Can Web-based applications outwit, outplay, outlast the desktop?
We sentenced InfoWorld Senior Contributing Editor Oliver Rist to 7 days of using only Web-based productivity applications. Here's how he survivedFollow @infoworld
Without scheduling I don’t know when my articles, commercial writing projects, sales meetings, and doctors’ appointments are. Without e-mail, my editors, clients, and co-workers can’t send me complaints, demands, or “you’re late with the WINO piece” e-mails like the one I just got.
Naturally, I’m basing my e-mail expectations on Microsoft Outlook. If Outlook has it, I want it in my Web client. Digging around allowed me to find my top picks for WINO Web mail: MSN’s Hotmail or Windows Live Mail Desktop Beta; Google Gmail and Google Calendar; Yahoo Mail; and Zoho’s Virtual Office e-mail client. A special note about two I left out: Scalix and Zimbra. Both of these are highly capable browser-based e-mail clients, but they are primarily designed to run with their own e-mail servers.
I use Hotmail regularly because I was assigned a Hotmail account when I became MSN’s Technology Filter blogger. I’ve used Google’s e-mail and calendaring experimentally mainly because all the programming nerds in the office seem to love it. And I’ve used Yahoo’s mail client for years as a personal alternative. Unfortunately, I missed being able to test out Yahoo’s just-released new Mail beta client because it came out only yesterday and this article is due today. Look for a possible revamped opinion on the SMB IT blog, possibly by the time this hits print.
In the end, I was surprised to find Yahoo my pick. All the others had excellent points, but Yahoo had one thing I couldn’t find anywhere else: some ability to sync with Outlook. I knew I couldn’t upload my e-mail store (nobody’s going to give 6GB of e-mail storage for free), and Yahoo doesn’t offer that capability in any case. But it does allow you to sync your calendar, contacts, and notes or tasks. It also allowed me to propagate that info back to my mobile device — my brand-new Motorola Q.
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Except, ironically, for e-mail itself. Yahoo’s present e-mail client can handle POP3 e-mail accounts besides your Yahoo address. It handled both my alternative e-mail addresses with no problem. But mail volume is still an issue as it will be for all these freebie Web clients. As a geek journalist, I get between 400 and 800 e-mails a day. That can chew through a single gig of online space pretty quickly. It means more time spent on e-mail maintenance than I ever had to do using a desktop client. It also means I can’t store as many archived e-mails as I’d like. I can survive in the Yahoo environment for WINO’s duration, but if I actually had to live there, I’d have to seriously adjust how I work.
Even so, aside from not being able to upload my existing e-mail store, Monday turned out pleasantly enough.