It seems like everyone these days is discussing how Web applications will be replacing the software applications that run on your computer.  There are a number of different ways of doing this, but probably the most common way is by using Google Docs.  Google Docs is designed for individual users and offers reasonably full-featured applications for creating Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawings and Forms. Because these applications are on the internet, they are constantly getting improved and features added to them as reviewed HERE. Unfortunately, however, because they’re on the internet, you need an internet connection to use them.  The people at Google are well aware that offline access is important, and they are working on a replacement for what was known as Google Gears – which allowed just that.
There is also a product known as Google Apps – which many schools are adopting, and it is just like Google Docs – but for schools and institutions.  It offers a few more bells and whistles than Google Docs like simplified shared document editing, forcing SSL security, 99.9% guaranteed uptime, access to the Google Marketplace and generally things that business and school IT departments care desperately about.
I’ve been using both Docs and Apps extensively now for a few months, and I’m impressed.  Some of the more advanced features of MS Word aren’t there – like creating a Table of Contents or Index dynamically or very fine control of kerning – but for basic word processing or spreadsheet work, it is perfectly acceptable.
Lastly, as of last November, it is now possible to natively edit your Google Docs on an iPhone or iPad (of course).
Feel free to sign up for a personal Google Docs account and put the platform through it’s paces.  However, if you’d like to try Google Apps, come find me in the library and I’ll give you your very own Apps account – for free!

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