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Being productive on the road

I’ve worked hard for the last few years to be productive while away from the office, but a recent trip to Michigan showed me what I was lacking.

I have three primary computers; a beefy desktop, a solid laptop, and a netbook.  My goal is to be able to pick up any of the three machines at any time and have virtually all of my tools available to me.  Using web-based services such as Gmail and Nozbe are easy, but the challenge has been with desktop-based software like code-authoring and FTP tools.  I’ve just about got it worked out, so here’s what my arsenal looks like today.

The tools I’ve used for a while

Gmail – Love it. Being web-based it’s available on any computer I’m using and has a great interface on my Droid X

Google Reader, Calendar, Analytics, etc – All are web-based.

Nozbe – For task management. I have dozens of projects in there and it works great. Despite searching for something better, I haven’t found it.  Nozbe is still doing a great job.  No Android app yet, but their mobile version is good enough.

Evernote – I have it loaded on all three computers (along with their weak Android app), so they’re always in sync with my 500+ notes.

Dropbox – Aside from personal photos and videos, ALL of my files are in there; more than 15,000 of them, taking over 13GB of space.  Every file is accessible from any of the three computers and from their Android app.

Tweetdeck / Sobees – I use Sobees on my main computer (more screen real estate to play with) and Tweetdeck on the laptops.  On Android I’m currently using Seesmic and I’m quite pleased with it. Since they all pull directly from my Twitter account, they’re automatically in sync.

The new tools

Now, none of that stuff is particularly new to me.  I’ve been doing that for a while and it’s worked great.  My problem is when a client needs something fixed and I’m on the “wrong” computer.  I’ve used Dreamweaver for years (love the way it handles FTP and code coloring) and a variety of FTP clients.  The problem is that I’d add FTP info on one machine, but I’d need to add it on the others as well.  This wasn’t a big problem since I keep that information handy (mostly in Evernote), but it was a pain.

The problem became worse because WordPress 3.0.1 was released while I was up north this time.  I’m responsible for nearly 80 WordPress installations (some are mine, some are friends, some are clients, etc), and the quickest way to update them is to find the “changed files” each time and push them up via FTP.  I had all of those sites saved in my FTP software at home, but only a handful on the laptop.  Finding and loading the credentials for the others would have taken quite a while.  Even then, I still wouldn’t have them on the netbook or in Dreamweaver on either machine.

My solution was a few portable applications. “Portable” applications are designed to run off of a thumbdrive.  It’s quite cool; pop the thumbdrive into a computer, and run the application directly from there — no installation necessary.  For an IT person that needs to carry around various anti-virus and other tools, it’s gold.

For me, the great part about these apps is that they can be installed within Dropbox and run from there.  I loaded FileZilla Portable to handle FTP and I purchased phpDesigner7 Portable to handle code writing/edits.  I spent a few hours and loaded the credentials for all of my sites into both programs, and now I’m rolling!  Any edits to either program get automatically saved to Dropbox and synced to the other machines.

So far it’s working out great.  Not only am I looking forward to my next trip, but it’ll make purchasing a new computer much easier; I simply install/sync Dropbox and Evernote and I’m nearly done!

How do you manage software/data across multiple computers?

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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