The Google Office
Imagine being able to access all your important documents from any computer with an Internet connection—or never having to buy, install, or upgrade office software again. You may already use a Web-based e-mail service instead of an e-mail client, but the next programs to go online could very well be your word processor and your spreadsheet program. You can now get a lot done with only a humble browser.
The idea behind Web applications is simple: rather than running on your computer, a Web application runs on a server—you interact with it through your browser. These programs don’t need to be updated and maintained on individual computers, and since your files are also stored on a server, you can access them from anywhere without schlepping a disk around.
Google is the biggest and best-known company that’s generating buzz for a growing collection of Web applications. It includes a word processor called Docs and a spreadsheet program called Spreadsheets (both available at docs.google.com ); a calendar called Google Calendar ; and, of course, the Web-based e-mail service Gmail . The price for all of these programs is a whopping $0.
Can these Web applications replace your $399 copy of Microsoft Office? If you have a slow or unreliable Internet connection, the answer is definitely no. But most people who do some word processing or spreadsheet work can benefit from Google’s programs—either as a complement to Office or, in some cases, as a replacement.
I’ll show you some of the coolest things these programs can do. To use them, you need a Mozilla-based browser, such as Firefox . You also need a Gmail account or, if you don’t want Gmail, a Google account ).