The Online Office Journey

Web Office ChoicesThe movement dubbed “Office 2.0″ alongside “Web 2.0″ is a array of applications that aim to increase desktop productivity without a desktop. The average business man is no longer bound by geographical boundaries, and his respective office should reflect that.

The Journey

I decided I was tired of e-mailing documents to different computers to work on them. I wanted a single sign-on place to work on my office documents (particularly word processing but also spreadsheets and presentations). I need a place to work on these documents in a “live” fashion. I wanted to hit save and push it to a server that could be accessed anywhere with a browser and internet connection.

I started with Zoho. Actually, I was comparing, at that time, Writely (now bought by Google), with Zoho; but I ultimately went with Zoho. It was a decent application. The Ajax made it quite fast, but it always lacked interoperability, a familiar UI, and I didn’t like the presentation application (Zoho Show). I used it for a while, and it did the job; but it didn’t appease me. One of the biggest things was the export feature was horrendous, and I couldn’t put in my needed footnotes (a necessity).

I then went to Think Free. Even though it was slower due to the Java, the UI was more like MS Word, the export feature was really good, and I could add my treasured footnotes. The interoperability problem was still there. I couldn’t cut ‘n paste from one of the documents to another retaining formatting, values, etc. They did drastically improve the back end by allowing the user an actual “office” with access to all your documents (word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations) in one spot (to be fair, Zoho now has Zoho Notebook). I could also create folders and other cool stuff. Overall, I was very happy with Think Free.

Then Why Would I Switch?

At work we use MS’ Team Foundation Server for developers. It is an amazing application, and it uses SharePoint natively for all the document collaboration. I loved using SharePoint, because instead of having to emulate MS Office I was actually using it! The integration into the OS was also a nice surprise; all the Office products allow dynamic collaboration inside the application.

I got more addicted to SharePoint when I found out that they just made version 3 of Windows SharePoint Services free for anyone with the Server 2003 OS. I downloaded, installed, and loved it. Version 3 is amazing! The web parts made it a great dynamic tool, and I am a big fan of the UI. But I had problems accessing it externally which defeated the whole purpose (I had problems with the URL in the load balancing).

Free SharePoint!I knew I would never find SharePoint hosting free or reasonably price—until recently. Enter FreeSharePoint.com. It really is a no-strings attached SharePoint workspace (version 2)! The limitations are 25MB and 5 users, but for simple document management it is plenty. Plus you can create workspaces, add tasks, contacts, and much more; and it integrates seamlessly with the Windows OS and Office!

Conclusion

If you want a virtual office like MS Office then just use it! That’s what makes SharePoint such a powerful tool. In the world of collaboration tools–SharePoint rules.

(Editor’s Note: Mad props to my co-worker Justin Kohnen for showing me WSS 3 and working out the kinks.)