Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 7 post collection

My Alternatives to Google

 •  Filed under Google, Tools, FastMail, DuckDuckGo, Email, Dropbox, Heroku, Articles

Ever since going Google free, I've tried a number of different services to cover my needs. In this post I'll highlight seven alternatives to Google's own products.

Search Engine - DuckDuckGo

It's been two years now since I stopped using Google for searching needs and started using DuckDuckGo. Overtime I used DuckDuckGo's bang methods to redirect search queries to Google if DuckDuckGo didn't have what I was looking for, but overtime I've had to do that less and less. I'm not sure if DuckDuckGo's search results are improving or my searching needs have lessened over time. Either way, I'll be sticking with DuckDuckGo for the foreseeable future.

Email - FastMail

This is another service that I started using two years ago and I continue to use today. FastMail's email service isn't free for those with a moderate sized email archive, but paying for a service helps ensure that it stays around for a long time. Gmail is free, but with an email client that integrated a whole bunch of other Google services, it started to feel less like an email client and more like a communication centre. Gmail's spam filtering was also once the best spam filter in the field, but I'm glad to say that FastMail's own spam filtering is great and I've no complaints.

Cloud Storage - Dropbox

I never used Google's own cloud storage product, Google Drive. I've been a user of Dropbox since it first came out. What I like the most about Dropbox though isn't its pricing, or it's synchronisation across devices. I like the fact it isn't part of something bigger. I think if Google or Microsoft were to buy Dropbox then I would have to look at another cloud storage solution. I don't like the idea of having all my Internet eggs in the one company basket.

Document Management - Pages, Numbers & Keynote

Desktop apps can be just as efficient as cloud solutions like Google Docs. In fact maybe even more. I use Pages, Numbers & Keynote for all my document needs. I usually have my MacBook with me most days when I am working so using these native apps is a no brainer. If I needed remote access to my documents to edit them I would maybe consider using something else, but for my needs this is sufficient.

Analytics - Gauges

I was a long term user of Google Analytics for various websites over the years, but after a while I simply got overwhelmed by all the metrics and stats that Google provided. My needs were simple. I wanted to see how much activity my website was getting in terms of clicks and people. At the time was a product of GitHub, but the service has changed hands. It's still the same service that GitHub made and nothing has changed much over the time since the handover. Gauges isn't the only alternative though, there are a number of alternatives that serve different needs.

Blogging - Heroku & Jekyll

Who says you need to replace one service with another. What about combining products? My blog has been through lots of different iterations but since 2013 I've been using Octopress which is just a nice layer over Jekyll. Recently I switched to just using Jekyll. I didn't need the extra layer of functionality that Octopress provided.

With my blog catered for I needed a host as well for it. Given my website is static, I could use Amazon's S3 storage, but I wanted to be able to extend my site with Sinatra if needed. In the past I've used Linode to host my blog, but with Heroku's recent pricing change towards cheaper dynos, I'm now hosting my blog there. It also means that when I commit my changes to GitHub, my blog is automatically deployed to Heroku.

Rolling your own blog isn't difficult to do but for those that want a simpler way to publish, there's a number of good alternatives.

Calendar - iCloud & Fantastical

Lastly it's the turn of the calendar. I used Google's calendar service a lot. Probably second in line in terms of daily use to Gmail. I use Apple's Calendar app to keep my calendar synced between my laptop and my phone, but I also use Fantastical to manage my calendar on a day to day basis.

Going Googe free is a big move if you have heavily invested your time and needs in Google's own line or products and tools. I was fortunate in that I used mostly Gmail and Google Calendar and they required minimal effort to move across. Two years later, I'm still happy with my own chosen stack of apps that are outside of Google's borders.

Alternatives to Google

 •  Filed under Google, DuckDuckGo, Tools

Not only can you be Google free, but the alternatives are just as good in terms of functionality.

I suspect the ease of switching away from Google depends primarily on whether you use Gmail. I never have — it solves problems I don’t have, and I greatly prefer native IMAP email apps — so Google has never had deep integration with my data or a significant presence on my iPhone.

I didn’t set out to aggressively quit Google-everything, but once I changed my browsers’ default search engine to DuckDuckGo, that has mostly happened. The most surprising part was how easy it was for Google to mostly fall out of my life, how quickly it happened, and how little I missed it.

Why not Google?
by Marco Arment

A Big Problem for Google

 •  Filed under Google, Internet

Marco Arment on what could be Google's biggest challenge yet.

Shallow social-shareable listicles and clickbait headlines have always been plentiful on the web, but it does seem clear that they’re getting much worse and more dominant recently.

Google is making the problem worse, but they’re not the root problem. In fact, the real problem is a pretty big problem for Google, too:

Everyone’s spending increasingly more consumption time dicking around in apps and snacking on bite-sized social content instead of browsing websites and searching Google.

