Surface Computing

Microsoft recently unveiled their Microsoft Surface Computing technology that they have been demoing and perfecting over the past six years or so. It looks like this is a great idea that will unlikely to take off any time soon. I would love to see it used for many of the scenarios they present such as syncing to cell phones, paying with plastic by dragging bill items to your card that has been placed on the table, or having a video puzzle which shows the potential of the technology. They would most definitely make this into a platform technology as well, sort of like the tablet where applications can utilize all the different functionality that is available.

This is similar to Jeff Han’s Perceptive Pixel’s touch screen technology. He showed off his research at the TED conference a few years back, but this technology is different from Microsoft’s. I’ll go into details in another post.

Online Office Apps

An office suite or app encompasses word processing, spreadsheets, presentation. I’m also putting in a few calendar and task list applications as well. Online office suites have a few benefits over their standalone (desktop) counterparts. Many people can collaborate on a single document even in real-time. The documents are revisioned so that you can always go back to the last save pioint. The documents are saved on servers out on the internet allowing an anywhere access capabilty. A few drawbacks that are always being improved upon include the need to be connected to the internet (soon to be a non-issue) as well as the slower user experience feel that some of the applications have since they are running in a browser instead of on the machine natively. That’s a short description as well as the pros and cons, so lets get into the specific applications you can utilize!

Office Suites

Google Documents & Spreadsheets [link] – 6/10

A very simple word processor and spreadsheet application suite with presentations coming soon. The word processing works well, as long as you intend to work on the document solely through google docs. I found importing and exporting to and from Word, and Excel was a pain, and not worth the time necessary to fix all the errors or problems afterward. Single signon is a nice feature, and the integration with GMail makes this a compelling suite for their users. The apps just don’t have enough features and functionality or didn’t work the way I needed them too so I had to give a lower score to this suite. Also, no presentation app is available at this time.


ThinkFree [link] – 7/10

ThinkFree has a simple or quick editor as well as a power editor for all three main office suite apps. The power editor utilizes Java currently, and is very similar in features and power as MS Office, or Open Office. I found the power editor to be very useful, allowing me to import and modify almost any office document that I threw at it. The quick editor is decent and is sufficient, but not very feature rich. It also has a lot of hiccups in their system when trying to create new documents, going from the quick to the power editor, and it just wasn’t very w


Zoho [link] – 9/10

Zoho has the three main office apps as well as many other applications. They utilize only javascript currently, except for a few places where flash is necessary (either for microphone or webcam access). Currently I’ve experimented with Zoho’s Writer, Sheet, Show, Wiki, Notebook, Planner, Projects, Creator, and recently Meeting. They are very polished and have the features that most people need. You can choose to sign in to each application separately (with different credentials if you choose) or sign in once, and be able to go between the different apps without signing in again. Most of the apps are in beta (like any good Web 2.0 site), but they are definitely usable and they have free and paid accounts, but they say there will always be a free version. I’d recommend this company today for anyone looking to fulfill their basic office application needs, they just have so much to offer, for free, and for the average user.


Office Applications

EditGrid (Spreadsheet) [link]

An extremely capable online spreadsheet that seems to be entirely written in Javascript, not needing a plug-in like Flash or Java.

30Boxes (Calendar, Tasks) [link]

A calendar with emphasis on simple, gives you the next 30 days, or the current month as the standard view, hence the name. It takes a little getting used to to add events and such, but it is a good app.

Scrybe (Calendar, Tasks, Notes) [link]

This mainly calendar appilcation is geared toward having a really cool and flexible user interface and experience. It’s hard to describe, but the calendar is fluid as you click on a date that box expands to give you time slots for you to click and enter your event or information. They have a lot of cool extras, but I think they should focus more on the main core application features instead. It’s definitely still in beta, and I think it’s invite only right now.

Remember The Milk (Tasks) [link]

Helps you remember to get the milk from the store. A simple yet powerful todo list and task management tool. It does only this single thing, but it does it well.

Todoist (Tasks) [link]

A new player, that makes todo lists simple and easy. However, for me it’s too simple and too easy. It won’t send reminders, and it’s basically just an online list, with a few nice enhancements. I can see this going somewhere, but I currently won’t be using it.

Well that’s enough for today. I might write more detail about a couple of these companies/products, but I wanted to address a few of these apps that I currently use.

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