Since we now have a special category on MUO for desktop enhancements, I wondered what’s with all the poor folks that don’t really have their own desktop? That’s those of you who share a computer with the family or use different computers at home, at work and when you’re on the road, or those who can only surf in the library? Don’t despair, Make Use Of has got something for everyone!The answer is to just get your very own online desktop. Have a little space on the web you can call home and all you’ll ever need for that is a web browser and the internet.
While completing research regarding this topic, I discovered iCUBE from(OOS) and decided to focus my article on this tool. iCUBE is the online desktop solution I found most useful, offering 1GB of free web space in a (once customized) familiar surrounding. Visually it’s a Windows interface, but many design elements also remind me of Mac.
So what can you do with iCUBE?
Actually it’s pretty simple. You can create, store, access and share files such as photos, documents or personal data. On your desktop you will find shortcuts to applications such as an image viewer, a PDF viewer, and an email client. To organize your files there’s a file manager, a photo album, and a folder called “My Files”. At the bottom of the desktop you’ll see a Windows-like taskbar and through the menu you can access programs, the control panel, help and support or you can log yourself out. So it’s much like the Windows Start button.
OOS supports drag & drop within the program. However, drag & drop does not work for moving files from your computer to your virtual desktop. To transfer files from the local machine, open the >File Manager, then click on >File >Upload, select >Browse… to locate the file on your computer, finally click >Upload to transfer it to iCUBE. You may have noticed that there is also an option to >Download files in the >File menu. What you will download is a zip archive of all your files in the currently selected OOS folder, for example the Desktop folder.
Now that you understand the basics, lets do some customization. At this point the options are limited, but nevertheless worth looking into. First of all you might want to change the icons seen on your desktop and in the Quicklaunch bar. Go through >Menu >Control Panel >Application Manager and check the respective boxes for each tool. If there is something you won’t need, you can remove it altogether.
You will see the list is pretty extensive and if you choose to display most of the programs on your virtual desktop, you should re-arrange them into categories or whichever order you prefer. Just drag & drop the icons around your screen. The default background is the standard Mac wallpaper. You can change it through >Menu >Control Panel >Display. I decided to upload a custom image and if you choose Other… you can access your uploaded image files through the file manager. There are not many options to help you format the wallpaper, so don’t expect it to fit perfectly and rather go with something simple in the first place.
Along with signing up for the desktop manager, you will receive a public homepage which can be edited through your iCUBE desktop. To share your files you can either make them generally available through your OOS homepage or share them with specific iCUBE users only. Simply right-click on a file or folder and select >Share from the menu. Then search for OOS users and add them to the list of >Authorized Users. They will now be able to see these files in their >Shared Files directory. This is quite useful when you are collaborating with someone and need to exchange or forward images or text files.
Now to some of the applications. There is a mail client included, which may come in very hand if you use iCUBE while traveling. They support POP3/IMAP/SMTP for your email@example.com address. However, you can not set up POP mail accounts for your primary email – you can only use your OOS account to send, receive, sort and store mails. So if you’re routinely using POP mail accounts, this really just makes for a good temporary vacation account.The web browser is redundant and I don’t understand why it’s there. You need a browser to launch iCUBE, so why would you need a browser inside your browser window? In the days before tabbed browsing this may have made sense, but nowadays it has no point in my opinion. Somewhere safety and privacy aspects were mentioned, since whatever sites you visit or terms you search within Google will not be associated with you or your computer. So that’s the only aspect that might be valid but if you’re worried about privacy, you will need to take proper precautions anyhow, and if you’re using a public computer – honestly – why bother?
The Write, Notes, Editor, and PDF Viewer applications do what they promise. OOS has its own file type for text documents, it is termed .odo, but .txt files are supported too. Unfortunately, there is no way to convert files, e.g. from .odo to .doc or .pdf and vice versa. Unsupported files can be uploaded and shared (e.g. Word documents), but to open them they must be downloaded to the local computer. This is a point that needs to be addressed by the developers.
