If you go down to your local best buy, an office productivity suite could cost you hundreds of dollars. And, in years past, you were stuck with that type of bill.
Not anymore. Thanks to the recent trend toward Office 2.0, there is plenty of free online software available for the office. And the best part is that many of these online applications are just as feature-rich as their desktop counterparts.
Using free online software for the office also gives you advantages beyond just the savings. Online software offers distinct advantages over traditional software such as increased collaboration, mobility, and the security of knowing that, even if your computer crashes, your documents are safe online.
Some of the free office software listed here are still in beta, so their current features could be expanded upon before they are officially released.
Free Online Software - Word Processors
Online software solutions for word processing are among the best online applications on the web. Many provide the same basic functionality as the most popular desktop word processors, and they can easily replace the home or small office word processor.
The Zoho suite of online office apps provides a great word processor that is among the best of free office 2.0 applications, but other online apps like Adobe's Buzzword and iNetWord are also great products.
- Zoho Writer. A very feature-rich online word processor that can do just about anything a normal word processor can do and can even export documents to blogs.
- Buzzword. An Office 2.0 word processor created by Virtual Ubiquity, an Adobe company, Buzzword promises to be an amazing product. As a flash-based online word processor, it offers a look-and-feel that rivals desktop applications.
Free Online Software - Spreadsheets
Office 2.0 software for number crunching and reporting also have very strong features that can compete with Microsoft Excel and other popular desktop spreadsheets including tabbed sheets, images, charts, and advanced formulas.
The spreadsheet in Zoho's office apps is again among the best, but there are also strong offerings from ThinkFree and Google Docs.
- Zoho Sheet. The best of the best among online spreadsheets, Zoho Sheet stands out from the pack by offering a host of features in a nice package with great performance.
- ThinkFree Calc. Having most of the features you would expect in a desktop application, ThinkFree can easily replace your existing spreadsheet.
Free Online Software - Presentation Software
Office 2.0 software for presentations does not always have all the bells and whistles of their desktop counterparts, but these online office applications do have distinct advantages. The ease of mobility is where presentation software on the web really shines. You don't even need a laptop to take your presentation with you. You only need there to be a computer with an Internet connection at your destination.
This means even if your laptop fizzles on the road, your presentation is safe. That alone is a good reason to take a look at the free office software online that is dedicated to presentations. Among the most sophisticated of these online applications is Zoho's Show and Spresent.
- Zoho Show. Featuring rich drawing capabilities and many of the same bells and whistles as its desktop competitors, Zoho Show makes a strong showing for replacing a company's conventional presentation package.
- ThinkFree Presentations. Like the rest of the ThinkFree suite, Presentations allows users to go into it under quick edit mode of minor touch-ups or power edit mode for major designing.
Free Online Software - Database Software
While online word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software have become very sophisticated in the past few years, office 2.0 software for databases has lagged behind. This is not surprising considering that database software like Microsoft Access combine the ability to store and retrieve data with an application development platform.
The online equivalents do not yet come close to the ability of desktop solutions, but they do have their uses. A prime example is those people who need a quick form to gather information from their website but do not have the money to pay a web developer. In these instances, these easy-to-use online software packages might suffice.
- Zoho Creator. Zoho Creator contains a simple form builder and a scripting feature that allows logic to be added to the application.
- Lazybase. This free online database solution is a very simple database with no support for advanced queries, forms or reporting.