May 11, 2006

Thinkfree Office

Thinkfree Office is another Web 2.0 web-based application – targeted squarely at capturing market share (and revenue) from the leading productivity application, Microsoft Office. Thinkfree Office is like Microsoft in nearly every way except you use it through a web browser, and as such you’ll need a broadband internet connection.

ThinkFree office gives you up to 1GB of online file storage – plenty for most. It also lets you create Microsoft Office compatible Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. Like MS Office, you can even add images and graphs to your work. As ThinkFree is online you can also collaborate on work with colleagues through the internet, something that is difficult to do effectively using MS Office.

I tested the ThinkFree office for a week and was impressed. Apart from not being able to access any of my documents when the internet was offline ThinkFree performed well and as promised. ThinkFree Office feels very familiar. If you know how to use MS Office then ThinkFree Office will immediately be obvious to you.
There are two editing modes you can use, Quick and Power Edit. I found the Quick edit mode to be faster (on my Mac) giving you access to only commonly used functions, while the Power edit mode resembled more of a 'computer window' type interface. At times the Power edit mode lagged behind while I was typing however it is better if you prefer the feel of working in a regular computer window. Additionally, when editing in Power edit mode I couldn’t return back to the quick edit mode – the only solution was to download the file and continue editing it on my Mac.

In terms of price you can't do much better the ThinkFree - it is free. As a comparison, Microsoft Office 2003 costs $625. For both the education and the home market ThinkFree is a great alternative to MS Office, and the price doesn't get much better. If you do only basic amounts of word processing and an occasional spreadsheet ThinkOffice is great.

May 4, 2006

Google Calendar

Google have continued their march to world domination with the release of yet another ‘have-to-use’ product called Google Calendar. As the name suggests, Google Calendar is meant to replace your desktop calendar application, like Outlook or iCal (if you are on a Mac). As you’d expect from Google they have built in tight integration with other Google products like Gmail and Search.

Creating an appointment in Google Calendar is easy, simply click on the time in any of the calendars views and enter the text. If you’d like to add more detail to the appointment click on the ‘edit event details’ link. You can add a location to your appointment and also add a more detailed description. Under the Options section you’ll also be able to set a reminder. Unlike Outlook on your PC Google can’t sound an alarm when an appointment occurs – instead Google Calendar sends you a notification via email. If you live in the US you can also specify to be alerted via SMS.

Google Calendar also lets you share calendars between groups. If you manage a soccer team for example, you can set a group calendar that the whole team can access. This technology isn’t new, but Google Calendar takes it a step forward by allowing multiple people to manage and edit the calendar.

Google also makes importing your existing calendar easy. Click on the ‘Settings’ link and select the ‘Import Calendar’ tab. You can import either an Outlook CSV file or an iCal file.

Before committing to using an online calendar you should be aware of a few limitations. Firstly, you’ll need network access to use it (if you have a slow or unreliable connection an online calendar may not be the right solution) and secondly if you use a PDA like a Palm or Windows ME device syncing isn’t supported yet.

Google Calendar is not the only on-line calendar application around but it is certainly one of the best. Before you commit to it, check out other similar products like Spongecell (www.spongecell.com), Kiko and Trumba.