Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Increasing Business Efficiency: Your Office is Now Online

Web 2.0 is becoming a fascinating thinking in action with every passing day. If you are now used to blogs and wikis, here's more for you. I was expecting this to happen for long as this makes increased business sense in terms of efficiency, reach and time management. So what is this? this is MS Office in almost all it's glory is waiting to be shared, edited and presented online. And no this is not a Microsoft endeavour. This integration of Web 2.0 technologies with the traditional desktop environment has been brought though ThinkFree

ThinkFree is an web2.0 ajax based online collaboration service for MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
To quote from WorldTechLogic blog:

You can schedule tasks, keep track of tasks, create elaborate invitations, publish files for everyone to see, create Microsoft Office compatible files (MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint), view the revision history of a document with the ability to roll back to its previous revision, and post your documents to your blog or web page, or publish them on the web.

You have two options in ThinkFree Quick Edit, which is a fast lightweight document editing tool based on AJAX and provides you with basic editing features through your browser and the other Power Edit which requires launching JAVA but provides you with more (or nearly all)
MS Office features. From the point of technophobic users, ThinkFree interface is as close to the MS Office products as it can be. If one has a working knowledge of MS Office products, it is exactly what required to game on ThinkFree. And if you know the shortcuts of MS Office, they are exactly the same here too.

Since it is product that nearly provides all the features of MS office, it is natural to compare the product offerings with that of actual MS office. Here are a few of the striking features of ThinkFree
  • Inserting an image directly from Flickr
  • Saving the document as PDF
  • Posting directly to blogs and websites (This post has been written on ThinkFree and is accessible here)

Some issues that as a traditional office user I found in the product are listed below

  • It lacks Language tools, the only language supported is English (US), further word look up as opposed to MS Office is not there
  • It lacks auto save feature, only time the file is auto saved is when the PC is accidently turned off
  • The power edit tool which provides all the functionalities of MS Office is slow

A detailed technical and critical appraisal of ThinkFree like lack of extensibility etc can be found at in the blog entry and comments sections of Ismael Ghalimi's IT-Redux Blog and tagging system for the desktop edition etc at the Dennis Howlett's Accmanpro As regards my observations, in one of my previous posts I had said that Web 2.0 is also a group of enterprise that offer too similar products / services. So what in case ThinkFree gets its competitors who are ready to offer server editions for at a much cheaper price or even free based on some alternative revenue model. The $30 per user per year is a price tag that makes it cheaper to have MS Office and rely on USB drives and eMails for sharing and presenting.

Even though ThinkFree has it's share of criticism I would like to end with what David Howlett starts with, to quote

"it is the most 'complete' offering I'vd seen that's comparable to Microsoft Office. The taunts of 'crippled product' put forward by naysayers of online office productivity can be safely ignored"

Related: Product offerings from ThinkFree Online, Server, Desktop & Portable

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