There are however a couple more online desktop tools worth mentioning…
DesktopTwo is similar to iCUBE and I hesitated as to which of the two I would introduce in detail. I decided for iCUBE as it more closely resembles the Windows interface and at this point there are no ads.
Just as iCUBE, Desktoptwo offers 1GB online storage, an integrated mail account and pretty much an online version of your operating system. The storage capacity can be increased and I assume that the desktop ads will vanish when customers pay for this update. One of the major differences between iCUBE and Desktoptwo is the user interface. It takes a moment to get used to, but then it’s just as if you changed the skin of your Windows.
The advantage of Desktoptwo is the integrated Open Office. Although it does not open within the online desktop window, but rather in a new window/tab, this theoretically enables you to open Word documents without having to rely on software installed on the local computer. Practically however I had some difficulties. A Word document I uploaded would not load at all and I was not able to open a functional session in order to create a new document. I finally managed once, but after that I was stuck in a waiting line.
Another advantage is the integrated POP mail client. Quite honestly I have to admit I did not try whether it works, but at least it’s there and should work. That’s a big plus compared to iCUBE.In addition to the application found on OOS, there is an RSS reader, a calendar, a WYSIWYG web page editor, a blog publishing platform, and a local search engine. There is no intuitive way of sharing your files with other users. If the feature does exist at all, I did not discover it. I saw a Share option for Open Office, but that one seemed broken just as the rest of the suite. Overall I found Desktoptwo to be laggy and somewhat inflexible, although it does offer a few more features than OOS’s iCUBE.
attempts to imitate the Mac theme, but doesn’t go all the way. It is however visually impressive. The welcome window seen in the screen shot below is very helpful for getting started.
Again the features are similar, but much more attention has been given to detail and the interface is very stylish. Unlike the previous two tools, you do not receive a new eMail address with MyGoya. The provided email client purely serves the purpose of handling your existing POP mail accounts. The integrated Office is based on Zoho Writer and simply works, although documents load in a new window. The integrated chat client seems detached from other clients and intended for MyGoya users only. There are neat little details and options all over, for example being able to launch a second desktop within MyGoya. In one word: TRY!
The free version ofcomes with 2GB of storage. It’s stylish, it has all the important applications including Office support, and you can even sync your files between multiple computers!
But it’s not perfect. It is a bit laggy, many applications open in a new window, for example Office and email, and the icons and windows are huge, taking up way too much space on this online desktop. It’s really the sync feature that sets this one apart from the other tools. And it has an innovative look – like it or not.
Despite being sponsored with ads, CosmoPOD sounded very promising. Over 50 applications to chat, email, surf, write, including Office support and then came the disappointment. It needs to install something on the computer. Only once, but hey, what is the point if I want to use this anywhere on the world, including public computers, where I won’t be allowed to install anything? Hence I decided to not go further into this tool, but it has been mentioned.
Desktop on Demand
(DoD) seems more complete than most of the other applications. It looks great, it feels great, but there only is a 29 days free trial, after that it costs a little (packages start at £3.99 per month – $8), but it’s probably worth it if you’re serious about taking your desktop online. Check out the preview below.
I first logged in to YouOS as a demo user and what I saw while the user was being created was this:
“It’s supposed to be a challenge, it’s a shortcut! If it were easy it would just be the way.”
A quote from a pretty good movie. :)
This is Alpha software and as such it naturally comes with flaws. It is not stylish, not as well thought out, but it does have its upsides. For example notes (stickies) can be saved to the desktop, something iCUBE can’t do. It doesn’t seem laggy and the features are those found in the other applications, minus Office support. Overall it’s redundant, since it does not offer anything new or more advanced. But I have to admit that this is a first look impression, I did not sign up with YouOS after seeing the demo.
What makes Pytagor different from the others is being able to add tags to your documents, search the net and save the results, create a group account, import bookmarks, and send the content of a folder with just one click.
It looks more like a file manager than a desktop. It’s straight, easy to use, no fuss, no glitz, and only 100Mb storage capacity. Check it out if you need it simple. That’s it! Are there any tools I missed? Any details that should be mentioned? Please use the comments to add your two cents, we seriously love to hear your opinion!