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.

Shop ▾
arrow up Amazon Shop buttons are programmatically attached to all reviews, regardless of products' final review scores. Our parent company, IDG, receives advertisement revenue for shopping activity generated by the links. Because the buttons are attached programmatically, they should not be interpreted as editorial endorsements.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter