Working the Web 2.0

Making Choices

And so the experiment began:

Day 1: Question one: Which services will I use to replace Word and Excel, the programs I spend most of my time in? Legitimate contenders abound; I consider using ThinkFree; it's a venerable and feature-rich suite that I ultimately decide against because it's written in Java, a technology that acts up often enough that I worry about relying on it.

I end up choosing two Google services I've already used and liked--Writely for word processing and Google Spreadsheets for number crunching. Both sport radically fewer features than their Microsoftian equivalents. And both can open and save Microsoft file formats, so I'm able to work collaboratively with colleagues without their even knowing I'm trying to avoid Word and Excel.

Still, the apps are less a mini-suite and more an interesting study in contrasts. Writely, which is labeled a beta, is so fully evolved that there will be only one moment during my ten-day experiment when I try to do something in it and can't. But Google Spreadsheets, which Google calls a "Labs" test product, is still an exceptionally rough draft--it can't generate charts, and calling its sorting options bare-bones feels overly complimentary.

Writely and Google Spreadsheets are basic, but so is a pretty high percentage of the work I do on any given day. Most of the stuff I throw at them, they handle reasonably well, and I like the fact that I don't have to worry about whether my files are on my work PC, my home desktop, or one of my two notebooks--with Web-based storage, they're all available everywhere. (Assuming that I can get online, that is.)

Unfortunately, even with so much going right, I find my journal evolving into a series of notes on those instances when these services don't do want I need...

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