Free Alternatives to MobileMe for Mac, Windows and Linux

My MobileMe trial subscription just expired. And I sure as hell won’t pay $99 for something I can get for free. Read about my best free substitutes for MobileMe for Mac, Windows and Linux.

In a perfect world, MobileMe would be free. I mean, after you pay an insane amount of money for a computer and expensive display adapters, they could at least thank you with a free MobileME account. But, no sir. They want to scam you for your very last dime, but it won’t work this time.

MobileME offers cloud services for Mac, Windows and iPhone/iPod touch. You get your email (a @me.com e-mail address), contacts and calendar in sync on all platforms, iDisk online storage repository, a web gallery to publish photos from iPhoto/Aperture or iPhone and movies from iMovie, iWeb publishing space, Back to My Mac feature and a web interface to access all your data. All these features share in common only 20 GB of space.

I have to admit that the tight and elegant integration with the Mac and the plethora of features it offers, makes MobileME a great service. But it is not worth 99$.

Mail

Mac

Set up Mail to use your Gmail account with IMAP. You get 7+ GB of space, 20 MB attachment limit, labels (folders) and the possibility to gather all your mail from other POP3 accounts.

Windows

I’d say skip Outlook all together and stick to Gmail’s web interface, but if you like Outlook, configure it to use Gmail with IMAP.

Linux

Use your favorite e-mail client and configure it for your Gmail IMAP account.

iPhone

You can use Gmail IMAP but you don’t have PUSH mail (I wonder why Yahoo Mail has PUSH, but Gmail does not). For PUSH, you can configure an Yahoo account or a free Mail2Web Exchange account and have your Gmail account mark as read and forward all incoming mail to one of these accounts. To reply, use your Gmail account.

Web

Gmail’s interface is simple, clean and functional. The big difference from other email systems is its threaded conversations. Many times I wanted to quit Apple Mail for Gmail’s web interface.

Calendar

Mac

iCal can be synced to your Google Calendars using the CalDAV protocol. Use this nifty application for easy setup.

Windows

Use Google’s Calendar Sync tool for Outlook or get a free Plaxo account and install the Plaxo Toolbar for Microsoft Outlook to sync your Google Calendars.

Linux

You can use Evolution’s built in support for Google Calendar or use Thunderbird + Lightning Calendar extension + Provider for Google Calendar extension.

iPhone

You can do it the offline-way by syncing the calendar when you connect the iPhone to iTunes or over the air, where you have some viable options:

- NuevaSync is a web-based solution that creates a Microsoft Exchange account you can connect to, so there is nothing to install on your iPhone. There is a security threat, because all your Google data goes through NuevaSync’s servers. Also, note that all your calendar events on your iPhone will be wiped and replaced with Google Calendar’s events. The iPhone allows only one Microsoft Exchange account, so if you already used Mail2Web for push Gmail then you need to choose another solution for Calendar Syncing.

- NemusSync is a Cydia/Installer application, so you can install it only on a jail-broken iPhone. It can sync your Google Calendar with iPhone’s Calendar on demand. It supports multiple calendars and multiple Google Accounts.

- SaiSuke is $10 iTunes Store separate calendaring application, where syncing to your Google Calendar is a breeze. It is actually better than iPhone’s built-in Calendar app because it offers many extra views.

Web

I consider Google Calendar’s web-interface better than iCal or Outlook. The Quick Add feature that lets you type natural language sentences is very useful.

Contacts

Mac

You can enable Address Book to sync to your Gmail Contacts fairly easily if you’ve connected an iPhone or an iPod touch to your Mac before. If not, you need to follow these instructions to get the Sync with Google option to appear in Address Book’s preferences.

Windows

Use a Plaxo account with the Plaxo Outlook Toolbar to sync with Outlook Contacts.

Linux

You can use Evolution’s built in support for Google Contacts or use Thunderbird + Zindus extension .

iPhone

You can try the offline way with syncing to iTunes or over the air with NuevaSync’s free Exchange account.

