Life Without Desktop Software

Illustration: Mick Wiggins
I'd written this kind of story before. My editor asked me to give up the programs on my PC for a week and rely instead only on Web-hosted applications. Afterward, I could go back to my "real" programs and report on my amusing experiences with the online substitutes.

But my little adventure had an unexpected ending: Three weeks later, I was still living on the Web, with no plans to return permanently to Office or most of the other productivity applications I used to find indispensable.

Sure, online applications can't do certain things--like rip and burn CDs, or capture screen shots. But for most of my work, the convenience of storing and editing my documents and e-mail online compensates well for the drawbacks and missing features of Google Docs, Zoho Office, Gmail, and the like. Google and Zoho provided all the tools I needed, and other sites such as ThinkFree offer similar features see 10 Outstanding Web-Hosted Applications.

The Web may not replace your traditional desktop apps if your needs go beyond basic e-mail, word processing, and spreadsheet tasks, or if your Net hookup is slow. But you may be surprised at how much you can do in a browser.

Moreover, online office suites let you do something that locally installed apps can't: collaborate with others on documents in real time, regardless of each person's physical location. Here's how I became a true believer--and what you can expect if you take the plunge.

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