When it comes to keeping track of your most popular websites, start pages are the right solution. Shankar covered Feedly, which is an excellent RSS feed page, and Tina covered some cool ways that you can build your own browser start page. However, when it comes to having both Internet pages and applications readily available from one multi-functional browser Window, these start pages just don’t cut it.
So, today I’d like to introduce you to a very unique and innovative solution called ZCubes. ZCubes really attempts to be everything that a general computer user may need, but it does so from within your browser. It provides Internet search, spreadsheet and document creation, image editing, games, a calendar and even a project management tool. In many ways it’s a lot like the AirSet online operating system that Karl previously covered – a cloud computing platform that you can access anywhere that you have an Internet connection.
The ZCubes Control Panel
When you first install ZCubes and register for a free account, you’ll have your own “home page” control panel that provides everything you could possibly need right at your fingertips. ZCubes works with Internet Explorer and Firefox only.
The name “ZCubes” comes from the fact that this top control panel is surrounded by gray space that you can fill with various “cubes” of information. It’s very much like your own online desktop, where you can browse the net and run various applications at the same time. ZCubes integrates itself very much with the sites that your visiting – it even lets you drag content in and out of the web pages and into the applications that you’re working on. I’ll show you a few of the coolest features, but there’s no way I can cover everything available within ZCubes in just one article.
When you type in a web search, the page opens up below the control panel, but you’ll notice that the ZCubes browser (which is essentially a browser within a browser) has it’s own window control features. These features are active within the ZCubes desktop environment. The ZCube Internet browser provides easy-click access to Google and Wikipedia, typical browser controls (back, forward, etc) and then the Window control buttons where you can maximize or minimize the window (again, within the Zcubes environment).
Other Applications Available in ZCubes
When you click on the “Modes” button in the ZCubes control panel, you see that there’s a whole lot more to ZCubes than just browsing the Internet. Either blackboard or whiteboard modes lets you scribble images and text all around the background area of your desktop.
Most of the basic paint features are available in this tool, including the ability to draw shapes, insert and format text, insert word art and more. The interface is a little bit slow at times when you try to switch between objects, but this could only have to do with how many other Internet apps you have running at the same time.
The most impressive features of this web-based desktop environment are the embedded applications to be as productive as you like, creating spreadsheets, slideshows, documents, web pages and more. For example, if you click on “New Editor,” you’ll find yourself on a Word Processor ZCube where you can write any text document you like. One problem I notice with this app is that it is not very intuitive at all. Place the mouse in the wrong spot, and the menu disappears. Maximize and then minimize the window, and you’ll be lucky to ever get it back – no ability to manually resize the window by dragging the sides.
In addition to creating documents, you can also create a new slide as part of a ZCube slideshow. Thankfully, this application seems to work a lot more fluidly than the word processor app. The editing controls stay open, and modifying components of the slide work well and intuitively. To create a whole slideshow, you can click on “New – New Slide Set” from the control system menus.
Within your Zcubes environment, you can also publish new “ZCubes” to the web as web pages, and those pages get published to your existing ZCubes public profile website.
As you’re creating documents and slideshows, or surfing the net, you may want to organize all of your work in the form of various projects. Your “ZCenter” includes a calendar and a project area where you can organize and manage all of your projects. Keep in mind that when you save your creations to your ZCenter account, they exists on your ZCenter account in the form of “Cubes.”
You can get some of these on and off of your ZCubes account, but for the most part then entire ZCubes online experience is meant to start and finish right within the environment itself. In all of the cubes, you have the ability to email your documents, images and more to your friends, or publish them online right from your ZCubes account. The entire system exists as an online desktop, but it’s also an entire community where folks share their ZCube creations – so if you’re into the social networking aspect, that’s available as well.
ZCubes is an innovative idea and the various components make for useful online applications. The usefulness of such an online platform would be most apparent on a library computer or a classroom computer where there’s limited access to desktop applications for making slideshows, editing images or where you would like to provide each user with an individualized browsing experience on the same computer.
Have you ever tried the ZCubes environment? Do you know of any better cloud computing desktop environments like it? Share your experiences in the comments section below.