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So you decided to make the move to cloud services and the accompanying cloud software. While many of the cloud applications  features are similar to computer desktop versions, there are some additional tips and workflows we d love to share with you. You ll get the most out of any cloud services you decide to choose, including syncing it with your computers and mobile and handheld devices.

Working with Email, Contacts and Calendar

As we mentioned in our reviews of the excellent and refined Apple MobileMe and Google Apps, it s easy to keep track of your email, contacts (address book) and calendar, in the cloud, on your computer and on your mobile device. This is the big benefit of cloud services: syncing multiple devices, so you re not dragging your laptop with you to keep track of your messages, phone numbers and schedule.

With MobileMe cloud services, you simply log onto the website to check the array of cloud software, such as Email, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery (photos or videos), iDisk (virtual hard drive) and Find My iPhone. You can do this from any Mac or Windows computer s web browser (latest versions of Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer are supported), and you ll always stay up-to-date on everything.

If you don t want to go onto a browser, it s very easy to setup your Mac s Mail, Address Book and iCal software applications to sync with the MobileMe versions. Make sure you re running the latest version of Mac OS X. Go into your System Preferences pane, and click on MobileMe under Internet & Wireless.

From there, setup your Account info (username and password), then click on Sync and checkmark the items you want to sync with your desktop and MobileMe cloud services. iDisk and Back to My Mac allows syncing of the iDisk and file sharing between compatible devices, respectively.

Now you ll have your MobileMe account and your Apple computer synced up. If you re on a Windows PC, you ll need the latest versions of the MobileMe Control Panel, Outlook and iTunes. Launch the MobileMe Control Panel, select MobileMe (Network and Internet) and enter your log-in information.

From there, click Sync and choose  Sync with MobileMe  and  Automatically.  From there, checkmark everything you want to sync to your MobileMe cloud, such as Email, Contacts, Calendar and more. Hit the Sync Now button. For email, you can use Outlook or Windows Mail, but make sure you re using an IMAP setting.

If you re on an Apple iOS device, such as the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, click on Settings; under accounts, choose MobileMe and put in your log-in information. Turn on Mail, Contacts, and the rest you wish to sync. Then click  Merge with MobileMe,  and you re set. You can setup other devices, such as the Blackberry, Google Android and even Google Apps.

When it comes to Google Apps cloud services, it s super simple to setup across multiple devices. Since it s strictly part of their cloud services, you can simply log into your Google account on any Mac, Windows or Linux computer and pretty much all browsers. From there, you can check your Gmail, Contacts, Calendar and more.

Documents, Spreadsheets and Slideshow Presentations

While MobileMe cloud services doesn t have any sort of Office suite of apps like Google Apps does (called Docs), if you have the latest version of Apple s excellent and affordable iWork, you can easily share your Pages documents, Numbers spreadsheets and Keynote slideshow presentations at the iWork.com beta.

From within any of the iWork apps you re working in, click iWork.com at the top of the toolbar. A window pops up to type in emails to share the document with, plus you can type in a subject and message. You have the option to allow viewers to leave a comment or download it for view on their own computer or supported mobile device.

Click on Advanced, and you can change the name of the document; give a specific file format download option, such as an iWork app, Microsoft Word or a PDF -- all without manually converting and uploading multiple formats of your document; and put a password on it, to protect a sensitive business or personal document, such as a contract or a will.

Once it s done uploading, it will send off emails to the people you want to view it containing a web address to click to visit. Viewing a document, spreadsheet or slideshow presentation on the iWork website beta is a nice experience, and users can make annotations for correction.

You can t directly edit or create a new document at iWork s beta site, but if Apple adds that option in, it will help them stay competitive with Google s Docs and Microsoft s Office Web Apps. However, there is a way to write and edit iWork documents with a third-party app for the iPhone and other iOS devices, called Office2 Plus. It worked well for us, and there s both a free and paid version; we recommend going with the paid version to unlock all the features.

With Google Docs cloud services, it s easy to write, edit and view documents, spreadsheets and slideshow presentations on a Windows, Apple or Linux computer with a compatible web browser. You can also collaborate on a document in real-time, which is a huge bonus. On a mobile device, you ll be able to view the documents, but not edit them. There are some third-party apps for your mobile device you can use, such as Office2 Plus, which we discuss above, to write and edit Google Docs on your smart phone.

Summary

We hope this starts guide to using cloud services helps you get the most out of key features found in MobileMe and Google Apps cloud services. Make sure you check out the respective reviews to learn more about uploading and sharing photos and videos, files and more.

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