Looking at alternatives to Apple’s apps

Anthony Caruana
20 February, 2017
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Over the last couple of weeks, circumstances have dictated that I use a Windows 10 system for some of my work. For many tasks this makes little difference to how I work. As long as I can access a decent web browser, Evernote and Microsoft Word, I can work on almost any system.

But working on multiple platforms means finding tools that work well across platforms. When you work completely within Apple’s ecosystem (some call it a ‘walled garden’) it’s pretty easy. Mail, Safari, Calendar, Notes and a bunch of other apps do the job for simple tasks and, assuming you use iCloud, sync nicely between devices.

There are a few exceptions. iCloud Drive, Apple’s response to tools like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, offers very little storage for free. And, while Pages, Numbers and Keynote do a good job for many typical office productivity tasks, Microsoft’s applications remain the lingua franca for sharing documents in the business world.

Some people have suggested Google’s apps as an alternative, particularly when it comes to having a multiplatform browser and email solution. So, over the last week, I’ve been experimenting with the iOS versions of the Gmail app and Chrome.

I’ve encountered two big hassles.

Apple won’t let me set Chrome as the default browser in iOS. And without jail-breaking my devices – something I won’t do as it opens the iPhone to a number of potential security risks –  there’s no way around it.

The Gmail client lacks two important features that Apple’s Mail app offers. An ‘All Inboxes’ view that brings the contents of multiple inboxes (I have five email accounts for personal and various clients) into one place. And there’s no easy way to display just my unread messages. Apple’s Mail app, in iOS 10, has a little filter button in the bottom left corner that lets me display only my unread messages with a single tap.

And I have the same issues with Outlook 2016 on Windows 10. If I was a developer I could probably write some VBScript to overcome these issues, but I’m not a programmer.

So, while many critics point to Apple’s less than flexible approach to many things, the company has thought about how people work at little more deeply than some of the competition.

Next time someone tells you other platforms are more flexible, it may be worth asking them if they can perform some simple tasks without having to mess around with highly technical solutions.

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