9 Web-based office productivity suites

A good number of services already allow you to put your own computer in the cloud for free

Glide is divided into three sections: the desktop, your online file system (called Glide HD), and the Glide Portal that lets you access Web content within Glide's environment. These three sections are a great way to navigate within the Web-based system and are easily accessible from the top of the browser screen. However, I found the Portal to be a little on the gimmicky side. Within the Portal are bookmarks for sites relating to broad categories like business news, political news, general news and current events, health, sports, pets, and more. The Portal view also has a customizable stock ticker running across the top.

Also, I found the performance of the Glide Portal to be a little inconsistent, depending on the browser you use. Links to news stories, for example, were dead when I tried Glide Portal with Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4, rendering the Portal essentially useless. When I tried it in Google Chrome for Mac I was able to navigate to external links from the Portal, but the news summaries I saw in Firefox and Safari were gone. I should note that Google Chrome's Mac version is still in developer preview, and therefore isn't an ideal way to test a Web-based service.

With Glide you can also grab media such as a document, video, music file, or even a Web link from the Portal, and use that media in a variety of actions. You can, for example, add a news story to meeting notes, e-mail the story to contacts or create a group discussion page around it. Integrating media with other actions could be a handy feature; but to be honest, it feels like another gimmick to me, and I'm not so sure it's all that useful in the real world.

Glide OS has a sync application for your local desktop, and a mobile application that works with over 100 devices including Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android handsets.

Pros: 10GB Free storage, multiple user accounts, mobile app, wide variety of productivity and playtime applications, good search integration and well-designed file system.

Cons: A few gimmicky features such as the Glide Portal, no instant messenger, no full screen view, and no ability to change the default search engine away from Ask.

Tip: Glide OS has some known display issues with Internet Explorer 8 that require some adjustments to the Registry to fix. If you're not comfortable with making Registry changes, you're better off using a different Web browser like Firefox, Opera, Chrome, or Safari.

Try Glide OS

G.ho.st

A joint project between Israeli and Palestinian programmers, G.ho.st is based on Amazon's S3 Web services and recently moved out of its alpha phase into public beta. G.ho.st claims to be the world's only true Web OS, since the service says it can work openly and seamlessly with leading third-party Web applications such as Google Docs and Zoho. G.ho.st has a lot of promise and some very functional tools, but it's not quite as polished as I'd hoped, and the experience was a little inconsistent and buggy.

When you click on a desktop item, for example, it tends to stay highlighted until you click on it again. That can become distracting and hard to look at, once all your desktop items are highlighted. At one point I also had an annoying problem with G.ho.st's keyboard shortcuts. The feature malfunctioned, making it impossible to hit letters like 'n' or 's' without causing G.ho.st to carry out a process like saving a file or refreshing the Web page. Needless to say, this made G.ho.st impossible to use; however, over the several days that I tried out G.ho.st, that malfunction happened only once, and I was able to fix it with a browser refresh.

On the plus side, G.ho.st comes with all kinds of goodies, including 15GB of free storage; support for 24 different default languages; a good file-sync manager; a mobile phone Web app; your own G.ho.st-branded e-mail with POP support; an MP3 player; an integrated Flickr search tool; an instant messenging app with support for AOL, Gmail, Yahoo, and MSN protocols; quick-launch access to a variety of Web search and info sites including Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia; and a wide library of applications you can use to customize your G.ho.st desktop.

G.ho.st also has the best in-environment Web browser of all the services I tried out. It will save your cookies and browsing history so you can access them anywhere.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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