Goodbye Microsoft Office, hello Web apps

Time for an experiment. I've enjoyed fooling around with browser-based productivity apps like Writely ( -- now a part of Google) and ZohoWriter.

Now I'm going to try to put them to work--by ditching Microsoft Office for a couple of weeks and doing as much work as possible with Web-based alternatives. (Actually, I'll be ditching both Microsoft Office and; these days, I use the latter almost as much as I do the former.)

Okay, full disclosure: I know I'm not going to eliminate Office entirely--for one thing, I'll use it when I'm on a plane (which I plan to be four times in the next two weeks) or otherwise disconnected from the Web. And there are rumors of a new beta of the upcoming Office 2007; if I can get my hands on it, I'll use it. But even if I only switch to Web apps for most of my work, I'll learn a lot.

Question one: Which apps to use? I'll spend a few days figuring that out. I'm going to check out ThinkFree Office Online, which is a true suite with a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation package. I'll also investigate some of the online spreadsheets, including iRows and ZohoSheet. And I'll investigate some online calendars such as 30Boxes, although truth to tell, I'm pretty much wedded to Lotus Notes for both calendaring and e-mail, since it's what we use here at PC World.

As I try out these and other offerings--there are a zillion of them, it seems, with more popping up every day--I'll report back here.

Meanwhile, anybody out there have any browser-based Office alternatives to recommend? Anybody using these as a primary way of getting work done yet, or are they still in the technically-cool-and-a-possible-preview-of-where-the-world-is-going phase? Suggestions and tips welcome. (And if you have your doubts about the viability or intelligence of this experiment, feel free to express 'em...)

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Harry McCracken

PC World
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