Web 2.0 Translates to Free Hosted Office Apps

While Web 2.0 has had its day of being just marketing jargon, small businesses are finally starting to see something concrete come packaged under the popular catch-phrase.

The idea of free Web-based office applications is not a new one — actually we’ve been seeing bits and pieces of this concept for quite some time. Companies such as Google and ThinkFree are finally putting the puzzle pieces together for consumers and businesses, offering a new way to manage, store, share and collaborate online.

In offices across the country, co-workers spend time e-mailing documents back and forth, placing a call to ensure a document was received and discussing edits. In these instances office productivity can increase with a Web-based office suite system that allows workers to edit and collaborate on office documents in real-time.

Under the larger umbrella Software as a Service (SaaS), these Web-based applications let you avoid purchasing and installing any software (or new hardware for that matter). An Internet connection and Web browser is all you need to access this growing collection of online applications for word processing, spreadsheet tasks, Webmail, calendars and even Web site design services.

The Benefits Of Using Web-Based Office Apps
Some applications are stand-alone service such as a single word processing or Web site design application. Other application service providers (ASPs), such as NetSuite may offer an entire suite of Web office apps with integration among their own services.

For small businesses, Web-based office applications can offer several benefits over standard software packages. Because the application and documents are often hosted remotely, you don’t need to invest in additional hardware for storage and servers, or human resources to install, patch, maintain and update software. You also can’t overlook the fact that some of these Web-based office applications are free (or a lot cheaper than licensed software packages), which is an obvious benefit to a company working with a small business budget.

For the most part, Web-based office applications keep the same look and feel as traditional software packages, and incorporate the basic functions to create, import and edit documents. Web-based office apps tend to keep it on the simple side. Online spreadsheets will generally offer basic to intermediate formula functions, and word processors may contain common formatting and layout options, but provide fewer fonts. You may also find a spell checker but not a thesaurus and other features. For some users this in itself is an advantage if you find current software packages a bit of an over-kill for basic word processing needs.

The big draw is that many Web 2.0 office applications offer the ability to share, edit, and collaborate with co-workers and clients in real time via the Internet. Because the applications are Web-based, collaboration is completely independent of the user’s computer software and operating system. If you had data in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you wanted to share with a client, the client would need to have software that could open an Excel spreadsheet. Using Google’s Web-based spreadsheet for example, means your client can view the information through their Web browser and not need to have specific software installed on their computer – just an account with Google Spreadsheets and an invitation from you to view and edit the file.

Popular, Web Office Applications
You’ve no doubt heard a lot recently about Google’s hosted applications, which has lead to speculation that complete Web-office suite from Google in on the horizon. Right now, Google offers, for free,Calendar, Gmail (Webmail with Google Talk integration), Page Creator, Spreadsheets (read Google Sprerads it On). Google’s offerings currently don’t make up a suite, but the mix of available applications do lend weight to making a free Web-based Google Office a reality in the near future.


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