Some of you might be a fan of desktop applications for writing, but an increasing number of folks are going web-based to get the job done. If you fit in the latter group, this article is for you. Web-based office is the new “thing” that all the competing companies want to be on top of; as we all know, competition is good for getting a better product. So, if you are considering a move, make sure you know what is available first.
Adobe kicks things off with Buzzword, an application I first became familiar with while working at Mashable. I was impressed with how it looked—stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately, there were a few features I thought were missing (e.g. spell-check, export options, etc.), but they seem to have tightened things up since then, and it was recently acquired by Adobe—so, it is now in good hands.
There are a few things I should point out: the application is built completely in Flash (probably why Adobe acquired it); there is no auto-complete functionality, and I really miss this feature; and while the interface is beautiful, it sometimes takes awhile to remember where things are located. These concerns are fairly minor, but some of you might not appreciate the flash framework as much as others.
The TeqEdge blog provides a close look into Buzzword.
Google Docs has been available for almost two years, and it is one of the first online office suites that I actually used for a lengthy period of time—for good reason, it works well. During the beginning, I had a few complaints with the rich-text editor, but most of them have been resolved with time. Overall, Google Docs offers great document management and collaboration, and is easily one of the best of the bunch.
The collaboration feature is absolutely amazing, and previous co-workers and I constantly put it to good use. It is not a SubEthaEdit, but it still works very well.
PC World offers their opinions on Google Docs.
Zoho offers a slew of applications from its online office suite, and the writing application is really well done. Zoho Writer provides an interface that might be more desirable than what Google has conjured up. The development team is always adding improvements, and I think Zoho has the most potential to expand in the near future. Also, I really enjoy the fact that Zoho Writer uses a tabbed interface; it is very desirable when working with multiple documents.
CNET has opinions about the Zoho Office suite.
ThinkFree is probably the closest experience to Microsoft Office that you can get online. Users also benefit from experience that the company has—ThinkFree is one of the oldest web-based office suites around. There is also a premium edition which integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office. It works well, and the interface will be familiar to all MS Office users.
ExtremeTech has an in-depth review of ThinkFree.
Zoho certainly offers the most types of products, and is more of a complete office suite. I also can’t get over those tabs which I love so much, and many of you might appreciate them. You can also, ironically enough, use your Google identity to sign up for Zoho; something to think about.
BuzzWord from Adobe certainly has the flash and flair, but it still needs some time to mature. However, if you are addicted to pretty things, give BuzzWord a try, and you might be able to contribute to the growth of the application.
I wouldn’t really choose one over another unless you are already using a service that integrates into your workflow. For example, if you are using Gmail, you might be better off using Google Docs for the integration, and ThinkFree could easily integrate into your Microsoft Word application if you can’t completely separate yourself from a desktop word processor.
No matter which product you choose, you can be sure that the competition is just heating up, and improvements are going to be coming fast as Microsoft tries to integrate their office suite with the internet. All of the aforementioned applications are free, and most offer a nice amount of space for storing files.
Let me know what you think of each!