9 Web-based office productivity suites

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


Created by Xcerion, iCloud (in public beta) is optimized for Internet Explorer, with a Firefox version currently in alpha. I did most of my tests on Mac using Firefox, but for this Webtop I also hopped over to a Windows machine to give iCloud a try on Internet Explorer.

At first glance, iCloud seems to be tailored to the recreational user, with an application for watching online videos, a network of online discussion groups, and an instant messaging application with support for MSN, AOL, ICQ, and iCloud's own IM protocol. ICloud also has the best full- screen functioning out of all the Webtops I tried, giving you a more authentic desktop feel even though you're actually working online.

Productivity apps in iCloud are fairly basic: They include presentation software, a to-do list, and personal budget tracking. All word processing is done in Rich Text Format, with a Microsoft Word converter for uploaded '.doc' files. ICloud also has a calendar and contacts manager, and you get your own iCloud e-mail account with IMAP support. No spreadsheet support is currently available.

Pros: Easy to use, responsive software. Good full-screen support.

Cons: Annoying Vista-style widgets take up screen space; productivity suite is limited.

Try iCloud


cmyOS is based on the eyeOS cloud operating system. If you're looking for a bare-bones system that still maintains a reasonable amount of functionality, then cmyOS just might be the Webtop for you. cmyOS has a word-processing app, but no spreadsheet or presentation software. Other applications include a calendar and a contact manager, as well as a limited in-environment Web browser.

In short, cmyOS works well, but it doesn't have a lot of features. At the same time, I didn't run into any of the roadblocks I experienced with G.ho.st. I also felt cmyOS has its priorities for Web apps straight, unlike AirSet, since it focuses on Web publishing instead of a word processor or spreadsheet program.

Pros: Online collaboration; no-nonsense Webtop focused on productivity.

Cons: Limited functionality compared with other Webtops; in-environment browser limited to YouTube, Yahoo Messenger, Google, Facebook, and Flickr. Storage space not specified. No support for spreadsheets or presentations.

Try cmyOS


Clearly a Mac-inspired creation, Astranos stands for Astra is Not an Operating System, and, boy, they aren't kidding. The bare-bones Webtop features a bizarre mix of an OS X Tiger-style dock mixed with Windows 95 application windows. And what Astranos lacks in style it does not make up for in functionality. The only apps on this Webtop include a notepad and an IM client. Astranos is also a little buggy, displaying cryptic error messages whenever you call up some of its applications.

Pros: Has notepad function, IM client, and 1GB of free storage from Dropboks (no relation to Dropbox).

Cons: Extremely minimal, not much functionality.

Tip: Unless you're a fan of Tetris (one of the games available on Astranos), you might want to steer clear of this Webtop.

Try Astranos (no login required at startup)

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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