Microsoft Office programs like Word or Excel are an ubiquitous part of our day-to-day lives. The software is good, no doubt, and we are so comfortable using the various menu bars and commands but there lies a small problem – the software costs money and if you are just an average home user, it may get difficult to justify the high cost.
Worry no more. In the last two years or so, we have seen the emergence of “Online Office Suites” that run inside your web browser and have almost all the features that one would typically need.
No software to download or install - all you need is an internet connection and you’re ready to go.
The most popular web-based Office suites are developed by Google (docs.google.com) and Zoho (www.zoho.com) – both services are absolutely free. The more appealing part is their interface which resembles Microsoft Office so much so that there is practically no learning curve involved.
You can compose new documents and spreadsheets or edit existing ones just like you would do inside Microsoft Office. And when you’re done editing, the document / spreadsheet can be saved online so it remains accessible even while you’re travelling or sitting on a friend’s computer. In other words, the document is always available for viewing or editing irrespective of your location.
There are some unique features as well like PDF support which is missing in Microsoft Word or Excel. Both Google Docs and Zoho Office Suite can save documents in PDF format without requiring third-party software like Adobe Acrobat.
With Google Docs, you can work with remote friends and family on the same document simultaneously. The changes made by one person are instantly visible to all other people working on the document. There’s even a nice chat window next to the document to help you discuss the changes live. This feature may come handy when preparing a guest list or even a family tree with your mom who stays in another city.
And if you already have a copy of Microsoft Word or Excel, Zoho has a free Office add-on that lets you compose documents offline (using standard Microsoft Office applications) and save them online. The same plug-in will allow you to download an existing document from Zoho Office, edit it offline with Microsoft Word and publish it back to the web. You get best of both worlds.