Free online productivity apps available now

Browser-based software can work better than desktop tools at a free--or cheap--price.

I'm looking forward to Microsoft's browser-based edition of Office. While the company isn't leading the trend to cloud-based apps, it's certainly in the middle of the movement. Microsoft's suite will be released next year, but you can save money by accessing online office-style apps right now. In-browser productivity suites are typically free. Plus, I like them for lightweight systems, such as netbooks, where Microsoft's desktop suite feels too bloated for even typing.

Google Docs offers free browser-based productivity apps, with basic features that match the Office apps. While I often use that service, I'm especially interested in the Zoho suite. Its apps include a cleaner interface and a few features beyond Google's options.

The basic Zoho apps are free, but you can pay for more storage and features. A free account nets 1GB of space, which should be ample for most situations. (5GB costs $3 a month, for example.) The free account also includes versions of all of Zoho's apps, including a word processor, presentation app, and spreadsheet. You'll also get more powerful software, including a CRM tool, project manager, and meeting app. But those advanced tools can include an optional monthly fee for certain situations, typically adding support for more concurrent users versus the free edition

In addition to those tools that go beyond Google Docs, I like the clean, featured interface in Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, and other basics. Zoho borrows enough from Google, such as the list of documents in the left sidebar. But I can view multiple documents as tabs within a single page, and the rest of the interface feels more intuitive.

Office 2010 could swoop in to dominate online productivity apps. But Zoho's options can save you money versus buying a desktop suite right now. Especially if you're using older PCs, cheap laptops, or often swapping between computers, browser-based software can work better than desktop tools at a free--or cheap--price.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags productivityweb appsGoogle DocszohoOffice 2010

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zack Stern

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?