Web

Google Contacts separates your contacts in to two groups: My Contacts and Suggested Contacts. Suggested contacts contains people you e-mailed frequently.

iDisk

Mac

Use Dropbox. You get a Dropbox folder in your Documents folder. Everything you drop here will be uploaded into the cloud (you get 2 GB for the free account) and from there downloaded to all your computers where you install Dropbox.

If you drop a file in the Public sub folder of Dropbox, with a right click on that file you get a public link that you can share over email or IM.  If you use Dropbox to sync other computers, you cannot specify which files in the Dropbox folder you want to be synced, so don’t forget to delete those large files you uploaded just for sharing purposes.

Windows

You can use Dropbox or Syncplicity. Syncplicity has more features than Dropbox: it allows any folder to be synced online, you can specify if a folder should only be backed up online or also be synced to other computers with Sycnplicity installed  and when you open Syncplicity on another computer you are asked if you want to download the synced folders. The free Syncplicty account has 2GB of space, but if you invite three friends you get one extra GB for each.

If 2 GB is not enough you can always use GDrive shell extension, which turns a Google Account in to a drive that appears in Windows Explorer.
You can also use Gladinet Cloud Desktop to map your Google Docs into a folder inside Gladinet Drive that appears in Explorer.

Linux

Use DropBox.

Web

Both Dropbox and Sincplicty offer web interfaces for easy access to your important files and allows uploading of new files.

WebGallery

Mac

You have several options:

- the Dropbox Gallery feature. Just drop a folder with photos inside the Photos subfolder in Dropbox and a web gallery is automatically created. Just right-click to get the url. All the photos are resized to 640 by 480 and the web gallery is pretty dull looking with only one standard view.

- iPhoto with Picasa WebAlbums plugin. Picasa WebAlbums offers a tone of features (including face recognition for automatically tagging your friends) but just 1GB of space.

- iPhoto with Flickr plugin. Flickr offers 100 MB a month of traffic. (You have a $24.95/year unlimited storage PRO plan)

Windows

Use Dropbox, Picasa with Picasa WebAlbums or get a Flickr Uploader.

Linux

Same as Windows.

iPhone

Use the free Shozu app to upload your pictures to Picasa WebAlbums or Flickr. You can also use the AirMe app to instantly upload the snapshots you take with the camera. If everything else fails you can send the pictures by mail to your Flickr account, but they will be downscaled by the iPhone.

Web

Both Picasa and Flickr web interfaces are great for uploading, organizing and sharing your photos. Of course there are other photo sharing websites, like Zoomr, that offer unlimited storage space, but they have limited upload options.

Back to My Mac

Mac

Use Windows Live Sync to access any files on your computer and Screen Sharing over internet for remote work.

Windows

Use Windows Live Sync (or Hamachi and simple file sharing) and TightVNC.

Linux

FTP and VNC.

If you’ve used some of these alternatives for MobileMe or you know some more (only free) please tell us in the comments.

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6 comments
  1. GCM said:

    Well if you only want email then paying $99 likely is extreme. However sometimes I send emails with large attachments. The $99 also gives you a very convenient means of notifying someone there is a large attachment (that their email system will reject) and having them get it from the imac storage area. I also use it to store folders remotely that I want access to from my Linux machine (where I am writing this). Yes there are free sites for files but imac is very convenient for folders (and I attach to them from my Linux box as well.).

  2. Great article. I cancelled my mobile me subscription mid-way through…way too much money for things you can get for free and with easier to use programs. I've upgraded my picasa which was peanuts, got my gmail and gcalendar running and just signed up to DropBox….excellent!

  3. kingslaye505 said:

    This article was great. Rather than using Dropbox, I set up Live Mesh on my computer and my WHS to automatically sync my folders, while giving me remote access to the files that I need.

  4. Steve said:

    Good Luck juggling that spider web of 3rd party products that you crammed together to simulate what already was designed to be seamless, effortless, and much, much more professional looking… Cheers!

  5. Bill said:

    Don't be jealous, Steve. I'd say the internet and its users are fighting back against a monopoly by you and google. Give it some time and who knows, the people might like me again instead of you.

  6. Bill said:

    Don't be jealous, Steve. I'd say the internet and its users are fighting back against a monopoly by you and google. Give it some time and who knows, the people might like me again instead of you.

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