If you're like most people, you live part -- or most -- of your computing life in the cloud. And odds are that you use more than one cloud-based storage service, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and others. Do you find yourself tearing your hair out when you try to remember on which service you've stored what files? Do you wish you could easily move or copy those files between your cloud services, or between the services and your local storage?
Well, don't despair. We've rounded up three free web-based services -- Jolicloud desktop, MultCloud and Otixo -- that make it simpler to do all that and more.
Each service allows you to manage and view your cloud storage from a single interface for free. After that, they charge extra for additional features, such as providing more bandwidth for handling files. Some also offer separate desktop and/or mobile apps.
To test these three services, I tried them out with Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. I put them through their paces with tasks such as file management, searching for file names and for text within files, and copying and moving files between cloud storage services. I also tried out any mobile apps they might have.
If you want to find the right service for you, read on.
Jolicloud desktop is the latest version of a cloud service that used to be called, simply, Jolicloud (which began its life as a Linux-based OS). Like the other two services featured here, it allows you to access several of your cloud services at one time using a single web-based interface.
To begin using Jolicloud desktop, head to the site, click the Try Desktop link, and set up an account. As with many sites these days, you do that by using your existing Google or Facebook account -- but unlike with many sites, there's no separate email log-in option. If you don't have an account with either Google or Facebook, or you prefer not to associate your account with a third-party app, you're out of luck.
After you create a Jolicloud account, you'll need to link your cloud storage accounts to it, a simple matter of clicking "Add new accounts" and following the prompts. Jolicloud handles a dozen cloud-based services, including OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox.
The free version is a very basic tool and lets you do little aside from browsing through your files in each cloud service, deleting them, renaming them, and uploading new files to them. You can't transfer or copy files between services unless you upgrade to the paid version.
The interface is straightforward: A list of all your cloud services appears on the left side of the screen. Click on one and you'll see its folder and file structure in the main part of the screen. From there you can browse through the folders and manage files.
You can also view files, although in a somewhat kludgy way. Click a file to view it and you'll see the message "Document viewing is reserved for Members" -- members being the term Jolicloud uses for subscribers. However, at the bottom of the message is a link that reads "Open in OneDrive," or whatever cloud service you're currently browsing. What happens next depends on the service and the file you're trying to view. For example, in OneDrive, Microsoft Office files open in the online version of Office. In Dropbox, you will find yourself in Dropbox itself and in the folder where the file is.
The exception to this is Google Drive. Click a file, and it opens automatically in the Google document viewer, without first getting the "Document viewing is reserved for Members" screen.
However, Jolicloud does an excellent job allowing you to search through all of your cloud services simultaneously. Simply type your search term into the box at the top of the screen and it quickly finds all the relevant files, listed with the name, size, author (if that information is available in the file itself), and the service on which the file is found.
Another nice feature of Jolicloud is that it shows you at a glance how much storage you've used in each of your cloud accounts, and how much is still available.
Apps and for-pay versions
Unlike some of the other services here, Jolicloud has no mobile apps for accessing cloud services. At one point it had an app called Jolicloud Me for iOS and Android devices, but that is no longer available.
The paid version lets you view files directly, and also lets you copy and transfer files and folders between cloud services. The rate is in euros: €5/mo., which translates to about $5.30/mo.
The free version of Jolicloud is a somewhat barebones, basic tool for browsing through your cloud storage and performing simple tasks like deleting and renaming files. In only one way does it excel: At searching for files across all of your cloud storage.
Like the other cloud-management services reviewed here, MultCloud treats your cloud services like they're one large hard disk. It works with 26 cloud providers, including Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and SugarSync.
Adding services is simple -- just click the service you want to add and follow the prompts. Each service is listed on the left; click to browse through each. You can rename, delete, copy, move and share files and folders by right-clicking on the file or folder. One comment: It would be better if there were some on-screen icons for those functions.
Viewing files is straightforward -- MultCloud uses Google's document viewer no matter which service you use.
