GoodReads from the Kindle (why can’t it have an option to sync my books automatically?), I have to go to the GoodReads website to update how far into the book I am there (which I won’t ever do).

This is actually not the first Kindle I’ve owned. I had a second generation Kindle in 2009 (which I stopped using at some point). It’s quite an upgrade in a bunch of ways, although you can tell that the main focus has been making the Kindle cheaper and that making the reading experience better was secondary. The screen is better, but not iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 better. Not refreshing between every page flip is nice, although I don’t remember that bothering me too much.

One thing that really stinks and hasn’t changed at all is that reading books which aren’t just prose is awful. I’m currently reading The Practice of Programming, and just finished a book called The Next America. The Practice of Programming has lots of code samples, which get formatted badly between pages. The Next America also had a lot of problems. There were a lot of charts in it which rendered at a size I think would be illegible for a lot of people. Still, I’m sick of having to move books around from place to place and the space they take up, so it’s worth it. It’s just surprising that in 5 years they couldn’t make this better.

I guess what I really think is that the Kindle is flawed in a lot of ways, but that it’s the positives — e-ink screen, having every book with me always, not having to own and move a bunch of large heavy books — are so appealing that for less than $200, it’s worth it to own one.