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Google Sites follows the release of GrandCentral

Finally the old JotSpot has been released by Google. Google Sites made a big splash yesterday, and by the end of the day most bloggers were complaining about how much JotSpot had been stripped down from the original application. I’ve had a JotSpot account since the early beta days, so when I finally got around last night to accessing Sites, I was also a bit disappointed. Thinking about it again this morning, I realized that – like most everything else Google releases – Sites may be a simplified version of JotSpot, but it still is quite powerful. I know of a few small organizations that I help out that will absolutely love this Google wiki product.

My old JotSpot account still looks and operates the same, and I believe there is a plan to offer optional migration of old JotSpot accounts over to the new Sites. Once I’ve taken a full spin, I’ll post a thorough review of Sites. I’m already getting the feeling that, once I spend some time working with Sites, I’ll like it a lot.

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Microsoft counters ‘free’ with Works

With all the free office clones floating about, including Google’s Docs&Spreadsheets, you knew it was just a matter of time that Microsoft would have to offer something to counter.  Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley is blogging about such a move.  Apparently, the new Microsoft Works will run on an advertising supported model, and will be available as a free application when released later this year.  This is not Microsoft’s first foray into free office applications, as the company released a free version, but highly restricted, of its accounting software recently.  While this is not ‘official’ news,  the move is not at all surprising.

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Is JotSpot finally ready to be unveiled by Google?

InsideGoogle is reporting that JotSpot may finally emerge from the Googleplex as a part of the Google Application Suite for enterprise customers.  It was just a few days ago that I expressed concern that JotSpot seemed to have fallen into some void at Google.  It’s good to hear that the wiki application may finally be ready for prime time.

Hopefully, this time the news is for real (not like the last time).

Thanks to Googlified for the update.

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Omnidrive connects Excel files to Zoho Sheet

Back in January I wrote about the rich Word file integration between online storage company Omnidrive’s service and Zoho’s word processor. Well, to follow up on that, Omnidrive has now successfully integrated Zoho’s spreadsheet application to Omnidrive giving you a feature rich read/write/edit capability for Excel files on the cloud. As I mentioned before, this is really powerful stuff. Excel files that are stored online with Omnidrive can be accessed and edited on Zoho, and then saved back to Omnidrive – all without downloading the file onto a client desktop. How many times have you wanted to quickly check a figure on a spreadsheet, but were afraid to download it onto someone else’s desktop? I know I’ve had this issue from time to time. This is one scenario where this integration eliminates the ‘fear factor’ of leaving behind data on public computers. As these integration points onto online productivity tools continue to grow, the most adaptive online storage services have the best chance of creating a unique foothold in the market – and maybe even outmaneuver the Googleplex.

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Googlified posts about Google’s possible PowerPoint killer

One of the prominent Google watcher weblogs out there posted this morning about a possible Google online presentation program called Google Presently. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it’s not surprising that Google has a presentation application in the works given that most people have come to expect a true ‘office suite’ to include word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities. My hope is that Google begins the daunting process of tightly integrating all of their applications sooner rather than later. With the guys at Zoho setting a torrid pace on the integration front, Google has some catching up to do.

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Open Word document attachments in Gmail via Google Docs

Having enabled Excel spreadsheets to open directly from Gmail accounts into Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google has now closed the loop with Word documents as well. Appearing in the last few days, as reported by the Google Operating System weblog, you now have the option to open Word documents directly to Google Docs. This seems to work quite well, as can be expected, however there have been several reports of issues with graphics laden files or larger documents (in excess of 500k) not opening correctly.

In my tests of this new feature, I was pleased with the ability to edit documents right on the Google platform. The push over to Google Docs from Gmail is pretty seamless, but it only works one way. Strictly from a workflow perspective, if I open an attached document to edit, I would like to be able to send the edited document back as a ‘reply’ email. Google Docs lets you send documents as attachments, and also establish a collaborative connection to each document, but I get many documents from users that don’t use Gmail or aren’t sophisticated enough to use the sharing feature of Google Docs (stuff like that confuses them…for whatever reason). I know I could make my edits, and send a ‘new’ email back to those on the original email chain, but this then defeats the purpose of the conversations feature of Gmail. Also, unless you choose to “cc:” yourself when you send a file from Docs & Spreadsheets, the edited document falls out of the Gmail tracking system…you can’t see the sent email in ‘sent’ on your Gmail account.

I may be the only one who notices this break in the Docs & Spreadsheets integration, but I hope Google is listening. The cleaner the workflow, the more time I (and most likely others) will spend inside Google’s platform.

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A great post about online storage on Burnham’s Beat

In the last year or so, the concept of storing large volumes of personal data online has begun to take hold among mainstream computer users. Online data storage has become abundant and cheap just as consumers have migrated to high speed data connections. While most people are still not comfortable with managing their files online – In my opinion this has more to do with clunky access to online files than with privacy – services like Mozy and Carbonite have ‘revolutionized’ the concept of data backup. Bill Burnham, however, provides some sobering thoughts about the rush to online data storage.

I think Bill is correct that we haven’t reached the online storage ‘holy grail’ yet. Services like the two I mentioned above are really nice and easy to use, particularly for those who don’t have the patience or foresight to backup on a regular basis. In fact, I use Carbonite to maintain a backup of my primary computer. I also, however, maintain an imaged backup of that same computer on another disk drive that is connected directly to it, and not dependent on internet connection speeds. Maybe I’m paranoid, or just the victim of previous backup disasters, but I like the added security of having the two pronged approach. Anyway, I think the online backup process will continue to improve and still should be used by those who don’t have any other standard approach to maintaining a reliable (albeit slow) backup process.

Carbonite is really easy to setup, and run….set it and forget it. The downside to a service like Carbonite is that it doesn’t offer remote access to the files that it backs up. The backup is done in an inaccessible, (and I’m assuming) proprietary format that can only be accessed to restore files, not to access them for general use.

This second part is where my frustration lies with the current set of online services. I’d like to be able to access my entire file structure in a manner that doesn’t require installing some proprietary software onto the PC that I happen to be using at the time. I’ve heard rumors that Carbonite may be introducing accessibility features in an upcoming release, but right now those are just rumors.

In the long run, as my Office 2.0 migration plans shake out, I plan to build and manage all my critical files directly on the internet through applications like Google Docs, Zoho Spreadsheet, Gliffy, and the like. In the meantime, I will continue to rely on a combination of Carbonite and local backup to keep my precious files safe.