I found the process of transferring files between services to be not a little confusing. At the top left of the screen there are two icons: one for Cloud Explorer (which is MultCloud's main interface) and another labeled Cloud Transfer. You might assume that in order to transfer files between services, you should highlight the file you want to transfer and then click the Cloud Transfer icon. You'd be wrong.
When I clicked that icon, I was led to a puzzling screen that let me transfer a folder from one service to another, but didn't let me transfer individual files. It also let me schedule when I wanted the folder transferred (the scheduling feature is only available for those who use the paid version).
If I wanted to transfer a file, I had to instead go to Cloud Explorer, right-click the file, select "Copy to" from the drop-down menu that appeared, click the Move button, then click Transfer. Not what you would call intuitive.
Apps and for-pay versions
MultCloud is web-only, and doesn't have mobile apps.
The free version lets you transfer up to 2TB of data across cloud services -- when you reach that limit, you'll have to get the paid version for $7.99 per month, which gives you unlimited transfers. The paid version also lets you schedule file transfers and gives you access to more technical support, among other features.
If you mainly want to view files and don't mind putting up with a sometimes-confusing interface for file transfers, MultCloud will serve you well. But its lack of mobile apps is a drawback.
Otixo is another web-based service that treats your cloud services like part of one large hard drive. You set up your cloud accounts to work with Otixo by clicking the appropriate icons and following prompts. It works with 35 cloud storage services, including popular ones like Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox as well as lesser-known ones such as FilesAnywhere and MagentaCloud.
When you're done connecting your accounts, each shows up on the left side of the screen. You can browse through the files and folders of each service and perform the usual folder- and file-management tasks, including copying, renaming and deleting. You can also copy and move files between cloud services. And you can easily share files and folders with other people. (More on that later.)
When it comes to viewing files, though, Otixo is a bit of a kludge. You can view .JPG files and .MP4 files with a built-in viewer, and you can view a few other file types, including .PDFs, using the Google document viewer. That's all to the good. But most of my files are Microsoft Office files: .DOC and .DOCX files, with a healthy smattering of .XLS and .XLSX files. When I double-clicked those, I couldn't view them and was only shown a screen with information about the file, including its size and the last time it was modified.
After some digging, I found that if you click the file, then click the "Launch in..." icon at the top of the screen, the file will launch with whatever viewer that particular cloud storage platform uses. For example, if I clicked on a .DOC file that was stored in OneDrive, it launched in the Microsoft Word online app; if I clicked on it in Google Drive, it launched in the Google document viewer; and if I clicked on it in Dropbox, it launched in the Dropbox document viewer.
One of Otixo's selling points is the way it lets you share files with others, using a feature called Spaces. To use it, you create a new Space, drag files to it from any of your cloud services, and then give people access to that Space. Because it's a virtual area, your files aren't physically moved there -- they still remain in their original cloud locations. Each Space also has its own discussion area.
Apps and for-pay versions
Otixo offers separate apps for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices. The macOS and Windows apps look and work like the web-based version. The mobile apps have a more stripped-down look, but offer the same features as the other versions.
The free version of Otixo limits your bandwidth to 2GB a month. Various paid versions give you more bandwidth, starting from 99 cents/mo. for 5GB up to $9.90/mo. for 50GB.
The main attraction of Otixo is the way it lets you easily share files from several cloud services using the Spaces feature. Once you get used to its viewing features, they work fine as well. But if you access your cloud files a lot and you handle large files, the limit of 2GB a month for the free service may cause problems for you.
If you frequently use multiple cloud services, have a hard time remembering where your files are, want to manage files from a single location and want to copy and move files across services, you'd do well to use one of these free cloud-service management tools.
Jolicloud and MultCloud both feel like works in progress. As a result, my top choice is Otixo which, despite a somewhat kludgy interface, gets the job done -- and lets you do it either on a desktop or via a mobile app.
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