Google and blogs: "Shit" by Marco Arment

Does this explain why Google are going to show tweets in their search results?

Google Free

 •  Filed under Posts, Google

Tonight I took the final step in making the move away from Google. After much deliberation I made the move to migrate my Google Apps email account to FastMail. It was certainly less painful than I thought it would be and took the best part of an hour to get all three email accounts over to FastMail.

As for the other services from Google, I've found suitable replacements for many of their services over the last few weeks.

  • Switched to Pages and Numbers from Google Docs - I don't have that many documents to manage and I don't need them when I am on the move, so setup will be sufficient.
  • Switched to Feedbin from Google Reader - Feedbin is still young but it's growing and it's supported by the Reeder app for the iPhone. A no-brainer decision there.
  • Switched to Gauges from Google Analytics - Github's analytics service is ideal for my needs at the moment. It's dashboard provides all the information that I need at a glance and of course it has a greap API that's easy to use.

There are of course other Google services that I never really took too like Google+, Chat, Picasa, and their Drive service. I already use alternatives for these that I find to be much better so I never really got round to using these.

So why move from Google?

It was the all your eggs in basket argument. Google aren't going to go away anytime soon, but simply having all my information in one place was nerving. I wanted more control over my data, so I elected to find alternatives that would do just that.

I'm happy with the choice that I made in Google free. It's not for everyone, but having more control and investing more into products and apps that provide a better service certainly does give a better feeling than handing all my information over to one provider.

The cull continues

 •  Filed under Google, Posts

Ever since the news that Google was sunsetting it's Reader service, I've been looking at alternatives for the Google services I'm already using. I've started using Path as a replacement for Google Chat, and I'm using Apache OpenOffice instead of Google Drive. I'm not against Google as a service provider, but depending one company for a number of services is not a good move.

Two areas where I haven't found alternatives though is email and calendar. The calendar functionality I'm not too bothered about as there are plenty of options for scheduling apps and services.

The big decision I need to make is whether to move my email from Google to anything else. Gmail remains one of Google's key products that continues to work well. I'm looking at a couple of services for email, but the switch and migration of data will be a key consideration.

For the moment the cull of Google services will continue.

Going Google Free

 •  Filed under Google, Technology, Posts

Google free. I hear those words a lot now. Ever since Google decided to close down the Google Reader service there's been a question I keep asking myself. What's next in the Google product list to be closed? And I don't think I'm alone. There's been a lot of discussion about how long term other Google services will be? One thing's for sure. Nothing lasts forever.

Rather than sitting waiting though, I've decided to look for alternatives to the products and services that I can. I'm not aiming to go completely Google free, but I am looking to reduce my dependency on the services and software that Google provides.

The Browser

It was a tough choice to make, but I decided to stop using Google Chrome. Yes it's fast and probably the alpha browser for many web developers, but given that I want to stop relying on Google services and products, I had to look elsewhere. Well not too far, after all Mozilla Firefox is a great alternative to Google Chrome. I was up and running within a few minutes with Firefox thanks to the ability to import all my bookmarks and browsing history from Chrome.


Site tracking services such as Google Analytics have a bit more of a wide range of options than browsers do. In the end though I decided to use Github's Gauges service. It's simple and cheap. I don't need all the metrics that Google Analytics provides, just a general overview of traffic to my site. A couple of code changes to my own site and the Journalong site was all that was needed to start using Gauges.


Lastly there's Feedburner. Given that Google are no longer interested in providing a service that allows you to read RSS feeds, then I think that a service that publishes RSS feeds is going to be closed down in time as well. Already I have read of a couple of people on ADN who have stopped using their Feedburner accounts and are using the built-in RSS feed that their sites provide.

I haven't found an alternative service to Feedburner but I'm not sure that I actually want one. Subscription stats for my blog isn't something that I am interested in that much, but one thing I will miss about Google Reader is it's trends page. I just want to see how active a blog has been in the last 3 months so that I can decide if I want to unsubscribe from it. I'll be switching away from Feedburner soon.

These are the services that I have decided stop using with Google. What difference does it make? Not much, but I am happier not relying on one provider for all the products and services I use online.

Goodbye Google Reader

 •  Filed under Tools, Google, Posts

So Google Reader is finally being killed off. The RSS reader that spurred many clones and provided a way for you to follow any number of your favourite blogs easily is to close down this summer.

With very few updates to the service in the last couple of years it is hardly surprising. It might be a bad day for Google Reader fans but there's an opportunity here for someone to earn themselves a nice fortune.

The space left my Google Reader now means that there's a place for a well designed cross platform RSS Reader.
And I'm willing to pay for it.

Over the next few days I'm going to be looking for an alternative to Google Reader. It's sad to see the service go but nothing is forever. The one good thing from this is that Google Reader already provides a way for you to export your feeds. Shouldn't be too difficult to get up and running on something else soon.