Honestly, I never expected anyone to read or care about my cookbook chaos. But now, I’ve realized, there are expectations of something special. After all, there was a cliffhanger, and a promise of an exciting conclusion. What was I thinking?
Back to our story:
So…my brilliant friend Ann said to me “have you tried…Google Drive?”
I wasn’t excited. Google Drive is simply file storage. I hadn’t really looked at the cloud storage options since they don’t seem to DO anything. If you look at the high-end recipe apps, they do lots of things: multiply ingredients to change quantities, build shopping lists, etc., all with a lovely interface. But, I reviewed my criteria, and realized I was looking for basic searchable storage. The bells and whistles might be nice, but I’m not sure I’d use any of those features.
It was easy enough to try it out. I had a Google account—who doesn’t? The button is right there on my Chrome browser window. Google gives you 15 GB of free storage. At an average of 100kb per file, it could hold 15,000 recipes. That should keep me busy for a while! I opened Drive, made a recipes folder, selected the recipe folder on my computer and with a click, I could now access all my data from any device. Yes!
But, how about functionality? I checked a few file formats and found the Drive viewer could handle opening just about anything: pdf, jpg, psd, doc. There aren’t a lot of customization options, but you can star items, which I chose to use for recipes I have tried versus new ones. Visually, you can view thumbnails or list. It’s a file system, so you can create subfolders to group files. I considered subfolders by recipe type, as cookbooks standardly do: appetizers, salads, entrées, desserts, etc., but felt this was limiting and complicating the solution. (And in Minnesota, Jello is a salad and lutefisk is, well, edible. What do you do with that?)
It was when I tested the search capability that I realized the power of the Drive. I searched using the recipe name and, of course, it pulled it right up. After all, it’s the file name. I tried an ingredient search that was not in the title, and, no problem, it found every match. Well, I thought, a pdf created from text is still embedded text, but what about text from a scanned old newspaper. Yes, no problem! The final challenge: how about handwriting? Unbelievably, it interpreted my chicken scratching into correctly spelled words! This is some world-class AI and OCR. You’d think they would be boasting about it in the documentation. (Full disclosure: I generally don’t read support documents. It could be in there.)
What about searching for words that aren’t in the recipe, i.e., summer, brunch, really strong election cocktails? It turns out there are two ways to add text to a document. One is adding comments which function like sticky notes—you can add them anywhere. They are really handy to note changes for future use: “too salty, needed extra 10 minutes to bake, hide from husband”. That text, however, is not searchable. If you want to add descriptors for the search criteria, click on Details for a file and then Description. Anything you type in the description becomes searchable. Yay!
I checked my criteria:
Longevity: I think Google will be around a while
Non-platform specific: check
PDF reader: check et al.
But, how does Google Drive compare to other file storage options? There are quite a few out there. Most do not have the sophisticated AI and OCR for searching within documents which I find critical. Microsoft’s OneDrive does and can boast being bundled with the ubiquitous Office apps—if you pay for them. OneDrive and Google Drive are fairly comparable at this point. Google apps are gaining some sophistication (but not very fast; I’m talking to you Google Keep), but Google does have a bit of a tendency to harvest our data and use it for ad targeting and world domination. Perhaps that’s why they dropped their slogan “Don’t be evil” in favor of “Do the right thing”. (Should they add “…for our shareholders”?) Yes, free comes with a price. Still, Google Drive does everything I need consistently across platforms (though not able to add descriptions or notes on IOS version). In the end it was Microsoft’s lack of features that decided it: OneDrive has less free storage space, doesn’t have sticky notes, has a tendency to crash on my IOS and lacks the ability to add stars to files. I want stars!
So, that’s it. Google wins. The final issue is whether I will be satisfied with this solution over time. I’ll keep you posted. Right now, I’m heading in to the kitchen to make Braised Chicken with Artichokes and Olives. It’s already on my iPad!
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