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
Unfortunately, gOffice has loads of work to do. Its desktop publishing and presentation sites are still under development. Its spreadsheet tool is far less feature-rich than Zoho’s or Google’s, and its word processing site has the features but noticeably slow performance. Finally, “collaboration” really means e-mailing your teammates your progress reports. Last bit of bad news: They want money. I mean, 99 cents per month when they’re still in a beta phase seems cheeky compared with all the free tools around.
Google has all the basics, even if they’re a bit disjointed. Your basic office apps are there -- sans any kind of presentation tool -- and you can form discussion groups about them using the Groups tool. But often, moving between apps means logging in to Google over and over, and moving data between applications can be difficult.
ThinkFree is definitely more integrated, including a single log-in and an overlying workspace that covers all its tools -- word processing, spreadsheets, and a presentation tool. Word processing can compete with Google and Zoho, although it lacks undo or spell check. Spreadsheets can handle formulas, but they choked on the electronic form sheet like everyone else. It also seemed slower than Zoho. Presentation allowed for adequate importing but didn’t have nearly the same drawing or object importing tools that Zoho has. Collaboration is fair, including a shared area to which you can invite team members, as well as discussion boards you can setup.
But Zoho blew the rest out of the water with its Virtual Office tool. It had everything ThinkFree had, plus better overall application tools, and an e-mail and calendaring client that was fully integrated with the collaboration tool -- that’s as close to Outlook and Exchange as I’ve seen on the Web. Then it also had the wiki, blogging, and other collaboration tools that make the Web the bane of SharePoint. Last, it has a number of applications that even Google isn’t offering yet, including CRM and project management. I had to go with Zoho.
I created a team area for my developers and my project. Added discussion groups on various topics that concern us (such as eating and not getting divorced), added milestones in a shared calendar, posted some documents in a shared file area, set permissions for bits of content -- in short, everything you could want out of your basic Office-and-Sharepoint intranet site. Then I ceremoniously unveiled it to the group.
My partner threw a coffee mug at me because he was out of staplers, and the programmers did that grunt-and-ignore thing they do when they’re thinking of more important things. But they’re programmers, not normal people, so what can you expect?
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It’s back to the M90 day. And time for an “I Survived WINO” toast.
Was the experience worth it? Definitely. Are the applications worth the trouble? Mostly not. Zoho is definitely the standout in the group. It’s the only one that not only offers most of the apps I need but also seems to have a clear vision of where it’s going. And it’s free. ThinkFree and gOffice are similar, but neither has the breadth of apps, features, or collaboration that Zoho does.