The internet has come a long way. In the early stages of the internet, the sole use was information sharing. Now the internet is used for, well, anything and everything. One of the fairly new applications of the internet is running actual programs. There are all kinds of internet based apps out there, there are even full out OSs being written to run in browsers – but that’s a topic for a different story. The topic for today is Online office suites (in case you didn’t gather from the title). So here is the big question: Will online office suites take over the market, essentially rendering desktop office suites obsolete?
My tentative answer is yes. I think that these online office suites are on their way to the top. One of the most important features of online office suites is mobility and part of that is that most of them give you free storage space to store all of your documents. That sure beats emailing them to yourself if you are going on a trip or the like. Another really important factor is collaboration. With Google docs and spreadsheets, you can have up to ten people editing the same document and chatting in an adjacent window. Again, it beats emailing back and forth. With open source office suites such as OpenOffice.org and also online office suites, both of which are offered free of charge, MS Office doesn’t stand a chance.
The big question now, is which online office suite is better?
Google offers an online word processor – docs (formerly called writley) and an online spreadsheet program. Editing with google docs and spreadsheets is very straight forward. there are no bells or whistles. There are different tabs for different types of editing and there is a revision tab which lets you compare two different versions of your document. Google docs also allows you to edit HTML on-the-go. most of the other apps allow you save your document as HTML but google docs allows you to edit tags right on the spot. Google docs also allows you to save your document as an OpenOffice file (.odt), MS Word file (.doc), PDF for easy printing (.pdf) and Rich text format (.rtf). Google spreadsheets allows editing and saving of .xls MS excel spreadsheet format. it includes enough math operations for the average joe and also includes an exclusive GoogleLookup and GoogleFinances. All and all, Google docs and spreadsheets is great if you need to do a quick edit. it is user friendly and has enough functions and also offers a generous amount of space to store your documents in. If you are looking to do a whole document or something big, I would advise you use something else.
Ease of use: 8.5/10
ThinkFree offers three services; Write – a word processor, Calc – a spreadsheet and Show – a presentation editor, all of which are accessible from your home page along with your recently edited documents. ThinkFree also gives you a generous 1gb of storage space. ThinkFree is probably the most complete online office suite I have come by yet, and is unbeatably compatible with MS Office. Right from the get-go it offers two different options for editing; Power Edit and Quick edit. Quick edit Write offers a very simple and minimal interface, ultimately resembling a WordPad-like application. With just a few functions available such as font formatting, paragraph formatting and tables it is just what the name suggests; a quick edit. The power edit Write takes a little bit more time to load but it is full of features. the interface is almost exactly like that of Word’s and features pretty much any function you would want such as from font formatting to bulleting to find and replace to spellchecker and autocorrect and even word count and table manipulation such as merging cells and distributing cells evenly across a page. There is even the same drawing toolbar at the bottom as there is in Word and a ruler. Thinkfree also allows you to insert pictures from clip art, a file on your local disk and even directly from Flickr! You can also right click on words that are marked as misspelled by a squiggly red line under the word in question. It also supports windows keyboard shortcuts such as ctrl+c for copy, ctrl+v for paste ctrl+s for save ctrl+p for print etc. Calc and Show offer similar features. This is the best there is, the only complaint I have is that the text is rather pixelated making it a bit of an eye-sore. But other than that, Good Job ThinkFree!
Easy of use: 9/10
Ajax13 is a pretty basic online office suite. It offers AjaxWrite – a word processor, AjaxSketch – a graphics editor, AjaxXLS – a spreadsheet, AjaxPresents – a slideshow editor and AjaxTunes – an audio player. AjaxWrite is a very very basic word processor, it is designed to look like MS Office, and it does, with the exeption that it only has one toolbar. True to its claim – AjaxWrite does load in six seconds and it is free. Ajax13 should be used for a quick edit on a document you already have. It does not offer disk space on their server so I see no reason to switch to Ajax13 from any desktop based Office other than price and if you are on a public computer without any office. The main features of Ajax13 are; bulleting text, a spellchecker and aligning text.
Ease of use: 8.5/10
Overall I think ThinkFree office takes a very distant lead over Google docs and spreadsheets which in turn leads Ajax13. I was going to review Zoho online office suite but it took too long to get an account. I was also going to review gOffice but later found out that contrary to its advertising, there is a $0.99 monthly fee that goes with it.
I would like to hear your opinion of where you think online offices are going, so please leave a comment.
PS: This post was written exclusively using online office suites.