These days virtually everyone is in touch with Cloud Computing. In fact, most of us are relying on it to some degree. The internet, metaphorically referred to as “the cloud”, produces ever more Web 2.0 applications that enable us to take our lives online. We don’t write diaries – we blog. We don’t call to share news – we twitter. We meet friends through social networks, and our busy calendars are readily available online.
Ultimately, the cloud will be able to replace a majority of everyday programs on local desktop computers. This brings freedom and convenience in that we don’t have to buy expensive software, we can access our data wherever we go, and we don’t have to worry about updates or security, since it’s all taken care of by the providers. The danger of course is loss of control over your privacy and data, and potential consequences are data piracy or identity theft. What if the service fails and data cannot be accessed? Imagine the internet went down, all hell would break loose. These are just some of the scenarios to be considered.
While at this point it may not be advisable to transfer your whole life to a cloud, detaching from a desktop computer may actually have great advantages, such as retaining a great deal of independence. So after starting with a somewhat lengthy introduction, let me provide you with a short list of online software alternatives to popular desktop applications.
Microsoft Word becomes Zoho
Zoho is, without a doubt, one of the most complete online office suites available to date. Zoho comes with a word processor, spreadsheets, presentation tool, note taker, organizer, project management, web conferencing and much, much more.
Other than that it provides plugins for MS Office, MS Outlook, Firefox, and IE to ensure you’re not locked up with this service, but can take your files out of the cloud to create backups or avoid online storage.
Microsoft PowerPoint becomes Preezo
If you don’t want to rely on Zoho to replace your whole office suite, here is an alternative for PowerPoint worth mentioning. Preezo is an Ajax-based web application to create and share professional presentations over the web without the need for software or plugins installed on your computer. It totally looks and works like PowerPoint and you can import or export .ppt files. Perfect.
Microsoft Excel becomes EditGrid or [NO LONGER WORKS] ChartAll
Not quite Excel but close. EditGrid is one of the most comprehensive online spreadsheet providers. Another possible alternative, much simpler but therefore not requiring you to sign up, is chartAll.
MS Outlook becomes Google Mail
What more do I need to say? At this point we are stuck with Google because to my knowledge there is not a worthy alternative to GMail.
Microsoft OneNote becomes LinoIt or Springnote
LinoIt is an online pinboard to which you can stick your notes to. You can have multiple canvases for multiple purposes, make them public or share them with specific users. The stickies can serve as reminders or to-to lists, organizing and customizing stickies is easy, and you can post new ones by eMail.
If you’re looking for more advanced note taking, give Springnote a try, which I reviewed in detail several weeks ago.
Adobe Photoshop becomes PhotoShop Expressor
Websites like Photoshop Express or Splashup may not be a complete or worthy replacement for Adobe’s Photoshop. However, they provide a very familiar interface and cover more than just the most basic photo editing tools. Definitely better than fiddling with some crappy desktop application (e.g. the Windows default), when Photoshop is not available.
Instant Messengers become Meebo
Meebo allows instant messaging through all popular messengers via your browser. It supports AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, and more.
Simon wrote about Meebo and two more web-based IM clients back in July this year.
Your Desktop Online
Back in March I wrote about online desktops (aka Web Os). As pointed out in the comments, this may not make sense for most people. However, to retain a familiar desktop environment with shortcuts and wallpapers, it may be quite nice to have. It’s those seemingly superfluous things that make life great.
Now that you know some alternatives to desktop applications, let me say this: It may be convenient to use Google for everything, but unless there is absolutely no better alternative, don’t. Keep a variety and make your private cloud rest on more than just one foot. Last but not least, keep backups!
How far into Cloud Computing are you, and which services would you rather not trust anonymous providers with?