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Office Suites - Online

If you’re a Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail user, you are  already familiar with how online productivity suites would work. All of the software is on their servers as is all of the

e-mail that you have written, or received. Plus – and this is certainly a big plus – you can access your mail from any internet-connected computer, anywhere in the world.

With an online office suite you can create a document, spreadsheet or presentation, etc. at the office on your pc, edit it at home or at the beach with you Mac (it doesn’t care what operating system you’re on) and share it with as many people

as there are in your address book.

But that’s only the beginning. There is no humongous hundreds of megabytes of software to download and install, no upgrading or bug fixes to worry about, and many of the absolutely best ones are absolutely free.

That is not to say that there are no “cons” to all of these “pros” and anyone that uses online e-mail knows what the “Unable to access your messages at this time, please try again later …” message means. The highly sophisticated Microsoft ® Office user will probably find some features that they use missing in most of these programs, but most users will not notice missing at all.

For those that want to have all of the bells and whistles in Office, Microsoft is developing Office 365 which will allow

for online sharing. But that, of course, is designed for those who buy the traditional offline Office.

There are lots of online offerings being currently offered, many with monthly fees, here is a brief look at some of the current Online Productivity Suite offerings that are being offered for free.

 Google Docs  

While Google Docs is really not ready for prime time, it is limited to a word processor (Docs), a spreadsheet, presentation, drawing and form applications, and none of which are fully compatible with Word, Excel or PowerPoint

(it accepts doc, xls or ppt files but doesn’t export to them) we include it here as it may be dramatically different by the time you read this.

In any case if your needs are limited to writing simple

letters, spreadsheets or presentations this program is

simple, straightforward and easy-to-use. Best of all,

it’s free, and with Google's basic ad-supported business plan, it's likely to remain that way in the future.


 ThinkFree Office Online 

If compatibility with Microsoft ® Office is important,

ThinkFree Office Online is the clear choice. The suite -- as with Google Docs -- contains only three main applications, Write (word processor), Calc (spreadsheet) and Show (presentation).

While it appears ThinkFree comes closest, be aware that ThinkFree is not 100% compatible, and many of the features power users might find invaluable in Microsoft ® Office may simply not be available. In addition to the Free online edition, ThinkFree now has a mobile edition for iPhone & Android.



Zoho Office Suite 

Not a power user, but want a lot of different applications? Zoho Office Suite might be just what you are looking for. It contains more than 10 applications including ; Writer (word processor), Sheet (spreadsheet), Projects (project management), Show (presentations), Virtual Office (groupware with a virtual calendar, e-mail client, etc.),

Creator (database) and Planner (organizer). That’s a whole lot of goodies in a free package so don’t expect any of them to be as in-depth, or feature laden as Microsoft ® Office.

But free is free, and for a student or someone who was switching to a Mac from a PC or vice-versa, and did not want to invest in Office, Zoho could make a lot of sense.

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