Thursday, December 07, 2006

Online Office Tools

Online productivity tools for such things as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, project management and graphics are now getting to the stage where they are getting really useable. If you've got a broadband connection and only need basic features in these categories, then these are fast becoming a serious alternative to the more traditional installed applications.

On top of that, there are some real benefits in using online productivity tools…
  • Files are stored online so they don't take up any space on your hard drive.
  • Files can be accessed via any system capable of running a web browser and connected to the internet.
  • Documents can be shared with others or published online.
  • You can allow others to collaborate in your projects.

This is probably the highest profile online word processor and spreadsheet application suite at the moment, even if it is still in beta. The word processor was inherited when they took over Writely, the spreadsheet came from their own Google Labs and I've just read that they'll be taking over iRows, another online spreadsheet, in January next year. Here's what you can do with the Google offering…
  • Upload Word documents, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or text (or create documents from scratch).
  • Use a simple WYSIWYG editor to format your documents, spell-check them, etc.
  • Invite others (by e-mail address) to edit or view your documents and spreadsheets .
  • Google Docs & SpreadsheetsEdit documents online with whomever you choose.
  • View your documents' revision history and roll back to any version.
  • Publish documents and spreadsheets online as Web pages or post documents to your blog.
  • Download documents to your desktop as Word, OpenOffice, RTF, PDF, HTML or zip.
  • Import and export of .xls, .csv, and .ods formatted data (and export functionality for .pdf and .html).
  • Use formatting and formula editing in spreadsheets so you can calculate results and make your data look the way you want it.
  • Chat in real time with others who are editing your spreadsheet.
Of course, Google isn't the only option and the following are all free as well…


This is a fantastic set of free, open-source, online office suite and productivity tools.
  • Zoho Writer - Online word processor with collaboration features.
  • Zoho Sheet - Online alternative to traditional spreadsheet applications with powerful features like charting, collaboration & more.
  • Zoho Show - Online presentation tool to create, edit, publish, and show presentations.
  • Zoho Projects - Project management software to create, manage & collaborate online.
  • Zoho Creator - Online database applications manager.
  • Zoho SheetZoho Planner - Online organizer to maintain your todo’s, reminders, notes, attachments etc.
  • Zoho Chat - Unique and intuitive way to make group decisions faster.
They also have a few extra free utilities such as web site monitoring, polls and candidate evaluation. On top of that there are plug-ins to allow you to view Office files available online directly and you can even edit documents online and offline with a plug-in for Microsoft Office.


thinkfreeAnother online office suite that gives you 1Gb of storage free and allows you to create Microsoft Office compatible word processing, spreadsheet and presentation files or edit existing documents. Basically…
  • Create, view, and edit Microsoft Office compatible files over the web.
  • Collaborate using group editing and file sharing. Share folders where others can post files for you to review and you can allow them to read or edit these too.
  • Publish documents to their Doc Exchange, your web pages, blogs, bulletin boards or Internet applications.
  • Tracks previous versions of a document and roll back through past versions to see how the file has been modified over time.
37signals

BasecampAn award-winning web applications suite with project collaboration, group chat, information management, collaborative writing and shareable to-do lists. It's aimed more at business users and for them there are commercial rates for more functionality but it's free for personal use.
  • Basecamp - a project management tool designed entirely around the concept of open, centralized two-way communication using simple tools such as message boards, to-do lists, painless file sharing, and flexible scheduling.

  • Campfire - a web-based group chat tool that lets you set up password-protected chat rooms in just seconds. Invite a client, colleague, or vendor to chat, collaborate, and make decisions. Set up a room on your intranet for internal communications.

  • Backpack - an organization tool with to-dos, notes and a calendar.

  • Writeboard - create shareable, web-based text documents that let you save every edit and roll back to any version and even compare different versions.

  • Ta-da List - keep track of all the little things you need to get done and then share them with anyone you like.
Obviously some of the above tools like the to-do list, group chat and writeboard are incorporated into some of the more complex ones like Basecamp and Backpack but if all you need is the simple stuff then it's nice to see them unbundled like this.

Ajax 13

These are a collection of online applications that work through the Firefox browser but they don't offer you any online storage or collaboration features.
  • Ajax WriteajaxWrite - a web-based word processor designed to look like Microsoft Word that can read and write Microsoft Word and other standard document formats.

  • ajaxSketch - a web-based drawing tool designed to look just like Illustrator or Inkscape that provides a familiar environment for diagramming, creating flow charts, free hand drawing and more. You can perform functions such as resize, rotate, change background or pen colors, and alter opacity.

    It and uses the SVG format natively, which is an illustration format that's both powerful and open — complex gradients, compound shapes, and dynamic content are all managed easily in ajaxSketch. Since SVG is an open standard, any files made with ajaxSketch can be brought directly into Microsoft Visio, Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Macromedia Freehand, and other illustration programs.

  • ajaxPresents - a web-based presentation editor that lets you read, edit and save Microsoft PowerPoint files (.ppt) as well as Open Standard Presentation files (.odp).

    Also on offer is a facility to share your presentation with others. In addition to viewing your presentation, your visitors will be able to submit comments, edit the presentation and save a copy of the file on their local machine.

  • AjaxXLSajaxXLS - a web-based spreadsheet viewer designed to look like Microsoft Excel that allows you to easily open any .xls file within your Firefox browser. Compatibility with Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice allows ajaxXLS to preserve all your common cell formatting categories such as text styles, decimals, currencies, dates, and times as well as formulas, backgrounds and borders from the original documents.

    Currently this is still only capable of viewing XLS files and the editor version is still in development.
Another site worth considering, but not free, is gOFFICE. It's an office suite with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and desktop publishing facilities. It used to be free but now costs just $0.99/month. Apparently, they were hoping to be picked up by Yahoo! but that fell through, hence the need to pay for themselves via subscriptions and ads.

It seems heavily weighted towards the publishing side as output is either high-quality PDF or HTML so if your needs lean in that direction it may well be worth considering for such a small outlay.

1 comment:

James Potter said...

I love Zoho Chat. This is one of our key applications that enables conversation between Zoho users.