Wednesday, September 19, 2007

computers: saying NO to the Office tax with Google Docs

There have always been free alternatives to Microsoft's huge bloated expensive Office suite, particularly OpenOffice.org.

I don't use them because apart from programming in Eclipse I create my documents on the Web (like this one). If I need to send out a paper letter, I use Wordpad.exe.

So what do you do if someone sends you an Office document as an attachment? Wordpad will sort-of open a Microsoft Word .doc file, but an Excel .xls or PowerPoint .pps/.ppt is meaningless. Of course, no one should be sending attachments, since as Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, said in Upside magazine 10 years ago:
I'm trying to ban e-mail attachments. I just want an ASCII e-mail.
If you want to show me something, put it in a Web page, publish it,
give me the URL, and I'll look at it. That's the new model.
You can't stop others from sending you Office files, so most people give up and buy a copy of Office.

Enter another killer free service on the Web from Google, Google Docs. You can upload any of those file formats to it, or you can create a document/spreadsheet/presentation from scratch. More importantly, you can publish any file in Google Docs to the Web so other people can view it, comment on it, or even collaborate on it from their browser. The file format becomes irrelevant. No more sending a document back and forth in e-mail with lots of comments.

Next time you think you need to send an Office document to other people, put it on docs.google.com or create it from scratch there, and send them the link.

Just as YouTube is slowly but surely killing off the inefficient approach of e-mailing huge video files to share with friends, Google Docs should kill off e-mailing large jokey PowerPoint slide shows around. As a demo, here's a slightly naughty PowerPoint joke thing I received as an attachment, now on the Web at http://docs.google.com/Present?docid=dcvvrqtp_6c3vccz&fs=true.

I know it's hard to believe, so I'll repeat it:
You DON'T need Microsoft Office on your computer
Donate the $200 to charity.

Update There are other free Web-based applications besides Google Docs. Here's the same PowerPoint presentation in Zoho's "Show" app: http://show.zoho.com/public/skierpage/Oneofthosedays.pps

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