Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process. Also working on Idea Cafe.

The (Un)Obviousness of iCloud

In 2011, I made the move to using iCloud full time. This change was due mostly to the fact that I no longer trusted Google with my data (or any service where the user is the currency, not the customer). And while the change was primarily focused on Mail, Contacts and Calendars, over time I've really come to appreciate the iCloud experience in unexpected ways.

I say unexpected, because even though Apple gave a lot of PR attention to some of the iCloud features, they weren't important to me. Simply because I didn't use them before, or consider them as important in my usage. But over time I've come to enjoy other aspects of my Apple-centric computing set up: Reminders, Safari Bookmarks and Tabs, iCloud documents, and iOS device syncing.


A tool I never used in the past, Reminders are fantastic for time or location based items I don't want to forget. Playing with preferences in OmniFocus was an early attempt at this sort of thing, but iCloud made that unnecessary. Extreme hackity-hack power users may claim that Reminders aren't powerful enough, but for regular folks, and this guy, they do what what's needed and nothing more.

Reminders would be more of a novelty to me on only one device. But the fact that I can create one and forget it, because I know I will be notified by whatever device I have on hand, is a thing of beauty.

Bookmarks and Tabs

Another feature that became useful unexpectedly; having my browser setup synced across devices.

Okay, synced bookmarks are nothing new. But, like Shawn Blanc, I've come to realize that my usage of Yojimbo has really decreased. I keep a list of resources and items to read on Kippt. But I still require a certain set of bookmarks for work related items in my browser — and having those on all my devices is pure gold.

More so, I've found the tab syncing to be a fantastic addition. Throughout the day I keep Safari open in a non-work related Space, with numerous tabs open to articles I want to read later in the day. It's great that I can walk away (go to the bathroom) and have those articles queued up on my iOS device.

iCloud Documents

The majority of my writing now occurs on an iPad. And although the apps I use support Dropbox, it seems like iCloud has been the easier, more intuitive option. iA Writer on the iPad, plus the addition of the Mobile Documents folder (where iCloud documents live in OS X) to my Finder sidebar, have been another improvement to my setup.

iOS Device Syncing

This didn't really hit me until a call from a friend. He had a new iPhone 5, but it would not sync with iTunes on his Macbook at home. Why? Because iOS 6 wouldn't sync with the older versions of iTunes, running his version of OS X (10.5 or 6). He asked how to fix it and we came up with two solutions. He could upgrade his OS and iTunes, ordering the DVD for one version, then upgrading the rest of the way through the MAS.

But the second option came with a realization for me. It's been several iterations of OS X since I actually synced my iOS devices to iTunes. With iCloud, it's not needed. I pointed him to and told to sign up immediately.

For the past couple of years, I've slowly added various settings to my iPhone and iPad; settings like backing up to iCloud and the syncing of purchases. I never paid a lot of attention to these changes — they simply made sense. When I walked back in my head, I realized that my last two computer upgrades did not involve syncing my iPhone and iPad.

iCloud had made that step unnecessary.

And so it has gone with iCloud overall. I never really set out to use it to its fullness, but it has become integral to my computing experience. It should have been an obvious transition, but instead it was subtle. This past year came with migrations to two new laptops. The ease of setting up each blew me away both times. The combination of Dropbox (my data), Rdio (my music) and iCloud (preferences, OS X integrations, applications and everything else) is a powerful one and a testament to the time we live in.

Dropbox and Rdio are the primary cogs of my machine, but iCloud is the grease that keeps them running. And I think that's how Steve would have wanted it.