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The Cloud, Day 3: Choosing an Online Productivity Suite

Since the primary purpose of my PC is writing, to transition to the cloud I need to decide which cloud-based productivity suite to use

30 Days With the Cloud: Day 3

I'm a writer. It makes sense, then, that finding a cloud-based tool to substitute for my trusty Microsoft Word is priority one on this 30 Days With the Cloud journey. A word processor is rarely an island unto itself, though, so choosing one means selecting a complete productivity suite including word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tools.

There are a number of potential options, but I am going to narrow my focus to three: Microsoft Office Web apps, Google Docs, and Zoho Docs. I'd prefer to use free tools and services where possible, so I am only going to look at the free options rather than the subscription services like Office 365 or Google Apps.

I have dabbled in the online tools from Microsoft and Google in the past, and I did a review a while back involving Zoho, so I am somewhat familiar with all three. But, there have been some tweaks and changes since then, so over the course of the next few days I will check each out in more detail, keeping the following criteria in mind:

User Interface

The interface should be functional. Working with Web browsers and Web protocols is different than delivering a user experience via locally-installed software, and I will be comparing how each of these productivity suites matches up.

It will help if things are where I am used to them being in Microsoft Word--so that probably gives Office Web Apps an advantage out of the gate. But, it is not a deal-breaker as long as the controls seem intuitive enough.

File Storage

There are two things to consider when it comes to file storage...maybe three. First, how much storage space is provided for free, and how much will additional space cost if necessary? Second, can the files be accessed from any device or platform? And, third, how secure and reliable is the data storage?

Compatibility

Although there are alternatives to Microsoft Office--both cloud-based and locally-installed software, it is still a Microsoft Office world. The value of a productivity suite is largely a function of how well it can create, open, edit, and otherwise work with files in Microsoft Office formats.

Sharing and Collaboration

One of the benefits of cloud-based productivity suites is that many different users around the world can be logged into the same document at the same time, and teams of people can share files and collaborate in real time. Some are better than others, though, and being able to collaborate is only useful if those you want to collaborate with are using the same service, or are at least willing to log into the service you choose.

Mobile

Most of the time, I will be using my chosen Web-based tools and services from the comfort of my home office. But, one of the factors that I will be considering in selecting a cloud productivity suite is how well it works with my iPhone, iPad, and Motorola Xoom tablet.

That should sum things up nicely. Starting with Day 4 I will take a look at Microsoft Office Web apps, Google Docs, and Zoho Docs, viewing them through this lens and measuring them against these criteria.

Read the Last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Windows Phone 7

Day 2: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cloud

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